WESTON, Mass. – The TARC Spring Classic has developed a reputation for damp, drizzly weather and chilly temperatures during recent years, and this year was shaping up to be more of the same when multiple late-season snowstorms pounded the region in recent weeks.
When race day rolled around, however, runners were granted a reprieve from the challenging conditions and instead were treated to one of the finest days for running in 2018. Sunny skies, temperatures in the upper 50s, and mostly dry trails made for fast running and a spirited day of running at the eighth annual TARC Spring Classic on Saturday, April 21.
None were more excited about the ideal conditions than Kelsey Allen, and nobody capitalized on the day more than her. An accomplished mountain runner (first at Mt. Tam 50K and fifth at Hellgate 100K in 2017) and four-time winner of the notorious Seven Sisters Trail Race (2011, 2012, 2016, 2017), Allen is no stranger to running in tough conditions. The 34-year-old from Wendell, Mass., has spent most of the past few months logging miles in the snow and training in cold-weather gear. She savored the fact that none of that was necessary at the Spring Classic.
“It was pretty fun out there,” Allen said. “It was beautiful out. It was good to wear shorts and not wear microspikes. I can’t complain!”
Allen was one of 80 runners who finished the 50K race, and she made quick work of her five trips around the 10K loop through the woods of Weston. She handled the singletrack and doubletrack trails with ease, cruising up and down the rolling hills, hopping over rocks and roots, and dodging the occasional mud puddle. She led the women’s field from start to finish. Allen built a two-minute lead during the first loop, which she hammered in 52:12, and continued to expand her advantage with each additional trip around the course.
Allen’s smart, focused effort was also consistent. She completed each of her first three loops in less than 54 minutes. Her slowest lap of the day was a 57-minute fourth loop where she paused to shed a layer, and she closed out her day by cruising through her fifth loop in 56:45. Allen’s winning time of 4:33:54 was the second-fastest by a woman in course history, and she did it while closing out a tough week of training for her 100-mile debut next month at the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 in Virginia.
“It was definitely a training day,” Allen said of what she sought to accomplish at the Spring Classic. “I’m at the end of a hard week, so I was just coming out to run and have fun. I took the first lap a little too hard and then tried to cruise the rest of the way.
“It was a good day,” she added. “It’s nice that you can see everybody out there (on the loop) and everybody’s cheering while you’re passing along. Everybody’s friendly, so it’s just a fun time. TARC races are fun; they’re so low-key.”
While Allen ran away with the win, the race for the final two spots on the women’s podium was hotly contested between Heather Lucas, Claire Gadrow and Lori Wetzel. Lucas and Gadrow finished their first loop side-by-side in second place, but Lucas gradually pulled ahead during the second loop and held onto second for the rest of the day. Lucas, 34, of Hopkinton, Mass., ultimately was the runner-up in 5:03:28. Meanwhile, it looked like Gadrow would hold on for third place. The 48-year-old from South Kingstown, R.I., was 14 minutes ahead of Wetzel after three loops. Gadrow still had a nine-minute lead after four loops. The tables turned during the final trip around the course, however. Wetzel kept a remarkably consistent pace throughout the day – her fastest loop (loop 1) took 1:00:58 and her slowest (loop four) took 1:04:53. As Gadrow began to fade, Wetzel closed with her second-fastest loop of the day. The 45-year-old from Danvers, Mass., erased the deficit with a 1:01:11 final loop and surged to a third-place finish in 5:14:44. Gadrow placed fourth in 5:19:05. Two more women – Keri Stanovitch, 40, of Mansfield, Mass. (5:23:46), and Niveen Ismail, 36, of Florence, Mass. (5:24:35) – finished in less than five and a half hours.
On the men’s side, an entertaining race unfolded at the front of the pack and created high suspense for much of the day. Racing for the fourth time in five weekends, Brian Rusiecki was the favorite going into the race. Up-and-comer Davis Cutter made sure Rusiecki had to work for the win, however. The duo spent much of the race running side-by-side as the 39-year-old Rusiecki was unable to shake the 25-year-old Cutter. They completed their first three loops together, and then Cutter made a move early in the fourth loop.
“I thought he was gone,” Rusiecki recalled shortly after finishing. “I did another race where I thought ‘Oh man, I’m getting old.’ It was in Vermont (at the Runamuck 50K) where I was running with a kid (20-year-old Remi Leroux of Quebec), and I took off. I don’t remember what mile it was, but I took off and it wasn’t hard enough because he caught me and just annihilated me. That’s what I thought was happening here, but you never know.”
