For the past few years, the Berkshire Ultra Running Community for Service (BURCS) has kicked off its annual ultramarathon race series in mid-June. This year, the series will begin a few weeks sooner thanks to the introduction of a new race – the Alford Springs 6-Hour Ultra.
The race will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 30, at the Alford Springs Nature Preserve in Alford, Mass.
The race is the latest brainchild of race director Benn Griffin who wanted to put on a race during his birthday weekend and introduce others to one of he and his wife Emily’s favorite places to run.
“Alford Springs has been a hidden gem for Emma and me for the last three or four years,” Griffin said. “We try to escape over there a few times a month during the spring, summer and fall, and it’s nice that it’s not well known so usually we have the trails to ourselves.”
Alford Springs consists of 899 acres of wildlands hugging the Massachusetts-New York border and includes nearly 7 miles of trails divided between the approximately 4.25-mile Father Loop and the 2.4-mile Mother Loop. The land is maintained by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.
The Alford Springs 6-Hour Ultra will use the Father Loop for its course. It’s the less technical of the two loops, Griffin said, but it’s the one loop that is mowed during the spring and summer.
“It’s 4.25 miles long and starts with about 2/3 of a mile climb, going into a scenic meadow that overlooks Berkshire Hills,” Griffin said, noting Mt. Greylock can be viewed on a clear day. “Then it winds down to the 2.1-mile mark before you start a long mile-plus uphill that culminates with some nice singletrack through the woods to reach the top of the ridge where the initial climb is, and you end each loop with a 2/3 of a mile downhill to the finish.”
Runners will have six hours to complete the Father Loop as many times as possible. Only completed loops count toward a runner’s official mileage total. Griffin said a half-mile mini-loop will also be marked for runners to use during the final 30 minutes that will count toward their official tally.
“With the 4.25-mile loop and possible out-and-back .5-mile mini loops in the last 30 minutes of the race, similar to Jug End, it’s a perfect place to get a marathon or ultra in in late spring,” Griffin said.
Entry is capped at 40 runners due to the limited availability of parking, and carpooling is encouraged. Registration costs $57. In keeping with the BURCS’ tradition of using each race to raise funds for charitable organizations, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council to support its continued management of the land.
The race will be added to the BURCS Race Season points competition, and it also will be an alternate option to the Notchview Ultra to qualify for the BURCS Badass Ultramarathon Race Series’ Ultra Badass status.
“It will be added to the overall points structure, but I expect mainly for it to be diehard BURCS fans that are silly enough to come run a hilly up-and-down course for six hours,” Griffin said.
Following Alford Springs, the BURCS Badass Ultramarathon Race Series will continue with its traditional lineup of popular ultras, starting with the Vegan Power 50K on June 27 at Pittsfield State Forest in Pittsfield, followed by the Notchview Ultra (72/48/24/12-hour) on July 2-5 at Notchview Reservation in Windsor; the Jug End Loop 6-Hour Ultra at Jug End State Reservation in Egremont; the Sweltering Summer 8-Hour Ultra on Aug. 8 at Clapp Park in Pittsfield; and the Free to Run 50-miler on Sept. 19 at Pittsfield State Forest. The 72-hour race at Notchview is already sold out, and the 8-hour race at Sweltering Summer is nearing capacity.