The seacoast New Hampshire area is one of the strongest regions for running and road races in New England, and on June 25th runners have a chance to participate in a terrific event in that region. It's the third annual Bobcat Bolt 5K/10K and Festival, taking place in the lovely college town of Durham, N.H., home of the University of New Hampshire.
For those that ran either of the first two Bobcat Bolts, this date represents a change, the race having been held in mid-May in its first two years. Moving to late June allows the event to escape the more crowded mid-Spring race schedule. It will also serve as a better date for the Oyster River Festival that follows the races. An early summer date for the race and festival makes it a day that offers something for everyone. And the Bobcat Bolt races will be followed by the Oyster River Festival where the community will join to celebrate local live music, arts and memories.
Let's start with the races. The 5K offers everyone, regardless of pace, the opportunity to run or walk 3.1 miles. For the more serious runners, the 10K gives those folks a rare chance to run a distance that seems to be disappearing on the regional schedule. Both courses are USATF-certified. If you are fast enough to be amongst the top finishers of each race you could earn a cash prize. Top three males and females in the 10K will go home with 200, 100, or 50 dollars, respectively while the top three 5K finishers will receive 100, 75, or 50 dollars.
Offering prize money usually means top runners will show up and that has certainly been the case at the Bobcat Bolt races. Last year's winners included Granite State runners Scott Rowe and Lesley Hocking in the 10K and Maine's Bob Wiles in the 5K, a trio that have been recognized as "Runners of the Year" in various publications. All runners, regardless of finishing time, will be rewarded at the finish with their names called out by a professional race announcer.
Enjoyable as they are, you will have to work for your reward. Both courses start at Oyster River High School and right off the bat head up a fairly steep hill. Not to worry, at the Bobcat Bolt it will be an enjoyable jaunt, and a course that goes up must come down. After the first hill the race the 5K is pretty flat and fast, bringing you back to the high school. The 10K has a few hills in the second half of the course before rejoining 5K finishers at the school.
The race organizers are also hoping that runners believe in the slogan, "strength in numbers". Last year a team challenge was added, which was won the UNH Gymnastics team. Any group can band together and form a team—see the Website for team and individual registration details at bobcatbolt.com.
After the race it's time for the Oyster River Festival. The Oyster River Festival is an annual offering of live music, arts and crafts, children's activities and more. Under the auspices of the Oyster River Alumni Association, the Festival also serves as a fundraiser that benefits students in the Oyster River School District through a variety of grants and scholarships.
The race and festival are also being held to honor two brothers who attended Oyster River high school, Josh and Nate Hardy. Josh Hardy was a standout athlete at ORHS, especially on the soccer field. He also had a passion for skateboarding and the arts. Unfortunately, Josh lost a battle to cancer and died in 1993.
Nate Hardy dedicated his life to his country. From a young age Nate dreamed of serving in the Navy. After a standout high school career in soccer and lacrosse he enlisted in the Navy where he proceeded to earn numerous medals. On February 4, 2008, while conducting combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Nate Hardy was killed in action.
Because Josh and Nate Hardy were important members of the Oyster River community the race and festival are dedicated to their memory. As the organizers state, "it is our hope that the Bobcat Bolt and the Oyster River Festival will help us all remember Nate and Josh and inspire us to 'come home' and interact and be part of the community we come from."