by Dave Roy and Deb Valois
I’ve run in big events and still occasionally think of completing the Abbott World Majors, and while they are a significant accomplishment, they don’t cut it for me like they used to. I’ve even heard rather negative reviews of the Tokyo Marathon. These days I’ll pick a trail run over a road marathon any day of the week. With that said, I’ve run Boston with my son, and told my daughter when she qualifies, I’ll run it with her. There is no such thing as a Trail Run Boston Qualifier, so every year I need to run a road marathon to get a BQ, which I had not done this year. So, three weeks before race day I entered the “Race the Lake” Marathon.
Race the Lake is a rather small, scenic, country marathon that’s been around since 2014. It doesn’t sell out, only costs $65 to enter, is a Boston Qualifier that I can sleep in my own bed for and not have to get in the car until 6 AM, but it is not fast! As a matter of fact, it has 1553 ft of elevation gain and loss and at mile 19 you get the awesome experience of a 300 ft hill. (Heartbreak Hill is only 91 ft).
I needed a plan. For me, 4hr 5min is the slowest BQ time, so my goal was 4hrs or less, which is a 9:09 pace. I actually had a 4 hour tattoo chart to follow, but needed more info than pace and miles. Temperature was a big concern coming off a hot week. I opted not to run with a hydration pack since it gets hot on my back and there were regular water stops with gels. I started with 4 gels so I always had one with me that I could take before I hit the water stops, and if the stop had gels, I picked another one up on the way out. To keep track I wrote on my arm the mile of the water stops that had gels and my expected time if I was on pace. (8 gels is a lot to stomach and not for everyone!)
Everything worked out and I finished in 3:58:26, so I’m set for another year. I would definitely run “Race the Lake” again! It is extremely well run, has multiple distances: 5K, 10K, Half Marathon & Marathon and I had friends in every event! It is put on by “Clarks Sport Center” in Cooperstown, NY, and has everything a big race would. The main venue is at Glimmerglass State Park with all events starting and ending there except the Half, for which they provide a shuttle to the start. Their finish line party had music, a beachfront awards room, beverages from Awestruck Ciders and Michelob Ultra, wraps from the Jive Cafe, ice cream from Stewarts and a lake view like no other. It’s a run to enjoy with friends!
Race The Lake – Half Marathon
After a less than stellar spring race season (you can’t PR them all), I was looking forward to having some fun with friends “racing” the lake for 13.1 miles in Cooperstown. I work in Cooperstown a few times a month, so I am familiar with and love the scenery. I have also participated in the Cooperstown Triathlon in the past when it had been held at Glimmerglass Park and absolutely loved the bike course and its lovely rolling hills and vistas. I was looking forward to a scenic course that I could truly just enjoy with friends without any expectation of a particular finish time.
After a bright and early start to get to the start on Rte 80, we were ready to go right on time and were treated to a truly stunning rendition of the National Anthem. We were given clear instructions by the race director and off we went into the rolling hills around the lake. Initially we were a bit disconcerted to be instructed to run on the right side of the road (the wrong side for running) but the course was well patrolled by race staff and the State Police and the shoulders were wide enough to be safe for us to stay out of the path of traffic the entire way.
Water/gatorade/gu stops were plentiful and the volunteers were well informed and very energetic and encouraging. My group came prepared with hydration vests but we could have easily used what was on the course and been fine.
“The” hill in the latter half of the course was a doozy, resulting in plenty of walking (planned in advance after seeing the elevation profile of the race), at times backwards to ease the strain on the legs. Turns out the view over the lake was worth turning around for anyway! That hill made me very glad I was not doing the full marathon and encountering it at mile 19! Bless those folks for tackling such an obstacle so late in a marathon!
Coming into Glimmerglass Park for the finish was exciting with a chute lined with spectators and race volunteers cheering us all the way in. Medals were awesome and the food and beverages (and even ice cream!) were plentiful in the finish area. We spent a while lounging around in the park overlooking the lake before we changed and headed out to sample some of the local breweries. After all, what is a trip to Cooperstown without a visit to Ommegang!
In summary, Race the Lake is a challenging but beautiful course that is a great event to enjoy for the joy of running with your Best Running Friends! I’ll leave it to David to shoot for the Boston Qualifying time on this NOT fast course! We can’t all be running legends after all!
– Deb Valois