When we lived in Boston, there was a strong running culture and a lot of places to run, but you almost always had to pause at some point to cross a road or dodge some cars. In the ‘burbs, you don’t usually has that problem. You have space and if you’re lucky you might have trails.
As a master runner with an arthritic knee, I’ve been very happy to watch the growth of trail races in recent years. There is now a thriving barn-to-trail race series that partners with local farms, plus a number of other races taking advantage of the preserved land and trails in the area. That includes the New Life Furniture 5k trail race on the Medfield State Hospital land.
This is the second year they’ve held the race, and despite plans to eventually renovate the area, I hope they find a way to continue to pull this race off and showcase the space and adjacent trail network. It’s for a great cause and it’s a great use of the land.
For the second year in a row, the organizers lucked out with very nice weather. Given how wet, gray, and cool this spring has been, this was no small feat. It would be a potentially more interesting race through the ups and downs of the trails when its muddy but I’m guessing that would also cut down on the race day registrations.
Plenty of volunteers available to help get you registered or to pick up your bib (though they did employ the system where you had to look up your race number and then go and find the bib line). Simple purple tech shirts were the race swag.
I met up with some fellow Sole members and we went off for a quick jog. Getting in a good warmup (you should be sweaty) is one of the overlooked things before a 5k. If you are planning to go out fast or go for a PR your legs need to be ready!
Porta-Potty Note: plenty for the size of the race. No lines.
The one downside to using the State Hospital is that there are very few options for power. It made it difficult to hear the pre-race announcements on the jury-rigged speaker system. It mostly sounded like the adults in the old Peanuts cartoons. Thankfully, the Ready, Set, Go was clear enough and off we went.
Unlike last year, I positioned myself closer to the front this time and only had to do a little weaving (still some people that don’t know how to self-seed themselves into the corrale).
I knew from last year that the ‘boat ramp’ hill near the end of the third mile was a leg grinding beast which left me gasping and spent. I was determined to be a little more strategic this year. I made my move on a long flat section right before the hill last year and was passed back (humbling) on the boat ramp. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. The trick would be balancing my pace. Could I find sections to push the pace while not twisting an ankle or belly flopping over any roots on the trail section?
The first mile is mostly on the (broken) pavement sections of the hospital grounds before heading down the hill into the fields behind the hospital and entering the woods. I knew I couldn’t completely hold back here as the pavement and downhill were too good to really go slow. I was looking for that edge of going fast but comfortable. I let a group of about ten go off pretty hard and mostly just kept the group in sight trusting that at least some of them would fall back when we hit the rolling woods terrain and ultimately the boat ramp climb.
Mile 1: 6:21
About 4 seconds slower than the previous year. Was aiming for 6:30.
Mile 2 is where it really becomes a trail race with a lot of single track, narrow, technical bits. There is a lot of ups and down and I found myself catching up to the back part of that initial pack. Last year, I was going back and forth with a small group of 3 or 4 guys and I think that keep the pace moving. This year I hung back a bit more and only passed toward the end of the second mile as we came off the last trail hill and hit the flat section by the river.
Mile 2: 7:37
Previous year was 7:13. If my goal was to save some legs by slowing the pace, it worked. Or so I thought.
By Mile 3, I knew we mostly just had the boat ramp looming. I had moved from 10th to 5th and suddenly spotted a familiar gait in front of me. It was the woman I had tried (and just missed) to chase at the recent Hunter’s Run 5k.
We exited the trails and hit the boat ramp climb. There was a gap behind me but I wasn’t making up much ground on the woman in front of me. It was holding steady at about 10 meters.
Turns out maybe I should have just gone for it early and held on like last year. Despite trying to save my legs, the steep grade just limits how fast you can get up that darn hill. My last mile was only two seconds faster than the previous year. And despite feeling a little better (I didn’t get passed) and stronger, I never was able to catch the woman and finished about 30 seconds slower than the previous year.
Mile 3: 6:56
Overall: 20:56 (6:58/mile) (strava link)
Good for 5th overall (4th male) and 1st in my age group
Snacks! The post race refreshments are top notch here: lots of kind bar varieties, plus fruit, water, coffee and pastries. They even had little goodie bags made up for kids that included dummies, goldfish, and bubbles. All of that came in handy through the day.
Top finishers received a medal in addition to the participation shirt.
There were various games (spike ball, giant jingo, corn hole) set up near the finish line, plus music and a few local vendors.
A great spring 5k race and a great way to try a trail race and get to know the Medfield Hospital area if you are local. All while supporting a great cause. I hope to continue to do this run many years into the future.