Countdown to the 21st Annual Baystate Marathon and Half Marathon—Qualify with Quality

The Baystate Marathon and Sun Half Marathon are tremendously well organized and offer a terrific racing experience for all. Baystate is among the best or most likely marathons in the USA to give runners a great shot at qualifying for Boston. How great? They had a whopping 38% of the field qualify in 2008, and the numbers have been consistently high since the humble beginnings of the event in 1989. And the BayState Marathon is the USATF New England Marathon Championship. These events are ideal for first time marathoners or half marathoners and experienced distance runners alike. Both events run the morning of Sunday, October 18. This is a small city marathon compared to the majors, but you better believe both are top notch marathon and half marathon events, an absolute must for runners of all abilities.

This will be the second consecutive year that the BayState Marathon will be the concluding race of the highly respected USATF-New England Grand Prix, one of the best such circuits in the nation. Of all 57 USATF Associations, only New England has such a competitive and high quality grand prix—seven races in all from spring through fall. The BayState Marathon offers a total of $13,400 in prize money as a USATF Grand Prix event.

Although it is the grand prix finale, BayState remains focused on their primary constituency, runners trying to qualify for Boston from all over the region and the nation.

The wider running world is discovering what New Englanders have known for years: BayState gives you the best chance at qualifying for Boston. It was founded for that purpose, and has lived up to the concept in 20 previous runs. That is why both the marathon and half marathon will sell out—it is only a question of when. That is not hype. They have expanded the field limits to 2,000 for the marathon and 1,500 for the half; this is up from 1,500 and 1,000 respectively. However, since the word has spread nationally on the high qualification percentage of this course, registration is way ahead of last year—and last year sold out early.

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No matter where they come from, all marathoners and half marathoners will find a welcoming race organization and community, an outstanding committee as well as energetic and supportive volunteers. All the details will be covered--runners just want to run, so there is no hoopla and no hassle as compared to the major marathons. Yet everything is provided to make the marathon experience memorable, whether this is someone’s first or 100th. This is, after all, the Merrimack Valley, which is recognized nationally as THE hotbed of running.

Born as a Quality and Qualification Race
The mission from day one—qualify for the B.A.A. Boston Marathon. Race founders Don Allison and Dave Camire teamed up in 1989 and determined to set up a marathon to help runners qualify for Boston. There were fewer marathons anywhere in those days, including and especially in New England. Cape Cod in the fall was one of the few. They decided to run the new marathon in February, 1990 in time to make qualifiers eligible for Boston the following April. Allison tried several possible courses in the greater Boston area, including Cambridge, but could not find anything suitable. Camire suggested the Lowell/Tyngsboro venue that had been used for the Great Oktoberfest Marathon in 1981. (The Great Oktoberfest Marathon was only run one year, sponsored by BayBank. Larry Olsen won in 2:17:43, and first prize was a vacation to Bermuda.)

This was the origin of the double loop along the Merrimack, one of the flattest, fastest courses anywhere. Although the start and finish have been relocated several times, the essential course remains the same. The triumphant finish is now in LeLacheur Park, home of the New York-Penn League Red Sox Single A affiliate, the Lowell Spinners. One more interesting note about the first year of the Baystate Marathon: it was run twice in 1990. That is why this is the 21st running for those who may be counting. The first one was in February, and shortly thereafter the sponsors wanted to move it to mid October. Race two was in mid October of 1989, and that has been the time frame ever since. The Sun Half Marathon was added in 1994.

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