I tend to do a lot of living in the moment, so writing a race review for a race I did almost 6 years ago is a little tough! I apologize for the lack of detail and hope that the detail that I can provide is still relevant.
I ran Baystate for the specific purpose of qualifying for Boston. According to the research I did before selecting my qualifying marathon, Baystate’s numbers suggested it would be a good choice. I think that still holds true – according to findmymarathon.com, “[l]ast year 29.6% of finishers qualified for the Boston Marathon and 30.5% of runners qualified for Boston in 2017. This gives the Baystate Marathon the 22nd highest percentage of Boston Marathon qualifiers in the U.S. last year and the 19th highest percentage in 2017.” Certainly, there are other marathons with better numbers, but Baystate is a short drive away from where I live, and I wanted a fall marathon, so it made the cut.
The course is flat and is pretty much a double loop:
I don’t really love double loop courses, but at least with this one, you don’t have to run through the finish line at the half-way mark. I hate it when I have to do that! Instead, the Baystate course is a partial double loop because you cut over the Rourke Bridge about halfway back down the course between mile 12 and 13 and complete only the top portion of the course twice (which means that you cross over the Tyngsborough Bridge, pictured as the featured image on this post, twice). For this reason, I prefer the layout of the Baystate course to that of a standard double loop.
The weather is typically crisp and cool, and that held true for me in 2013. Because of the flat course, the mid-field size that is well stocked with competitive runners, and the predictable fall New England weather, this race offers up ideal conditions for qualifying.
I don’t recall too much about the area through which we ran. I vaguely remember a small town area past the Rourke Bridge (but could be completely wrong about that), one or two miles where there was no shoulder on the road and the footing was poor – I had to run off the road in order not to twist my ankle, and some very pretty country roads next to horses and with good shade around miles 9/19 and 10/20. I also recall coming back into a populated area for the finish, after you pass Rourke Bridge for the last time, and that was extremely welcome. The noise from the crowd helped push me along to the end. You finish shortly after crossing over the Oulette Memorial Bridge, pictured below.
This was only the second marathon I had ever run, so I still had no idea what I was doing and was eager to listen to other marathoners share their wisdom. Something I overheard from another runner during this marathon has stuck with me to this day. She was telling her running partner how she divides the marathon in half – purposefully choosing to run easy during the first half and not think about being in a “race” at all, and not switching her mind over to focusing on the task at hand until she hits the halfway point. At that point, she’s only got a half left (which feels comfortably doable, since so many of our training runs are longer than 13.1 miles), she’s not fatigued from going out too fast, and she has plenty of time left to strategize.
I’ve employed a modified version of this approach ever since overhearing it during Baystate. For some, thinking about the fact that you are running 26.2 miles is daunting. Dividing it into two halves with different, purposeful, strategies for each half is mentally easier for me.
On the whole, I recall great crowd support at Baystate, a perfect mid-size field, and lots of resources at the finish line. I also recall that I had lost a lot of salt in my sweat (I now know that I am a “salty sweater” and take salt tabs) and one of the volunteers came right over to check on me, handed me a towel for my face, and offered me soup and Gatorade. I also recall that packet pickup was well organized and there was plenty of hotel lodging in the area. There was ample parking as well, and since the start and finish are right next to each other, you don’t have to worry about shuttles. In summary, Baystate was designed to be a go-to race for those wanting to qualify for Boston. I think it helped me do get that, as I qualified comfortably. Lowell is also just 40 minutes to Boston and 90 minutes to Portland, ME, so if you are not from New England, running Baystate can serve as an excellent excuse to sneak away and enjoy everything our area has to offer in the fall!
“Some seek the comfort of their therapist’s office, other head to the corner pub and dive into a pint, but I chose running as my therapy.”