|John happily sporting his new Olympus.|
Me in my dependable Torins.
The course for this race- the Goat Hill 7k- utilizes a trail system that I ran frequently back when I lived in the area. My mom and I have been running parts of it during my visit, though not the part with the big climb. I was able to talk her into registering for the race along with my friend John, who is newly recommitted to getting back into shape (as of this week). None of us really knew what to expect, but we were all happy to arrive on race morning, collect our numbers, and hit the trail after a quick pre-race briefing and the quietest rendition of the National Anthem that I have ever heard (sung by the runners in a very whispery volume).
We took off down the trail along the section of the course that I knew very well. In fact, I took a good digger on some roots on this trail several weeks back, so I was extra cautious with my footing. I noticed right away that the air was much more humid than it had been for a while. The single-track congo line formed fairly quickly, so runners were sort of locked into position for the first few miles. I was moving along much better than I had anticipated and clocked about nine-minute miles for the first few miles.
|I love me some wooded single track.|
|Jake enjoying the course the day after the race.|
I don't think that I really could have run much harder. The feeling of "oh boy, this is surprisingly easy" wore off after about two miles, and I could feel all of the muscles in my legs that were not quite ready to be out for a run yet, especially as we hit some climbing up on Goat Hill, though this was my favorite section of the course. I have run in that area many times, but I never realized that there was such an intricate trail system tucked behind the more commonly utilized trails. There is beautiful single track that weaves in and out through the forest, lacing back onto itself in a neat little network. (I am spatially challenged and have not quite figured out all of the connections yet, but it is my goal to do so before I return to Idaho so that my mom will be able to run these trails by herself.)
The race directors did a great job of showcasing this little gem, not only in picking great trails, but in the way that the race itself was orchestrated. There were just two aid stations, but they were in great spots at miles 2.2 and 3.2. There were ample volunteers at the aid stations as well as any junction on the trail that may have been confusing, and the trail was impeccably marked. Especially because there are so many offshoots and unmarked trails through this area, having markers in all the right places is key. Although I was suffering, I was so happy to have gone out and run this race.
|Be a billy goat!|
I came in with 4.7 miles at 52:14, ten minutes behind the first place woman. My mom finished really strong just a bit after I did, and John finished a bit after her. When most of the runners were done, there was a little awards ceremony where the winners in each division were recognized (junior, open, master, senior) and the crowd mostly dispersed. Knowing what it is like to be the last runner coming into a dead finish line, my mom and John and I stuck around to see the last runners through. Being able to watch people finish from the back of the pack is its own reward- there is much as much grit in the twenty-minute miler as there is in the five-minute miler at the front of the pack.
I loved this race, not just for the race itself, but for the fact that it filled a long-open gap in my hometown community by offering a place for people to come out and hit the trail together. I would recommend this race to anyone who is in the Central Mass area. The organizers are really trying to create an atmosphere that is welcoming to everyone, regardless of their background or experience on the trails. Also, did I mention that the race only cost $15? It can't be beat! Thanks to MRA for an excellent event; I hope to catch another one next time around. If you are local, I highly suggest checking out the other races here and getting your feet dirty.