The 33rd New Bedford Half Marathon—Classic Race in this Historic Seaport City is Again USATF-NE Championship

By Skip Cleaver

In New Bedford, Massachusetts they “Embrace the Race”. It will run March 21 at 11:00 a.m. and is one of the best New England has to offer, indeed one of the best in the USA. The New Bedford Half Marathon is the second of seven races in the USATF–New England Grand Prix. Why? “We cater to runners who expect quality and respect.”
New Bedford is a terrific location for a race with scenic harbor views, a closed course that is spectator friendly, historic seaport and structures, excellent amenities, and a wonderful racing legacy after 33 years. But two things make this venerable event really special—the way the entire city embraces the race and makes runners and spectators alike feel like welcome guests; and the terrific attention to detail by the race organizers, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of New Bedford who have done a great job in presenting this gem of New England racing.
It will be the New England Half Marathon Championship for individuals and teams, the second race in the eight-race USATF-NE Grand Prix, running a counter-clockwise loop through this historic port on Buzzards Bay. New Bedford’s seafaring heritage is fascinating at any time, and especially with this course, running near the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park, museums, and overlooking the harbor, home to one of the most productive and historic fishing fleets in the nation.
This event provides great amenities: Registration and bib/chip pickup close to the start, distinctive long sleeved T-shirts to the first 1,500 registrants; D-tag computer chip timing by Yankee Timing, one of the outstanding timing companies in New England and one of the first in the nation to adopt the D-tag technology of Chronotrack; seven fluid stations, over 80 of New Bedford’s finest police officers to monitor the closed course, over 30 EMT personnel and a finish line medical area; numerous bathrooms and porto-johns; outstanding post-race food, including the famous clam chowder (seafood has always been a big part of the post-race celebration); immediate results; available showers at the nearby YMCA; $15,100 in prize money and bonuses; and a supportive, friendly group of volunteers and New Bedford citizens.
It does not stop there. “New Bedford is open and welcoming.” The city welcomes runners and spectator guests with open arms—and open doors: Museums are all free on race day and well worth your time (check in at the visitors center); after the race downtown restaurants, sandwich shops and pubs will provide free samples, and discounts on special menu items—some created just for race day. Downtown retailers will also offer discounts and specials for racers, their families, and friends. There is plenty of free parking (see Website).
Packet/chip/bib pickup will be available on Saturday, March 20 from noon to 4:00 p.m. at the New Bedford YMCA, 25 South Water Street, 02740; and again on race day morning from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 at the same location, less than a five minute walk from the start and finish (post race showers at the YMCA too). Please visit their outstanding race Website for a ton of information, including registration, directions, course map, accommodations, prize structure, spectator information, D-tag technology, and general information about the region , a wealth of information.
The New Bedford Half Marathon is a well organized and well attended (over 2,000 participants in 2009), and well managed event that makes an ideal championship race for the Grand Prix, which really gets rolling with this one. There will be officials from the USATF attending and available to sign up runners so they are eligible to participate in the Championship and Grand Prix and score for their teams. Everyone should join the USATF, especially if running races regularly, whether as an individual or as a team member. The USATF-NE Grand Prix is now in its 26th year, one of the most highly rated such series in the nation. This race is one you should not miss.
This is a race through maritime history and within a vibrant Southeast Coast community that has so much to offer. The City of New Bedford welcomes runners. Headed by Mayor Scott W. Lang, the entire community gets behind the event in a big way. This venerable race, with its terrific organization, has been enormously successful.
Counter-Clockwise, Great Course
This is a fast, USATF-certified counter-clockwise loop course that begins in the center of this vibrant city. The start (11:00 a.m.) and finish are close to each other on a small hill overlooking the beautiful natural harbor. This will be a closed, traffic free course, with seemingly the entire city, including police, fire, and public works departments, in support.
The start is on Purchase Street near City Hall and the New Bedford Art Museum. It heads north on Purchase Street before turning northwest on Nauset Street, then west along Hathaway Road before turning south for a pleasant flat to slightly down stretch on Rockdale Avenue. Spectators can easily make their way from the start to the five mile mark at Rockdale and Elm. Runners then pass Button Wood Park on their right heading south.
The course changes from mostly residential to harbor views when reaching Cove Road with a turn to the east. This is followed by a scenic loop along the peninsula to Fort Rodman/Fort Taber via West Rodney French Boulevard (historic Butler Flats Light Station and Clark’s Point Light are in view), then East Rodney French Boulevard (great views of the Outer Harbor on both boulevards).
The course then heads north on County Street, with an upgrade just beyond 12 miles, historic buildings and lots of spectators; then a few turns take runners back to Purchase Street for the home stretch heading south.
