The Fifth Annual Great Bay Half Marathon—Terrific Event in New Hampshire

Running near the coast in the state of New Hampshire, just an hour's drive from Boston, this race is actually a two-day event, a happening for the whole family taking place the first weekend of April. Hundreds of runners of all abilities will gather for the fifth annual Great Bay Half Marathon, sponsored by the Exeter Hospital in Newmarket, New Hampshire. The weekend will include an expo and kids' run on Saturday before the main events on Sunday, April 3rd with a fund raising 5K and the half marathon. Yes, it is one of those "something for everyone" events, which is probably why the race has become so popular in only five years. In its first year, 2007, over 1,700 runners and walkers took part. And the race has been part of the New Hampshire "1,000 club" ever since (the name given to Granite State races that have over 1,000 finishers).

The Great Bay Half Marathon is organized by LOCO, the organization that now produces a number of outstanding races throughout New England. With LOCO having established a strong reputation over the past few years, participants can rest assured the race is in capable hands. From start to finish the entire weekend will be a professionally organized event.

The LOCO approach to the Great Bay Half Marathon weekend results in participants being well taken care of. There are custom technical shirts to all half marathon participants while 5K participants receive short-sleeved cotton shirts. Half marathon finishers will receive beautiful custom finishers' medals. And the race will be professional timed by Yankee Timing using the Chronotrack B-tag system. A post-race party will provide runners with plenty of refreshments, including Smuttynose craft beers. As for the awards, the top three males and females overall and top three finishers in 5-year age categories will receive prizes.

While the Great Bay Half Marathon was well liked in its initial years, runners will like the change that was made last year. It runs from Newmarket, an historic mill town, into Durham and back. Course adjustments resulted in what has been called "Great Bay light" a course that has ten percent less hills than in the first three years. The finish line has been moved from Newmarket High School to downtown Newmarket, making for a more spectator friendly atmosphere, and a post race party near the water. With music blaring, an announcer calling out runner's names, and spectators lining the finish area, runners are treated to a unique finish for their run and post race celebration.

In addition to the Main Street finish, runners will enjoy the rest of the course. The first two miles and last mile are in the historic downtown Newmarket (over 80 structures on the National Register of Historic Places), and the rest runs along forested roads as well as lanes adjacent to Great Bay through wildlife refuges and conservation areas. There are gorgeous views along with a two-mile out and back loop in a lovely residential neighborhood. There are a few hills on the course but the highest point in the entire town is 281 feet and only half that along the course. Hills are challenging but small and climbs short. This is an intriguing route with great views of serene forests, meadows and the shoreline of Great Bay. Ancient stone walls line miles of these roads as they have since colonial times.

As noted, the Great Bay Half Marathon is more than a 13.1-mile road race. On race day runners can opt for the Beyond the Rainbow 5K, a run/walk event designed as a fund raiser for primary sponsor Exeter Hospital (nearby Exeter, N.H.) in the hospital's fight against cancer. The addition of the 5K has greatly expanded participation and excitement for all runners and spectators.

Runners and friends are invited to the he fifth annual Exeter Hospital Health and Fitness Expo on Saturday, April 2. The Expo will take place from noon to 5:00 p.m. in the Newmarket High School Gym. The Expo will serve as the early number-pickup and late registration for half marathon (if available) and 5K runners and walkers, but is also open to the general public.

The Exeter Hospital Health and Fitness Expo will provide an opportunity to discover the Exeter Hospital's premium services. Attendees can take advantage of free preventative health checks and screenings by the caring professionals from Exeter Hospital and Synergy, as well as receive great deals on running and fitness equipment and services. The 2011 Expo will feature approximately 40 exhibitors including professional coaches, race directors, and vendors of running gear, training aids, and nutritional products. There is also a kid's run during the afternoon of Expo Saturday.

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