Last year I wrote up a course preview. I’ve edited it a bit.
Don’t be fooled by the first mile on busy Route 2A/119, the rest of the course is nice quiet country roads. Did I mention ROLLING country roads? This course definitely rolls, there are 7 hills of note but none of them are what I’d call killer. Each one does however take a toll and the cumulatively it’ll grind you down. For those who’ve done the Grand Prix series, this course compares to both the Amherst (MA) 10 mile and the NH 10 “miler” in total elevation gain/drop.
The first ¾ mile drops about 40’ as you head out onto Route 2A and pass Lake Nagog. Over the next 1.9 miles you slowly climb 100’. It is such a gentle climb that you probably won’t notice, especially this early in the race. At 1.5 miles you turn onto Shaker Road, which is much quieter and shaded. At 2.7 miles the course drops 50’ in a quarter mile and then the first climb of the day commences. From 2.9 miles to 3.3 you gain 90’, certainly not a gut buster but a warning of what is coming.
From 2.5 to 5.6 miles you will be running on Nagog Hill Road. I’ve learned that you should always treat roads with “Hill” in the name with a proper amount of respect. This stretch of the course was the most pleasant. It was rolling and scenic; there was very little traffic. From 3.3 miles to 3.9 you gradually lose 100’ after which you hit the next “little” hill. From 3.9 to 4.4 you climb 120’, again not a killer by any means but there is still a long way to go. You get some recovery after that as you drop 150’ from 4.4 miles to 5.4 miles. As you finish Nagog Hill Road you’ll climb 70’ from 5.4 to 5.9 miles and then the course flattens out as you turn right onto Route 27 and pass through Acton Center. This is another scenic section and also quick as you drop 70’ from 5.9 to 6.5 miles.
This is about where I started to realize that course was starting to wear me down a bit. From 6 to 10 miles you’ll run on Newton road and navigate over four more “small” hills. From 6.5 to 6.7 miles you’ll climb 50’, then roll with no significant climbs or drops from 6.7 to 8 miles. At 8 to 8.3 you’ll face another 50’ climb, which at that point in the race seems a bit bigger than any of the other 50’ climbs. This is followed by a 70’ drop from 8.3 to 8.6 miles, then right back into another 70’ of climb from 8.8 to 9.1 miles. Are you getting the picture? From 9.1 to 9.6 you then lose 70’ and you’ve now covered a little over ¾ of the course.
Most of the final 5k will be familiar territory as you return via Nagog Hill Road, Shaker Road, and Route 2A. From 9.7 to 10.1 you face what I found to be the toughest little “bump”, climbing 70’ over a half-mile. It might not have been that bad had I known how long or steep the hill would be. It also wouldn’t be so bad had it not been that late in the run. Once you’ve gotten over this climb you drop 115’ during the next 1.9 miles (10.1 to 12 miles). There is one final tough bump at 12 to 12.2 miles where you climb yet another 50’. After that it is flat for the last ¼ mile to the finish line.
Looking at splits from last year, the slowest miles were 2, 3, 5, and 9, the fastest were 1 and 12.