For the “New Hampshire State Parks Bloggers,” running the 2012 NH Reach the Beach Relay was an experience of a lifetime. The level of organization, beauty of the course and amount of fun we had far exceeded our expectations. In our first year we did pretty well too! We finished 79th overall and 6th in the mixed/open category. Our average pace for 202 miles was 7:58 minutes. It took us 26 hours and 57 minutes to run from Franconia Notch State Park to Hampton Beach State Park!
Although we were exhausted and sore by the end we cherished this amazing opportunity and are already discussing the possibility of running it again next year. Here’s why…
Kate: Van 1, Runner 1
I loved the way fellow runners cheered us on from the side of the road and out of their van windows. We were all all hurting at one point, not wanting to push any harder but the extra encouragement helped us relentlessly pursue the finish. I guess we are just seriously stubborn and determined distance runners. When our legs were tired we ran with our hearts!
This was my first RTB and it made for some amazing memories… not just one particular moment… but all of it! One of our fellow runners gave this description about the event – “Another sleepless weekend of insane running. Nobody said it was going to be easy… They just promised it would be worth it!” And it so was!!! I feel so proud that I was able to run with the NH State Park Bloggers Team. Thank you for this amazing experience! I hope to be part of this again.
Stacy: Van 1, Runner 4
I knew I’d enjoy Reach the Beach, but I had no clue how much fun I would actually have. I loved every minute of it! My night leg at about 1am was definitely a highlight. I was nervous leading up to it, picturing myself taking a wrong turn and being stranded alone in the pitch black somewhere in the Lakes Region. Instead, I ended up loving the dark, misty, peaceful night and ran those rolling hills so much stronger then I ever imagined I could. It was easily my favorite leg of the race.
My favorite memories are definitely those late night/early morning laughs in the van. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard for so long! My teammates were awesome- acquaintances turned into close friends over the course of 24+ hours in a van together. Everyone was so supportive, encouraging and hilarious to be around. It was hard to say goodbye at the end of the race…who knew I’d miss a sweaty, filthy van so much?
Rebecca: Van 1, Runner 5
Before my 2nd leg (a difficult trek up and down multiple hills) I had gotten 30 minutes of sleep in a sleeping bag on the grass by our van at the last transition area. As I started to get into a groove, I had a sort of out of body experience where I was able to transcend my exhaustion and just take in the moment. It was truly incredible! The stars were out in full force, it was dead quiet except for the crickets and all I could see were the other runners’ lights dancing in front of me as the miles passed. It was totally surreal and one of the most exhilarating runs I’ve had in my life. Could I do it again? Maybe. Maybe not.
It was an unbelievable journey including several hilarious and insane moments. It was like nothing I’ve ever done before and one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had as a runner. A HUGE shout out to all my teammates on the the NH State Park Bloggers Team. Thank you all for being so freakin’ awesome.
Michele: Van 1, Runner 6
Going into this race I felt under-prepared and ready for pain and certain agony, but something strange happened… I actually felt REALLY good the ENTIRE time! I’m sure it had absolutely nothing to do with my physical powers, but instead, had everything to do with the constant laughter and support that was pouring from my teammates and all the other vans and runners on the road for the 200+ miles. It is next to impossible to pick out a single moment, but if I had to choose something that I loved the most about this race, I would have to say that it was probably a combination of Stacy’s fashion show, Becca’s clog feet, Mike’s cannonball sprint to finish, Will’s AMAZING MASSAGE, and the finish line with the entire team!
Thank you Reach the Beach for an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything!!
Mary: Van 2, Runner 8
Favorite part of RTB – Hanging out and getting to know a bunch of great people. Running- I know, I’m crazy, but I love everything about it (for the most part… besides the crazy hills in the middle of the night.. but I also didn’t really mind that too much either). Finishing together as a whole team was cool at the end. It was also fun to have the finish line on the actual beach, even though it was tough to run in the soft sand.
