The Boston Prep 16 Miler

Runners seem to derive pleasure from the discomfort of pushing themselves in sometimes adverse conditions. The Boston Prep 16 Miler has been exploiting this fact for the past 14 years. And for that, I say, "Thank you!" The end of January in New Hampshire is, well, fairly unpredictable weather-wise. Despite this, much like the postal service--through snow or rain or heat or ice--hundreds of runners gather in Derry to test their skills on this "moderately challenging" 16-mile course. And no matter the conditions, you can count on Dave Breeden, race director, and the Greater Derry Track Club, to put on an extremely well organized race that's nearly become a cult classic for the New England running community.

Run it once and you'll come back. In fact, 60 percent of the field is returning runners who sign up for Boston Prep year after year, notes Breeden. "You also have the hardcore 30 percent who do it every year as a badge of courage. They want to be able to check it off of their list of races that they must do. In that respect, it's become kind of a cult race," Breeden adds.

On a personal note, I belong to that "badge of courage" category. I had heard from friends that this was a great race on a hilly course. So a few years ago, I finally signed up--and I've been going back for more ever since. That year, I ran the race to bump up my winter training. The next year, it marked the final race of the season for me until spring. No matter what the Boston Prep 16 Miler means to you, it's sure to meet all of your expectations.

The Derry Village Elementary School on Route 28 is runner central on race day. Gather here before the start to register (if race-day registration is still available), pick up your number and race packet, warm your extremities, stretch, compare this year's weather to previous years', and plan your race strategy. Note: If the weather's warmer, you can blame that for a slower race, if you want. Also, if the weather's colder, you can blame that for a slower race, if you want. Now you know my secret race strategies.

Course Advice: Ease In, Then Hunker Down

At 10 a.m., the starting gun sounds and runners take off from Humphrey Road, which is just a warm-up jog away from the school. At the end of Humphrey Road, turn right onto Island Pond Rd., and then a quick left onto Stark Road. If you haven't run this race before, you may be questioning the "moderately challenging" label at this point. But resist the urge to go out too fast on these flat to downhill roads. It's a long race with several ups and downs in there. My advice--ease into the race and enjoy the beautiful country roads flanked with trees and fields. You're going to have to hunker down and climb later on.

Mile 4.5 brings runners onto Kilrea Road for a stroll through a cozy Derry neighborhood. Enjoy the scenery and some downhill for the next few miles on Kilrea and Gulf Roads. Miles 7-9 on Bartlett and Island Pond Roads give runners two comfortable miles of flat running. But just when you start questioning that "moderately challenging" label again, a left turn onto short, steep Drew Hill Road at 9.1 miles will get your heart pumping.

After mile 10, runners turn onto aptly named Warner Hill Road. It's at this point that the race really lives up to its label. It's also at this point, I suspect, that runners drink the proverbial Kool-Aid that has kept the Boston Prep cult persona alive and kicking for so many years. The course tames after that--entering the village of East Derry just after the 14-mile mark for views of colonial homes, a general store, a library and a cemetery.

Once you turn back onto Humphrey Road, you can almost see the finish. But no "moderately challenging" race would be complete without ending on an uphill. After pushing it up Humphrey Road, turn right onto Route 28 for another steep surge past cheering crowds. One final right turn at the crest of the hill brings you through the chute at the Derry Village School.

The field is limited to 800 runners and fills up every year. "The race is usually full by the first week of January," notes Breeden. Online registration is available for only $35; the price is $40 for mail-in registration. It'll cost you $45 on race-day, in the unlikely event that registration isn't already full. Water stops and sports aid will also be available throughout the course. And I can guarantee that the drinks will be well chilled for your drinking enjoyment. There is a strict 3-hour time limit for this race.
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