Special Moments Aplenty at TARC Spring Classic

WESTON, Mass. – Shortly after crossing the finish line at the Trail Animals Running Club’s TARC Spring Classic, Johnathan Charles settled into a camp chair to give his legs a break. Sweat glistened on his brow and his lungs still burned from the effort, though his breathing had settled into a comfortable rhythm. Tired and content, he sported a grin from ear to ear.

Charles had good reason to be smiling – he’d just completed his first trail race and longest run ever.

“It feels good!” Charles said. “I’ve run trails before, but not intensely like this.”

Johnathan Charles of Norwood, Mass., crosses the finish line of the half marathon at the TARC Spring Classic on Saturday, April 22, 2023. It was Charles’ first trail race and longest run to date. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

Charles finished the half marathon at the 11th edition of the Spring Classic, which also offered 50K, marathon and 10K distances on Saturday, April 22, at the Jericho Woods in Weston. Charles’ longest run prior to the Spring Classic was 10 miles. He did most of his training on roads and the track, so the roots and rocks scattered throughout the course provided plenty of variety that Charles particularly enjoyed.

“This was fun because there was more to do,” he said. “Obviously where we’re going through the rocks, jumping over the rocks, it was a lot of fun!”

For Charles, the journey to the finish line started four months earlier when his wife, Linette Charles, found a YouTube video of an ultrarunner that she shared with him and his brother, Justin.

“We just got really into it, their whole journey and how long it was, how intense and hard it was,” he recalled. “We were like, ‘Let’s try something close to it,’ so this was it.”

Johnathan and Linnette Charles and Justin Charles were among the first runners to sign up for the Spring Classic when registration opened in January. Newly pregnant, Linnette opted for the 10K while both Jonathan and Justin ran the half marathon.

While all three finished their distances, Johnathan’s successful finish capped a transformative start to the year. During four months of training, the 32-year-old from Norwood, Mass., shed 50 pounds that he put on during the COVID-19 pandemic, so he was lighter on his feet and more nimble while navigating the rocks and roots.

“It felt great,” he said. “I just love running. It’s weird because it’s a painful sport, but it just feels good. I like the soreness; I like the tightness of the ankles, the sweat and the exhaustion. I love it. I’m absolutely going to do more.”

The Charles family’s triumphant day on the trails was emblematic of the Spring Classic as a whole. The event has long served as an inviting introduction to trail-running and ultrarunning for newcomers. That was once again the case this year as new faces abounded on the course and several runners seized the opportunity to tackle new distances for the first time.

Race Director Carly Tucker oversaw a flawless event at the TARC Spring Classic on Saturday, April 22, 2023. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

“This is one of those races that I’ve tried to put out to the community, like, ‘Just come. If you’ve never run a trail race, this is the one for you,’” said first-year Spring Classic Race Director Carly Tucker. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve said, ‘This is my first 50K.’ The winner of our marathon was running her first marathon. This (event) is so open and available and takes the barrier out for entry, and it’s been a really fun day.”

Tucker drew up perfect race-day conditions with a dry course, cloudy skies, no rain, minimal humidity and temperatures in the low- to mid-50s. Whether runners were tackling one pass through the 10K loop course or five loops in the ultra, the day was ideal for personal breakthroughs and memorable moments.

Carrolls Finish 1-2 in Men’s 50K

Jacob Carroll needed several minutes to catch his breath after sprinting across the finish line to close out his win in the 50K race at the TARC Spring Classic. The fatigue that the 22-year-old from Plymouth, Mass., experienced was understandable – he’d been pushing the pace all day.

Carroll made his ultra debut at the 2022 TARC Fall Classic, finishing sixth in the men’s field in 5:11:48. The Spring Classic was his second ultra, and he entered the race with his sights set on winning.

Jacob Carroll of Plymouth, Mass., hammered the trail all day long on his way to the overall win in the 50K race by a 25-minute margin at the TARC Spring Classic on Saturday, April 22, 2023. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

“My expectation was to try to go for first because I really wanted it,” he said. “My expectation was to haul ass and go as fast as I could, and that’s what I did.”

Indeed he did.

Thomas Leo set the early pace and led loop one in 48:55 with Carroll the next runner through in 50:24. A 46-minute second loop saw Carroll erase the deficit and amass a 1-minute lead on Leo after 20K. Carroll then ran the fastest third and fourth loops of any runner, stretching his advantage to 17 minutes with one loop to go. Though his pace slipped during the final loop, his lead was secure and he closed out the win in 4:15:36.

“The last lap was a little rough, but everything can’t be perfect,” he said. “But it was a perfect day to run. The trails are perfect. The weather’s perfect. It couldn’t be any better.”

