When more than 100 runners gathered at the starting line of the TARCtic Frozen Yeti 30-Hour Ultra on Saturday, Feb. 1, at Hale Reservation in Westwood, Mass., the Trail Animals Running Club thought another big year was kicking off.
It turns out that chilly morning was the beginning of the end of the 2020 TARC Trail Race Series. The novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, had already reached the United States, though it wasn’t known at the time. Six weeks later, parts of the country were beginning to lock down as the pandemic spread. Massachusetts was one of the hardest-hit early states.
Ultramarathons around the world were canceled. The TARC Trail Race Series canceled its second event, the To Hale and Back 6-Hour Ultra on March 22, as well as its third and fourth, April’s ‘Don’t Run Boston 50-Mile/50K and TARC Spring Classic. Additional events in the race series were canceled in the months that followed.
While Massachusetts and many of its neighboring states in the Northeast have reduced the spread of COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic, a large swath of the United States hasn’t taken the pandemic seriously. The result has been predictable: COVID-19 is ripping through communities in the South, the Sun Belt, the West and the Midwest. Hundreds of races have been canceled and – of much more severe consequence – more than 150,000 Americans have died so far.
With COVID-19 spreading out of control through much of the country, most ultramarathons continue to be canceled or offered in a virtual-only format with just a handful of exceptions. Ultimately, the pandemic wiped out the remainder of the TARC Trail Race Series as the eighth, ninth and 10th events of the TARC season were canceled.
On Monday, Aug. 3, Race Director Jeff LeBlanc announced that the TARCkey Trot 6-Hour Ultra on Nov. 14 and the TARC Fells Winter Ultra on Dec. 5 were canceled. A day later, TARC Fall Classic Race Director Jerimy Arnold announced on Facebook that he had received word from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) that the permit for his Oct. 3 event at Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle had been cancelled.
A year that began with promise for the popular TARC Trail Race Series concluded with just one race on a chilly weekend in early February.