Make that two dozen half marathons this year in the Granite State.
John Mortimer, founder of the Elliot Millennium Running Series, announced on Tuesday that his group will sponsor the inaugural New England Half Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 28. The 13.1-mile race will start at the entrance of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and end in front of the State House on North Main Street in Concord.
Online registration at www.millenniumrunning.com begins next Tuesday, April 15, at 8 a.m. and is limited to 2,500 registrants.
The new race brings the number of half marathons in New Hampshire in 2014 to 24. Many of Mortimer's races are staged with families in mind, but he cautions that the half marathon is not for everyone.
"The average runner needs to train for this particular event," said Mortimer. "But the half marathon is what our runners wanted us to add to our series. On Monday, when we first posted on Facebook that we were sponsoring one, we got 450 comments on that day alone. So we listened to our constituents and I'm happy to announce we've created a half marathon race for them."
Mortimer said it took 18 months before his staff found the right course for the half marathon.
"Scouting out the topography, working within the municipalities, we wanted to get it right," said Mortimer. "Sure enough the course from the speedway to the capitol was exactly 13.1 miles and the scenic course includes an elevation drop of 175 feet from start to finish."
Mortimer said the cooperation he received from Gov. Maggie Hassan and Jerry Gappans, general manager of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, made his search easier.
"Our half marathon will be exactly one week after the Sylvania 300 (Sept. 21). I've met the governor at many events and she's an advocate of physical fitness," said Mortimer. "Jerry Gappens, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the town of Loudon are supporting this and it's all for a great cause.
Mortimer said proceeds from the race will benefit many local charities including the Speedway Children's Charity.
If 2,500 runners register, the New England Half Marathon will become the largest inaugural half marathon in state history, Mortimer said.
"It would be larger than the Manchester City half marathon two-fold," said Mortimer, who was shocked to find out 'New England' was available to name his half marathon.
"We were originally going to call it the 'Downhill' half-marathon," said Mortimer. "But we wanted to reach out to a larger scope of runners and, shockingly, no one had used 'New England' to sponsor their race. So we have it and we're definitely off to a great start."