The 2017 edition of the Trail Animals Running Club’s TARC Trail Series looks mighty similar to the 2016 offering, with one major exception.
Absent from the 2017 lineup is the TARC 100, which has been the most high-profile event of the Trail Series for the past four years. The decision to put the event on indefinite hiatus was announced in August. That said, there are still plenty of options for runners to choose from. The 2017 Trail Series will challenge new and longtime runners with 10 events – nine of them offering ultramarathon distances – so there’s plenty to look forward to, said Josh Katzman, a race director and longtime member of TARC’s leadership.
“As we go into our seventh year, I think I’m most excited to continue to see new people stepping up to meet new challenges,” Katzman said. “I’ve come to enjoy each of the races in their own right, and I’m really happy to see the number of folks stepping into new roles as race directors.
“We added a couple of new events in 2016, so it’ll be nice to ‘step back’ in 2017 and make sure each of our races is an absolute pleasure and joy for everyone involved – from the runners, to the volunteers, to the RDs.”
The Trail Series will kick off Saturday, March 25, with the second running of To Hale and Back at Hale Reservation in Westwood, Mass. The 6-hour and 5K event made its debut in 2016 when it replaced the Spring Thaw. In 2016, To Hale and Back was a large event with 115 runners taking part, 96 of them in the six-hour race.
TARC will have a busy April with the annual “DRB” (Don’t Run Boston) 50K and 50-miler April 15 at the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, Mass., followed by the annual Spring Classic on April 22 in Weston, Mass. The Spring Classic will offer distances from 10K up to 50K on a loop course.
The technical, steep and rugged Wapack and Back 50-miler and 42-miler will return for an 11th year on May 13, beginning and ending at Mt. Watatic State Park in Ashburnham, Mass. Other races offering ultramarathon distances include the TARC Summer Classic on Aug. 12, the TARC Fall Classic on Sept. 30, the Ghost Train Rail Trail Race on Oct. 21-22, the second-annual TARCkey Trot 6-Hour on Nov. 18, and the TARC Fells Winter Ultra on Dec. 2 at the Middlesex Fells Reservation.
At 12K, the Blue Hills Skyline Trail Run on July 9 at the Blue Hills Reservation is the only event in the series without an ultramarathon distance offering.
Six-hour events To Hale and Back and the TARCkey Trot both include 5K races, the shortest offered in the Trail Series.
The longest distance offering in 2017 will be 100 miles at the Ghost Train Rail Trail Race. Taking place in Brookline, N.H. – the only non-Massachusetts-based event in the series – Ghost Train gives runners the opportunity to choose between 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90 100 miles or more. The 15-mile race has a four-hour time limit. The ultramarathon distances have a 30-hour time limit, regardless of distance.
Katzman is taking over as Ghost Train race director from long-time RD Steve Latour, and Katzman was quick to assure runners that very little will change about the event in 2017.
“People are incredibly passionate about this event, and I’ve heard from a number of them about how they are worried with a change in RDs, the event will change,” he said. “As such, I think the greatest challenge is to keep people from worrying too much about ‘changes.’ Our aim is to keep it as is, but we will introduce NTS Timing to make things a little easier on everyone.”
NTS stands for Norm’s Timing System, which is an electronic timing system that TARC member Norm Sheppard designed. Sheppard’s timing system has been used at numerous TARC events through the years. Times were recorded by hand at Ghost Train in previous years, so record-keeping was more tedious with multiple distances being run.
Ghost Train is the largest event in the TARC Trail Series in terms of number of distances offered and number of participants. More than 300 runners are registered for the ultra distances, which are sold out. Spots remain available for the 15-mile and relay options, and a waiting list is being used for the ultra distances.
“I think what most intrigues me about Ghost Train is the passion people have for it – we sold out in less than 48 hours!” Katzman said. “We’ve got a lot of people signed up for the 100, so I think another challenge/point of intrigue is trying to get more of those people to complete the full 100-mile distance. But, it’s important to note that it’s not just a 100-mile race, so making sure everyone gets that ‘special attention’ is key – we want this to feel like the ‘old school’ events.”
Registration for all Trail Series events except for DRB can be done at UltraSignup.com. A full list of TARC Trail Series races is provided below.
