Race: The North Face – Endurance Challenge Series – Washington DC – 50K

Runner: Jonathan G

Date: 4/28/2018

Location: Washington, DC

Results: 5:14:37 – 38th place out of 344 finishers

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. I love TNF series, well organized, well stocked aid stations and at regular frequencies and just make it really easy to just show up and run.
  2. The trail is pretty much runnable from start to finish, no gnarly technical sections or outrageous climbs; a good course for going a little faster
  3. Scenery is really quite good. While it isn’t as dramatic as running UTMB (or so I’m told), having the Potomac alongside you for long stretches is very enjoyable.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

  1. The host hotel wasn’t adjacent to the race pick up point, as in previous years. Meaning you had to Uber from the hotel to the bus pick up point to get to the start line – a tad annoying
  2. The race is essentially a lollipop with some squiggles at the top of the lollipop. In that section there are often many spectators (wonderful) but also quite a throng of people out for nature walks with dogs and children and walking 5-abreast across the trail. Again, a tad annoying.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

For all intents and purposes this race went just about as well as it could have, and probably ranks as one of my best executed. Having run this race twice before I felt confident in knowing the course and where to push and where to hold back. I was really pleased with my fitness and pacing, and being able to haul in some runners in front of me over the last ten miles as they faded.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Keep a keen eye on the weather in the lead up to the race. The previous two times I did this the ground was extremely hard throughout but this time a deluge of rain in the 24 hours before left us wading through thick mud and enormous puddles. Be prepared for last minute kit changes. The weather generally starts cool with the proximity to the river usually keeping the trail in a mist through mid-morning. However, once this burns off the temperature can climb quickly and there are exposed sections – a hat and glasses are recommended.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I felt just about as brave as I ever have at an ultra distance race but I think I can be braver yet and be less conservative and have more faith in my training and fitness to hold up throughout.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Not much to it really. Some single track, some wider fire road sections. The hills are mostly rolling and runnable. It’s a fun course overall.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

As above, this isn’t towering glaciers and eye-watering vistas but its warm sunshine and long grass and the running river. Its the perfect metaphor for spring.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Not at all. Be prepared to run for virtually this entire course and be ready for the rolling hills. The climbs are short and only 1-2 are steep(ish) and the technical sections only last for a few hundred yards at best and are few and far between.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

The North Face ECS is extremely well run, I have now done the NY race twice, DC three times and Park City, UT, once. All have kept the same high standard you expect from an organization as well-funded as The North Face.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

No idea but I don’t think so if I managed to creep into the top 11%

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

No special handshake required. It seemed like most people running were locals so there shouldn’t be any real challenges around hotel bookings either. Everything is online, they send probably too many email reminders and updates but everything is pretty comprehensively covered.

Aid Stations

One of the nicest features of all TNF races is their very regular aid stations; usually less than 5 miles apart. This enables you to carry very little, if anything. The aid stations are well stocked with the standard fare of chips, pretzels, M&Ms, mini-PB&Js, fruit, salted potatoes, plenty of water, electrolyte drink and coke. Volunteers are friendly too!

Weather and typical race conditions

Expect spring weather. Starting cool but warming up quickly come 10am

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Yes, maybe a little too friendly. There is a start/finish line area which is well organized and has games, food trucks and the usual paraphernalia. About halfway through the course there is an aid station with parking nearby that many friends/family use to see the runners too.

How’s the Swag?

Standard fair of a long sleeved technical shirt, medal and a plastic cup to use at aid stations since they are cupless (not sure if that counts as swag)

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

It deserves a solid 3.5-4/5 stars. Certainly not the world’s greatest race by any stretch but everything is really easy to execute and it’s a nice course in a good location.

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