I live in Branford- hey, I live on the course- so I thought I'd write up a review of the race course.
Mile 1- This is a fast mile that is a net downhill. From the start on the side of the green, the road looks, and largely is, flat, but it's flat with a slight downhill bent to it. Because of the number of people in the race, it's a very fast start from those in front and a little bit slower for people not in the first ten or fifteen rows. But the tendency is to really take out this first mile, and that's a mistake.
It's OK to run right down the middle of the road here. There's no advantage to hugging the left hand-side of the road.
As you pass the Connecticut National Guard armory on the left, the road dips sharply downhill for a short distance as you go under the train overpass. Then it's a longer, shallower uphill that takes you over a short bridge that spans the Branford River. As you head over that bridge, get to left and start hugging it
You'll follow a left-hand bend and the road will be basically flat, with shorter sight-lines. You'll continue down the road, which has a slight bend to it for the rest of the first mile, finally coming up to a three way intersection. You bear left and just past the intersection is the mile 1 mark. This mile or the second one will probably be your fastest.
MIle 2- Another fast mile. The will bend towards the left here and you'll be running a shallow downhill almost at once. You can get a nice pace going here without pushing too hard, but the temptation will be to let it all out, which you should avoid. It continues to be downhill until you reach the Elk's club, and then it ticks back up, and you climb through a right-hand bend. At this point if it's sunny, it will be hot and there's no shade until you get in Mile 4. The road will continue a slight uphill bent until you hit the second to last house on the left. Then it's downhill again, and you'll see some separation develop as you head towards Lenny's.
Just past Lenny's there a left-hand bend to the road and you want to hug the left-hand side of the road. As you go through the bend, you're face with the strongest uphill of the course, but it isn't long and you should definitely power through it at full-speed. Then it's downhill to another left-hand bend and you're on the seawall. Hug the left-hand bend, then move to the right side of the road.
It's usually windy along the seawall. On most days the wind will be at your back, but it may also blow in off the water or be in your face. It's a good place to be in a group. The road is pretty flat here and fast, but again, keep it under control. Shortly after the beach ends, you'll go through mile 2.
Mile 3- The road continues to be pretty flat until you hang a right-hand turn on ninth avenue. Then road twists around to the left and you'll be running downhill for a short distance, then after a brick house on the right you'll break out and be back along the beach. Warning: people really start to push here, looking for separation. Don't get sucked in, because the hardest part of the course is coming up.
This is a really nice area of the course- nice houses on the left (private) beach on the right. But then you'll see the road ahead take an uphill left-turn that doesn't look that bad until you're through the turn.
There it is- the worst hill on the course. It looks long because it's a straight uphill shot- it's long enough but looks longer than it really is. And it's steep.
Get over it. Don't let the hill discourage you, and don't push it out too hard. If you blow yourself up on this hill, your race is over, because you still have almost half the race to run. Just be calm and patient up the hill, try to stay with the people around you, and work your way to the right. There's a right-hand turn at the top of the hill, cross the road and get back on the left-hand side.
When you crest the hill, you'll still be running on a flat-slight uphill. But as soon as you see the downhill, hit this hard. It's a long, straight downhill and if you've managed the uphill right here's your chance to separate from the people around you. Really work the downhill. At the bottom you'll take a left-turn, then a second left turn and your on Pine Orchard and past the 3 mile mark.
Mile 4- Mile 4 starts with a short, fairly flat section and then a long, relatively gradual uphill. This part of the race is shaded and if there is wind, it will be diminished as you're running through the trees. Although this is an uphill section, you'll really need to run it like it was flat. Partially because it's a shallow uphill at first and partially because now you're getting into the later stages of the race. I run this road all the time and you can maintain your normal pace about 3/4 of the way up the hill without pushing too hard.
Then the hill ticks up a bit, but that part is short, you go into a downhill roller, and you'll see another train overpass ahead. That is a short uphill, but don't be surprised if the short uphill seems tough and you lose a little speed. Don't sweat it, because you're about to get a long downhill. Stay to the left going over the bridge because the road will bend that way and take full advantage of the longest downhill on the course. It's a strong downhill initially that's straight with a long sight-line.
You have to take advantage of the downhill here, because of it's length and because the 5th mile is not as fast as you might think it is.
At the bottom of the steep part of the hill you'll pass a side street on your right and while the road does flatten out, it's still downhill. You'll run past my house, continue on a sharper downhill and see an uphill in front of you. Power through this. The hill is short but a little bit steep, however there's a big reward after you crest. The four mile-mark and a water station are part of the way up the hill.
Mile 5- After cresting the hill, you'll hang a left, so stay left. Around the bend it's flat for a short period and then you get another fast downhill. Use it !
The road will bend to the right and you'll being hanging a right at the armory, so after you come through the turn on the hill, work your way to the right. Don't hammer the downhill but work it hard, because the rest of the race will be an uphill. At the bottom of the steep downhill, the road will flatten out but you can maintain a great pace all the way to the turn. You'll also break out of any last bit shade, although you've probably lost that as of the end of Mile 4.
You'll have a long sight-line as well. You'll see people come back to you a little as they exit the steepest part of the downhill while you're still on. Don't let that lull you.
It looks flat, but basically it's uphill to the left hand-turn that takes you to the finish.
You have to run hard as you can after you make the turn. There will be crowds here and then stretch back to the final turn will be longer than think, especially because the starting line is part of the way down the street and you run past it. You'll probably be tempted to save something for the final turn and push to the finish, but you really have to gauge the people around you before deciding on when to make a move.
Finally, you'll reach that left-hand turn onto Main Street. The finish line will probably be just a little farther away than you remember it being. This is a flat finish, so if you've left anything in the tank you can really open it up here.
And that's it !