The Seven Sisters Trail Race means more to me than a race bib, some gnarly hills and a finish line. For me it is an experience that has enabled memories, adventures and life lessons that have shaped who I am. It was my first trail race back in 2000 when I was a 17 year old with no idea of what I was getting myself into. 10 finishes and 2 DNFs later this race has come to symbolize the results of hard work, the support of my family along with the need to stay humble and adaptable.
Since 1991 the race mid point has been near where I grew up and I was always curious about the race but never thought I would actually run it. Then in 2000 my great uncle Ted, who has long been involved with the race, challenged my brother and I to do the race and he even paid our entry fee. This was too enticing an offer to pass up even though I had never run on a trail, had never run more than 3 miles and this was going to be the first race that I ever ran unless you count the 1 miler I did when I was 4 where I came in last but still won my age group!
There I stood looking up at Bare Mountain with my brother amongst the crowd of runners awaiting the mass start. Everyone around me looked like a professional athlete and I wondered what I got myself into. The first climb up Bare Mountain seemed endless and I was fighting the reality that this would be the first of many climbs on the course. Reality soon sunk in as each climb robbed me of energy and speed was nowhere to be found. After what seemed like an eternity I reached the turn around where my parents and great uncle were working the aid station handing out oranges and drinks to runners. The idea of taking another step seemed impossible and then the temptation to walk the few steps to home became greater and greater. I let the doubt take over me and I walked home; my first experience at the Seven Sisters was a DNF.
I thought that the Seven Sisters Trail Race would remain a half checked item on my bucket list until my father asked me to do it with him a few years later. How could I pass that up? Leading up to the race we trained side by side and I was determined to reach the finish line this time. During the race we motivated each other over the hills and we crossed the finish line together! We even ran it together a few times in the following years and we didn’t set course records but we shared an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The experience of turning what seemed impossible into reality ignited a fire to seek challenges and adventures that has seeped into every corner of my life. Sharing that experience side by side with my father gave me memories that I will never forget.
The feeling of accomplishment that came from reaching the finish line along with the supportive community of volunteers and runners started to make me look forward to the first Sunday in May each year. In 2008 I got the Seven Sisters addiction and I have run it every years since then. Along the way I learned that race day can mean mud, rain, fog or heat but you need to be ready for anything and that is all part of the fun. The one thing that has been constant in this race is the support of my then girlfriend (now fiancée) and parents who always support me at the top of Mount Holyoke and at the turnaround. These are the things that lift my spirits during the race and remind me of how lucky I am in life.
I plan to run this race as long as I am lucky enough to be able to do it. Each year I walk to the starting line reflecting on the support of my family and the life experiences that have been made possible by this race. These 12 rocky miles have enabled unforgettable experiences and challenges that enrich every day of my life. The only thing more exciting is wondering what is to come; my brother and dad are talking about making a comeback and I can’t wait to share that experience with them.