This race was a little different from my others because I decided to go camping the night before. While this might seem like a terrible idea, camping is actually not unheard of before ultra trail races–it’s the complete outdoor experience haha. The Salem Road Race wasn’t a trail ultra, but I was running for fun and wanted to make an adventure out of the trip.
The Salem Road Race is a relatively new 10k in historic Salem, Massachusetts (where the witch trials took place). This was only the third iteration of the race, but there were over 2500 participants! It’s gotten pretty popular, likely because of the finish line party at Notch Brewery. Note that since this is an event with alcohol, you must be 21+ to run.
Here’s my recap of the whole experience:
How I Got There / Where I Ate / Where I Stayed
A super loaded vegan pizza!
Anachronistic vintage ad gone wrong
A friend and I took the commuter rail from North Station in Boston on the Newburyport/Rockport line. Salem is only 30 mins away, and I was able to use the Weekend Pass, which gives you unlimited commuter rail rides for $10 on Saturday and Sunday.
We walked around Salem for a bit before eating at Flying Saucer Pizza, a local pizza joint with tons of vegan options. The interior had a nerdy and cool space vibe, with movie posters, old TVs playing Star Trek, and painted flying saucers on the walls. The menu made several sci-fi references, and we ordered the large Nick Fury pizza and Fire Flower cauliflower “wings.” After tax and tip, everything was around $41, so it definitely wasn’t a cheap meal. The large pizza was HUGE though, and was basically 2 meals for 2 people–we had to take half of it to go. This is definitely a great place to carbo load haha.
We camped in Winter Island Park, which was just on the water. It’s about 2 miles from the town, but you can take the electric bikes there through Zagster, or the electric scooters through Spin (you need to have a permit or driver’s license to operate them though). Otherwise, you can take a Lyft for around $10.
Before we set up shop for the night, we actually went to explore Salem Willows Arcade and Park. It’s just a mile away from the campsite, and was a classic seaside arcade, with games like skee ball and treats like soft serve ice cream. It was honestly the highlight of the day, and I would definitely suggest visiting the park over the typical touristy/witchcraft-related things in town.
Camping was around $38 for a tent site, and we booked a month in advance. I didn’t sleep as well as I could’ve since there were loud older men playing music and yelling, but they did quiet down once we asked them to. Everything else was great though–the bathrooms were clean, and the sound of the waves and crickets was super calming at night.
Registration / Packet Pickup
I registered online about a month out. By this point, it cost $65 after processing fees. This was pretty pricey, but registration did include a light tech hoodie, finisher’s medal, and 3 drink tickets at the finish line party. The race did also benefit the Salem YMCA, so the money was going towards a nonprofit.
There were 3 packet pickup dates, from Friday-Saturday during the day, and the morning of the race on Sunday. There was no line when I went Saturday afternoon, but there was a HUGE line about an hour before the race started. The race actually had to be postponed 15 minutes because people were still checking in. They’ll hopefully add a Boston pickup next year to help avoid the big jam before the race.
Course / Fuel
The course went through the neighborhoods of Salem, and actually through Salem Willows Park (the waterfront arcade). It was pretty residential, and somewhat hilly. My Garmin registered 183 ft of elevation gain, which is definitely not flat, but not especially hilly either.
There were 2 aid stations–one at mile 2, and the other at mile 4. The first only had water, and the second had water and Gatorade.
I normally wouldn’t fuel for such a short race, but I have a surplus of Honey Stinger fruit smoothie gels (affiliate link), so I took one an hour before the start.
There weren’t a ton of spectators, and I’d actually say there were more political campaigners on the course than people watching the race haha. There are big local elections coming up, so several groups were out on the course holding campaign signs.
Finish Line Party
I had my non-running friend volunteer for the race to get free entry to the after party (if you have friends/relatives with you who also want to go, have them sign up to volunteer! They get a free race hoodie, entry to the party, and 3 drink tickets). I was a little disappointed by the party, but I should’ve expected that it would be super crowded. There were several tents for teams/clubs running the race (my favorite team name was “Running Club for People Who Don’t Run Good”), brand sponsorship tents with samples, free Domino’s cheese pizza, and stands/buckets for beer and cider.
It was so crowded that it was hard to move around, and lines were long for beer/cider. I did line up for a chai cider, but it was not tasty–the spices overwhelmed the cider flavor. I also tried a Notch Brewery beer, but I don’t know why I did that, because I hate beer haha.
Part of the issue too was that I had way to much gear, and the bag drop closed at 11:30, only 1.5 hours after the start of the race (this is to allow volunteers to enjoy the party). It’s hard enough to navigate the crowd without huge backpacks, let alone with. I might’ve tried to dance and stayed longer if I had less stuff.
My official time was 52:39 (8:29/mi or 5:16/km). I placed 527/2506 runners, and 50/369 in the F21-29 age group.
I actually wanted to race this 10k and go for a PR, but I had a funky quad/IT band issue a few weeks before. I had to take a week off from running and slowly ease back, so I wasn’t able to get any speed workouts in. To be completely realistic though, I don’t think I would’ve been in PR shape even with a couple extra speed workouts. I’ve been back to running for less than 2 months since my ankle injury, and I’m going through a big life transition coming from France back to the US.
With this on top of my camping the night before, I knew it’d be wise just to take it easy. I still wanted to get in a few sub-8:30 miles, but I went out too fast in the beginning and struggled the second half of the race. It’s a little disappointing how difficult the 8:30 pace overall was for me, as I’ve run faster 10ks in my half marathon splits (49 min for Lyon 2018 and Barcelona 2019).
In any case though, this was definitely a good workout, and good indicator of my current level of fitness.
If you’re looking for a fun 10k near Boston next September, I’d definitely recommend the Salem Road Race. Just be aware that the course is a little hilly, and try to pick your bib up the day before the race, rather than the morning of. If you also want your friends to join you at the finish line party, have them volunteer!