The Hyannis Marathon (Hyannis, MA) – February 23, 2014

I approached this race with a certain degree of trepidation, primarily because of the unpredictable weather.  It is a late winter race in an area of the country that has been hard hit with snow and ice this year, and I was not looking forward to dealing with cold and precipitation.  Since it is on Cape Cod, the logistics of getting to and from the race are also difficult.  It would be necessary to fly into Providence, Boston, or Manchester, and then rent a car and drive to Hyannis.  It’s not a bad drive when the weather is pleasant but in winter, all bets are off; one of the reasons I left Massachusetts years ago was to avoid having to drive in bad weather.

So, why Hyannis? In part, I wanted to do this race because the Cape is such a neat place to visit off-season, when all the tourists have gone home.  I did the Clam Chowdah Challenge in Falmouth on the Cape several years ago (read about it in my blog report for October 2011) and enjoyed it immensely.  Another reason was bragging rights.  The Hyannis race, while not particularly difficult in terms of terrain or elevation, is considered challenging exactly because it’s held while winter is still at its peak in New England.  Runners (or ‘runnahs,’ to use the race director’s Boston pronunciation) consider themselves hardy souls for braving the elements to run the course.  And finally, the course offers a half hour early start, giving runners and walkers a 6 ½ hour time limit.  That clinched it; I registered and started making plans for my trip.

I was able to get a fairly reasonable airfare to Providence.  Instead of renting a car, I opted to use one of the shuttle services available.  As it happened, my fears about having to drive in a snowstorm were unfounded; it turned out we had wonderful weather all weekend, cold but with no precipitation.  Still, with the possibility of bad weather an unknown, I decided the shuttle was a wise choice.  I selected Cape Cod-based Green Shuttle, in part because they had an excellent and easily maneuverable website.  Their round-trip fares were reasonable and I had no trouble finding my driver, Richard, once I arrived at TF Green airport.

It took about an hour or so to get from Providence to Hyannis and Richard was kind enough to drive me first to my hotel, the DoubleTree, and then to the expo which was held at the host hotel, the Hyannis Resort and Conference Center, about 2 miles away.   I chose the DoubleTree because I had read mixed reviews of the host hotel; rooms there were said to be musty and sadly in need of refurbishment, while the DoubleTree had been newly renovated and rooms were in excellent condition.

The expo was relatively small but still had a variety of vendors selling everything from shoes and shirts to hats, socks, and gels.  Packet pickup was quick and easy; there was no line at the early start desk and I quickly managed to get my bid with chip attached and my tee shirt (long-sleeved cotton), slightly big but it still fit reasonably well.  Past Boston Marathoners Bill Rodgers and Dick Beardsley had a table at the expo and were signing autographs. I wanted to buy the book that Bill Rodgers had written but the lines were extremely long; I decided to wait and try another time at another race.

I attended the pasta dinner so I could listen to guest speakers Rodgers and Beardsley, but fatigue overwhelmed me.  I had been awake since 1 am that morning and desperately needed to get some sleep before the race the next day.  I stayed as long as I could and then took a taxi back to my hotel.  It would have been easy to walk the 2 miles, but it was now about 7 pm and dark outside, so a short taxi ride seemed the wisest course.

Back at my hotel, I selected my clothes and shoes for the race, listened obsessively to weather forecasts for Sunday, and had a cup of herbal tea.  I fell asleep around 8:30 pm and slept like a rock, waking up around 5 am the next morning.  Since I had signed up for the early start, I needed to be at the conference center by 9:30.  That was easy; I was dressed and ready to go by 8 am.  But first, I walked outside 3 times to try to decide what kind of jacket I should wear.  The weather was cold but not freezing, with a possibility of rain, and the temperature was supposed to rise to the mid-40’s.  I opted for my heavy jacket because it had a hood and I wanted protection from the wind, which I read could be a problem near the ocean areas.

I walked the two miles from my hotel to the conference center and waited patiently for the 10 minute briefing for the early start.  Packet pickup was continuing inside the conference center and there were dozens of people milling around, picking up bibs and shirts, stopping to talk to each other, and eating snacks sold at a concessionaire.  In addition to the marathon, there is also a half marathon and a marathon relay.  As usual, the half marathon attracts the most people.  There were 382 marathon finishers while over 3000 people did the half.  At 9 am the race director began calling for all early starters to meet at the start line, directly in front of the conference center.  There were only about 20 of us; we listened to instructions and a little past 9:30 we took off, following a cyclist who was supposed to show us the way.  Just in case, I hung back with my friend Mike Brooks, a Hyannis Marathon veteran who had a good idea of the course.  Fortunately, there were also volunteers already set up at every crucial turn, so we headed in the correct direction and did not get lost.

The course is a double loop.  I really dislike double loop courses but I found this one to be fairly pleasant.  The streets were in good shape and there were not a lot of confusing turns.  We passed by several neat cemeteries, through attractive residential neighborhoods in the villages of Hyannis, Hyannis Port, and Centerville, and by a number of beaches.  There was only one section on a busy road but that was fairly brief; the road was coned on the first loop and on the second loop we were directed to the sidewalk.  Aid stations were approximately every two miles and were staffed with lots of volunteers who offered water and Gatorade and occasionally bananas and pretzels.  Police on motorbikes continually monitored the course and I saw several ambulances and EMT vehicles keeping a watchful eye on us.

Of course, it was hard to finish the first loop and pass right by the finish line; a big part of me wanted to join the half marathoners as they pulled away, but I concentrated on mentally and physically pushing myself through the second loop.  There were a few people in front of me on this loop and (I hoped) a few people behind me as well.  The weather had turned a bit cooler now and I was glad I had my heavier jacket. I made myself focus on enjoying the sights of the harbor, beach, and small villages we passed through, but I must admit I was relieved to finally get to mile 26, the finishing line within sight.  I crossed the finish in 6:02, received my medal, and wandered into the conference center for some refreshments (water, soup, doughnuts, bagels, fruit).  It turns out that I placed 2nd in my age group, so I picked up my award, a medal on a red, white, and blue lanyard.  Now I was one of those runnahs with bragging rights!

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