I ran the Gansett Marathon in Narragansett, RI on April 14, 2012. I am admittedly biased towards this race. This is a (formerly) local marathon for me. I really really miss living near Narragansett. Small towns in coastal New England have a charm like nowhere else. Narragansett in particular is special to me for a number of reasons.
I volunteered last year and saw that it was a quality event. I told myself eventually I was going to come back to Gansett and run it. Eventually just happened to be this year. Volunteering gave me extra knowledge since I've seen both sides of Gansett.
As of this week when new qualifying standards were announced (the standards dropped by 5 minutes as I suspected), I am no longer Gansett qualified. That's OK. That is exactly why I ran this year. Run it while I had the qualifying time and flexibility to run a marathon on short notice. Will I qualify again? Probably. But I don't have to. It's nice to not have that pressure.
I'm not going to post pictures, but check out last year's volunteer report and my Gansett race recap for a few photos.
Extremely well-organized - Like, extremely. I cannot say enough good things about the race director yet again. He thought of everything. The level of detail was incredible. I am detail-oriented and even I was floored numerous times. Never seen anything like it anywhere else.
Size - Very small. So small it isn't chip-timed. I am surprised there were fewer runners this year than last year. I thought Gansett would grow. Too bad. Maybe next year?
Mile markers - Signs were every mile and half mile on handmade sandwich boards, plus a special sign at one mile to go. Painted marker on the road at 13.1 miles. Some jackal stole a few mile markers in between when the markers were put out in the morning and when runners came through. Who steals mile markers? Really? I didn't notice the mile 2 marker missing, I heard another runner's Garmin go off at the mile 10 marker, and a volunteer told us about an orange cone in place of the mile 13 marker (plus it was just before a halfway mark painted on the road).
The course - mostly flat, one hill, many gentle inclines and declines.The inclines and declines are so gentle that you can't really see them, but you can feel them. Many pretty areas. You'll see the ocean, the Point Judith Lighthouse, fishing boats in Galilee, The Towers, some big houses, and a couple of beaches.
Minimal course support - There were very limited spectators, but the ones who were out were great!
Weather - Unpredictable, although usually reasonable. Weather in New England in April is a crapshoot. You could get anything. We lucked out and got a perfect day this year.
Camaraderie - Everyone is nice. I had several good conversations before, during, and after the race.
Participant lists - Some of the volunteers had lists with participants' names and bib numbers, so they cheered us by name. This is one of the extra nice things about running a small race.
Race DJ - He does all of the races in the Narragansett area. Announces you by name and qualifying race at the beginning of the second loop and at the finish.
Open course - Good and bad. Could be problematic because of inconsiderate Rhode Island drivers. It actually wasn't problematic. Yay. There are a couple of road sections with dangerous curves, but there were volunteers out to help us. I never felt unsafe. Volunteers and/or police were stationed at all major road crossings. Spectators can easily drive around to multiple points on the course during the race.
Aid stations - 13 total, spaced about every 2 miles. They are purposely placed in spots so that you pass them at least twice. In the second loop when most runners were running alone, a single volunteer held out a cup of water and a cup of Gatorade and you'd just tell the volunteer which one you wanted. An aid station at mile 12/23 had Gus. I only saw Gus the second time around, but then again I carry my own fuel anyway.
No frills - No expo, no medal, no pace groups, no cheering squads or on-course entertainment, no big sponsors, no silly costumes (OK, there were a couple of costumes. Literally a couple of costumes), no shuttles, no gear check.
But also no hassles - No big crowds. No lining up in corrals for ages. No waiting outside. There is no shuttle because there is plenty of free parking right next to the start, finish, and host hotel (all in the same area). There is no gear check because you can leave your bag in the hotel ballroom. Pick up your packet the evening before or day of the marathon. Hang around inside until just before the race starts. Use the real bathrooms in the hotel instead of port-a-potties.
Swag - This year had a long sleeve tech shirts (white with the Point Judith Lighthouse on the front, Gansett logo on the back, and nothing else ... not filled with corporate sponsors), a finishers patch, and a button. That's it.
Entry fee - $70, regardless of when you registered. This is a steal for a marathon.
Transportation/hotels - I have family in the Providence area and drove down from there for the race, but I'd recommend renting a car and staying in Providence or Narragansett if you are coming from out-of-town. Or stay in Boston if you are also running Boston, rent a car, and drive down for the day.
Random tip - Check your packing list, and check it twice. Make sure you have all of your marathon gear. Since there is no expo, there is no opportunity to buy something you forgot. There is a running store in the neighboring town of Wakefield.
There were some minor things that went wrong, but those happen at any race and they were so minor they aren't worth mentioning. I have no doubt that the race director takes runner feedback seriously and will make changes in the future.
Overall, this is a high quality event. I've done all sorts of races. Small local events. Big city marathons. Mid-size races. Everything in between. In all honesty, while I think it is worth trying out some of the big races, the big races turn into spectacles and are sometime more hassle than they are worth. Gansett was a world of departure from the big races. It really is a marathoner's marathon. If you qualify and want a small race that is only about the marathon, run Gansett. If you are a 50 Stater trying to get your Rhode Island marathon in and qualify, run Gansett. It is leaps and bounds better than Cox Providence and Amica Newport (although for non-qualifiers, I'd recommend Amica over Cox). I liked it a lot and would run it again (if I re-qualify). For now, I'll enjoy having my Gansett patch on my office bulletin board.