There’s been an explosion of new runs and running festivals in the northern part of the around the state. Now Southern Vermont is ramping it up.
As runners from around the country jostle through the streets at the end of the month in the Vermont City Marathon, others are looking forward to running on packed dirt, the sound of wind moving in the branches above and the chance to run some of the most beautiful trails in New England.
Trail races and festivals have become to running what gravel rides are to cycling: a less-competitive, safer and more scenic way to burn some calories—and Vermont is at the epicenter of this trend.
On June 22, the Salomon Running Festival comes to the Trapp Family Lodge as part of the sixth running of the Catamount Ultra 25K and 50K trail races, put on by Will Robens’ Ironwood Adventures. The course—one or two laps—runs over the grassy forest trails of the Nordic network with von Trapp Brewery beers at the finish and clinics and demos put on by Salomon.
Runners return to the Trapp Family Lodge trails on August 24, when Outdoor Gear Exchange and the Catamount Trail Association team up for the second annual Vermont Trail Running Festival, a prelude to the Run to the Top of Vermont race. And over Labor Day, the eighth Jay Peak Running Festival takes place, with seven races over two days, including a 53.2K ultra that features 9,000 feet of vertical.
Last year, southern Vermont jumped into the running festival scene with the new Dorset Running Festival. Organizers Eliza Hamm and Adam Schalit met while they were living out West. Hamm was a California native, while Schalit had grown up in Dorset. Both were ultra runners.
“From the moment we met,” she recalled, “he was telling me about what a magical place Vermont was for running and when I came here, I agreed.” The two relocated to Vermont and vowed to do more for the running community. “There were a lot of people running in southern Vermont but not many organized events,” Hamm said. “We wanted to bring people to see this incredible beauty and grow southern Vermont as a running destination.”
In 2017, the couple launched the Bennington-based Nor’east Trail Runs, hosting two fixed time ultra races and other events which ran the gamut from a 5K to a 50K. “We had 226 participants ranging in age from 9 to 83. They ran a cumulative 7,500 miles,” Schalit said. Runners came from 20 states plus Washington D.C. as well as Canada and Germany. Races were attended by some world-class athletes including Ann Trason, a California runner who holds nine ultra course records. The motto for their series is “any runner, any distance.”
This summer, the Dorset Running Festival kicks off with a one-mile uphill race on Friday, August 23 and includes an ultra, the Lost Cat 50K on August 24.
When Schalit was young, the family’s indoor cat disappeared for several months before making a much- appreciated return and the Lost Cat 50K is named after the wandering feline. A portion of the funds raised goes to the Second Chance Animal Shelter. The weekend concludes on the 25th with the Dorset Hollow Road Race, a trail run with multiple mileage options on a rolling hill loop.
Both Schalit and Hamm have worked aid stations and crewed at events, but last year was the first time either have been involved in organizing races. “We really wanted to make southern Vermont a running destination,” Schalit said.
Featured Photo Caption: Eliza Hamm of Nor’East Trails with co-race director Adam Schalit. Photo courtesy Nor’East Trails