by Dave Dunham
I won’t be at the Derryfield cross-country festival this weekend (www.millenniumrunning.com/xc) but thought it’d be fun to visit the course and check out how tough it is. I’d run the course only once before (1989) when Pinkerton Coach Mike Clark invited me to come run with his team who were preparing for a big meet at Derryfield. I only had a vague memory of him asking me to take the guys out through half-way. According to my training log we “ran through an opening mile of 5:30 and stayed together through 1.5 before I picked it up, hitting 2 miles in 10:55 and finishing the course in 16:26.” My days of racing a 16 something 5k are behind me…never mind doing it as a tempo run.
It was nice to revisit the park which was bustling with activity (football, baseball, softball, dog walkers, and yoga) on a warm and muggy Saturday morning. The first mile is a mix of grass and paved road, there is enough pavement that I would not suggest spikes. The start is quite wide, you really have almost the entire first mile before it narrows and even then there was room for passing. You climb a bit right away (50 feet in the first quarter mile), then drop back down (you lose the 50 feet as you drop to .6 miles) as you loop around the perimeter on and next to Reservoir Ave. The course climbs again as you go back through the field and pass the finish line. Once again you hit the road and reach the mile as you turn onto Circular Road. From .6 to the mile you climb another 55 feet.
The second mile is tough, really tough. As you leave Circular Road you hit the trail and a tough climb. That is combined with the loose dirt and rocks under foot to make for a challenging climb to the top of Oak Hill Reservoir. You top out at 1.25 after climbing 85 feet in a quarter mile. Then you drop again losing 75 feet on the narrowest part of the course.
You emerge from the woods at the McIntyre ski area at 1.5 miles and face a 95 foot climb over the next .4 that brings you to the top of Tower Hill at 1.9 miles.
The last mile starts with a big drop, from the top of Tower Hill to the bottom of Reservoir Ave you lose 190 feet in 7/10ths of a mile. As you zig and zag through the field you gain back another 55 feet in the last half-mile (2.6 to the finish).
In all you climb 292’ and drop 262’ over the 3 miles. This is a great spectator course as you can see quite a bit of the action without leaving the gazebo (in the middle of the start/finish field). At that location you’d see a large portion of the first mile and the last half-mile.
Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!
Note: This race is the first stop on the USATF-NE XC GPS.