My Inadvertent Trail Race



On Saturday I set out to run race #9 of the year — the Race Wellesley First 10K.

Coach Bennett had suggested that I run a couple of “tune-up” races this month — the primary goal to see if my race stomach woes are hopefully behind me. The other goal – run a solid, consistently-paced race. Simple enough, right? Well that was until I got to the starting line.

There was both a 5K and a 10K race – starting together, which didn’t worry me much because this was a very small race. Just before the start, we gathered around to hear final instructions from the race director. The 10K course was a double loop of the 5K course so the director was explaining who should go where as we completed the first loop…and then he said the words that struck fear in my heart. “So just be careful on the trails, it could be a little slippery.” Wait…what? Trails?!? As I listened to the comments of some of my fellow runners I was clearly not alone in my surprise about the “trails.” But before complete panic could set in, we were off.

20 feet from the start we turned into the woods – hello trail. Did I mention that I have never run on trails…never!

The course was a mix of trail, fields, crushed gravel…and yes some pavement as we wound our way in and around the campus of Olin College. In truth it was a beautiful course…but it was hard people! Running the trails and across the fields took so much out of my legs that when I hit the pavement it was hard to pick up the pace – that and the fact that a good stretch of the pavement portion were hills. As I climbed the two hills towards the end of the first loop I may have been cursing between gasps as it was suddenly very clear to me why most people running this race were only doing the 5K!

The small crowd around the finish line was very encouraging as the handful of us made the turn back out for the 2nd loop. I heard someone call my name and spotted my friend Kathleen who had just finished the 5K. I had no idea she was running this race -turns out it was her first 5K!

The good thing about the double loop course was as least I knew what was coming and had a better sense of how to approach the trails. The second loop was harder though as we were all strung out along the course and so I was running some sections completely alone. As I hit mile 5, I was so happy to be done with the trails but knew the worst hills were coming – I was so ready to be done!

While I would encourage the race director to be a little more explicit in his course description in the future, there was really nothing to complain about this race. The course was well marked, there was good on-course support and indoor bathrooms at the start/finish line! For me, on the good side I had no stomach issues! And while I was a little too tentative to hold a solid pace on the varying terrain, I did get my first taste of trail running and came through it relatively unscathed – I may even try it again šŸ™‚




  1. Congrats Michelle! That is weird they did not publicize that it was a trail race. Definitely a different animal than a road race.

    • Marcia it was kinda crazy – the course description was very brief and it did mention a trail…what it didn’t say was that most of the course was trails! It was kinda funny watching everyone’s reactions šŸ™‚

  2. Haha. Well, that’s good for you. I love the trails and plan on focusing next year on trails. Yes, they are harder and you have a slower pace but the feeling is incredible being out there.

    • I will say it was fun – I liked how the terrain forced you to be in the moment. I could definitely see doing it again – with some training this time šŸ™‚

    this could so happen to me—but Id end up on my bottom.

    I love youre already pondering doing it again.

  4. I’ve never even run on a trail! Glad everything turned out ok!

  5. I’d be shocked if it was a trail race and I didn’t know! Congrats on your race with that in mind too!

  6. Well, that’s a surprise! I agree–the RD needs to get the word out on that a bit more. That said–aren’t trails fun???

  7. Congrats on your first trail run. Mine was also an accident on a 20 mile run that had 3 miles all up a mountain. It was so hard and the first time I hit a wall on a training run.

  8. Trails are my favorite! I don’t get out to train on them as often as I’d like, but almost all of my races so far have been trail races. At night. In the mountains. Because I’m a little crazy.

    So crazy that the first one I did, back in the early summer, was not only my first time running on trails, but my first time running uphill! Around where I live is very flat, and since I just started running in February, that was all I knew.

    But it was love at first run, and even though I took a nasty fall in the second race and had horrible stomach issues on the third one (really not fun in the desert mountains at night, believe me), I’m looking forward to the next one: a 25k in two weeks.

    Anyway, after this first happy accident, maybe you’ll find them as addictive as I do.

  9. That’s one way to be introduced to trail running – without even knowing! That’s great you enjoyed it after your initial surprise.
    I prefer trail races – even in training I will run on the grass and off-road where possible a) to try and get stronger and b) to try and prevent injury!

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