Sunday September 23, 2012

HANCOCK -- There were 15 hearty souls who showed up at Hancock Shaker Village at 6 a.m. Saturday to see if they could find the limit of their stamina -- they came to run in a 50-mile ultramarathon.

Ultramarathon running is a sort of subset of marathons that draws runners for whom 26 miles just isn't enough.

Michael Menard, who came up with the idea for an ultramarathon at Hancock Shalker Village and co-organized the event, said he was training for an ultramarathon by running through the trails at the village and realized there should be a race there.

"Berkshire County doesn't have an ultramarathon, and these trails are so beautiful and so challenging I thought we should have one here," Menard said. "It's a really challenging course. If it continues it will become known as one of the most difficult."

The course for the "Hancock Shaker Village 50-Mile Race" began at the village and progressed north into the steep, rocky and rugged trails of the Pittsfield State Forest. Runners pass through the loop twice to complete the race.

By 4 p.m. five runners had given up, at the halfway point of the race.

Just after 4:30 p.m., John Zumbach, a sixth-grade science teacher from Ashland, N.H., became the first runner to finish the race.

The struggle in such a long run, according to both Zumbach and Menard, it isn't about winning as much as it is about just finishing of the race.

Training for such a run can involve running 70 to 80 miles every week.


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"You just have to gut it through," said Menard. "You get to a point where you want to quit, but you keep on going for some reason you don't really know. Most people would stop and they would be considered reasonable for having done so. Towards the end everything hurts."

"You do it to see if you can," Zumbach said. "The hardest part is the mental aspect -- it's not really about winning. It's about finishing."

He noted that he tries not to run the same race twice.

"My biggest thing is I like to run in the woods," Zumbach said. "It's just like fast hiking. And every now and then, you can slow down to catch the view and catch your breath."

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6241.
On Twitter: @BE_SStafford