One of my favorite things about where we live is the abundance of preservation land and trails. You almost have to try not to run on trails in our neighborhood.It’s given me a keen appreciation of the benefits (and ankle twisting dangers!) of adding trails into my running routine.
So while I have been slowly exploring the local trails and adding more off-road miles to my training plan, I had yet to run an actual trail race. This past weekend, I changed all that. With a new 5k trail race just a few minutes from the house, how could I not sign up?
I ran my third 5k of the year this past Sunday. Hunter’s Run is a local 5k in Medfield to raise awareness for organ donation and is run in honor of a boy in my daughter’s class who’s had two double lung transplants. This is the third year for the race and it remains a mostly small, local affair, which is fine. Not every race needs to be a big production. You can use smaller races to work on specific things in your training.
One the great things about the running culture in New England is that no matter what time of year it is you can find a race any weekend if you are determined. Many people are training for Boston and weekend winter races are a great way to stay motivated and get some speed work done.
Despite this, it’s right around St. Patrick’s day that really feels like the beginning of the spring (it might still be in the 20s or 30s but as long as it’s not actively snowing we call it spring up here) season really gets going with the all the various shamrock-inspired 5k’s getting people to slough off their winter hibernation and get back in their running shoes.
I am no different. This past Saturday I ran in my second 5k of the year.
It doesn’t matter if it’s mid-January or mid-June, one thing I love about New England and it’s running culture is that you can find a road race every weekend of the year and New Year’s Day, with sun, but negative wind chills, is no exception.
It was really cold, but the anticipation and waiting was worse than the actual running. Yes, your feet felt like rocks, the sweat froze to your face and your nose hairs rattled with each breath, but you were moving and it was only 3 miles so the cold was more motivation to go faster and get back inside than actual hinderance. Mostly….
The Ashland Lions Olympic triathlon is a long-running (this was the 26th year), local race held in and around Ashland and Hopkinton, MA. Part of the bike covers the marathon start. It’s run by FIRM racing, a smaller outfit that does a variety of endurance events in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. They run the popular Appleman tri in July.
I hadn’t actually heard of this race until I literally ran into during a training ride in the area a few years ago. There aren’t many Olympic distance events in general (compared to sprints and 70.3s) and to find one almost literally in my back yard seemed like an invitation.
It took a few years longer than I thought, but I finally toed the starting line this past weekend.
So how did it go? Let’s find out.
I now have a sworn enemy for this race. His name is Sam Burgess and he’s 12 years old and for the last two years he has humbled me and taken me down at this race. I can’t out run Sam. I can’t out run youth. But I can hate them both a little bit. Even though Sam beat everyone else at the race, too, and running a sub-19 minute 5k as a 12 year old is sort of impressive. It definitely is to my 12 year old self.
At this point, the Rock ’n’ Roll running series is a pretty well established brand and I’d guess most runners would have a general idea of what to expect when they are the race directors. (They also have a healthy ego as on their About page they claim the RnR format “ignited the second running boom”).
You are going to get a professionally packaged race experience that is used to putting on a big production, typically in a big city with a big entry field. You are going to get bands/entertainment at most mile markers. Well stocked and spaced aid tables. A nice finisher medal. And lots and lots of upset opportunities to enhance your race day experience.
At the Brooklyn Half, I experienced all of that and a few more things, but had little complaint. I knew what I was getting in to. But let’s start at the beginning.