Return of TARC Trail Running Camp
When news broke that the TARC 100 would not take place in 2017, the announcement was met with plenty of concern that the TARC Trail Running Camp would also disappear.
Worries can be put to rest, because the camp will return for the third year in a row June 9-11 at Hale Reservation.
“I was psyched when we figured out insurance for Camp!” Katzman said. “It is always a great weekend, and people leave feeling pretty stoked on running for the summer.”
The three-day, two-night event will include camping, campfires, guest speakers, group runs, and more. Registration can be done via UltraSignup.com.
Katzman noted that the TARC Trail Running Camp might have a different feel to it this year since it’s no longer a precursor to the TARC 100. Participation in the TARC 100 was not a requirement for attending the camp in previous years, however it provided runners an opportunity to spend extended time on the TARC 100 course at Hale Reservation, learn from experienced 100-mile runners, and get to know their fellow TARC 100 competitors.
“In some ways, Camp has been ‘opened up’ because we don’t have the TARC 100,” Katzman said. “In previous years it was billed as a training camp for that race. However, because there’s no TARC 100 this year, it will allow us to split the group runs into smaller groups, tailoring the ‘on trail’ experience more specifically to people’s natural/comfortable pace.”
“We also have some great speakers lined up, so campers will be able to hear from top running coaches, strength/conditioning coaches, yoga instructors, and runners who are well-versed in nutrition and ‘life balance,’” Katzman added.
Changing of the Guard
The long-term success and growth of TARC’s trail races is due, in part, to the commitment of race directors who have dedicated hundreds of hours each year to organize events, obtain permits, recruit volunteers, mark courses, and thoroughly clean up after events to “leave no trace.”
The reins are being handed over to new leadership at multiple TARC events in 2017, and the transitions are expected to be smooth given that some of the new RDs have either directed other races, captained aid stations, or been heavily involved in the organization and direction of races in previous years.
Retiring RDs include Steve Latour, longtime Ghost Train organizer; Jesse Veinotte of Wapack and Back; Conleth Berry from the Blue Hills Skyline Trail Run; Chris Haley from the TARC Summer Classic; Sam Jurek from the TARC Spring Classic; and Jean Gillis from the Fells Winter Ultra.
After captaining the main aid station at the 2016 TARC Spring Classic, Annie Gagliardi will replace Jurek as co-RD of the 2017 event alongside Michael McDuffie. Jeff Dixon will take over the TARC Summer Classic, Alyssa Adreani and Matt Elam will lead the Blue Hills Skyline Trail Run, and Jeff LeBlanc will direct the Fells Winter Ultra in 2017. LeBlanc will also co-direct the TARC Trail Running Camp with Katzman.
Additionally, Katzman – who directed the TARC 100 for the past four years – will take the reins of Ghost Train.
A new RD for Wapack and Back has yet to be announced.
Volunteering at Vermont 100
In addition to playing host to 10 running events – including nine with ultramarathon distances – the Trail Animals also will be chipping in at one of the largest ultramarathon events in the east. TARC will operate the Camp Ten Bear aid station at the Vermont 100, July 15-16 in West Windsor, Vt. It’s the third year in a row that TARC will be in charge of that aid station.
TARC TRAIL SERIES: 2017 RACE CALENDAR
Date; Event; Distances Offered; Location
March 25; To Hale and Back; 6-Hour and 5K; Westwood, MA
April 15; Don’t Run Boston 50M and 50K; Milton, MA
April 22; TARC Spring Classic; 50K, 26.2M, 13.1M, 10K; Weston, MA
May 13; Wapack and Back; 50M and 42M; Ashburnham, MA
July 9; Blue Hills Skyline Trail Run; 12K; Milton, MA
Aug. 12; TARC Summer Classic; 40M and 50K; Medfield, MA
Sept. 30; TARC Fall Classic; 50M, 50K, 13.1M and 10K; Carlisle, MA
Oct. 21-22; Ghost Train Rail Trail Race; 15M-100M; Brookline, NH
Nov. 18; TARCkey Trot; 6-Hour and 5K; Lexington, MA
Dec. 2; TARC Fells Winter Ultra; 40M and 32M; Stoneham, MA