Early in the morning of May 14, a group of 78 runners stood in the parking lot of Androscoggin Riverlands State Park in Turner. Twelve of those runners were preparing for a 20-mile loop as the first of five runners from the relay teams competing that day.
The other 66 runners set off to accomplish a feat that few people dream of accomplishing: running 100 miles continuously.
The Riverlands 100-Mile Race was dreamed up by Valerie Abradi and Mindy Slovinsky in response to a lack of 100-mile races to serve Maine’s vibrant and thriving trail and ultra-runner community. (Riverlands 100 is still Maine’s only 100-mile race.) In the race’s first year, 2017, 38 solo runners started the race. With the exception of 2020, when the race was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the race has been held every year since.
Runners who complete four 25-mile laps earn a belt buckle printed with the Riverlands 100 logo, the classic ultra-running culture prize for completing a race of 100 miles or more. For many, this loop not only represents 24-32 hours of racing – through the night, through bugs, through nausea and sore muscles – it also represents countless hours of training in the months leading up to the race. .
“My first goal was to follow a rigorous training plan and start the race injury-free,” said Rachel Peck, who crossed the finish line as the first woman with a time of 31 hours, 21 minutes and 42 seconds. “Once I accomplished that, I was mostly very excited to race and race again.”
The starting field was a mix of experienced 100 mile runners as well as newbies. Jason Tardy was one of the runners who won his first 100 mile loop at Riverlands in 2022.
“Shortly after running my first marathon, a neighbor told me about Riverlands State Park,” Tardy said. “Once I started running on its trails, I never wanted to race on the roads again. Soon after I heard about the Riverlands 100 and knew I had to be a part of it. !
After running two 20-mile stages in relay teams for three years, then completing three 20-mile stages in the relay in the 2021 race, Tardy has decided that 2022 is the year of his first hundred.
While all runners aiming to complete Riverlands 100 knew they were in for the adventure of a lifetime, no one expected what mother nature would deliver. At the start of the day, the temperature began to climb rapidly, reaching 91 degrees Fahrenheit at the start and finish pit station by midday.
“I think most of us who started Riverlands this year were looking at our weather apps in shock. I’m a cold-weather runner, and training for a spring race in New England usually means you’re doing most of your training at 30 degrees and below. So here I am after a winter of many single-digit training runs trying to figure out how I’m going to run in 90 degree heat. It was wild,” Peck said after have finished the race.
With 85% runners from Maine and New England, the heat certainly took its toll. Of the 66 people who started the race, only 19 runners crossed the finish line, a success rate of 29%, the lowest the race has ever seen.
In a sport where everyone is working hard to achieve the same seemingly impossible goal, such a high sink rate affects everyone. “When someone in front of us DNFs [did not finish] we are not happy to have progressed in the classification, we feel for them. Everyone put in countless hours of training, preparation and sacrifice before they even started. Tardy wrote in his Facebook post-race report.
Abradi’s passion for the Riverlands 100 race, its runners and the community around it is evident to anyone involved in racing. “Mindy and I both made our own 100s, but somehow [race directing] a 100 seems so much more rewarding considering we’ve been part of all of our runners’ 100 runs. As soon as we say go, we witness everything that makes a 100 difficult, special and rewarding.
Every runner who crossed the line on May 14 showed incredible strength to get to the start line, and the 19 who finished possessed an incredible amount of courage. Congratulations to the winners, Israel Agront and Rachel Peck.
The race directors and riders would like to give special thanks to the Turner ATV club, Turner Rescue and the many volunteers who make this race a reality.
If you want to find out more about the Riverlands 100, you can find the race on riverlands100.com or on Facebook.