Last weekend, I did the TARC Fall Classic in Carlisle, Massachusetts. TARC stands for Trail Animals Running Club, and it’s one of the most active trail groups in Boston. They’re best known for their no-frills races, with at least one occurring each season, featuring distances from 10k to 50 miles. I did the TARC Spring Classic 50k in 2018, which was my first trail race (though the terrain was quite moderate, so I technically consider La Madone 14k my first real trail race).
At the Fall Classic this year, there were around 250 finishers across the 4 distances: 50 miles, 50k, half marathon, and 10k. The most popular races were the 50k and half marathon.
Here’s my race recap:
I was so tempted to pick some corn, but I resisted haha
Registration / Swag / Fuel
TARC does all of its registrations on UltraSignup, and all the races have a flat fee of $25 (plus $3 processing fee), regardless of the distance. That means that I paid $28 for a 10k, and 50-miler runners paid $28 as well. It’s definitely a better “deal” if you run a longer distance, but $28 for any distance above 5k is honestly a steal.
The catch is that you get no swag–there are no t-shirts or medals, which is honestly fine with me. I accumulate a ton of running gear from races that I don’t necessarily need. I think a happy medium would be to have shirts and medal available for those who want them, but to include them as an add-on option. I like TARC’s no swag at all policy though because it matches the laid-back vibe of their events. I just wish road races would make t-shirts and medals optional.
The other reason signup is relatively inexpensive is since you have to bring your own fuel. The races are always run in loops, with a potluck-style fuel station at the start/finish. You’re assigned a category of an item to bring (such as “sweet” or “salty”), and you simply drop it off at the start. One thing that was also cool about this race was that it was cup-less, meaning that they wouldn’t hand out any single-use cups–you had to bring your own reusable bottles.
Since there’s not any swag, all you have to pick up is your bib. This was the morning of the race, which took place at Great Brook State Farm. It was super easy to walk into the farm building and get a bib–there was barely a line when I arrived at 7am, an hour before the race. There were also tons of porta-potties next to the farm building (very important lol), and there was also no line.
Like I mentioned, the course is always a series of loops. The 50k and 50 mile races had a longer loop of 10 miles, and the half marathon and 10k had 10k loops. They all started and finished at the same place, with the 50k and half marathon needing to add an extra loop at the start.
The course was slightly short for me at 5.96 miles, but others had longer distances (the joys of the trails haha). My watch recorded 492ft of elevation gain, which was less than I expected. There was one zig-zag hill before mile 2, but most of the hills were actually in the last two miles. The last part of the race was mostly rolling with 2 larger hills.
I had said I wasn’t going to walk any hills since it was a shorter race, but I ended up walking anyways. I didn’t want to exert myself too much because of a hiking/camping trip I was taking right after the race!
The terrain did have some roots and rocks, but it was pretty moderate, and there were sections of just pine needles and grass. I was actually hoping for more hills/technical terrain after the amazing trail running in France haha.
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I wore my Triwonder hydration pack, which was overkill for such a short race, but I wanted to carry my phone and some water with me (especially since the race was cup-less). This vest is handy because of the phone pocket on the left chest–it’s really easy to reach your phone and pull it out while you’re running.I also took a Honey Stinger Gingsting gel–half at the beginning, and half during, though a lot of it leaked into my vest because I was silly and wasn’t paying attention haha. I actually dislike this flavor a lot, but it has caffeine, and I needed it after waking up at 5am.
Shoes-wise, I used my Salomon X-Mission 3s. They give me some blisters on the big toe for longer distances, but I like how neutral they feel. I’ve tried more “serious” trail shoes like the Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 (linked to my review), but I found those seriously uncomfortable. Salomon is an outdoor fitness brand with its headquarters in the beautiful Annecy, France. I like their trail shoes a lot and have 3 pairs–they’re expensive in the US, but I’ve gotten some good deals on eBay 🙂 (and an amazing deal during the soldes or bi-yearly sales in France).
I ultimately finished in 1:04:59, which is 10:53/mi for the actual distance I ran. I was 20th out of 48 finishers. It would’ve been awesome to run in under 1 hour, but I always forget that trail pacing is much slower than road pacing. I was doing this race for fun, so I was pretty happy with my performance–I was a little disappointed at how hard the hills at the end felt though and want to keep working on endurance/elevation gain.
Basically, TARC events are fun and super chill trail races that are great for first-timers and veterans. There’s no swag, and the fuel is potluck style. The terrain is generally pretty moderate at the seasonal classic events, though with enough elevation to feel like a decent challenge.
Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts on the race, and happy trails!