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John Carson 4th of July 2013 Race Report

Posted by Sarah Hardy
Sarah Hardy
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on Saturday, July 06, 2013
in Road Races

One of my favorite racing events of the year is the John Carson 4th of July Road Race in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. (see a previous blog post explaining why I love this race) The 2013 running was the 12th time I've run this race and my time of 14:40 was one of my worst.  It was exactly one minute slower than I ran last year.  But I'm going to blame that on the heat and humidity, not my fitness level.

When I arrived at the start line the sun was already shining strong and the heat was shimmering off the pavement. The turn out for the race was not diminished by the weather. Over 2,200 racers showed up to run the 2 mile race. I was accompanied to the start line by 14 of my friends and family, including my daughter and sister. We were absorbed into the massive crowd at the start line, and I ended lining up with only my brother-in-law.  While we waited, we bemoaned the fact that we were both completing our first event in a new age category, 40-49.  

The start went off without much adieu.  All of sudden the crowd starting moving forward.  I had not positioned myself as close to the start as I usually do, so I didn't cross the start line for 10 seconds.  While this race offers a chip finish, there is no mat at the start line.  The first half mile was spent jockeying around little kids and people running side by side chatting (really??).  Once I made the turn onto North Road I started to get into a rhythm.  I knew my splits weren't great, so I didn't look at my watch at the one mile mark.  Racers are different, but when I see a slow split mid-race I start to feel a little dejected, so I didn't want to know how bad my first mile was.  Unfortunately, there was someone yelling out the mile time.  I heard "7:30". Ouch!

Just after mile one the road starts a nice gentle downhill (see the course video for a full narration).  I focused on turning my legs over as fast as I could and enjoyed running right down the middle of the road.  The crowds were great, cheering and squirting runners with Super Soakers. There were even a few folks with sprinklers out creating a little patch of rain for runners.

Heading into the center was exciting as always. The crowds were 3 or 4 deep and everyone was cheering. Even though I felt like my lungs were going to explode, I tried to pick up some speed going up the final rolling hill to the finish line. I focused on the fire engine ladder dangling over the road like an upside down  V, with a huge flag hanging from it.  I knew the finish line was just after that. I managed a good sprint and passed a handful of runners at the finish. I was relieved that I managed to stay below 15 minutes after having such a slow first mile.  Final time: 14:40 Average Pace: 7:20

While I'll hope for a cooler day in 2014, I know I'll be out racing no matter the weather.  This race isn't really about a time in the end.  It's about friends, family and celebration. 

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I Love the John Carson 4th of July Road Race!

Posted by Sarah Hardy
Sarah Hardy
Sarah Hardy has not set their biography yet
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on Monday, June 10, 2013
in Road Races

The 4th of July is one of my favorite days of the year.  It just so happens that my hometown, Chelmsford, Massachusetts is a great place to celebrate the 4th.  The John Carson Road Race is held on the 4th of July each year and brings out close to 2,000 runners. This year will be my 12th running of the race.  I'm usually joined by my husband, daughter and a whole group of family and friends. 

The energy and atmosphere at the start line of this race is different from most road races.  While there are serious runners who will cover the 2 miles in under 9 minutes, there are also slower runners and walkers who have come out with their friends and family to participate. As people wait for the starting gun, it's time to catch up with friends and neighbors. It is not unusual to see whole families running/walking in this race.

The race is a point to point course.  It starts on Parkhurst Road behind Hannaford and finishes in Chelmsford Center. The course is rolling and you'll feel some of the hills if you're sprinting. See the course video for specifics on the race course. One thing I like about this event is that each half mile is marked on the ground.  My goal is usually to finish the race under 14 minutes, so I try to keep each half mile under 3:30. 

The first half mile of the race is crowded, but once you turn the corner onto North Road it opens up a bit.  There is another benefit to hitting North Road...the fans!!  North Road is lined each year with spectators to cheer you on.  The reason for all the spectators is that immediately following the road race, the Chelmsford 4th of July Parade follows the same path down North Road. The closer you get to the Center the more spectators and the louder the cheers.  The last quarter mile is usually a blur for me with crowds 4 or 5 deep on both sides of the road. 


One of my favorite things about this race is getting to run in the middle of North Road.  A lot of my training runs take me down North Road, so on race day I take advantage of not being stuck on the sidewalk.  I usually run right down the yellow line. 

I think I first came to love this race a number of years ago when I was a 4th grade teacher in Chelmsford.  In June I would always challenge my students to run the race. I said I would buy an ice cream for any student who beat me. I always looked forward to seeing a few of them at the finish line, and I never was beat by a current student.  As the years have gone on, I often see in the race results the names of some of my former students, and I'm happy they are still running the race.  Now that they are older and faster a few have beaten me. 

The John Carson Road Race may be a short race at only 2 miles long but the benefit is it brings out a lot of people who wouldn't tackle a 5K. The entire event has a welcoming feel to it, and since it's the 4th of July everyone is in a good mood.  I know I always am because I'm looking forward to a day spent with friends and family, and maybe some fireworks to celebrate too.

Chelmsford is the place to be on the 4th of July!

Click here to sign up for the Road Race.

Click here to see the course video.

Click here for the Chelmsford Parade website.




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