Race Report: New Balance Reach the Beach Relay

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Girls Run Beta! (Reach The Beach)

6,000 runners. 500 teams. 201 miles. 32 hours. 12 women. 2 vans. 1 state. Put New Balance Reach The Beach Relay in the bag! I ran as a guest of New Balance, who covered all my expenses and kitted me out in gear for the event as part of the “Girls Run Beta” media team. And it was amazing.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Girls Run Beta! (Carrie Kabat)

The New Balance Reach The Beach Relay, in partnership with the Ragnar Relay Series, takes teams of 12 runners 201 miles across New Hampshire, from the White Mountains to Hampton Beach State Park on the Atlantic shore.

The scenery was lovely, my teammates fantastic, and the overall experience amazing. It’s no wonder I’ve only heard great things about this race.

The fun levels were off the charts. We giggled, we danced, we ate, then ate some more, we told ghost stories, high-fived, commiserated and cheered. While looking for Jess during a night run, I busted out an impromptu rendition of “There’s a Light (Over At The Frankenstein Place) from Rocky Horror Picture Show. Another team called “Snoop Joggy Jog” inspired some “Bow wow wow yippy yo yippy yay” at our side-of-the-road dance party. Carrie and Dani played DJ with boy bands greatest hits. And the gummy bears flowed like water.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Van 1! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

We worked as a team. Carrie finished her legs with a cart-wheel (true story) and chauffeured us from spot to spot. Dani was co-pilot and speedy anchor leg. Rachel recruited her dad’s team to cheer us on, and taught us the art of the silent scream (pictured). Jess kept a log of our start and finish times, and shared her Aleve when an afternoon migraine threatened to derail my second run. Kylie gave me her seat in the van to lay down. When it was time to suit me up mid-run with reflective vest and lights, the entire team swarmed me as my pit crew.

I was water girl, filling up and passing out water bottles to the finishing runner or the runner on the road—in one case jogging along side Dani for a brief stint so she didn’t have to stop. I also shared my massage stick with the team and Carrie shared her foam roller, so we could all stay limber.

In other words, the race was truly a team effort. You can see for yourself in this video New Balance put together for us.

My only regret is that our two vans didn’t get to spend more time together. For the most part, you mainly see the runners in your van. I would have loved to hang with the ladies in Van 2 some more.

Joining me for this epic adventure (in running order) were:

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Omni Mount Washington Resort (RunKarlaRun.com)

The Haunted Hotel

The night before the start, we drove from Boston to the gorgeous Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. When I saw the hotel on our itinerary, it rang a bell. The sprawling white Victorian building with red gabled roof is unmistakable. The hotel, first opened in 1902, was a model for Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Walt Disney World.

But that’s not its main claim to fame. It’s supposedly haunted. How haunted? Very, particularly Room 314, home of the hotel’s former proprietress, Princess Carolyn Stickney. The room includes her original four-poster bed and, some say, visits from the Princess herself. Even Omni’s website will tell you all about it.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

The White Mountains (RunKarlaRun.com)

I’d seen an episode of Ghost Hunters set at the hotel. The show made the Mount Washington Resort look convincingly haunted, supposedly catching an electronic recording of Carolyn’s voice. But it wasn’t just Carolyn Stickney’s room. The show investigated reports of staff being pushed by no one at all, footsteps on stairways and in hallways, and other incidents. A quick online search confirmed this was the same hotel. The Ghost Hunters team had such a paranormal experience that they went back for a second episode, which was the one I’d seen.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Jess got the ghost room! (RunKarlaRun.com)

Of course, I told my teammates. We giggled and speculated, but ultimately shrugged it off. After all, with 12 of us and 200 rooms, we only had a 6% chance of anyone in the group actually getting Room 314.

Wouldn’t you know it? Jess was assigned Room 314. No, she couldn’t change rooms. The hotel was fully booked. We asked. So the 12 of us hunkered down for a meeting.

