On Monday, March 22, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will move to Phase 4 of its reopening plan a little more than a year after it began closing down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the move to Phase 4, the limits on outdoor gatherings in public places will increase to 150 people. The move to Phase 4 was good news for Howie Breinan, the founder and race director for the Trail Animals Running Club’s original and longest running event, the ‘Don’t Run Boston’ 50K and 50-miler at the Blue Hills Reservation.
‘Don’t Run Boston’ — or DRB, as it’s commonly known — was first held in 1997 and has taken place every year since with runners taking on a grueling, unmarked course and receiving minimal aid along the way. The 2020 event is the only time in DRB history that it hasn’t been held as an in-person event as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. Instead, Breinan gave runners an eight-day window to run the course virtually. Eight runners finished the virtual 50K and one completed the 50-miler while two more logged a marathon on the course.
In February, Breinan announced a tentative date of April 18 to play host to an in-person running of the race — the 25th edition of DRB. At the time, the ability to do so hinged on the ability to obtain a permit from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). For DCR to consider issuing a permit, a move to Phase 4 of the reopening plan likely would have been required.
On Thursday evening, March 18, Breinan enthusiastically announced on the TARC Facebook page that he had “obtained verbal commitment from DCR and I expect a final permit in the coming days,” meaning an in-person running of DRB is likely to take place. If so, it would be the first in-person TARC event since the TARCtic Frozen Yeti in early February 2020, just before the pandemic took hold in the United States.
For most of its existence, DRB was run as an “underground,” unpermitted event. Permits have been obtained since 2016, which allowed the field size to increase to more than 25 runners. The 2021 event will have 65 slots between the 50K and 50-mile distances with 50-milers starting at 6 a.m. and 50K runners starting at 8 a.m. The event is free, but participants are encouraged to make a donation to the Blue Hills Trailside Museum.
While Breinan is optimistic that the permit will be received in the coming days, he reiterated to runners that safety precautions related to COVID-19 must be followed, including social distancing and wearing a mask at the start/finish area, at the lone aid station, and whenever near other trail-users during the course of the day in accordance with state ordinance. Additionally, less aid will be provided than in prior years so runners must be prepared to be largely self-sufficient.