The BayState Marathon in Lowell, Massachusetts has become internationally famous as a Boston qualifying race, and it is selling out quickly in 2010. Find out what we locals have always known – you can get your PR and/or qualify for Boston this year at BayState on Sunday, October 17th 2010.
But if you do want to run BayState this year, you had better sign up now. The race director reports that they are well above historic registration levels, and sign-ups have accelerated since the Boston Marathon as people get psyched up to qualify in the fall. Current projections have the Marathon reaching its cap of 2,000 runners as early as June! The popular Lowell Sun Half Marathon, which shares this PR rich course, is capped at 1,500 runners and will sell out quickly as well.
How fast is it and why is it now famous as a PR and qualifying course? Because it is listed by Running USA as the fastest marathon in the country after Boston, which of course has qualifying times. The median time for Boston in 2009 was 3:44:04, and Baystate was 3:48:42. Steamtown, a downhill course in Scranton, Pennsylvania, was third at 3:55:48. Grand Rapids, Michigan (3:58:31 and California International in Sacramento (3:59:43) round out the top five. Here is the Running USA link: http://www.runningusa.org/node/57770#57771 which also contains some very interesting demographic information.
I gained my first qualifier at BayState many years ago! This marathon in Lowell has become a beacon for runners looking fast times. It's because the numbers don't lie. BayState sends a higher percentage of qualified runners to Boston consistently year-over-year than any other marathon. Maybe you've read about BayState in Runner's World or heard about it from your friends, but the secret is out.
BayState consistently has over 30% of its registered marathoners qualify for Boston. In 2008 the number was as high as 38%. Even during the years when there were adverse weather conditions the number was greater than 30%. BayState won't produce miracles, but it will put the numbers in your favor.
Why is BayState the Boston qualification Mecca? The Course, of course!
The first major reason is the course. This course was designed originally by local club runners as a Boston Qualification marathon 22 years ago. New England and the Merrimack Valley have always been a hot-bed of running. When the club runners looked around for a flattish spot to put a fast marathon course they found one along the Merrimack River basin.
The course is two 10-mile loops of the river basin with a 3 mile leg out from the start and a 3 mile leg into the finish. You might expect the course to be totally flat, but it is not. There is a slight roll to the river loop with a small hill and the last 3 miles are mostly a decline. This slight rise and fall throughout the course keeps your legs from 'getting bored' and helps you run faster overall.
The course is quite interesting with many good landmarks for runners to pace against. The race starts in the old mill city of Lowell, where several of the giant brick stacks and mill buildings dominate. The course has two bridges across the Merrimack River which helps break up and vary the loops and gives the smart-pacing qualification-seeker a way to mentally divide the race into sections. http://www.baystatemarathon.com/
Support and volunteers!
The second reason that BayState sends so many to Hopkinton is the support. BayState provides a fast course, but also provides everything you need along and beyond the course. BayState has an enthusiastic and long-term core of volunteers that make the race efficient for runners. The experienced crew makes for reliable course control and support. BayState has continued to expand its relationships with the City and local communities to staff the water stops, course and finish line with capable enthusiastic volunteers and workers. More than 10 of the track and cross country teams from the community staff the race in a win-win for runners, the race and the kids. The University of Massachusetts at Lowell lends its track team members as pacers for the race.