In April 2018, I ran the TARC Spring Classic 50k. (Yes, oops—this race recap is 6 months late).
TARC (Trail Animals Running Club) is Boston-based running group that holds several longer distance events each year. You don’t have to be a member to join any of their events—you can simply sign up online and pay a very nominal registration fee (the 50k cost $20, which is much cheaper than the $100+ you can pay for a marathon). Their Facebook group is also super active, and people are always asking for and giving advice, as well as organizing group runs.
The race is in Weston, about 20 miles outside of Boston. I didn’t have a car, so I pulled all the stops to find a ride there. I posted in the TARC Facebook group, another running group, and then began searching the entrants up on Facebook to message them and ask (there is a list of entrants on the registration page and I’m a creep haha). I ultimately got a ride there through my sleuthing, and got a ride back by asking if anyone was heading to my neighborhood.
The race was composed of five 10k loops, which was both good and bad. The pros were that we’d know what to expect after the first loop, and that there was a sure spot for the handful of spectators to gather. The con was that it isn’t super interesting to run in circles. The TARC website says that the trails are mostly flat, but I found them actually kind of hilly. There are definitely a handful of non-negligible inclines. There are lots of roots too, so be prepared for those. There was also a very muddy spot within the first mile—bring extra socks and shoes.
I ran in synthetic leggings the whole time and switched between a cotton long-sleeve and synthetic t-shirt (temperatures were still kind of chilly at about 40-60 degrees fahrenheit throughout the race). I chose synthetic socks in case the course was wet or muddy (which it was). For shoes, I wore Salomon trail running shoes for the first 2 loops, and my Brooks for the final 3 (the Salomons were giving me blisters). I also brought my camelbak since the only aid station was every 10k.
Actually ran in these road shoes for most of the trail race…Guess I wasn’t used to these trail shoes yet…
They have each runner bring something for the fuel station based on the first letter of your last name. There was a wide variety of replenishments, from doughnuts to hummus sandwiches to candy to oranges to salted potatoes. They also had water, soda, and powerade (there was no gu though). I always grabbed something to eat in-between and brought 3 gu.
I finished in 6:53:02 (12:38/mile), which was much slower than I anticipated (part of it was perhaps that the course was inaccurate, so I ended up running almost 2 miles extra). I was hoping to finish in around 5:30—while I was on-track for the first two 10k loops, I quickly lost energy and ended up taking some longer food and poop breaks between loops 2-5 (that’s why my NikeRun app reads a time 30 minutes faster). This was also one of the few races where I walked some stretches. I noticed quite a few runners walking up hills, and I quickly realized that the “I have to run the whole way!” road racing mentality might not apply to the trails.
Up until recently, I thought that maybe my overall running performance had simply gone downhill. For the past couple years, I’ve struggled to run paces I used to hit with much less effort, and many of my runs felt heavy and cumbersome. This race was definitely during one of those sluggish periods. Overall though, I was glad just to have finished the race alive and in once piece haha. I’m not sure if another trail race is on my agenda in the near future, but I’m glad I tried this one out.
Tips + Summary:
- The entry fee is cheap at $20 and the sense of community is strong.
- If you’re looking for a ride, check the entrants list (for all races, not just the 50k) and message those based on hometown nearest yours. For a ride there, ask anyone regardless of their race (the 10k, half marathon, marathon, and 50k all start around the same time). For a return ride, try to find someone once you’re there (so you don’t make anyone wait or have to wait for someone to finish).
- The course is a bit hilly and root-ridden, so you might go slower than you expect.
- Come prepared with extra socks and shoes in case of mud.
- There is no gu—bring your own.
Hope this helps next year’s 50k hopefuls—happy running!