Fast Hills—Records
Although there are two gradual hills, and there is often a stiff breeze off Buzzards Bay, this is one fast course. How fast? This race was host to a world record by Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway (1:08:32) in 1989. She is the only woman ever to break one hour, ten minutes here. Geoff Smith, famous British marathoner, holds the men’s course record of 1:02:05 (1986), his second consecutive win at New Bedford. Laurie Binder holds the women’s masters record of 1:17:10 set in 1988. Pierre Levise hold the men’s masters record of 1:04:56.
Other notable winners at New Bedford include Janis Klecker (2), Dave Dunham, Lynn Jennings, Dean Kimball, Lisa Senatore, John Gregorek, Peg Donovan, Cathy O’Brien (2), Bobby Doyle, Jane Welzel, Larry Olsen, Patti Catalano, and many more.
The 32nd Annual
In 2009 Heidi Westerling once again led the women’s race, finishing 39th overall and winning with a time of 1:11:35, nearly three minutes faster than her win there in 2008. Simonetta Piergentili of Wilmington, MA won the women’s masters in 1:22:19. Pat Tarpy of Providence won the men’s race with a stellar 1:03:27, a blistering 4:41 pace on this championship course. Joseph Koech of Melrose, MA (top master, 1:05:14) finished second with 2008 winner Derese Deniboba third (1:06:20) even though he eclipsed his 2008 winning time by nine seconds. The Boston Athletic Association dominated the open team competition, winning the men’s race with a combined time of 5:41:01—6:56 faster than their winning total time in 2008. The B.A.A., led by Westerling, also captured the women’s team race in 3:52:02. The Whirlaway Racing Team won both the women’s and men’s team masters.
Cash Awards, Five-Year Age Groups, Post Race Celebration
There are cash awards for both individuals and USATF-NE teams, $15,100 including bonuses. Individual cash awards will be given to the top three women and men in the open and masters groups. Plus there are bonuses for women breaking 1:16 and for men breaking 1:06. The first New Bedford woman and man will also win cash prizes. Team cash awards go six deep in the open category, four in masters, three for seniors, and the top veterans 60+. For non-cash awards they will have 5-year age groups through 70+, and an 18-and-under. See the race Website for a breakdown on awards—and post race food, a delicious reward for all.
The 2010 USATF-New England Grand Prix
Participants in the 26th annual Grand Prix will experience quality events and excellent organization at each race. The Grand Prix provides variation in both distance and landscape: All events are tremendously well organized. There will be eight events this year with the women’s and men’s 5K championships at separate locations. The New Bedford Half Marathon has hosted the New England Half Marathon Championship as part of the Grand Prix 18 times. Each race will serve as a New England Championship. New Bedford is a big part of the tradition that makes New England one of the best of the 57 USATF Associations, and one of the best running regions in the country. New Bedford is the place to be on March 21.
The other races in the 2010 USATF-New England Championships and Grand Prix:
• Feb. 28 – Jones Group 10 Miler, Amherst, MA
• March 21- New Bedford Half Marathon, New Bedford, MA
• May 22 – Bedford Rotary Memorial 12K, Bedford, NH
• June 6 – Rhody 5K, Lincoln RI (Men’s Championship)
• July 18 – Stowe Eight Miler, Stowe, VT
• Aug. 14 – Bridge of Flowers 10K, Shelburne Falls, MA
• Oct. 3 –Providence Ronald McDonald House 5K, Providence, RI (Women’s)
• Oct. 17 – Bay State Marathon, Lowell MA
The City of New Bedford—Welcoming, Historic
New Bedford is a city for walkers and runners. There are walking tours of the National Historic Park, a 34-acre, 13 square block preserve dedicated to New Bedford’s maritime history. The city is inextricably tied to the sea, and the race reflects that. The beautiful natural harbor opens on Buzzards Bay. The park borders the working waterfront of today. And the visitor center is well worth seeing at 33 William Street. Before oil was discovered in Western Pennsylvania, the country was dependent on whale oil for lighting, candles, and lubrication, and it was a huge business which sent ships all over the world from New Bedford.
When you come, take some time to see New Bedford. There are other walking tours of the harbor, as well as historic homes. There are many galleries and restaurants, with ethnic foods and flavors that reflect the amazing history of the city.
Let’s Do It
This is one whale of a race, a counter-clockwise loop through history. This city embraces the race, respects all runners, and supports the sport. It is the New England Championship and so much more. The New Bedford Half Marathon is the second of eight races of the USATF- New England Grand Prix and one of New England’s Premier Half Marathons. Enjoy this memorable racing tradition.
See and for additional information you can e-mail or call 508-993-1774.
Posted Saturday, 6 March, 2010
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