Funniest moment – Being so overtired that everything seemed funny.
What made it special – Running for an important cause (Lyme Disease awareness).
Grant: Van 2, Runner 9
Shortly before 6am my second and hardest leg began. It was still dark out but light was just starting to creep over the horizon. I reached the top of a 570 ft vertical climb halfway through my run, feeling exhausted and out of breath. Running by a farm, cows were mooing loudly from a pasture. The sun had finally broken over the skyline forming most incredible pink sky I have ever seen. In the distance I could see a strip of rain and the lights of vans pulling into my next transition area. For a moment I wished I had my camera but somehow the moment seemed more special without one. This was so rewarding for me and made me grateful to have had the opportunity to run in this race.
The other reward was getting to make some incredible new friends! Riding in a van together for more than 20 hours we laughed, cried and got to know each other intimately. It didn’t take long before I felt comfortable being my normal goofy, nerdy self in the presence of my van-mates. We had such a blast! The race was so much more awesome than I expected. Even after the pain and lack of sleep we are already discussing our plans for another race next year! Can’t wait.
Mike: Van 2, Runner 11
Having never ran in any of the past 200 mile Reach the Beach races before I was amazed at the number of runners participating. Over 400 twelve person teams and many 6 person ‘ultra’ teams added up to around 5,000 runners and support staff using 800 vans to carry runners to the start of 36 ‘legs’. Why did these runners travel from all over New England, Canada and some even from west of the Rockies to Franconia Notch State Park to participate in this Reach The Beach Race? By the time our team crossed the sandy finish line at Hampton Beach State Park 27 hours later I think I had my answer but it is difficult to put into words. The sense of satisfaction, the feeling of reaching a goal, the camaraderie of sharing the same goal with teammates, sense of doing something good through by enduring personal pain to help one’s team, the joy of running efficiently in all weather, terrain and lighting conditions… There are as many reasons for the popularity of this extreme running race as there were participants! When we started many of us were strangers and by the end of the ordeal we parted as new lifelong friends!
Other things that impressed me – all the uniquely decorated vans, volunteers parking vans at transition areas, communities allowing the race to pass through their towns, organizations raising money through food sales, the costumes runner’s wore, the energy and human electricity at each transition, cheering and encouragement from all, the huge tents at end of the race on the beach with all the amenities lacking for last 27 hours. It was like living inside a 200 mile circus tent!
So much of NH’s scenery was also showcased along the course including several NH State Parks! Something some of us locals may take this for granted but I’m sure it’s part of the draw for the popularity of this event.
Will: Van 1 Driver
Being part of Reach the Beach can only be described as a blur of awesomeness. It is in fact a good example of how sleep deprivation prevents memory consolidation. As one of the van drivers my role was not to compete but to help those competing and make sure they were where they needed to be when they needed to be. Staying focused on the road keeping track of times and relative distances to the next transition area meant that for a lot of the time in the van I was relatively silent and focused…not to mention making sure I didn’t hit any of the countless runners on the sides of the roads. Although my attention was split I could feel how close everyone in the van was becoming and how much my responsibility for these runners overlapped with my growing bond with them and desire for them to do well. Time and time again I was amazed by them both in their skills as runners but also their mental attitude. Some got silent before their leg and got quite to focus others got more energetic and excited. At the end of each leg the range was from exhausted/in pain but happy it was over to actually really happy and excited to run more.
The moment I keep going to back to when i think of those 36 hours or so is probably the least exciting part of the whole time. It is after our van finished their second legs and we were headed to the apartment to sleep until they had to run in the morning. We were no longer traveling on roads filled with runners and there were very few cars on the road since it was about 4AM. Everyone in the van was either asleep or silent…or comatose from exhaustion. It no longer felt like we were participating in a relay race but that we were a group of friends or family traveling on a long overnight drive. The details are blurred and will continue to do but there will always be a fond feeling of friendship looking back on those 36hrs.