Though the Trail Animals Running Club’s Wapack and Back Trail Races officially offer 50-mile and 21.5-mile events, runners are offered the option of signing up for the 50-miler but stopping after 43. That somewhat unofficial race distance represents the successful completion of a full out-and-back of the Wapack Trail, so it is a significant feat. In fact, the last time runners toed the starting line at Wapack and Back, the most dazzling performances were delivered in that most unusual of race distances.
Ed Cullen of Rumford, R.I., and Kara Olivito of Medford, Mass., set men’s and women’s course records for the 43-miler on May 11, 2019, the last time Wapack and Back took place. The event was canceled in both 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting on pause an event that dates back to at least 2007.
Fans of the classic New England ultra received welcome news on Monday, Jan. 3, when Wapack and Back co-Race Director Jason Gray announced that the event will return in 2022. The races will take place on Saturday, May 7, in Ashburnham, Mass. The 50-miler and 43-miler will start and finish at Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham, beginning at 5 a.m. and racing outbound to North Pack Mountain in Greenfield, N.H., before returning to the start. The 43-miler will stop back where it began, while 50-milers will do an additional out-and-back to tack on the additional mileage. The 21.5-miler will start at 9 a.m. at the Northern Terminus of the Wapack Trail and run back to Ashburnham. A bus will take 21.5-milers from Ashburnham to the start, departing at 8 a.m.
Cost to enter the 50- and 43-mile distances is $65, and the 21.5-miler costs $55 to enter. Registration will open on RunReg on Feb. 1 at this link.
While much about the 2022 race will be familiar to years past, Gray noted one big change this year will be at the aid stations.
“(Co-RD) Christopher Agbay and myself are taking this back to a grassroots type of event,” Gray wrote in the Facebook announcement. “We want to give more back to the trail community with the registration fees collected. Therefore, water only will be provided on the course. Your calorie needs should be provided by you.”
Friends of the Wapack has been a long-time beneficiary of the race, and that will once again be the case in 2022. In fact, during registration runners are given the opportunity to make an additional donation to Friends of the Wapack above and beyond their entry fees. To learn more about Friends of the Wapack or get involved with the organization, click here.