Did anyone want to stay in the supposedly haunted room? A few of us (myself included) said we’d stay in it as long as we weren’t alone. I didn’t want to stay in it by myself! I knew there was no way I’d be able to sleep, listening for every little sound, ghost or no ghost. My husband, Phil, who’d watched the episode with me, didn’t want me to stay in it at all, even though the purported ghost never does anything bad. Well, she did scream really loudly in the Ghost Hunters episode. More commonly, people have reported seeing her sitting on the bed brushing her hair, feeling something brush their legs while in bed, lights turning on and off, and other phenomena. Or, of course, nothing at all.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Sunset at Mount Washington (RunKarlaRun.com)

But we weren’t about to make Jess stay in the room if she didn’t want to. Many of us offered to share our beds. Thankfully, Kylie got a room with two double beds (whereas most of us had a queen), so Jess bunked up with her. And our videographer, who New Balance hired to follow us around, happily snatched up the extra room.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Ahhh! (Healthy-Chicks.com)

The next day, we asked him if anything odd happened. “No,” he said. “When I got back from dinner all the lights and the TV were on, but I just figured that was housekeeping.” Um, no. Housekeeping didn’t turn the lights or TV on in any of our other rooms. Maybe it was the ghost! We all had a good laugh about the whole thing.

For the record, I did stay in a hotel room once where the TV turned itself on in the middle of the night. No, I wasn’t anywhere near the remote, i.e. I didn’t roll on it in my sleep. No, there wasn’t an electricity surge. Only the TV turned on. And yes, it did creep me out. But I was tired and went right back to sleep!

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

The start (Reach The Beach)


What the what?! The logistics of New Balance Reach The Beach Relay race could be totally overwhelming for a first-timer. Thankfully, we had a few old hands on our team and I didn’t have to think about logistics at all. The Reach The Beach handbook was pretty comprehensive, so any time we had a question we usually found it among its pages.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Carries waits for Kylie’s handoff. (RunKarlaRun.com)

Here’s how it works. Most teams include 12 runners, who finish three legs each. Leg distances vary wildly from 2.5 miles to 10.9. Each team member runs 12 to 20 miles total, depending on the legs they’re assigned. A designated order dictates which legs we run, always in the same rotation. So Runner #1 does Legs 1, 13, and 25. Runner #2 does Legs 2, 14, and 26, and so on. We pass off a slap bracelet between runners as our baton.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Our van bib (RunKarlaRun.com)

Van 1 carries Runners 1-6. Van 2 carries Runners 7-12. Each Van 1 runner completes a leg, then passes off to Van 2. While Van 2 is running, Van 1 gets a rest, and vice versa. Essentially, we were on for 6 hours, off for 6 hours, on for 6 hours, off for 6 hours, etc.

Teams start in waves from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday and have until 8 p.m. on Saturday to finish. We’re expected to maintain a pace of 10 minutes per mile or faster.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

The “hero” leg (Reach The Beach)

As with distance, the difficulty of each leg varies as well. Reach The Beach 2015 uses four descriptors to classify legs: Easy, Moderate, Hard, and Very Hard. There are nine “Easy” legs, 13 “Moderate” legs, nine “Hard” legs and five “Very Hard” Legs.

Me? I drew a Hard, Very Hard, and Hard for a total of 17.8 miles. No other runner had all three legs with “Hard” in the name, though some had more mileage and far worse times of day to run. We were all in for high adventure!

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

My ski slope (Photo: Reach The Beach)


Start Time: 6:33 a.m.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

At the start! (RunKarlaRun.com)

Classification: Hard
Miles: 2.5
Elevation Gain: 954 ft.
Time: 38:00
Pace: 15:12
Bra: Print Tenderly Obsessive
Top: NB Glow Beacon Vest
Bottom: Premium Performance Print Capri
Shoes: Vazee Pace

As Runner #1, I kicked off the race at 6:33 a.m. in the first wave with what is known as the “hero leg.” Why? You “run” straight up a ski slope. In the photo above, we went up the slope to the far right and down the gray winding road in the middle.

Yeah, I totally walked it. Only true heroes could run it. As I watched the stream of runners fan out in front and behind me, every single runner was walking. I talked to another Leg 1 runner later in the race who called running that hill “impossible.” I’m sure some super speedy ultra trail runners ran it, but I was not one of them. Here’s what the hill looked like:

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

I “ran” a ski slope (RunKarlaRun.com)

Here’s what the hill felt like:

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

That sums it up (Reach The Beach)

Plus, the trail was dewy, wet grass that looked like a slip and fall waiting to happen. Double plus, walking steep inclines is a trail-running “Do” according to Trail Runner mag: “Walk, Don’t Run: How Hiking Can Speed Up Your Trail Runs.”

