As 2017 has come to an end, it’s appropriate to find out what races were favorites among the leading runners in the Albany area. Enjoy the responses and maybe plan on running some or all of the races in 2018.
TD Beach to Beacon 10K
This is a race I went to for the first time in 2016 and then again in 2017. This is an amazing event and would definitely recommend for a destination race. I go for the enjoyment of the event and don't get caught up in my place or time. I plan to continue to make this an annual trip. The race was founded by Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson in order to bring runners to her favorite training grounds. The course perfectly captures New England starting in Cape Elizabeth and winding through the hills to finish at the Portland Head Lighthouse, the first commissioned lighthouse and the most photographed lighthouse in America. I look forward to going back in 2018.
New Balance 5th Avenue Mile
By far my best race in 2017. After a spring setback I focused on the 5th Avenue Mile as my goal race and it did not disappoint. The energy on the one mile stretch is amazing. It was my fastest mile of the season at 5:03 and what an amazing feeling to break the tape for the masters win at such a historic race. The race runs alongside Central Park so it provides a great location for warm-up and cool-down. NYRR does a great job with the event providing numerous heats and easy bag checks. The event wraps up with the pros sprinting down 5th Avenue which is very exciting to watch.
I was out for 3 months with a stress fracture so I didn’t get a chance to race as much as I would have liked, especially since I missed out on the Hudson Mohawk this year, which was a bummer.
New Bedford Half Marathon - 3/18 - This was an awesome and challenging race. While super fast in the middle miles of the race, the headwinds and hills at the end prove to be the real challenge. While it’s an out of state race, it is very deep and competitive, and the 11 am start time makes it easy to travel to the morning of the race. I’d recommend doing it at least once, but it’s definitely not a race if you’re looking for a half PR. It’s a great race if you’re looking for a tune up for the Boston Marathon.
Vermont City Marathon - 5/28 - This was my first marathon, and although I finally understand what a real “bonk” feels like, this was a fantastic race. While it is a tough, challenging course, the small city feel makes it ideal for first time marathoners. The aid stations are plentiful, at least every 2 miles, and there was no need to get to the start like 30 minutes before to get in your corral like some larger races such as NYC. The course makes its way through the center of the town three times, so it provides ample opportunity for spectators to follow friends and family racing as well.
Firecracker 4 mile - 7/4 - The Firecracker 4 is one of my favorite local races every year. The competition is outstanding, and it’s always fun competing with my club team (Willow Street Athletic Club). The first 800m is always the funnest part of this race, as the slight downhill usually leads to a quick 1st mile time. We lucked out with the weather this year compared to some previous years. I love running down Broadway and getting to run through all the city streets in Saratoga.
Stockade-athon– 11/12 While I had only been back running again for 2 or 3 weeks by the time of this race after an injury, I had to run the Stockade-athon as the course runs right by my apartment in the Stockade. My favorite part about this race is getting to run through all of the historic neighborhoods in Schenectady, an area with tons of history. I really like the new course layout as well, with its fast start, some hills in the middle portion of the race, and a fast downhill finish. Having access to the Schenectady YMCA before and after the race is a fantastic improvement from previous years and it’s nice to be able to get ready in a warm area. While I wasn’t in the greatest shape, I had to make my cats proud, and try to score some points for Willow Streets.
Saratoga First Night 5k – 12/31 As I said on the start line, “Why do we do this race every year?” This local race has turned into a cold, snowy tradition for my friends and me. This year proved to be the coldest race I’ve ever participated in (Weather Underground states it was 1F 30 minutes before the start, and -6F 30 minutes later). While the course has changed slightly over the past several years, the race director and volunteers always do a great job of keeping the roads salted, cleared, and well lit. There’s usually good competition as well as this race attracts local collegiate athletes that are home for winter break. The course starts out hard with a rolling first mile around the Skidmore College campus, then a fast downhill second mile, before a long half-mile up Broadway back to the campus. Not the fastest local 5k, but I like to use it to gauge my fitness after a couple weeks of downtime around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
My list of favorite races for 2017 is rather simple because I didn't run that many. The Hudson Turkey Trot is an all time favorite of mine. I have run it every year since 1974. Twice I wobbled through it on crutches after foot surgeries. It is 2.5 miles (with a 1 mile option) through the city streets of Hudson, NY. It isn't well organized, which is part of its charm. It boasts a $5.00 entry fee along with non-perishable items for the food pantry.
The High Rock Run Up is an informal trail race from my house. It is 2.2 miles, gains about 1000 feet of elevation, and people run about their 3.5-mile time for the distance. It finishes atop a beautiful cliff overlooking the Catskill Mountains. It is a self-timed race with all participants meeting at the top/finish and then running back to my home together.
My all time favorite is a race I founded in 1977, the Escarpment Trail Run. I no longer run the race on race day, but rather run the race a week or two afterwards. Nothing makes me feel more alive than being on the E.T. high in the mountains, with not a soul around. The race has changed my life, it has introduced me to people I never would have met otherwise.
Subaru 4-mile, Buffalo, NY. Great atmosphere on a Friday night in July. Lots of community support/spectators. Great post-race party with live music.
