Massachusetts has long been the center of the American road-running universe, thanks in large part to the storied and hard-earned tradition of the Boston Marathon. The trail- and ultrarunning community will snag a piece of the national spotlight in 2017, however, when The North Face Endurance Challenge comes to Massachusetts.
Registration opened on Dec. 14 for the Endurance Challenge Series’ first foray into the Bay State which will take place June 10-11 at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, Mass. The two-day running festival will feature 50-mile and 50K ultramarathon distances, as well as a marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K, marathon relay and kids’ run.
According to Michaela Hardy, Public Relations Coordinator for The North Face, Massachusetts was an ideal location for a new Endurance Challenge Series event for a variety of reasons.
“The North Face was built on a love for the outdoors, mountains, and getting people outside,” Hardy told MassUltra.com in an email. “We saw a huge opportunity in the shared love that New England and the brand has in running in every type of weather and terrain. The common interest made the expansion of the Endurance Challenge to Massachusetts a no-brainer.”
The North Face considered numerous locations around Boston to play host to the event before deciding on Wachusett Mountain. Factors in the decision included the quantity and quality of trails available, as well as ease of access from major metro areas including Boston. A partnership with the Wachusett Mountain Ski Area also afforded The North Face with a centralized location for the start/finish and event logistics.
Some of Massachusetts’ landmark scenery is expected to be at a premium on the course.
“We decided on this setting based on diversity of the trail systems and iconic backdrop of Mount Wachusett, the highest point in Massachusetts east of the Connecticut River,” Hardy noted. “On a clear day, the trail reveals views of Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, the Berkshires to the west, and the Boston skyline to the east. The course also traverses sections of the Midstate Trail, a 95-mile long-distance trail that runs from Rhode Island to the New Hampshire border.”
Runners can expect plenty of technical singletrack trail and a hearty amount of climbing. The 50K course includes around 6,000 feet of vertical gain. Meanwhile, 50-mile runners will be tested with 9,500 feet of vertical gain including four trips to the summit of Mount Wachusett – two of them in the final six miles.
“The course combines multiple intense elevation gains with scenic summit and ridgeline views and undulating waterline singletrack,” Hardy said. “Runners can expect the best of both worlds in a location that is a hidden gem of the northeast.”
Interest in the new event has been high. According to Hardy, the event at Wachusett Mountain “is on track to be the biggest first-year event that we have ever had.” She noted that the Marathon Relay sold out by late January, and other distance offerings are filling quickly.
The North Face Endurance Challenge Series has been a staple in American ultrarunning since it was launched in 2007. It has grown in popularity throughout the course of a decade, and expanded to include events throughout North America and globally. Wachusett Mountain is the newest edition to the lineup.
The 2017 Endurance Challenge Series will feature six events in the United States, beginning April 29-30 at Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling, Va., near Washington, D.C. The series will then move to New York on May 13-14 where it will take place for the 10th consecutive year at Bear Mountain. From there, it will move to Wachusett Mountain.
Additional Endurance Challenge Series events in the United States will be held at Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah; Kettle Moraine State Park in Eagle, Wisc.; and at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, Calif. Dates for those events have not yet been announced. The Endurance Challenge Series has also had an event at Blue Mountain Resort in Ontario, Canada, since 2014. The 2017 date for that event has not yet been announced. All of the events take place on trails.
Previously, the Endurance Challenge Series included a trail event at Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park in Georgia from 2010-2013. A road version of the series was held in 2011 and 2012 in Kansas City, Mo.