Race Recap: 9/11 Fells Fest 5 Mile Trail Run

Last weekend’s trail race was great fun, although quite a departure from the low-key trail race I participated in with a few friends back in August. This race was a reminder of what running and racing has become, in the years I was busy being poor, preoccupied, and unhappy (and not running).

The race, which took place on trails in my beloved Middlesex Fells Reservation, img_4441was a part of the Vert Trail Series and sponsored by local breweries. It was a money-making venture, for sure. It’s interesting to me that the rise of athleisure, fit culture, and running has spawned this cottage industry of “active entertainment companies.” These companies sell “fit adventures” every weekend, all over the country, at a ski resort and trail system near you.

Some of these companies donate proceeds to local charities. According to its race website, Human Movement, Inc. matches up to $50,000 in charitable funds raised by its Dirty Girl 5K participants to a designated charity. The company behind the Ironman triathlons was purchased by a private equity firm in 2008. They have set up the Ironman Foundation to support charitable causes. The Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon series started out as a non-profit but was revealed to be for-profit after an audit by the IRS, lol.

So on Sunday, I asked a few of the people I talked to if they knew whether or not Fells Fest was for-profit or a charity. No one seemed to know or much care. I both enjoyed the event immensely and could also not stop thinking about where my registration dollars where going.  It’s not like I wanted the information because I think sponsored races should necessarily support charitable causes, it’s just that if someone is making money off this event, I wanted to know who and how much. Can someone get rich doing this? Do they pay the volunteers? And if not, is that legal?  Do the breweries get a cut?  Are the people behind this MBA-types or just your average joes?  What other businesses are they into?  How could I find out?

Should I start a for-profit race series??

I’m not kidding. I spent an hour on Monday searching the internet for answers to these questions. On the phone, my husband tempered, but did not quash, my enthusiasm. He thought the moment’s past and unless you are Spartan Races or Tough Mudder, you can’t compete with all the race organizers cluttering the calendar, especially around here. He pointed out that my experience earlier this summer at the Marshfield-Duxbury Sprint Triathlon was a perfect example of this. The race organization, Streamline Events, is another for-profit interest. They hold about 10 sprint triathlons every year in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The weekend I participated also happened to be the day of the Boston Sprint Triathlon at Carson Beach in South Boston. That must have killed ol’ Bill Burnett, Streamline Events’ Race Director. No wonder he didn’t give out good swag. Or even a banana. Yes, I am still hung up on that.

So this race recap is really off course. (See what I did there?) Let me tell you about Sunday. They gave me a hat, a decent looking t-shirt, a gaudy medal (for a five mile course!), and there was lots of food afterwards. Weird food, though. Cold cuts and pizza and these bite-sized energy bars which I will not name because I promptly spit them into the trash. Both flavors. Yuck. Really yuck.  I have never craved pizza or cold cuts after a run, and I’ve been at this a long time. Are bananas so passe? Really? I would have given my right arm for a banana. I even asked a volunteer if I missed the bananas some place. Nope, I did not.

And there was BEER. Really good beer. I enjoyed a Slumdog Happy Soles Heifeweizen with, as it so happens, some friends of mine that run with the Slumdog Running Club out of Somerville, MA. So whoever is putting on these trail running events is really looking at the big picture, here. Brewery, running clubs, trail series… it’s a complete circle. Pretty genius if you ask me. Just get some bananas next time and we’ll be all good.

There was also a club promoter / DJ type guy as master-of-ceremonies. I suppose this is de-riguer for this kind of event (?) but I found it a bit jarring until… after the race and half way through a Happy Soles Heifewiezen. Suddenly the booming hip-hop music was downright amazing. Funny how that happens.

And the course! The race organizers did a really good job designing the course, posting signage, and strategically positioning volunteers along the route. And I had a great run. I averaged 9:45 min / mile and finished in and around 48 minutes. I forgot my Garmin that morning and right now I am too lazy to look up the race results again. At this point, the race was five days ago and I can never keep splits and times in my head.

I was really pleased with the whole experience and would definitely do a Vert Trail Series race again. Oh, and in case you are wondering, an undisclosed portion of my registration fee did go to charity, after all. Friends of the Fells and Senior Center Friends of Stoneham. So that’s nice.

What do you think about the rise of for-profit race organizations?

Does a DJ and hip-hop music enhance your race experience? 

Am I am business tycoon in the making? Or just an out of touch fuddy-duddy?







7 thoughts on “Race Recap: 9/11 Fells Fest 5 Mile Trail Run

  1. Great recap and love the thougts going off at a tangent!! seems like I do that often during a run but I guess I’ve never really thought about weather a race is for profit or not…as you point out RnR is certainly for profit and I’ve run plenty of those, though some of the $ go to charity, I think…IronMan is a whole other concept of branding that goes way beyond the merchandise, not to mention $800 entry fees for a full – there was an organization that tried for a while to compete with IronMan, I think it was called HITS or something, but it has pretty much disappeared. So, yeah, I’m not really sure if one could ever break into the race circuit and be profitable but it sure would be fun if you could figure it out…and great race btw!!


    1. Yes, it would be a challenge but totally fun to “break into” this market. In my non-running life I specialize in copyright, licensing and trademark law so that would certainly help. However I am painfully aware of my fuddy-duddiness and I get low marks in being cool just generally. Sigh. Maybe this will be a great encore career? When I retire in 30 years? Thanks for reading. Someday soon I am going to ply you with an assortment of running tunes for your Playlist Mondays. I will NOT be offended if you pass on my suggestions. You’ve been forewarned!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I look forward to all your suggestions so please feel free to share anytime…and often, everyone and every suggestion gets published!! Look forward to hearing about your great new race ideas…I agree, coming up with some theme of race events would be really cool, but how to make them successful, that’s a whole other challenge!


  2. There does seem to be a bit of a “gold-rush” going on these past few years. Races are proliferating and management/timing companies are everywhere.
    I think a few people make a living on races, LOCO, BAA etc. But I think many are managed by volunteers with the goal of raising money for a good cause.
    As private businesses, I guess it’s none of my business how much money someone makes on my registration. Organizing a race is a lot of work.
    However, I do wish races were more transparent about where the money goes. If the race director makes $1,000 and the YMCA makes $5,000, I’m okay with that.

    I think there are easier ways to make a living than trying to break into this crowded field. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like your level-headed approach. You sound like my husband. Taking many years off of running and racing was like running into that old high school friend that you recognize, sort of, and you like them, but wow did they get a lot of plastic surgery… or whatever. That’s what running in the 2010s is like to me. Thanks for reading, Omnirunner! I hope you come back! See you on the mean streets of Melrose, Malden…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it’s an awesome idea. are you on instagram? you’ve got to follow all the mother runners and there transformation tuesday posts, etc. they’re all about the couch-5K programs and getting fit, etc.! That’s your market right there! I’ve got loads of ideas…


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