Great Bay Half Marathon 2020 Virtual Edition

I ran The Great Bay Half Marathon in my own back yard this year. Like so many other races, Great Bay went virtual for 2020.


I’ve run The Great Bay Half Marathon four times.

It’s usually held about a week before the Boston Marathon and when I have a bib for Boston I don’t run Great Bay.

Tapering is supposed to be about cutting back and recuperating, it’s not good a time to run a challenging half marathon.

This year I didn’t have a bib for Boston so I signed up for Great Bay. I love the course, seeing all of my friends and the great party afterwards.

Great Bay Half Marathon 2020

Like almost every race since February, The Great Bay Half Marathon went virtual for 2020.

I had to make up my own course and run the race by my self, totally un-supported.

I went through my Garmin Connect dashboard and found a loop that I could make a 13.1 mile course.

Great Bay Health Marathon 2020 Virtual, Virtual Half

This is a short run across Medford to The Mystic Valley Parkway.

The Parkway is a nice run along the Mystic Lakes with several parks and lots of activity.

It’s particularly popular with cyclist.

When I woke up around 6:30 AM it was already 66° and I knew we were headed for the 80s.

As such I didn’t waste much time getting ready to go. All of my gear was laid out and I was out the door just after 7:00 AM.

The sun was up and the temperature was now 68°.

As I ran down my street I could feel all kinds of aches and pains. I’ve been running less and my legs seem to be feeling worse. Go figure.

I knew that much of this would go away after the first mile and tried to relax and go slow.

The first two miles were 9:16 and 9:03. In West Medford I had to stop for the Commuter Rail train.  I forgot to stop my watch and mile three came in at 10:32.

Great Bay Half Marathon 2020 Virtual, Commuter Rail, West Medford

Mystic Valley Parkway

About a half mile after the rail road crossing I came to the rotary where the Mystic Valley Parkway begins.

Mystic Valley Parkway Sign, Great Bay HalfStrait through the rotary is Arlington and to the right was my designated course up the Parkway.

When I stopped to take this photo just before 8:00 the temperature was already 73° . I was glad to know that most of this parkway is well shaded.

In Massachusetts masks are still required if you cannot maintain social distancing.

It’s impossible to avoid people and I know that I’m going to be close to people at some point during my runs.

It’s amazing how many people won’t give any room to pass on the side walk even with traffic. Am I supposed to run into cars and trucks?

For me, the possibility of death is better than near certainty!

Around mile four I took my Honey Stinger gel. I brought two just in case since it has been a while since I’ve run this distance.

These two miles up The Parkway were fairly comfortable. My aches and pains were gone for the most part. My left knee still bothered me but not enough to cause concern.

Mile 4: 9:03, Mile 5: 9:20

Winchester and Stoneham

Miles six and seven through Winchester were also fairly comfortable. I had been sweating basically since I left my house.

This section of my course had very little shade and it must have been close to 80°. One water bottle was empty and I had taken a drink from my second one.

My mind drifted back to Death Valley. There I learned to drink less than half of your water on the outbound leg of your hike.

I was more than halfway through my run, but I knew there were hills and more fully exposed road coming up.

I took a salt pill and a small drink.

With the Corona Virus pandemic, Dunkin Donut’s has closed all of their bathrooms. So no pit stops to take on or get rid of water.

I don’t take salt very often and I hoped that it wouldn’t make me sick.

But I was sweating heavily and knew I needed the sodium and potassium in that pill.

I passed our usual water stop on Eugene Drive and crossed Rt. 93 into Stoneham.

It was nice knowing that I was well over half way and still felt okay.

When I got to Main Street, my instinct told me to cross and go strait. But for this run I needed to turn right and head south on Main Street/Rt 28.

If I went strait, I’d end up in Melrose and have way too many more miles to run.

After about a half mile I arrived at the intersection of Main Street and South St/North Board Road just up the road from The Stone Zoo.

I stopped my watch and waited for a break in the traffic. I hate pressing the crossing light button. I can get across the road in 5 seconds, but those lights last much longer. Often I get across before the light even changes.

I continued strait on Main Street/Rt. 28 along the back side of Spot Pond. This was another two miles of almost no shade at all.

At mile 10 I had to walk a bit. I was hot and running low on water. With no water stops ahead of me I had to be careful.

Miles seven through eleven were between 9:34 and 10:12.

On the Home Stretch

Just before Mile Eleven I passed my normal turn onto Elm Street. This would have taken me over to Highland Avenue and added a mile or so to my run.

I kept running strait down Rt. 28 towards Roosevelt Circle. This is a busy entrance to Rt. 93 and for local traffic. Fortunately there is a sidewalk and traffic wasn’t heavy yet.

