A Different Start in the New Year: Hangover Classic 2015-Massachusetts

hangover classic fence
The view near the start/finish of the Hangover Classic

Running the Hangover Classic in Salisbury, MA has become a quasi-New Year’s tradition in our family.  Amelia and I ran it first in 2009 when we decided to sign up for the Will Run For Beer Series (who could resist?!).  The Hangover Classic was the first race of the series.  The night before the race there was such a significant snow storm that we questioned whether the race would actually be held. But knowing runners and not hearing of any cancellation we drove to the race the next morning.  The roads were still snowy and the wind was intense.  As we neared the start of the race we saw a huge plume of snow shooting up from a massive snowbank ahead of us. We assumed it was coming from a snow blower.  But, no, it was actually just wind-blown snow coming off a massive snowbank.  Oh, boy!

Inches of snow covered the roads as we ran the course, making for one of those “one step forward-two steps back” type of runs. But we persevered and finished the race, relishing the warm pub, cold beer, and the contented feeling of accomplishment as we waited for Amelia to claim her age division winner prize.

Subsequent races have brought additional challenges including courses diverted due to flooding and unfailingly frigid temps and strong winds. But the chance to start a new year with a fun run followed by festivities keeps us coming back.

Mike and I have run the 5K a number of times but this year we signed up for the 10K.  We are in the midst of our training for the Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon in February and we were due for a tempo run so we figured the Hangover Classic would be perfect.  Although we weren’t hungover, we had seen the New Year in with games, celebrating, good food and plenty of drinks with Hannah and Todd the night before.  The race is about an hour from our home so this factor combined with a late night made us appreciate the 11:30 start time.

We arrived in plenty of time to pick up our spiffy green, long-sleeve T-shirt,

 hc t


take care of the usual pre-race “business”, and scoot back to the car to warm up for a bit.  As the starting time approached we headed back towards the start.  We decided to join the huge throng of runners waiting for one last dash into the porta-potties. The race organizers announced that they would delay the start about 5 minutes due to the large number of people who were still in line for the bathrooms.  However, as we waited in a line that never seemed to get shorter, it became apparent that the race was going to start before we reached the head of the line.

Personally, anxiety over timing last minute porta-potty stops is truly one of my biggest race day concerns.  Somehow, it has always worked out fine for the countless races we’ve run.  My worries that the race would start without me had been unfounded.   This time, however, the dream/nightmare I’ve had where everyone has left and I haven’t started the race yet actually came true! We decided that making this pit stop was going to be essential to a good race.  The race was chipped timed and we weren’t in contention for any awards so we decided it was not a big deal if we started after the official start.  As we looked around we realized we were not the only runners who made this decision which was somehow reassuring.

So after a brief delay we were ready to cross the starting line…by ourselves!   It definitely felt weird to have watched as the throng of runners left the starting area and it felt kind of surreal to be heading out on our own.  But we soon realized what an advantage it was!  The usual surge as the gun goes off followed by the inevitable decrease to a walking pace that we commonly experience in our middle-of-the-pack spot never happened. There was no weaving around slower runners or veering around walkers. The road ahead was wide open and we relished this unexpected bonus.

My other racing fear is being the very last person to finish the race. This fear helped spur us on and shortly we were passing several walkers and runners.  Before long we were running with runners ahead of and behind us.  Although the road was still quite empty, the race felt more routine now.

The course is very flat and winds around the seaside area of Salisbury.  A multitude of volunteers cheerfully directed us as we wove our way along the course.  A number of spectators braved the cold and cheered us on.  The run had a wonderfully festive feel to it.  I don’t think I’ve ever said, “Happy New Year” to so many people before. It felt great!  And speaking of “great” we were thrilled with our pace which we were able to keep steady for the first 3 miles.  It only decreased a few seconds per mile on the second half of the course.  The lovely tail wind that we had enjoyed in the first half became a pretty intense head wind as we looped back.  But we felt strong and finished in a time that really pleased us. And we weren’t the last participants to cross the finish line!

We took a few minutes to stretch, marvel at those who were heading into the frigid North Atlantic Ocean for the optional ocean plunge,

and take the inevitable awkward (for us) “selfie”.

IMG_4038In past years we have enjoyed the ample beer supply that is provided after the race.

hangover classic beer

But this year when we entered the bar this was the view as we tried to make our way to where the beer was being poured.


We realized that there is an advantage to running the 5K…and maybe starting with the rest of the pack.  However, since we would soon be heading to the airport to pick up Amelia for her holiday visit home we opted to forgo the line.  We stopped at The Grog in Newburyport, MA for our own celebratory drinks and lunch.


We congratulated ourselves on a great run despite its unorthodox beginning. We cheered our efforts and the start of another year of running.

How did you spend your New Year’s Day?  Have you ever experienced starting line challenges? Best wishes for a year filled with good health, adventures, and fun!

State: Massachusetts

Quest State#: 3

Dates Run: 1/1/2009, 1/1/2010, 1/1/2013, 1/1/15

The Bottom Line: We love the festive feel of the Hangover Classic and think that spending New Year’s morning running with a group of enthusiastic runners is a wonderful way to start the year.


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