Hampton Beach action peaks during summer, but the New Hampshire seacoast community makes one last gasp each fall at the Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon & 5K. If you’re a runner who also enjoys a craft beer or two or… this could be the race for you, whether you’re a distance runner or a 5K speedster.
This is one of the flatter half marathons you’ll run across, and unless the weather gets nasty, a fast one. You’ll be hard-pressed to figure out where the supposed inclines are on this course, which loops a couple of times through town before going up and down the coast, with a brief diversion through a neighborhood. If you’ve run other fall halfs, such as the BAA’s, this course will be a welcome respite.
The 5K starts 40 minutes after the half marathon launches at 8am, with runners overlapping for a section but cordoned off from each other. All in all, about 5,000 runners take part in the 2 races. One nice thing about this race is that spectators can see their runners 5 times with barely any effort (though Mrs. Swellesley was unexpectedly called into action assisting a random runner who found himself imploding early in the race and in need of medical help).
The biggest challenge with this well-organized race is figuring out when to get there. If you head up the morning of the race from Wellesley you pretty much need to leave by 5:30 to get parking in public lots along the ocean and pick up your stuff for the half marathon. You can dawdle a little longer for the 5K, but parking could be tough. The half marathon race costs about $70 to enter if you do so early, but the fee rises to more than $100 if you wait until race day, if bibs are still available (as they were this year). The race includes post-race chowder and a lobster roll, 2 beer tickets, and a fleece pullover. Thanks to this race I now have both purple and teal items in my ward-drab.
Many runners stay over the night before along the strip and pre-game, and you can find a place for a bit over $100. Mr. & Mrs. Swellesley this year sucked it up the morning of the race and watched the sunrise on our drive there. We stayed over on Sunday night after the race, allowing us to enjoy post-race activities, which included watching the Patriots game at the Sea Ketch, where locals treated us like royalty on a protected deck area that had us feeling like we were outdoors but also kept us toasty under heat lamps. Some enjoyed an outdoor post-race concert featuring a wigged-up party band, while others headed into the Casino Ballroom for a rockin’ afternoon.
We were also able to work in naps and rally for dinner at Ron’s Landing, a homey spot with fine dining and a spirited upstairs bar, where we feasted on kabobs and burgers.
The next day in Hampton
The fun didn’t stop on Sunday. We grabbed breakfast a few miles off the strip at a North Hampton spot called the Airfield Cafe that is not to miss, especially if you have an interest in flying or have small kids.
The breakfast and lunch spot, alongside the Hampton Airfield, is a friendly place that serves up good and big dishes of oatmeal, omelets and pancakes, while you sit under a constantly moving overhead display of model airplanes. It re-opened in a revamped space on July 4, 2019. If you’re lucky, you might see a plane land or take off on the adjacent air strip, perhaps even the occasional helicopter. The hand dryers in the restrooms are called Air Forces.
Before heading back to Wellesley we drove 2 miles down the road from the cafe and took a short walk around Batchelder Pond, which is filled with ducks and turtles. Fishing only for adults who are accompanied by a child.
It’s not worth going far out of your way for this mile-plus trail loop, but it made for a nice post-breakfast constitutional. And if you’ve run the half marathon the day before, it might be about as much as you can manage…