But moments later it did get better.

As he was speaking, a smile broke out on Carroll’s face as the second-place finisher raced across the line.

Ryan Carroll of Plymouth, Mass., on his way to a second-place overall finish in the 50K at the TARC Spring Classic on Saturday, April 22, 2023. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

“That’s my father there!” Carroll exclaimed. “I’m so glad to see him get second place – it’s awesome!”

Ryan Carroll, 45, of Plymouth, Mass., ran a masterpiece of a race. He spent his entire day in the top five, and all five of his loops were completed in splits between 54:13 and 57:47. He caught the early leader, Leo, late in loop five and finished second overall in 4:40:20.

Leo, 34, of Princeton, Mass., finished third in 4:43:14. Christopher Stivers, 37, of Somerville, Mass., was fourth in 4:50:58. Scott Warren, 53, of North Reading, Mass., placed fifth in 5:10:51.

Olivito Fends Off Fast Field, Wins Women’s 50K

The TARC Spring Classic holds a special place in Kara Olivito’s heart. It served as her introduction to TARC when she made the 2014 event her first 50K and second ultra. She placed seventh that year in 5:36:37.

“The first year I did it, it was pouring,” Olivito said, referencing the event’s traditionally rainy weather. “There’s a picture of  me crossing one of the streams and I have a winter hat on and a rain jacket.”

Kara Olivito of Hampton Falls, N.H., was focused on the trail as she raced to a first-place finish in the 50K at the TARC Spring Classic on Saturday, April 22, 2023. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

In the nine years since, Olivito has run nearly every event in the TARC lineup, some of them multiple times. She ran the Spring Classic 50K again in 2016 and finished fifth in 5:27:07 and then returned in 2022 and placed second in 5:06:52, less than five minutes behind Jenny Kenty.

On Saturday, Olivito returned to the Spring Classic for her fourth crack at the 50K, and the 40-year-old resident of Hampton Falls, N.H., had her finest performance yet on a day where she needed it most. In addition to Olivito, the event marked the Spring Classic debut for 20-year-old Lila Gaudrault of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, who was the overall winner of the 2022 TARC Fall Classic 50K, as well as 36-year-old Amy Damon of North Chelmsford, Mass., whose winning time of 4:37:08 at the 2019 Spring Classic 50K was the third-fastest women’s time in course history. Other top runners in the field included 2022 Ghost Train 100-mile runner-up Jennifer Boshco, 38, of Billerica, Mass.; TARC newcomer and former Grinnell College volleyball standout Julianna Roth, 22, of Brookline, Mass.; and 2021 Notchview 100-mle champion Mae Polson, 39, of Leeds, Mass.

Unlike her first Spring Classic experience, Olivito had no complaints about the conditions for this year’s race.

“It was really dry,” she noted. “I run cold, so I’d rather it be like 65, but you can’t complain at all about this because this is kind of really the perfect temperature. It wasn’t hot; it wasn’t cold. It was great.”

Lila Gaudrault of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, on her way to a second-place finish in the women’s 50K race at the TARC Spring Classic on Saturday, April 22, 2023. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

The ideal conditions set the stage for an entertaining race. Gaudrault and Olivito ran part of the first two loops together and were separated by just 26 seconds after 20K.

“There were points where I was running for a while with different people,” Olivito said. “That was really nice to be chatting with people who were at the same pace. It was really cool.”

A similar dynamic played out with Damon and Boshco two minutes back, as well as with Polson and Roth who were 6 minutes off the lead at the 20K mark.

Damon made her move in loop three as Gaudrault – nursing a lingering hip injury – backed off the pace a bit. By the 30K mark, Damon moved into second and was within about 90 seconds of Olivito. By the 40K mark, Olivito remained in first in 3:42:58, but Damon and Gaudrault lurked less than four minutes back and well within striking distance. After a neck-and-neck first four loops, the outcome gained clarity in loop five. Though Damon faded and Gaudrault ran the fastest loop, Olivito remained steady and her advantage wasn’t threatened as she closed out the win in 4:44:38. Gaudrault finished two minutes later in 4:46:53 to secure second place, and Damon rounded out the podium in 4:59:39. Olivito and Gaudrault turned in the eighth- and ninth-fastest women’s times in course history.

Boshco finished fourth in 5:07:36, Roth was fifth in 5:09:19, and Polson placed sixth in 5:12:46.

Slager Sizzles in Marathon Debut

Anna Slager has spent the past few years toeing starting lines on the track for Tufts University. The 23-year-old Maine native and resident of Cambridge, Mass., sought out a new starting line when she made both her marathon and TARC debuts at the Spring Classic.