Rusiecki latched on with another young runner, 20-year-old Patrick Caron, who was running the marathon. They cruised for a few miles together, and eventually caught up to Cutter before passing him. From there, the veteran ultrarunner from South Deerfield, Mass., took control. He closed out the fourth loop with a five-minute lead and continued to pull away during his final trip around the course. Rusiecki finished with a winning time of 4:02:12.
For Rusiecki, the win closed out a busy stretch of races that he’s using to get into shape for the UROC 100K in May and the Black Hills 100 in June. He will also race the Vermont 100 in July and the Ultra-Trail Harricana in September.
“It’s my time to race into shape; it’s just the way I do it,” Rusiecki said of his annual spring tradition. “It’s just to get me ready to do the long ones.”
Cutter, of Brookline, Mass., finished second in 4:12:58. Marek Telus rounded out the men’s podium. After spending much of his day in pursuit of David Herr, Herr dropped from the race with a loop to go and Telus took over third place where the 42-year-old from Hopkinton, N.H., finished in 4:18:25.
Jack Bailey, 39, of Medway, Mass., was fourth in 4:26:15, followed by 47-year-old Peter Christie of Needham, Mass., in 4:33:02.
The top 11 overall runners finished in less than five hours, and 37 runners completed the 50K in less than six hours.
As the hours stretched into mid-afternoon and the event began to wind down, race organizers looked around and saw a scene unfold that they’d been hoping for during previous years. The weather had finally cooperated, and tired runners, spectators and volunteers were taking full advantage as they lounged on the grass in the sun, cheered on the final finishers and soaked in the warmth and camaraderie that TARC events are known for. Appropriately, the Spring Classic finally felt like spring.
Caron Crushes Course Record in Marathon
Fresh off of running a rain-soaked Boston Marathon on Monday, Patrick Caron shook out his legs with his second marathon of the week – this time on trail – at the Spring Classic. The 20-year-old from Needham, Mass., had plenty of speed left in his legs. He threw down the fastest marathon in Spring Classic history, and he did so by a large margin. Caron blazed to a winning time of 3:08:13, surpassing Michael King’s old course record of 3:27:38 from 2017. Caron’s closest competitor, 25-year-old Luke Plummer of Medford, Mass., was a distant second in 3:49:10, followed closely by Ed Cullen, 30, of Rumford, R.I., in 3:50:23, and Greg Esbitt, 44, of Ipswich, Mass., in 3:51:24.
On the women’s side, Laura Ricci outdueled Elizabeth Ryan for the win. Ricci, 34, of Boston, Mass., posted the third-fastest women’s time in course history with her winning mark of 4:02:03, while Ryan, 31, of Somerville, Mass., posted the fifth-fastest time on the record boards in 4:07:15. Leah Lawry, 34, of Charlestown, N.H., rounded out the women’s podium in 4:33:40.
Forty-five runners completed the Spring Classic marathon.
Knighton, Hetherington Victorious in Half Marathon
The half marathon was the largest race at the Spring Classic with 118 finishers, and it also featured the closest competition for all of the podium positions. Sixty-eight seconds separated the top three men’s finishers, and three minutes were the difference between the first- and third-place women during the hotly contested race.
Boston resident Christopher Knighton, 29, earned the victory for the men in 1:36:33, followed by fellow Boston resident Michael Peyron, 42, in 1:37:10. Jasmin Lepir, 42, of Dover, N.H., rounded out the top three in 1:38:41.
Local Weston resident Jayne Hetherington, 37 – who won the Spring Classic 50K on her neighborhood trails in 2016 – posted a winning half marathon time of 1:49:28. Elizabeth O’Brien, 20, of Amherst, Mass., was second in 1:50:44, followed by 24-year-old Caitlin Pohl of Cambridge, Mass., in 1:52:35.
Mansuripur, Marx are 10K Winners
Toby Mansuripur and Meredith Marx raced to victory in the field of 78 runners in the Spring Classic 10K. Mansuripur, 30, of Cambridge, Mass., was the men’s winner by a 27-second margin in 45:01. Marx, 31, of Malden, Mass., was the women’s winner by more than two minutes with a time of 50:41.
Up Next For TARC
The Trail Animals Running Club’s TARC Trail Series rolls on with the Wapack and Back Trail Races on Saturday, May 12, in Ashburnham, Mass. Runners will take on a 50-mile, 43-mile, or 21.5-mile race on the Wapack Trail from Mt. Watatic in Massachusetts to North Pack Mountain in Greenfield, N.H. The race is sold out.