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Up the hill (Reach The Beach)

I hiked that hill as fast as I possibly could, going anaerobic pretty quickly. I was able to gasp a few words in response to another runner, but that was it. Our conversation went like this:

Runner: “A tank (gasp) top (gasp) would’ve (gasp) been fine.” (She was wearing a long sleeve under a tank. I was in the NB Glow Beacon Vest with only my sports bra underneath.

Me: “It’s (gasp) really (gasp) humid (gasp).” It was 93% humidity before the morning fog burned away. So sweaty.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

At the top! (RunKarlaRun.com)

It took me 27 minutes to crest the 954 feet of elevation gain on the 1.3-mile slope. It’s grade? 13.9%. For comparison, Boston’s Heartbreak Hill is 3.3%. The worst hill at Big Sur is 4.6%. This was 13.9%. Oof. My pace up the hill was 20:45, which I’ll take as a major win since hiking’s Naismith’s Rule allots 55 minutes for that hill under normal, not race, conditions. I stopped at the top to take some photos and catch my breath. It was gorgeous.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

View from the top (RunKarlaRun.com)

Then it tool me 11 minutes to run the 1.2-miles down for a 9:10 pace. The steep grade made it tough to go faster. We ran on loose gravel, and I nearly fell twice when I let it rip. So I ended up putting the brakes on most of the way down.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

The road down (RunKarlaRun.com)

I could hear the cheers and cowbells from the transition zone down below and found our Runner #2, Kylie, waiting. Phew! What a relief to be finished with Leg 1.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Handing off to Kylie (LittleMissRunshine.com)


Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Rachel Finishes Leg 1 (RunKarlaRun.com)

Between legs, we hightailed it to the next transition area, ready to offer our teammates water, food, or whatever they needed. On the longer legs, we stopped along the road as aid and cheer stations. For the most part, the time flew by. We were always either driving, changing into fresh clothes after a run (thank goodness for baby wipes!), waiting for a runner, or eating gummy bears. So many gummy bears! There was very little time to twiddle our thumbs.

We decorated our van with window markers when we did have time to kill. Pretty proud of the beach scene I drew:

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Where’s the Beach? (RunKarlaRun.com)

Dani set up a tally for each of us to check off our legs and record any “kills,” the runners we passed. True to the 8-year-old in me, I chose a heart, rainbow, and unicorn in place of check marks.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Our tallies (RunKarlaRun.com)

I wasn’t sure how to count kills on Leg 1. Since we all start together, do you count everyone who finishes behind you? Just the people you pass once you settle out of the start? Or no one at all? I opted to count just the one guy I passed on the hill because I had no idea how many runners were behind me. There were at least four behind me that I could see when I snapped a photo from the top, not counting the indiscernible line of runners further down the hill.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter. I wasn’t in it for the kills, just the fun, and the extreme workout.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Dani finishes Leg 1 (RunKarlaRun.com)

Dani was our Runner #6 and the last runner in our van. When she finished, it was time to hand off the running to Van 2. It was really fun to all be gathered together as a team for the first time since the start.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Mary and Dani hand-off the bracelet. (RunKarlaRun.com)

Imagine our surprise when Dani rolled into transition at 10:50 a.m. in second place among the first wave teams! We were pretty pumped.

But then we found out the cost of our speediness. We’d outrun the course support. Race officials were holding all teams while they finished setting up the next stage of the course. It was all in the handbook. We knew getting held was a possibility, we just didn’t think we’d be that fast!

So Van 2 had to wait 32 minutes before they could start. (The time was deducted from our overall time.)

With our first rotation done, Van 1 found a restaurant for brunch, then headed to the lovely White Lake State Park.

I’d been fighting headaches the previous few days and started to get a nasty one. So I napped in the van on the way there and tried to nap under a shady tree once I got there. After downing some Aleve and food, my headache began to subside.

So I had time for a splash in the crystal blue water of the glacial lake.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

White Lake (RunKarlaRun.com)

What a gorgeous spot to catch some R & R.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

White Lake (RunKarlaRun.com)

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

The Beach at White Lake (RunKarlaRun.com)

As evening neared, it was time for us to get ready for our second rotation.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Sashea gives me the bracelet (LittleMissRunshine.com)


Start Time: 5:30 p.m.
Classification: Very Hard
Miles: 9.3
Elevation Gain: 474
Time: 1:32
Pace: 9:54
Bra: Print Shapely Shaper
Top: Fashion Tank
Bottom: Accelerate 2.5 Inch Short
Shoes: Vazee Pace

After a refreshing dip in White Lake and change into clean running clothes, I was ready for what was supposed to be the toughest of my three legs.

