Sunday, May 12, 2013

TARC Spring Classic - An RD's Perspective

Section One: The Numbers
Morning temps around 40.  Afternoon highs near 70.  292 starters.  261 smiling finishers (a few were sort of grimacing, and couple may have been in tears).  89% finishing rate.  Zero clouds.  10 loaves of bread.  Countless PB+Js, turkey sandwiches, and grilled cheese.  20 packs of Ramen.  12 quesadillas.  Dozens of energetic volunteers. One NTS (Norm’s Timing System, designed by TARCer/Wapack RD, Norm Sheppard).  These are the numbers that begin to define the 3rd TARC Spring Classic, held Saturday, April 27th, 2013 in Weston, Massachusetts.  Featuring four races (10K, half marathon, marathon, and 50K) all sharing a 10K course, this was the largest race in the young history of the TARC Trail Series.  

With only a couple of short hills, the course is billed as “flat and fast” with about 40 yards of asphalt and a mix of single and double-track.  As such, throughout its three-year history, the race has attracted a large number of trail-racing neophytes as well as those grizzled ultra-vets, either looking to crank a PR, or simply enjoy the company of like-minded folks on some beautiful trails as Spring begins its KO of Old Man Winter here in New England.

Section the Second: The Experience
TARC is built on the idea that animals stick together.  On group runs it doesn’t matter if you are a course record holder or fight for DFL, you stick together.  Our pre-race meetings always mention that, while we are competitive, we make sure it is not at the expense of looking out for each other, and enjoying each other’s company.  This year, in the greater Boston area (and the running world in general), this idea seemed to mean even more than it usually does.  Being held a mere 12 days from the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, and just one week from when the entire city had “sheltered in place,” throughout the crowd, there seemed to be an extra desire to connect with each other, to cheer for each other’s accomplishments, and to support each other when a race did not go as planned.  The day began with a heartfelt pre-race briefing by my co-RD, Bob Crowley, asking the assembled crowd to observe a moment of silence.  As we stood there, at the edge of the woods, all I heard were the birds in the trees.  I have rarely felt such peace, especially before a race and in a crowd of hundreds.  As an RD (and a person), this ethos hit home as New England ultra staple and all-around happy guy, Kevin Mullen, told me upon finishing his race, “I needed to restore my faith in humanity.”  We looked at the gathered finishers, friends, families, the runners going back out for their last loops, and both smiled.  We cheered as another runner crossed the line.  “There it is Kevin.  Faith restored.”

Perhaps it was Michelle Roy, infamous around these parts for carrying a log with her in nearly every race, running a 50K overnight (because fellow TARCer and RD of the TARC Ghost Train 100 Miler, Steve Latour, couldn’t run this year) before running the actual race.  Perhaps it was meeting up with Justin, to get our (now) traditional pre-setup run in (why do we think it is a good idea to meet at 4 AM to start running?). Perhaps it was Eric Nguyen and Ian Cross, showing up as the sun rose to “get a few extra laps in” before the race began.  Perhaps it was the dozens of folks, finishing a trail race or ultra for the first time and relishing that sense of accomplishment.  Or the veterans, like Adam, who crushed a PR. Perhaps it was the collective need to come together and breath deep the air of nature and tackle a personal challenge in a time of great turmoil. Or maybe it was less metaphysical.  Maybe it was the club’s Yeti prowling the course to encourage (or scare) people.  Or the tireless volunteers that ran the aid station and learned how the club’s new stoves operate (quesadillas, it was determined, are easier to make than grilled cheese. We also need a better way to light the stoves beyond our flaming pieces of cardboard).  Or the crew that ran timing and made sure to get every runner.  Or the NTS, being put to mass-use for the first time.   Whatever it was, there was something extra special about this year’s Spring Classic.  As Elizabeth Sherlock (one of the hearty volunteers who worked all day) posted on the Facebook regarding the day and the whole TARC experience, “One thing that has occurred to me is that you're not sure if you're at a race or a wacky family reunion/picnic. Everyone brings a crap-ton of food and greets each other as old friends, whether they've met before or not.”  It’s always good to see family. Even the crazy ones.

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