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At the Races

The Mayapple 50K: Keeping It Simple

Mayapple Fatass 50K runners and, far left, volunteer Barry Lass. Photograph by Zsuzsanna Carlson.

Recap of Mayapple Fatass 50K, South Mountain Reservation, Millburn, May 19, 2012

Chris Jaworski (3rd of 3 overall!) … 7:10

When runner Zsuzsanna Carlson heard that this year’s Mayapple Trail Runs had been canceled, she decided to put on an informal event in its place, and used Facebook to invite people to participate. Thanks to Zsuzsanna for stepping in to organize this race!

In 2011, four distances were offered: 100K, 50K, 20 miles, and 10 miles. This year, for simplicity’s sake, the slate was reduced to the two ultra distances: 100K and 50K. Ten runners showed—six for the 6:00 a.m. start and four a while later. No one took on the 100K distance. Seven runners elected to do either one lap (10.4 miles) or two (20.8 miles), and three folks went for the three-lap special (31.2 miles). More runners arrived later still, to hang out with Zsu and one another and, in some cases, to go out and run whatever their hearts desired.

Whereas the previous editions of this event used two loops, one on the eastern side of the reservation and one on the western side, this year’s course was restricted to an eastern loop. Less terrain to cover meant that marking the course with colored ribbons the night before the race—and “unmarking” it after the race—would be easier and less time-consuming.

The start/finish was located in the Locust Grove picnic area, at the southernmost end of the reservation, and the only other aid station was located at the turnaround in the Turtle Back picnic area, at the northern end.

As this was a “fatass” event, there were no bibs, timing chips, shirts, awards, or medals. The entry fee was a gallon of water. Runners contributed food and drinks for the start/finish aid station—boiled potatoes and salt, sliced oranges, PB&J sandwiches, bananas, chips, and soda, plus gels and other items left over from a recent race. At the middle-of-the-course aid station, an unattended picnic table, runners could refill their bottles or hydration packs from gallon jugs of water. The timing clock was a stopwatch placed on a picnic table at the start/finish. On completing each lap, runners entered the elapsed time into a grid drawn on a large sheet of paper.

This “race” started as a relaxed group run. I think we six—Tom, Marcus, and Eli, and ERC members Ellen Kim, Glenn Trimboli, and I—ran all of lap 1 together, talking and getting to know one another along the way. Tom and Glenn then had to split, so there were four of us doing the second lap, again at a relaxed pace, but with one duo (Marcus, Eli) pulling ahead of the other (Ellen, me). Once Ellen completed her two-lap training run, I was on my own as I headed out for the third and final lap. I didn’t know what kind of lead the front-runners had on me, and didn’t care all that much, but after two relaxed laps I wanted to try to pick up the pace. I think I did. My lap splits were 2:12, 2:38, and 2:20, and the last two include time spent talking and lollygagging at the start/finish aid station. In any case, Marcus and Eli finished about 15 minutes before I did. I was the very last runner to cross the line—a first for me!—but I was pleased as punch to get in a full 50K.

I felt good out there. It helped that I wasn’t thinking in terms of a race—but simply a run in one of my favorite places. And what a nice run it was … temperatures near 50 at the start and in the low 70s by early afternoon … low humidity … blue skies … trees shielding us from the bright sunshine most of the way … the sounds of woodpeckers and other birds, and of water falling and flowing … crossing paths with all the other people enjoying the reservation … the strollers, the dog walkers and their dogs, the hikers, and the people who hadn’t entered the Mayapple race but were simply out for a run.

Photo Highlights

Photos on flickr

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