Bergen 5K, Bergen, NY. Small race in rural town with a big race feel. Fast course with very deep field. Usually 10-20 guys going sub-16. Very competitve.
I would list the Boilermaker 15K, but I didn't run it this year. Very well organized. They really take care of invited runners. Great post-race party. Going out on stage to receive an award is like being in a rock concert.
Stockade-athon has always been one of my favorites. Very challenging course. Well organized. Lots of spectators. Disappointed they made the prize money only available to local residents though.
Race with Grace 10K. Hilton, NY. Fun, Thanksgiving Day race. Fast course, if the weather cooperates. Well organized & very friendly, with a small-town, intimate feel. Perfect way to start Thanksgiving Day.
One of my favorite races of 2017 was the Shamrock Festival 8k in Virginia Beach. Great flat course with people cheering most of the way. I chose this race because it was part of the circuit of Masters National Championship races. There was a post race band that played and there was a very festive atmosphere. Another race I chose was the James Joyce 10k near Boston. It is another race on the Masters Championship circuit that offers a very competitive masters field. Locally one of my favorite races is the Firecracker 4 Miler. Super competitive field and there are many things to do with the family around Saratoga after the race. My other favorite race of the year is the Stockade-athon. It's a tradition to do for me. My high school coach has run it every year. I hit number 15 this year and hope to eventually get in the 20-time club. Another race I enjoy running is the Father's Day 5k every year with my daughters. Then we go back for a game later in the summer.
Definitely the Stockade-athon! This year was all about coming back after having twins last year. The work and discipline coming back without injury finally came through. I put together a great race with each 5k getting progressively faster. I also broke my 15k PB and placed well and won my age group. The conditions were ideal and the race was flawlessly put on.
7 Sisters Moreau 15K Trail Race (Amherst, Mass) Possibly one of the toughest trail races in the northeast. It’s brutal but for some odd reason you’ll sign up each year to run it each year! You can’t call yourself a trail runner unless you’ve done 7 Sisters Moreau 15K trail race (Moreau NY) -Hands down the hardest 15K trail race in the area. Beautiful scenery, laid back atmosphere and cool trophies. Gorgeous single track trails and a spectacular view of Spier Falls! Route 50 Mile (Burnt Hills, NY) –What’s better than sprinting a mile? Sprinting a mile in front of thousands of cheering people and later being able to watch the Flag Day parade. Best part, it’s downhill and there’s free Stewarts ice cream at the end. Stick around after the race to watch the parade and get free candy as they throw it from the floats. ARE Adventure Race (Warrensburg, NY) Not for the faint of heart, this race will test you but it's super fun and a great way to end the year. Distance between 4-7 miles (no one knows till the race is over) and the course is a mix of trails and bushwhacking. It’s called the Adventure Race for a reason because there are boulders to climb, occasional water hazards, and trees to run across (all optional). Definitely the most unique race in our area.
Josh Merlis – Favorite Races to Direct
I direct several events on behalf of the Albany Running Exchange as well as Winter Series #4 for HMRRC. On the positive, all of them are different which keeps it fresh throughout the year. One event, in particular, that I enjoy directing is the ARE Adventure Race. What makes this one particularly fun for me is that the event is literally different every year. December 9, 2017 marked our 12th edition of the race, and not once has it had the same course - nor has it ever been the same distance. Part of directing the event includes marking part of the course. The race is held on the 800+ acres of the Dippikill Wilderness Retreat in Warrensburg, NY, and each year myself and John Kinnicutt (and sometimes others) split up sections of property as areas within which we can mark – anywhere and in any way we like. The race is about half bushwhacking, half-trail, and typically has numerous water crossings, rock climbs, tree climbs, and anything else we choose. As we independently mark different sections simply by walking through the woods and placing the markings wherever we desire, no one, and I mean no one knows the full course before the start. To that end, none of us even know the distance of it. (Pre-arranged checkpoints delineate where the different people marking the course begin/end their sections.)
For 2017, the overall male and female winners received a handshake from a 6 year old for their efforts. Perhaps it should have been the other way around - the 6 year old competed! The race is typically around 6 miles, and incredibly dangerous/difficult. We don't recommend anyone do it, let alone a 6 year old. (His dad did compete with him, but still - wow!) One of the best parts of the race is after it, when everyone hangs out in the lodge and shares their stories of how they navigated the difficult parts of the course. Other than food, the only other thing the event gives you is a feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line. And sometimes a need for bandaids.
Corporate Challenge for the fact there is no prize, but still great competition shows up. Tawsentha 5k series for the gnarly hills and the river crossing. Thacher Park Running Festival 10K for the true XC course and single track plus the pancakes at the end!
ADK Marathon Festival for the course - neat that it goes through the religious camp with the crowds and the signs. Plus to end at Schroon Lake to take a dip. The post race refreshments are solid. Saratoga XC Classic because it's fast terrain, but has some tough climbs to be able to make moves during the race.
Local – Running of the Green - always a great way to kick of the season. This race reminds me that it's time to get fast. Adirondack Distance Run - near and dear to my heart - scenic, rolling hills and great course director. Palio - great course, great cause, and a good training run before the marathon.