My kids went to the St. Francis Parish School and I was now in an area I knew quite well.

As I passed St. Francis Street I thought about all of the mornings I went up that road to drop the girls off for school in the morning.  Good memories.

The sidewalk along this stretch of road has been heaved by frost and tree roots. I had to watch my step and considered running in the road.

But this section of road is like a speed way on the way to Rt. 93. So I kept my head down and my feet high.

At the intersection of the Fellsway West and Fulton Street the walk light was on! I ran the diagonal across six lanes of traffic for a beautifully executed crossing. That intersection must be 200′ across diagonally.

About half way down the Fells to Rt. 60 I hit mile 12 at 9:35. Not bad.

American Runs on Dunkin!

I was on my way to Haynes Square in Medford. There is a Dunkin Donut’s there and I decided to run to the Dunkin’s for a large iced coffee.

I was dehydrated and I knew that ice cold beverage would taste so good. And since there weren’t any water stops for the half marathon, I owed it to myself to have one good water stop!

I pulled up my mask and walked into Dunkin’s. There were only two people in front of me and I stopped my watch.

It only took about two minutes to place my order and be on my way.

I drank about a quarter of the coffee before I even crossed Rt. 60! I’ve run with an iced coffee several times and it’s much easier to do if it’s not full.

I slow jogged down Spring Street towards my home which was lass than a mile away.

Great Bay 2020, Dunkin DonutsI’m sure I was a sight to see, but hey, America Runs on Dunkin! Call me Captain America, I’ve got an iced coffee!

Just after I turned onto my street I hit mile thirteen at 11:21. Not bad for a guy drinking an iced coffee!

I jogged the next 0.12 miles at a pace of 10:09.

It felt good  to be home.

Running in the heat is really draining. While I prefer heat over cold the heat does seem to take more out of me now. Some of that is probably age and some is probably my fitness level.

Virtual Great Bay Half Results

This definitely was my slowest Great Bay Half Marathon by well over ten minutes.

The real course has a total elevation gain of 424 Ft. while the course I ran only had a gain of 323 Ft. But it’s also about 20° cooler in New Hampshire in April!

It was good to get a solid long run in and the virtual race got me out there.

Have you run many virtual races this year? Have you run a virtual half or a full marathon?

Here are two recaps from from New Hampshire.

Great Bay Half Marathon 2015

Great Bay Half 2013

Run well my Friends,



Beyond the Rainbow 5K Recap

Beyond the Rainbow 5K Race was held Sunday April 6th

I ended up driving to Newmarket, New Hampshire by my self. Everyone else lived too far away and it didn’t make sense to car pool. Driving over an hour to a 5K goes against my running rules. I’ll drive that far for a Half and maybe a 10K if the beer is cold and flowing freely.

For a 5K I generally like to stay within half an hour of my house.

Often I sign up for races without knowing the logistics. Sometimes I know the logistics but situations change, and I end up driving an hour to run for 22 minutes.

On my own

Beyond the rainbow 5k, 5k
Pre race

There are advantages to going to a race by your self. I didn’t have to wait for anyone, so I got there in plenty of time and got a great parking spot.

I got to get a cup of coffee without discussing the merits of one shop over another.

I was able to wander around the downtown of this quaint New Hampshire town and take a few photos and didn’t feel like I was holding anyone up. I felt very relaxed. With so many runners around I never felt alone.


newmarket, great bay
Newmarket Mill

When I was ready to warm up,I did my warm up. When I was ready I headed towards the starting line.

In the half hour before the race I got to go to that special place that runners go to sometimes: deep inside. I didn’t talk to anyone. I just did a few stretches and breathing exercises. I was getting into the zone.

I knew I wasn’t going to win but I was there to run the best race I could. I’ve never run this race and didn’t know the course. But the start was on a downhill!

In my mind I focused on what I wanted to do and what I thought I could do. I knew I could go out strong and fast and keep up with the lead pack for a few hundred yards. I knew that at some point in the race my legs would get tired, my lungs would burn and my will would slack. I knew this. I planned for this. I visualized the race.

Beyond the Rainbow 5K Race

My plan was to run balls to the wall the entire race and see what happened. I visualized that and anticipated how I would feel at different stages of the race. When I stepped over the start line I did not walk back into the crowd. I stayed near the front. Then the race announcer had us all move up like a priest in church. I was the second man back from the starting line! The last time I was in that position it was a mistake. This time it was part of my plan.

I’m the guy in the white hat and t-shirt on the right. Number 1232.

Beyond the rainbow 5k,start

Miss New Hampshire sang the National Anthem and then the announcer told runners to take their mark.

