I wouldn’t be doing justice to my New England heritage if I didn’t acknowledge the fascinating history of the location of this weekend’s trail race, known locally as Witches Woods. Beverly is a neighbor to the infamous Salem, Massachusetts and legend has it that families accused of witchcraft in 1692 sought refuge in this densely wooded area. A quick Google search revealed other chilling stories of headless ghosts and disappearing farmhouses, too. So there’s your dose of quintessential New England charm, in case you were in need of a fix.
The race was held by Greenbelt, Essex County’s Land Trust and was part of the 2016 North Shore Trail Race Series. This was my second Greenbelt Race and the annual series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. Just look at this swag! I mean, come on! I’ve been to enough races to know that the days of getting great swag are a distant memory. But Greenbelt showed up this weekend. I love a good running cap.
And the crowd of runners and volunteers was amazing. The size was small, but that’s what you want in a local trail race. You don’t want to feel like your going to get trampled or elbowed. There were a lot of people from the Mystic Valley Runners. A lot of people were from the immediate area. It really felt like a community event of exactly the kind of people you’d imagine at a under the radar trail race.
I had convinced a new friend that I met through Friends of the Fells to join me at the race. Yes! New friend! Through Facebook, I’d reconnected with another, childhood friend that is a race junkie, triathlete, and also a mom of two toddlers. It was so much more fun to share this experience with two excellent ladies who also happen to enjoy trail running.
I thought I’d signed up for the 3.5 mi course but it turned out that I’d committed to 7 mi when I registered oh so long ago (hence the #3 bib). The lady at the check-in table kindly but firmly told me that I needed to inform the timer immediately after finishing the 3.5 mi course if I was not going to complete 7 mi, or basically, I would screw up the race results. I said “Ok, no problem,” but my face must have reflected her alarm. She saw an opening and proceeded to encourage me, urge me really, to “Do the whole thing. You can do it!” I had to laugh at her enthusiasm and the due diligence of a responsible race volunteer.
I headed out on the trail undecided about how far I would run. Like with any race, the start was congested and runners didn’t really spread out until mile 2. Trail racing, I’ve noticed, is dominated by middle-aged white guys. Not a judgment, just a comment. One of these middle-aged white guys saw fit to drop and give those of us running near him a demonstration of his push-up skills mid-race. It was clearly a spontaneous decision and I found it pretty amusing and a distinctly Alpha thing to do.
I asked him, “What are you training for?”
“Life,” he said.
Then I left him in my dust. Those push-ups were a risky move on his part. To be fair, my Jillian Michaels DVDs may have given me the edge Sunday.
As we neared the end of the 3.5 mile course, I caught up to my triathlete Ironwoman-in-training friend. She said she’d started out too fast and didn’t know if she wanted to do the last half. I said I would do it if she would. So we passed through the check point and kept going. We ended up keeping each other company the rest of the race, which was pretty great because there were very few other racers out there with us. Turns out, she and I have quite a bit in common beyond Melrose and city youth soccer memories. And we run the same pace. I find her commitment to Ironman training really fascinating. I got the sense she appreciated having someone to talk about it with. Endurance training and competition can be a very lonely and isolating experience, certainly among mom friends and extended family. That’s why finding other people that “get it” is so important because those people aren’t necessarily in your immediate circle.
Here we are crossing the finish line at 1 hr 22 min. My other friend snapped these pics of us. Post-race we were treated to bowls of fruit and – wait for it – homemade chocolate chip cookies. Bam. Mic dropped. Need I say more??
I’m very happy to have participated in his event and looking forward to upcoming trail races on the calendar!
Bring on Fall! It’s New England!