But I honestly couldn’t imagine anything harder than that ski slope!

Sashea gave me the hand-off at 5:30 p.m. and I was off for 9.3 miles!

I was glad to have my visor and sunglasses for the first hour. I ran straight into the setting sun. Phew! It was hot! I felt really bad for Van 2, who had all just done their first rotation in the mid-day heat. It was 82 and sunny with the heat index peaking at 88 degrees. I’ll take hard hills over heat any day.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

(Reach The Beach)

The first two miles were tough with an ever so gentle uphill incline. I chugged along at a 9:55 pace, but I didn’t really find my groove until Miles 2-4, which were the flattest of the leg. Then I found that happy runner’s high.

I’ve never run with music in a race, but I decided to pop one earbud in and leave the other out for safety. I was really glad I had music. The course here wasn’t particularly scenic, with a good bit of traffic, and the music helped me keep on pushing. I dropped to a 9:40 pace for those two miles.

Then I lost my groove when I came to a pretty steep hill around Mile 4.25. I ended up walking part of it, figuring I’d conserve some energy.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

My Leg 1 & 2 running gear (RunKarlaRun.com)

The next three miles were a mixed bag, some good, some bad, a lot of hills—or rather, more slow, steady climbs. Again, I walked when I needed to. I was glad I did. There was a another runner who was trading leads with me. We chatted each time we passed each other. He was going at a steady pace running all the hills. I was running fast, then walking fast up the steep inclines. I ended up blowing past him and two other runners. Sometimes walking just works.

Around the 6-mile mark, my team met me to kit me out for night. Between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 7 a.m., runners must wear a reflective vest and assortment of lights. I pulled over and they clipped a vest and lights onto me. Then I eased on down the road.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Night running (Reach The Beach)

The last 2.3 miles were glorious. I crested my last hill and enjoyed a flat to downhill section, upping my pace to 9:20 and going even faster at points. It felt great. At that point, I felt like I could have kept running and running and running. The sun had dropped, the temps cooled as darkness crept in. I finished my 9.3 miles feeling fantastic at an overall pace of 9:54.

And that was a wrap on Leg 2. I happily checked off my leg on the side of the van, along with my three kills for the leg.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Leg 2 done! (RunKarlaRun.com)

Right after I finished, I filmed my intro to the video at the top of the post. You can tell how excited and high on endorphins I was!

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

(Reach The Beach)


My race legs were all during dawn and dusk hours, with some light and some darkness. Yes, I was the only runner with “hard” in the name of all three legs. But I also think I had the easiest time of day to run. Because I always ran during dawn or dusk, I never battled the worst of the heat and I never ran in total darkness. I give major props to all of my teammates, because they all did both of those things.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Darkness (Reach The Beach)

As I handed off the slap bracelet at 7:02 p.m., our night running began. The rest of my teammates all had runs in the pitch dark. Most of the course went along unlighted country roads. Are hills better or worse when you can’t see them coming? Either way, they were still there. And those ladies had some doozies to tackle in the dark. Those of us in the van felt sympathy pangs every time we drove up a hill while watching runners trudge up it, knowing one of ours was out there.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Safety selfie! (Carrie Kabat)

Spotting runners was difficult; everyone was just a black mass of blinking lights. But we learned to recognize the lighted New Balance Tri-Viz Cap we all wore, which had two lights front and center on the visor, whereas most people just had one.

Race officials and volunteers were strict about making sure night runners had all the required lights and reflectors. We saw them send more than one team back to the van because they didn’t have the right lights. Even if you were outside the van at night and not running you still had to wear a reflective vest.


Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Menu at one Transition (Reach The Beach)

As our van worked through its rotation, I rummaged for food once I changed into dry clothes. I’d just run 9.3 miles and was hungry! We had a van full of snacks and I bought a hot dinner at one of the transition areas as I waited for Rachel to come in.

At many transitions, local groups sold food and refreshments. In this case, kids and parents from the local high school were raising money for senior prom and other festivities. I bought a bowl of chicken and rice soup and a tuna salad sandwich. Yum!

At 11:42 p.m. Van 1 finished our second rotation and handed off to Van 2 ,who carried on through the wee hours.