I had never been at the front of the pack for a 5K. The guys around me all got down like sprinters with their hand on the start button of their watches. I chuckled to my self. WTF is this? I’m a middle of the pack distance guy. Is this what the fast short track kids do?

Like the new kid in school, I took my mark and found the button on my watch. There wouldn’t be time to fumble for the button on this run. I would be over the timing mat in two steps! I felt a little out of my league. I can’t run a 5 or 6 minute mile. I knew I would have to sprint a few hundred yards and then get the hell out-of-the-way.

LOCO running, bay state, MC
Race Announcer

The announcer yelled “Go, go, go”, I took a step, hit the start button and hauled ass down Main Street. Garmin shows that for the first 0.05 miles I ran at a 4:55 pace! At 0.25 miles I was at a 6:50 pace and had to focus on controlling my legs. I knew I was in a swift tide and the swimming was going to be tough.

The handful of runners in the lead pack separated before our first turn onto Beech Street Extension. As we approached the left onto Elm Street more runners passed me. Most looked younger than me, so it was okay. We wound our way through a neighborhood in Newmarket and at about 1.5 miles came back out onto Elm Street.

I was running all out as we wound our way through the neighborhood. My lungs were burning as if it were cold out. My lips were dry and saliva was like glue in my mouth. We made a lot of turns and I had to focus on not slipping on the sand and gravel. Back on Elm Street I could feel the energy leaving my legs as we approached mile 2.

As we approached 2.5 miles, volunteers held signs and directed the 5K runners to the right. Great Bay runners were directed to go straight. Many times when I’ve run a Half I’ve envied the 5K guys taking that turn and heading for their home stretch. I knew I was running a pace that could not be sustained over 13.1 miles. I was running my plan. All gas was on the fire. Still, part of me wanted to run out Bay Road into the Great Bay Estuary with my tribe.

I made the turn onto Sanborn Avenue and was greeted with a hill! There was some grumbling, but I didn’t have breath to grumble. We quickly turned left onto North Main Street and more hill, the bridge. We were within a quarter-mile of the finish line. I dug deep and kept up a 6:45 pace and kicked it into 5:40 for the last hundred yards or so.

As I approached the finish line the announcer said, “still time to get under 21 minutes”. I think that caused me to sprint at a 5:40 pace to the finish. The clock said 21 when I crossed the line, and when I looked at my Garmin it said 21:14! I didn’t think it was a PR, but I knew I ran all out the entire way. No slacking.

After the race

When I got to the bag check and food, there were very few other runners. I grabbed some food, a Hint Water and picked up my bag. As I was heading towards Main Street and the VFW I stopped to talk with Mark Breen of Dover. He came in at 22:29.9 or a 7:16 pace. He was 50th overall. Mark had a good run but I could tell he wanted more. We talked about the race and running for a few minutes.

At the top of the street they had the awards table. Just for fun I stopped to look, but it was too early. I ended up speaking with a guy who grew up in Newmarket and still lives there. In High School he worked in the restaurant down the street that I’ve eaten in before. Now he works at the Smuttynose Brewery! We had a good talk about Newmarket, running and beer. His wife ran the 5K and she looked winded. I headed off for the VFW.

Derek and Kevin were there all ready. I waved hello and grabbed two Smuttynose IPAs. They were nice and cold. Derek asked me how I did and I told him I didn’t know the official results. I grabbed a few dollars to put in the tip jar for our bar tenders and jogged down Main Street. At the Scientology Church, our numbers were taped to the stone wall.

I was 31! My official time was 21:11.5 or a pace of 6:51!  The time was essentially the same as my watch. While I was excited by the finish time and position, my watch showed that I only ran 2.92 miles. I headed back to the VFW for a few more beers and waited for everyone else to show up.

VFW, Newmarket, smuttynose, beyond the rainbow 5k
At the VFW

We had a good time talking about running, politics, the race and everything else. At one point I looked towards the bar and saw my old friend Thuy sitting down. I waved to her and called out for her to join us. Nothing worse than sitting by yourself with a cold beer after a race.

We hung out till about 2PM and decided it was time to go. Thuy and I headed for the bus stop. We got on the bus, sat down and Thuy realized she didn’t have any pictures proving she ran the race! She convinced me to get off the bus and take some pictures of her at the finish line!

Between my sunglasses and the glare on her phone, the screen might as well have been made of obsidian. I just pointed this black screen in her direction and pressed the button. The wrong button it turned out! After some help I finally got the pictures she wanted and we headed back to the bus stop.

The bus ride was brief and we headed for our cars. Another great running experience.

Run well my friends!


© anagelin 2014