Anna Slager of Cambridge, Mass., cruises through the rocks at the TARC Spring Classic on her way to the overall victory in the marathon on Saturday, April 22, 2023. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

The distance may have been longer than what she previously raced, but Slager handled the transition just fine. She dashed from the starting line and quickly sped away from the rest of the field. Slager amassed a more than 5-minute lead after one loop and continued to pull away in the three loops that followed. She cruised at a consistent pace, knocking out the first loop in 51:50, the second in 51:28, the third in a speedy 47:17 and the final loop in 51:52. By the time she was done, Slager won the race outright in 3:22:28 and smashed the women’s course record by 28 minutes. The previous mark of 3:50:52 by Charlotte DeLeo had stood since the inaugural Spring Classic in 2011.

Even more notable, Slager also clocked the second-fastest marathon time at the Spring Classic of any runner ever. Only men’s record-holder Patrick Caron has gone faster with his time of 3:08:13 in 2018.

Elizabeth Ryan, 36, of Billerica, Mass., finished third overall and was the women’s runner-up in 3:55:39. Ryan’s performance was the fourth-fastest by a woman in race history. It was her fastest time ever on the course and also her latest strong showing as she added to a resume that included wins in 2017 (4:17:38) and 2019 (4:08:09) and a runner-up finish in 2018 (4:07:15). In a sign of her consistency, Ryan now owns four of the top 11 women’s times in event history. Jessica Ozturk, 28, of Waltham, Mass., finished third in 4:26:50.

In the men’s field, 21-year-old Aurelien Scagnolari of Boston, Mass., capped his TARC debut by topping the field in 3:55:32. Gregory Esbitt, 49, of Ipswich, Mass., was second in 4:07:16 and 47-year-old Henning Smith of Northbridge, Mass., was third in 4:19:44.

Ridley Races to Course Record in Half Marathon

A year ago, Mat Ridley topped the 50K field at the TARC Spring Classic. On Saturday, he was a champion once again, though this time at a shorter distance. Ridley, 32, of Quincy, Mass., etched his name in the event’s record book by hammering out the fastest half marathon in event history among a field of 113 runners.

A volunteer refills a soft flask for a runner during the 11th edition of the TARC Spring Classic. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

Ridley burst to a nearly 5-minute lead by the race’s midpoint, and he continued to hammer the trail during his second pass through the course. By the time he was done, Ridley rewrote the record books as he finished in a sizzling 1:25:10 and eclipsed Myles Courtney’s previous course record of 1:29:41 from 2014. Runner-up Michael Peyron, 47, of Boston, Mass., enjoyed another successful outing in the Spring Classic half marathon. It was his second time finishing on the podium and fastest yet in 1:32:41. He was the runner-up in 2018 (1:37:10). Pedro Grullon, 40, of Lawrence, Mass., was third in 1:34:03 and Adam Wang, 19, of Cambridge, Mass., followed in fourth in 1:35:43.

In the women’s race, a close battle played out early with Gwenyth Taradash, Elizabeth Atwater and Lillian Petersen closing out their first loop within 18 seconds of each other. Atwater moved to the front in loop two and gradually pulled away as the 43-year-old from Sudbury, Mass., closed out her TARC debut with a winning time of 1:45:20. Petersen, 20, of Los Alamos, N.M., finished second in 1:48:03, while Taradash, 22, of Dartmouth, Mass., was third in 1:48:59 following her marathon victory in 2022.

Catarius Cruises to Victory with Speedy 10K

David Catarius has consistently made his presence felt at the TARC Spring Classic, starting with a third-place finish in the 10K in 2019. In 2022, he blazed to a runner-up finish in the half marathon. After opening 2023 with a 12th-place finish at the G.A.C. Fat Ass 50K in January and following it up with a ninth-place, 31.5-mile finish at the TARC To Hale and Back 6-Hour Ultra in March, Catarius returned to the 10K distance at the Spring Classic and turned his legs loose for a short and speedy performance.

Catarius, 54, of Shrewsbury, Mass, threw down the 10th-fastest men’s time in course history and cruised to the overall victory in 45:40 while topping the field of 69 finishers. His closest competitor, 41-year-old Michael Barjum of Wellesley, Mass., followed in 48:33, and 39-year-old Peter Scheel of Watertown, Mass., finished third in 49:47.

In the women’s field, a close race throughout came down to the final straightaway as Leslie Wright, 32, of Sherborn, Mass., fended off Chelsea Farinacci, 28, of Watertown, Mass., by 27 seconds in the TARC debut for both women. Wright earned the win in 55:45 and Farinacci followed in 56:12. Elizabeth Tower, 24, of Cambridge, Mass., finished third in 1:00:08.


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