Ocean State Rhode Race (aka Why I love our Rhode Crew)

Our last race of the year is usually a big one.  We start and finish the season with a full marathon.  While this year’s race had a new location, we were still going to end on a high note.  Controversy had dominated this race in 2015 and we just wanted to get back to our running roots and execute a race that celebrates Rhode Island.

To begin – we honored the original Ocean State Marathon by contacting the race director and asking permission to use a portion of this name.  Additionally – that race incorporated Narragansett in the course and we elected to have our race start and finish in this beautiful seaside town.  We created a course that had beautiful shore line, stone bridges, quiet back roads and the most picturesque run along the Narrow River.

To end the race – we had the authentic RI blues band – Neal and the Vipers playing as the runners rounded the last corner, we served Del’s Lemonade and Chowder at the finish and it was just a gorgeous day to have our post race festival at the iconic Narragansett Town Beach.  Our race participants were so loyal this year and we hoped that we were able to provide a race that celebrated running in Rhode Island.  We are extremely grateful to everyone for joining us in our new location and we are humbled that you joined us.  

A special note of thanks goes to our Rhode Crew.  On race days, these guys start working at 3 am and often don’t stop until 7 pm.  They do anything that needs to be done, no matter what.  After the mesh banners are rolled up, the barricades are put away and the DJ has stopped bringing the runners home, the Rhode Crew still has to go back and do the dirty job of cleaning up and unloading the trucks, pushing their bodies past the point of exhaustion.  They do all that is asked of them (even if we don’t ask), they do it very well and they keep us laughing the whole day.  They are the most generous and kind group and we could not execute these races without them.

So to Greg, Mike, Mike, Neil, Sean, Scott, James, Riley, Kyle, Matt, Keith and Byron – THANK YOU for another great racing season!

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Jamestown Half Marathon

Jamestown is my favorite “Rhode Race.”  We often refer to it as the red-headed step child of the 4 races – it doesn’t get as much notoriety of the bigger races but the course is just stunning.  The majestic beauty of the downtown harbor as it overlooks the Pell Bridge with its peaceful sailboats bobbing in the harbor, the historic Watson Farm and the silent windmill, the peaceful ponds and fields and the rolling hills – to me, Jamestown is quintessential Rhode Island in its quiet charm.

But it is a challenging course.  And you can see none of the above with pea soup fog like we had race morning.  🙂

For the third race in a row – we had weather related issues.  The fog was a new one.  It precluded our participants, spectators and volunteers from truly seeing the beauty of the course (as well as some other key locations – like the start!).  We hadn’t prepared for it so it did present some challenges on race day – but it was still a great day.

We had a new start and finish location at Fort Getty but this location was going to be much better – it allowed us to avoid off-island parking and provided a stunning first and last half mile with Mackeral Cove now being incorporated into the course.  Finally – the Pavilion at Fort Getty was a natural shelter for our participants with amazing views of Narragansett Bay. But with all new things – it is hard to predict what can happen and how best to problem solve in advance.  We do sit down before each race, go over our wrap up notes from last year and brainstorm what can happen this year – and what we can do to prevent or prepare for it.  

With the new finish location and in order for the course to be truly 13.1, the start had to be a ways from the finish.  We didn’t anticipate this being a problem as you had to go right past it to get into Fort Getty.    However – with the fog, our runners were unable to see much past their windshields. We also did have some shuttle issues – one bad driver and it affects a NUMBER of people – but next year, we should be able to avoid shuttles all together.

But in the end – the race is still my favorite and was a success.  The new start and finish is much more conducive to the post race atmosphere.  The medals were bling-worthy, our food was plentiful and appropriate for such an early morning start.  And the course is still gorgeous and challenging – after completing it, participants have such an overwhelming sense of accomplishment – they are truly beaming.  It is so incredible to help people achieve these goals.

Jamestown is just a hidden gem and we are always so excited to show it off in the best way we know how – a Rhode Race.

The Wine Run

Well, as seems to be the case this year – it rained on our parade again. In spite of that, this race is my favorite of all our races (don’t tell the other races that!)  Running, cross country, wine, food, acoustic music – all this goodness in one race! It is perfect.

The race starts and finishes right at Newport Vineyard, the first mile loops amongst their grape vine varieties. The next 2 1/2 miles are in the Aquidneck Land Trust – corn fields, winding through woods, fields – hazards and all, truly a cross country course. I usually drive the course a few times just before the race to shovel the horse “droppings” off the course before the runners start. It is a challenging course not for the hills – it is pretty flat, but because most runners have never run off road before. You have to watch your step on every part. It is always a bit visceral running through nature like that. It is a different experience for many, and a much better one.
After you finish running through the vines and fields, you can hear the music and see the vineyard as you approach the final turn.  Nothing makes some people finish faster than knowing there is a glass of wine waiting for them at the end. You literally get handed a custom wine glass as soon as you cross the finish line!
Then the party can begin – BBQ and acoustic music on the Vineyards stunning patio, bordered by the vines on one side and the gorgeous stainless steel vats on the other.
The Age Group winners are awarded custom labels bottles of wine!  I have won my share of trophies but this would be my favorite!

Every year we do this race, we learn something new about how to improve it. Next year we will add mile markers on course. We can tweak the food a bit and shorten up the waves so there is more time to linger after the race. We send out post race surveys because we truly want to know what works and what doesn’t so we can make it better.  For me – this race is everything that I love – running, trails, wine, music – I want this race to be AMAZING and learning from our experiences will help make it so.

Here is some cool drone footage from some of the last waves of the race:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/136355655@N03/22050611961/in/datetaken/