Claire Robinson-White didn’t set out to be an ultra-runner and snowshoe racer, but once she discovered these sports, she was hooked. A resident of Richmond for 17 years after moving from England, she first found herself in a surgeon’s office four years ago treating a complication with her brain.

“After surgery, my neurosurgeon said to me, ‘I don’t want to see you again.’ And I said to him, ‘I don’t want to see you again either.’ He told me, ‘Get outside, get moving,’” she said, explaining how her doctor’s orders led her to her first long-distance running race, the Moosalamoo Ultra trail race held in Goshen.

From that point on, she was an ultra-runner. “I got the bug,” she said by phone from her home. “I’m part of a community, it’s a very supportive group. We run together and meet up at different races.”

Each year, Robinson-White decides to push the envelope a little farther. With that came longer distances, like a 50-mile race, a 24-hour race, a race across Scotland. “The possibility of pushing myself is endless,” she says. “If I can spend five days in the ICU, I can be out on the mountain for a few hours.”

Last year, for the first time, she tried running on snow and donned a pair of snowshoes to do it. She came across a snowshoe race in southern Vermont while browsing the internet and thought to herself, “What’s this all about?” Curious, she signed up, bought herself a pair of snowshoes designed for racing, and fell for this sport, too.

Snowshoe racing, in particular, is enjoyable for her because it draws her and others outside in the winter, and puts everyone together in one location to enjoy the outdoors, nature, wellness and better health together. She finds the community of racers to be very supportive. “There’s no ego, no judgement,” she says. And she loves hearing other people’s stories about why they enjoy running and racing. “I like hearing what made a person drive three hours to be at this certain race, today.”

Fortunately for runners and racers like Robinson-White, there is no shortage of events around the state and throughout the Northeast. Nor’east Trail Runs, a Bennington-based business that hosts running events throughout southern Vermont that are billed for “any runner, any distance,” introduced five new races last year. Over 200 runners from 20 states raced distances from 2.5 to 160 miles in those events.

This year, the group has announced an expanded series of events (see a listing n page C4, followed by opportunities for volunteers and sponsors), including more beginner-friendly races. “We are including a new snowshoe series, our shortest race yet, it’s just one steep mile,” said race co-director Eliza Hamm. There are more to-be-announced events in the works, too. “We’re psyched to get more people out there in 2019, from first-time racers to elites looking for strong competition.”

Hamm and her partner, John, are co-race directors who met through trail running. After being involved in trail running and the ultra-running community for about 10 years, the couple ran aide stations on race courses in California. They learned about the event management side of racing, and brought their knowledge back to Vermont, where they set up their own event business in 2017.

Both John and Eliza want snowshoe racing to be approachable for all experience and ability levels. “Our goal is to get more people on the trail and spending their time doing what they love to do,” said John. “If they don’t know they love it yet, then we want to help them discover it, too.”

Their role is to keep everything running smoothly on race day. From course marking, landowner permission, insurance, race regulations and timing to making sure racers have food when they need it, they aim to provide a seamless experience, said John.

The pair are heartened by stories they hear of racers, like a father and son pair who participated together. And when it comes to beginners, Eliza said newbie racers can simply show up on race day and pay $5 to rent a pair of snowshoes. “We’ll show you how to put them on, you can try them out and get your feet under you before the race,” she says. For newcomers, she recommends reading tips and resources that can be found online, some of which get posted on her business’ Facebook page.

“It’s a great thing to do,” says John. “Its low impact, and snowshoes really expand the terrain that’s accessible.”

Inaugural Nor’easter Snowshoe Series

From January through March 2019, Nor’east Trail Runs will offer a new seven-race Nor’easter Snowshoe Series, sponsored by Dion Snowshoes, held at the Viking Nordic Center in Londonderry.

The series kicks off on Friday, Jan. 18, at 6:30 p.m. with a night race under the lights. A full schedule of events and sign-up information will be available soon; check the series webpage for details.

Featuring both evening and daytime races from 5k to 50k, the Nor’easter Snowshoe Series provides opportunities for everyone from beginning snowshoers to die-hard winter sports enthusiasts to get moving this winter.

New England’s only fixed-time track race

Held at Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington, the Ethan Allen 24 is New England’s only fixed-time track race.

Beginning Saturday, July 13, at 9 a.m., participants will race for 6, 12 or 24 hours on this USATF-certified all-weather, fully lit track. Set a new PR or run a qualifying time in scenic Bennington. Registration is open for the Ethan Allen 24.

Dorset Running Festival

A weekend of races at distances from 1 mile to 5k to 50k will return to Dorset, VT, in August 2019 with the return of the Dorset Running Festival.

On Saturday, Aug. 24, at 8 a.m., the Lost Cat 50k marathon and half marathon will challenge participants with a scenic road-to-trail course that winds through hardwood forests and past historic marble quarries on Dorset’s Mount Aeolus. Registration is open for the Lost Cat.

On Sunday, Aug. 25 at 8 a.m., the Dorset Hollow Road Race takes 10k runners through a rolling and scenic loop through Dorset Hollow, offering sweeping mountain views and approximately 500 feet of climbing and descending. 5k participants will run the 300 feet net downhill second half of the 10k: a beautiful course for fast times! Registration is open for the Dorset Hollow Road Race.

A portion of the proceeds from both Dorset Running Festival races will be donated to Second Chance Animal Shelter.

Multi-day racing during peak foliage

The Beebe Farm Classic, held at the Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset, will take place from Thursday, September 26 to Sunday, Sept. 29.

Nestled in the narrow valley between the Green Mountains and the Taconic Range, Beebe Farm Classic participants will enjoy spectacular scenery as they choose from a variety of race events, including 6-, 12-, 24- and 48-hour fixed-time races or marathon, 50k and quadzilla (only for the bravest and baddest) distances. Registration is open for the Beebe Farm Classic.

Run the witch

On Sunday, Oct. 27, at 10 a.m., runners are invited to get spooky at the Nor’witch Halloween Half’witch, Full’witch, and Ultra’witch. Held in the village of Norwich, VT, this event boasts half-marathon, full-marathon, and 50k offerings on a scenic, single-loop course featuring rolling hills, sweeping views, and small-town Vermont charm.

This race will feature a costume contest, hot cider and spooky treats! Registration is open for the Nor’witch Halloween races.

Volunteering

Volunteering at a race is a great way to join in the fun, and all volunteers will earn $15/hour in fully transferable credits towards future Nor’east Trail Runs race entries or merchandise. Group volunteer opportunities and incentives are also available; contact Natalie Redmond at sponsorship@netrailruns.com for more information.

Sponsorships

Both season-long and event-specific sponsorship opportunities are available. Contact Natalie Redmond at sponsorship@netrailruns.com for more information.

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