The Baystate Marathon and Half Marathon is a New England favorite, as it combines a fast course with mild mid-October temps. I ran the half marathon on October 17, 2021, and here’s my race experience!
The photographer told me to strike a pose LOL
Pickup was at Edward A. LeLacheur Park, a baseball park near UMass. The bib pickup was inside, and the shirt pickup was outside. There wasn’t really an expo or anything, but it looked like a local running store had a pop-up inside.
Because of COVID, we were asked to bring an attestation stating that we were either vaccinated, or had tested negative for COVID in the last 72 hours, plus show proof of these. I printed the attestation out beforehand, but they luckily had extras at packet pickup for anyone who didn’t have a printer or had forgotten. (Capacity for the race also appeared to be around 50-60%, as there were 500-600 runners each in the half and full marathon when there are usually 1000+).
I went to packet pickup on Saturday afternoon, and there really wasn’t much of a line. I got everything I needed in a few minutes. You could also do same-day pickup, but I was coming from Boston, and there were no trains that would come in time.
The start/finish area was near UMass Lowell’s Tsongas Center. There were tons of port-a-potties, and you could even use the indoor restrooms in the center (there wasn’t even much of a line!).
The marathon started in a separate corral on the left, and the half on the right. The start line wasn’t that crowded, and there was a decent amount of distance between runners. Both the races were together until around mile 3, where the full marathon course went the other direction.
Both races were had some sort of repeated loop, with the half marathon being a simple double loop. This was the first double loop course I’d run for a road race (they seem to be more common for trail races). I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, but it was actually kind of nice since I knew what to expect the second time around.
While the Baystate Half Marathon is supposed to be pretty flat, there were about 4 noticeable inclines in the loop, so 8 total in the whole race. One was at around mile .5 (and 7), mile 1.5 (and 8), mile 2.5 (and 9) and mile 5 (and 11.5). I wouldn’t call any of them hills, but they were still a challenge. There was around 290ft total of elevation gain in the whole race.
There weren’t a ton of spectators outside of the start/finish area, but the course itself was pleasant–it through some residential areas and along the river. I especially liked running over the red Aiken Street Bridge towards the end of the loop.
Every 2 miles or so, there was a fuel station with water and yellow Gatordate. They didn’t provide gels for the half, so I brought my own Huma gels. I had one caffeinated Lemon gel before starting, a strawberry one at mile 4, and a salt pill at mile 8. I couldn’t get down another gel around miles 8-9 even though I’d brought another.
At the end of the race, there were PB&J sandwiches, soups (they had a vegan option!), chips, bananas, Honey Stinger granola bars, water, and Gatorade.
Baystate historically has really lovely fall weather. Temperatures were around the mid-fifties at the start, and warmed up to the mid-sixties by the end. It was sunny the whole time. We did have a headwind for half the race though, which wasn’t ideal, but it was luckily a tailwind the other half of the race since we were running a loop.
The half marathon shirt was a technical long-sleeve. The women’s shirt had a V-neck, which the men’s was a crewneck. I didn’t realize until too late, or I would’ve gotten the men’s shirt. I also would’ve liked to see the option to opt out of getting a shirt for a discount or donation to charity, as I don’t really need more race shirts haha. The shirt fits well and is comfy though! If you want a looser fit, you might want to size up (try it on at pickup).
The medal featured the Aiken Street Bridge and was a nice color combo. There wasn’t any other swag, but everyone does get free race photos.
I finished the race in 1:49:30 (8:22/mi or 5:11/km). This wasn’t a PR, but it’s been two years since I’ve run under 1:50, so I wasn’t too upset either.
I was on-track to run a 1:46 until around mile 8, where I started slowing down a lot. I even ran a 9:18 mile for mile 11. Luckily, I picked it back up for the last couple miles, which let me finish sub-1:50.
The couple weeks before the race, I’d been experiencing some burnout. My runs were feeling a lot heavier than usual, I wasn’t hitting the same paces, and I was dealing with insomnia. I pulled back on training the week before, and was feeling more refreshed for race day. I knew I still wasn’t 100% when the race started though, as my goal pace was more strenuous than it should’ve been.
While it wasn’t the race I wanted, I’m glad I pulled through, and I’m feeling more rested now. Onto the next one!
Overall, I’d recommend the race, if you’re looking for a smaller one on a decently flat course. To be honest, I still prefer the Hartford Half Marathon over Lowell, as it’s a more exciting experience (but I also ran my PR there in 2015, so I may be biased haha). It’s historically also in early to mid-October and really well-organized.
If you’ve run Lowell, let us know what you thought in the comments. Feel free to also check out the rest of my race reviews. Happy running!