When Dani finished her second leg, we made a beeline for Tent City, a free and first-come, first-served camp for runners put together by New Balance. When we got there at 1 a.m., there were plenty of tents left. Some runners pitched their own tents. Port-o-lets lined the fields and local organizations sold food. Thank goodness for headlamps!

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

What tent city “looked” like (RunKarlaRun.com)

OK, here’s Tent City with flash.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Tent City! (RunKarlaRun.com)

Four of us huddled into a tent with our sleeping bags. Two other runners opted to sleep in the van, which was warmer. The low was 52 degrees. But I found stretching out in the tent more comfortable, and I was plenty warm sleeping in a pair of New Balance Fleece Pants and NB Heat Hoodie. At 3:45 a.m., my phone dinged with a text from Van 2 with their ETA. Other teams had started to wake, and I wasn’t able to fall back to sleep.

At 4:30 a.m., I got up, ate the croissant and jam I’m brought with me and headed back to the van to change out of my PJs and back into my running clothes. Nothing like getting ready for a run on 3 hours of sleep! That’s about what most of us were operating on throughout the race.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Sunrise on Leg 3 (Carrie Kabat)


Start Time: 5:47 a.m.
Classification: Hard
Miles: 6
Elevation Gain: 630 ft.

Time: 1:02
Pace: 10:20
Bra: Print Tenderly Obsessive
Top: NB Glow Beacon Vest
Bottom: Premium Performance Printed Tight
Shoes: Fresh Foam Zante

I was off in the dark at 5:47 a.m., once again clad in my reflective vest, lights and cap. I left my music behind and just enjoyed the sunrise on quiet country roads. I ran past picturesque New England homes, stone fences, and, of course, lots of hills.

This leg was tough. Hard. Difficult. Like pulling teeth. My legs were totally dead from the 11.8 hilly miles I’d already run. My quads were sore, my calves were tight, and every time I came upon a hill, my legs just had nothing left to give. When I tried to dig deep, they just laughed at me.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Running gear for Leg 3 (RunKarlaRun.com)

My pace fluctuated wildly between 9:24 in my fastest mile (downhill) and 11:13 in my slowest mile (uphill). My overall pace split the difference. I finish my 6 miles in 62 minutes at a 10:20 pace. Honestly, it took every last drop I had to give to eke that out. And I notched zero kills.

This last leg was a “Wild Card” leg. That means Runner #2 and I got to decide where we transitioned within an extended 3.5-mile zone. Runner #1 and #2 had 10.9 miles to run combined. So I could run anywhere between 4.5 to 8 miles and Runner #2 could run anywhere between 2.9 to 6.4 miles for our last legs.

Runner #2’s legs were classified as “Moderate,” “Easy,” and “Moderate” for a total of 14.2 miles at most if she did the longest part of the Wild Card leg, whereas mine were “Hard,” “Very Hard,” and “Hard” for a total of 19.8 miles if I did the longest part of the Wild Card leg.

So Kylie kindly agreed to split the difference with me. I’d tentatively run 6 miles for a three-leg total of 17.8, and she’d run 4.9, for a three-leg total of 12.7 miles. If I was feeling great, I’d be happy to keep on running, but if I wasn’t, I’d be all too happy for her to take over.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Finished! (RunKarlaRun.com)

By the mile 6 mark, I’d crested the highest hill on the leg and was on the downhill slope. I could have kept going if I had to but I didn’t really want to. Thankfully, Kylie was ready and tagged me out. Thank you, Kylie! And with that, my running was finished. It felt uh-may-zing! I crawled into the van and heaved a sigh of relief. I wanted to shout: “Calgon, take me away!”

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Done! (RunKarlaRun.com)

At the next transition zone, I found the Candia Volunteer Fire Department selling a full hot breakfast for $8. Boom! I loaded up my plate with eggs, sausage, and home fries and dug in. Karla out!

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

The finish (RunKarlaRun.com)


Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Van 1 waits for Van 2 to arrive (RunKarlaRun.com)

One by one, each runner in our van finished her leg and joined the celebration. At 11:08 a.m., Van 1 handed off the last rotation to Van 2, who would bring it across the finish line. We drove to Hampton Beach on the Atlantic Shore, cleaned out the van, and got ready for their arrival. I had time for a 45-minute power nap before donning my team shirt and hitting the beach.

