By Jenny Gardynski, as originally published on the USATF-NE website
In 2014, USATF-NE launched a new sort of series, the All Terrain Runner (ATR) series. And it’s pretty much what it sounds like; it challenges runners to compete on a variety of terrain – the roads, mountains, trails, cross country courses and the outdoor track.
The series was the brainchild of Eric Narcisi, the 2014 USATF-NE secretary, Whirlaway Racing Team member and web producer over at Level Renner. Following the culmination of this new series, Narcisi feels it was a “huge success,” stating that “I had so many people tell me that they were experiencing different disciplines for the first time.” For instance, the series winner on the women’s side, Christin Doneski, told him that she had never run a track or cross country race before. “Yet because of this series, there she was, in unfamiliar territory but in a familiar position (in front of the pack),” he added. The men’s series champion, Nate Jenkins, is known for his road dominance, said Narcisi, “but there he was back in May trudging the Vermont mud at Sleepy Hollow.” And at the Loon Mountain Race in July, Jenkins went head to head with some of the finest mountain runners not just in the region, but in the nation.
Ultimately, Narcisi said that the series is all about getting people out of their comfort zones and experiencing more of what the association has to offer. “We anticipate many more people stepping out of their comfort zones and putting themselves to the ultimate test in 2015,” he added. “I, for one, can’t wait to line up with the rest of the All Terrain hopefuls this winter on the indoor track to kick off the new series.”
As many runners prepare for the second edition of the ATR series, which will include an indoor track and a snowshoe race, we caught up with the 2014 series champions.
Jenkins of Central Mass Striders, who made it a goal to win the first annual series and plans to compete again in 2015, said the series was fun and unique, adding that “it is a great way to try and draw together the very varied and often very separate areas of USATF-NE.” While he’s not all that excited about the snowshoe race in the second series, Jenkins admits “that is kind of the point of the series, isn’t it?” Who knows? Maybe he will excel at snowshoeing just like he did at mountain running in 2014, something he doesn’t consider himself the biggest fan of.
Doneski of Whirlaway Racing Team reported that the series pushed her to try new things all while enjoying the company of the series participants, which she described as “a really supportive, genuine group of runners who wanted to race hard but also laugh and have some fun.” While she wasn’t expecting to win this year and doesn’t expect to win next year either, Doneski shared that she’s in an interesting point in her running career. “My road race PRs are most likely behind me, but I feel I can still get better, stronger and faster in the endurance and adversity-based races: mountains, trails and ultras.” Her ultimate goal is to grow old still running races and pushing herself to try new things and to keep setting new goals.
Both runners had a tough time picking their favorite series race; though the men’s winner enjoyed the mountain and track racing the most. The women’s winner said her initial favorite that comes to mind was Sleepy Hollow. “It’s so hard in so many ways; the course is super challenging (which I love) and the conditions are so unpredictable (2013 was dry and fast and 2014 was very wet and muddy and really tough), and it’s right after Boston,” she said. “However, I also loved Loon. Again, it’s a challenging course, but I spent a full year from 2013 to 2014 regretting that I did not run all the way up Upper Walking Boss. I was looking forward to racing this year and redeeming myself.” Doneski happily reported that she did not walk a single step this year.
So, where can we expect to see these two competing in 2015? Jenkins shared with us that he has fortunately made some progress in fixing his long-standing coordination issues in his right leg, so his top goal for next year is to continue that progress all the way to a return to the marathon – something he hasn’t done since the World Championships in 2009. His second goal is to run an Olympic Trials Qualifier, with a third goal of achieving a personal record at any distance. “I haven’t set one since back surgery in early 2011,” he added. Jenkins’ final two main goals will be to win the ATR series and the USATF- NE Grand Prix.
Doneski currently has her 2015 calendar clear, but knows she’ll be looking to run the USATF-NE Grand Prix as well for Whirlaway, noting those dates will go on the calendar first. Then she will look to the Mountain Series and the ATR and see how those dates match up with her other races and her family plans. “And of course there is still that desire to run an ultra, but that might need to wait for my children to need me less and I am in no hurry for that,” she said.
Lastly, Jenkins shared that the ATR series represents something he’d like to see more of from USATF-NE – trying new things. “Will everything be a hit or a win?” he asked. “Heck no, but anything is better than nothing.”