Yesterday, we returned to the Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Race after a one year absence. Since 2000, we have been to this race more than 10 times. It’s one of our favorite New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series races and is part of the WMAC’s Trilogy.
The other two races in the Trilogy are Greylock and Savoy, though I recently learned that 2014 was the final year for Savoy. Participation has dwindled. The turnout at Monroe was good, but much lighter than years past. The traditional mid-distance races just don’t draw the numbers anymore as more and more runners flock to the ultra distance and to new racing formats.
Oddly, next month, more than 10,000 people will jam Fenway Park for a 3 mile Spartan Race, and pay dearly. If you registered back in February, it was $75. If you register the week of the race, it is double that number at $150. The kids race is $25 pre-reg. They are making a big deal that spectators are FREE at this race if they sign up in advance, but the spectator fee at a typical Spartan Race is $20 pre-reg. Imagine that, the spectators have to sign up in advance to save $5. I just find that to be ridiculous. Of course I’m making judgments here, but it just seems so silly.
By contrast, the 10.5 mile Monroe was $20 pre-reg and the 2 mile sampler was $12 pre-reg. Spectators were free and there was no cost to park. The post-race food was excellent. That is a simple, brilliant, and time-tested; but apparently dying, formula. I can’t help but think it is the novelty of obstacle course racing that is a big part of the draw. The irony is that a race like Monroe has so much natural beauty and obstacles of its own. We had a stunning day in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, with peak foliage and an incredibly blue sky. We have been to this race when it was raw, blustery, and cold. Yesterday, it was picturesque.
I only hope that enough people go to these races so we can keep them going for a long time. I’m actually happy to have the woods to ourselves. Obstacle races are held at already ski resorts and similarly degraded venues for a reason. We wouldn’t want the impact of the organizers, racers, and spectators on fragile environment anyway. Well, I couldn’t help myself with a little commentary. A week after NipMuck and a day after Monroe, I’m feeling a little nostalgic for the Grand Tree and what it has meant to Debbie and me during the last 15 years.
It was nice to see some old friends at Monroe, including the legendary Richard Busa. Dick Hoch was there too. Still, I miss some of the characters from past Monroe’s. Being in that grove along the Deerfield River brought back excellent memories. Debbie and I are part of the old guard now. Thankfully, there is an older guard than us!
Debbie ran the 10.5 miler and had a blast. Several Shenipsit Striders joined us at the race. Our son ran the 2 miler and love it. Our daughter frolicked in the woods with me. I took some nice photos. Top honors in the 10.5 miler went to Greg Hammett (men) and Kehr Davis (women). Joe Melillo won the 2 miler. There were 91 finishers in the 10.5 miler, with another legend, Laura Clark, crossing the line to close out the 2014 race and cap the Trilogy for now.
We lingered for a while after the race, enjoying the company of friends. WMAC post-race spreads are always a smorgasborg. Afterwards, we met up with Tom Schieffer (Debbie’s brother) and his friend, Heather. We visited the Hick’s Family Farm corn maze, and then had an early supper in Shelburne Falls at a fine vegan restaurant called Hearty Eats. If it wasn’t for the southbound holiday weekend traffic on I-91 that slowed our return home, it would have been a perfect day.