by Michael Lo Presti
The wooded hills of Connecticut offer many miles of gorgeous trail systems – some easy, some tough single-track with plenty of rocks, roots and climbs.
The CT Trailmixers trail running club and the Southington YMCA partnered together to open some of these trails to runners in central Connecticut. The inaugural Fall Fling 400 Trail Race, held at the Southington YMCA Camp Sloper on November 13, provided runners a wide variety of terrain to challenge their bodies and minds.
The concept was simple: See how many complete two-mile loops people could run within 400 minutes. The loop featured a challenging rocky climb for the first half-mile, followed by more runnable single-track with a few rocks and roots thrown in to keep things interesting. The last half-mile took runners through groomed trails around the local pond, across a gravel road, and over grass to the start/finish area.
Consistent with the mission of the CT Trailmixers, we created an event that caters to both experienced trail runners and more novice runners who are looking to give trail running a try or complete their first marathon or ultra distance on the trails. The two mile loop meant most people didn’t have to carry much in the way of food or hydration, and the ample aid station at the start/finish gave people plenty of nutrition options, including pancakes and grilled cheese. Yet the loop was challenging enough to keep even the most seasoned trail experts entertained. The very flexible nature of the race was such that runners needed to complete at least one loop to record a finish and get a medal. This meant some people registered aiming to run just one or two loops, while others started the day intent on completing an ultra distance.
Everything came together perfectly. November weather in Connecticut can be fickle, and we’re just as likely to experience cold sleet and rain as we are bright sun. Fortunately, the day dawned cool but sunny, and temperatures warmed up enough during the day to allow people to run in shorts and singlets. 80 runners lined up at the start of the 400-minute race and took off into the woods at 8:00 a.m.
One inspiring aspect of a repeated-loop event like this is that volunteers and spectators get to see the runners many times throughout the day. There was plenty of cheering, high-fives, and hugs all day long as runners added to their mileage count.
In the final hours of the 400, runners began wrapping up their final laps. 16 runners total completed at least 14 loops (28 miles), establishing them as official ultrarunners. The top two male finishers, Tim Goric and Tony Bonanno, finished strong with 38 miles under their belts. And our longest-running female winners — Michelle Corrigan, Michelle Currier, and Jennifer Kanaitis — all successfully completed 15 laps for the 30-mile ultra distance win.
Congratulations to all our winners, and a special thanks to the many volunteers with the CT Trailmixers, the YMCA, and our extended families and friends for making our first event such a success. Interested in joining us next year? Mark your calendars for Sunday, November 12, 2017 at YMCA Camp Sloper in Southington, Connecticut.