Out of the area races- Philadelphia Marathon - hands down my favorite course, big city feel in a manageable city. NYC Half -- my favorite half, just enough hills, with the thrill of NYC.
CDPHP Workforce Challenge 3.5M – The largest and most exciting race in the Capital Region brings out the best in workplace fitness and competition. Walkway Race Series 5K & Half Marathon – A scenic race in Poughkeepsie, NY takes you over the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge with amazing views of the Hudson River. Dynamic Duo 3M pursuit race – Matching up with a relay partner of the opposite gender, this is one of the most fun and unique races around! FAM 5K Fund Run – A small town race with lots of excitement lets you experience the fall season in Cobleskill, NY.
My favorite race of 2017 had to be the Thatcher Park 50k, such a gorgeous course!! There is just something soothing about being out on the trails in your own little world.
Another one of my favorite races for 2017 was the Corporate Challenge, my favorite part was trying to chase my friend Josh Merlis down the hill!! Corporate Challenge is a great indicator of where you stand in the area. And lastly my favorite race of the year was the Pittsburgh Marathon even though everything hit the fan in that race. The crowds were Fantastic and the course was well laid out.
Love FMRRC runs Winter Wimp 4.4 miler in Hagaman, will be on Jan 13 in 2018, good food and family like atmosphere in the winter. Also Mule Haul 8km in June, out on the road, back on a canal footpath, easy running/footing, is another family event with hotdogs for everyone there. Also, Mule Haul is now the 8km RRCA National Championship Race. The 3rd event, my favorite probably because the temperature is almost always awesome as it is in October, is the Sportsman Pub 10k in Northville, worth the ride, has very good food spread after!
Skyline Half Marathon trail race in Utah because it took place during a hot air balloon launch and we saw the balloons off the cliffs during the race.
Snowshoe World Championships in Saranac Lake because it was a warm day and I snowshoed in shorts and a singlet which I had never done before.
We volunteered (did not and will not be running) at Manitou’s Revenge. That is a pretty cool trail race in the Catskills but not for mortals.
My favorite races are: 1. Maddie’s Mark 5k - a wonderful, family-friendly local 5k that raises money for an amazing local charity, the Maddie’s Mark Foundation. 2. Shires of Vermont Marathon - tough, hilly course but beautiful scenery. 3. Lake Placid half/ full marathon - another beautiful, challenging course. 4. article - a flat, fast 10k. I like the extra distance before the big feast!
USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Baton Rouge LA..I had taken 9 months off for back surgery and this meet was 90 days after I started to be able to train again. I placed 1st in High Jump, 2nd In 10,00 Meters, 3rd in 5000 meters, 3rd in 3000 Steeplechase, 6th in 1500.
USATF National Trail Marathon Championships at the Famed Moab Marathon Course in Moab UTAH, 5th place in AG group for Nation. It was such a beautiful run, didn't know I was mentioned before race in in Trail Runner Magazine article. Just the most beautiful run ever.
Baton Rouge was in July 100 degrees, 100% humidity. Moab was in November.
The other favorite this year was the Arsenal 5K, my team ran very well winning fastest male and female from Watervliet and we took second as combined team with a female and two males. Fun day.
Troy Turkey Trot, 2nd place!! Woohoo. Historic race that I’ve done since high school. I had a streak of about 12 years in a row until it snowed one year and I had to plow snow! Firecracker 4m, Willow Street barely nudged our AREEP and won the 4m USATF Adirondack team race. Erie Marathon, ran 2:48 to qualify again for Boston. Flat course lots of competitors.
Hmm. That is tough because the weather was pretty rough for most of the races I did, but I would have to say Boston is far and away the champ because it's Boston. I don't know how many times I am going to do it but it was definitely special. Locally I'll go with Stockade-athon which is generally my favorite local race.
The Oktoberfest 5k, NYC 5k and the Stockade-athon.
Troy Turkey Trot 10K - Got my 2nd win after 21 years. Silks and Satins - First time Under 16 minutes in almost 4 years. SEFCU 5K - 2nd consecutive win with some great competition there.
My favorite race this year was the Turkey Trot 10 km. I enjoy big races with good competition. I also enjoy the Corporate Challenge (although it was too hot this year), Fire Cracker 4, and the Stockade-athon. This year I enjoyed the Malta 5k... it had a lot of good competition. Apparently the course was short... that was disappointing. Obviously I couldn't do Stockade-athon as its director, so I raced a hard 15k at Winter Series I. I was all alone but I broke an hour, so that was a very enjoyable race even though it wasn't a big race.
So, the Turkey Trot and Corporate Challenge are the top 2 this year. I used to like Watervliet 5k when it was at night.
My favorite races regardless of year are/have historically been - Boston Marathon, New Bedford Half Marathon, Boilermaker, Mohawk Hudson River Half/Full Marathon, and Stockade-athon. I like those races because of the history behind each of them, the competition and people the races draw, the courses, and the personal accomplishments I've had at each races.
Hmmmm I would say the Firecracker 4, Hairy Gorilla and Stockade-athon are my 3 favorites.
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