Inaugural WJKJ 50K Keeps Nougat Spirit Alive

For eight years the Nougat 100K was a mostly “underground” event on the Massachusetts ultrarunning scene. The annual fatass-style event put on by Jeff Lane and Greg Esbitt was a deliberately small gathering of friends at the Lynn Woods Reservation that focused more on fellowship than running. In fact, the advertised distance was rarely achieved – a point driven home on the Nougat website that darkly offered preliminary results as “100% DNF – congrats to all.”

A handful of runners were credited with a 50K or marathon finish through the years, though finishing wasn’t really the point. The Nougat was about spending a day in the woods with friends. That’s why when Lane and Esbitt handed over the reins to Salem residents William Jackson and Kristen Smith to organize the event – now rebranded as the WJKJ 50K – the focus remained on bringing friends together.

A few schedule changes due to conflicts and other time obligations forced the WJKJ 50K to move from September to Sunday, Oct. 21 at the Lynn Woods, meaning some runners were already taking part in the TARC Ghost Train Trail Races (Oct. 20-21) and couldn’t make it. Still, a few runners braved the cold temperatures, raw air, and technical trails.

Aid Station - WJKJ 50K 2018
Kristen Smith, right, supports runner Austin Black at the aid station during the inaugural WJKJ 50K at the Lynn Woods Reservation on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Photo courtesy of William Jackson.

“We just wanted to have a fun race to get friends together!” Smith said. “It was difficult to find a good weekend though since there are so many great local fall races. It was fun marking the course and learning how much work goes into preparing for a race.”

In addition to maintaining the Nougat’s spirit of fellowship, the WJKJ 50K also used part of the Nougat course. The Nougat consisted of a 10-mile loop on the south side of the Lynn Woods followed by a 5.5-mile loop on the north side of the reservation, with runners completing both loops four times for a 100K or twice for a 50K.

“This year we only marked the 10-mile loop, which boasts about 1,500 feet of gain in 10 miles,” Jackson said of the course, which runners had to complete three times for a 50K. “(It’s) hilly throughout with technical trails at times and fire road. It is difficult to run especially in fall conditions (with) leaves, moisture and such.”

Austin Black - WJKJ 50K 2018
Austin Black was the lone finisher of the inaugural WJKJ 50K on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018, at the Lynn Woods Reservation. Photo courtesy of William Jackson.

Two runners took on the loop, and one – Austin Black of Pelham, N.H. – successfully completed it three times to take home the 50K win. Additionally, Bob Callanan of Marblehead, Mass., finished one loop of the course. Both took home a six-pack of beer as a prize for their efforts.

“It was a perfect first year,” Jackson said. “Lynn Woods is an absolute gem. We kept it pretty close to the Nougat course and how we set up the aid. Jeff and Greg really had it down.

“We supported our two runners until they met their goal for the day; to me that’s reward enough,” Jackson added. “(I was) happy to just spend time in Lynn Woods. It’s the place that’s kept my heart in doing what I love. It’s a special place to me.”


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