Eleven of us gathered on the sand, waiting for Runner #12, Sashea, to come into view. When she did, we ran the last tenth of a mile with her across the finish line.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Running into the finish

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Sashea leads the way (RunKarlaRun.com)

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

The line is in sight! (RunKarlaRun.com)

We finished the race in 32 hours—starting at 6:30 a.m., finishing around 3 p.m., and being held for 32 minutes at Transition 6. Our official time was 32:01:42 at a 9:33 overall pace, putting us 300th of 502 teams. We were 3rd of 10 teams in the Women’s Open category, which includes all women’s teams with at least one runner under 30. But for some reason we were placed in the Mixed Open category (teams of men and women with at least 6 women). In that group, we were 88th of 184.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Bling! (RunKarlaRun.com)

I wish I could tell you we hung out at the beach all afternoon basking in the glory of our achievement. But we didn’t. We were all pretty tired and had planes and trains to catch. So we ate our complimentary burritos bowls, walked the half-mile back to our van, and drove back to Boston with medals around our necks.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

We did it!

The New Balance Reach The Beach Relay Takeaway

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

The beach! (Reach The Beach)

New Balance Reach The Beach was an incredible experience, from taking on the challenging mountains of New Hampshire to bonding with teammates while singing boy band jams from the ’90s.

The running was difficult—maybe even more difficult than I anticipated.

For my own legs, I ran 17.8 miles. Counting the finish line stretch and water dashes to my teammates, I ran 18 full miles.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Is this really happening? (HealthyHappierBear.com)

But it wasn’t the distance that hurt—I’ve done more at runDisney weekends and the Bermuda Marathon Weekend. It was the terrain, with 2,058 feet of elevation gain and 1,760 feet of loss for my legs alone.

For comparison, the Big Sur International Marathon has a total elevation gain of 2,182 feet over 26.2 miles and 2,528 loss. No wonder my legs were marathon sore! My New Hampshire route was comparable in elevation gain to Big Sur! The Boston Marathon has a gain of 783 feet and loss of 1,224 feet, while the New York City Marathon has a gain of 885 feet and loss of 844, per MyMarathonPace.com, as another basis for comparison.

It’s not the most difficult course I’ve run–that honor belongs to the Runfire Cappadocia 20K in Turkey. But it’s probably top 3 along with the Yonkers Marathon (of which I only ran 20 miles before a pre-planned DNF). That said, I didn’t get any of the “easy” or “moderate” legs and had one of the longer routes among runners. Runners logged between 12.4 and 20.4 miles total. So you could run Reach The Beach with a lower mileage and lower elevation change.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Teamwork! (RunKarlaRun.com)

Plus, being part of a team had the added effect of making me push harder than I would have on my own. At a runDisney weekend where I’m running a 5K, 10K, and half-marathon three days in a row, I’m also jogging, stopping to take photos, and treating the effort like a fun run.

But at Reach The Beach, I gave each leg my all because I knew my teammates were waiting for me a few miles down the road. Running 18 miles in one weekend is one thing. Racing 18 miles in 32 hours is another. My legs felt like they do after racing a marathon.

If you’ve never done a relay, add it to your bucket list, and the New Balance Reach the Beach Relay in particular.

What made this relay so special? Yes, the ladies on my team. But also the people of New Hampshire. I’m not sure I’ve ever done a race where the community embraced it more than this. Some have been as supportive–the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon and Bermuda Marathon Weekend come to mind. But New Hampshire was right up there with them.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Welcome signs (Reach The Beach)

Everywhere we went we saw, “Welcome Reach The Beach Runners!” signs. When I thanked locals for coming out to sell food to us hungry runners, I heard, “No, thank you!” in response. Folks in their cars and motorcycles honked and cheered as we ran by, and people generally had a smile and a wave for us. It all helped make me feel like I was part of something special. Because I was.

During the overnight legs, the spectators were especially awesome. Like the Loose Laces, who set up a big cheer station during Leg 16, and Marie’s Catering, among others, who offered free water along the course.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Loose Laces (Reach The Beach)

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

New Hampshire rocked (Reach The Beach)

New Balance Reach The Beach may have been my first overnight relay, but I certainly hope it won’t be my last.

Race Report: New Balance Reach The Beach Relay

Reached The Beach! (RunKarlaRun.com)

As mentioned above, I ran the New Balance Reach The Beach Relay as a guest of New Balance. As always, all opinions are purely my own. Seriously. For more information, read my disclosure policy.

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