12 runners, 205 miles and one daunting task
Since the inaugural event 15 years ago, Reach the Beach has become one of the premier relay races in the Northeast.
And one of the most difficult. Over the course of two days, teams of six to 12 runners navigate the 205-mile course from Cannon Mountain in Franconia to Hampton Beach State Park with one goal in mind — finishing.
Made up of 36 legs, Reach the Beach tests not only physical endurance, but mental strength as well.
“We knew we weren’t going to win the race, we just wanted to be able to finish,” said Lisa Foley of Peterborough, who ran for the Wonder Women.
For the standard teams made up of 12 runners, each one is responsible for three legs, but for the ultra teams — made up of only six runners — the challenge is twice as daunting.
“It’s not just running. It’s the logistics of keeping yourself going,” said Chris Bernier of Rindge, who ran with the top ultra team.
The legs vary in length from 2.43 miles to 8.98 miles with different degrees of difficulty. And they also have to run throughout the night.
“Reach the Beach is so difficult on your body,” said Stephen Buzzell, who ran 18 miles as a member of the Monadnock Hospital Care Bears. “It’s pretty impossible to get any kind of good rest.”
Starting at 7:30 a.m. in the rain on Sept. 13, teams began in waves every 15-30 minutes and had until 8 p.m. on Saturday to complete the distance. The winning team took just over 20 hours at a pace of 5:54 per mile, while the final team, No. 471, finished in 36-plus hours.
And that included five teams made up of local runners. Bernier ran with the Ultra Midlife Crisis team, which finished first for the ultra teams and ninth overall.
“It took 12 people to beat us,” said Bernier. “We really just put together a team and hoped for the best.”
Bernier ran a total of 42 miles over six legs in less than 24 hours, averaging a 6:14 per mile pace.
“Probably my fourth leg was my hardest one,” said Bernier. “Even the smallest hill will get you.”
The Care Bears entered for the fourth year in a row and were back to defend their corporate mixed division title. It was a slightly new group this year and the Care Bears placed third in their division and 97th overall in 27:51:06.
“The weather really complicated matters, but overall I thought it went well,” said Buzzell.
The Dublin School put together two teams for the second year in a row, but changed it up in 2013 to add more students. The teams, Truth & Courage and Team Moxie, were each made up of eight students and four faculty members.
“I was really impressed with our students,” said Dean of Students Eric Nemitz, who ran 23 miles for Truth & Courage. “We wanted to have the focus on the students, so we went with the minimal number of adults.”
Truth & Courage, named after the school’s motto, finished 199th in 29:28:14, while Moxie was 244th in 30:07:07.
“There was some healthy rivalry between the teams in a mild way,” said Nemitz. “But we weren’t really competing with each other. There was a lot of engagement between the two teams.”
And the Wonder Women, made up of 12 local ladies, finished in 33:15:25.
The name came after Sara Spittel, the mastermind behind entering a team, found a Wonder Woman skirt and made a push to have it as the team name.
Foley said the name stuck and they were quite noticeable in their superhero running outfits during the two-day event.
Last September, Foley ran her first 5K with Spittel and trained for a year for Reach the Beach.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but very rewarding,” said Foley. “I loved being part of the team.”