4th annual Joe English Challenge adds 5K race

Courtesy photo One of the water crossings in the annual Joe English Challenge in Amherst is shown.

AMHERST – The Amherst Land Trust will host the fourth annual Joe English Challenge on Sunday, May 7, adding a new 5-kilometer course to the backcountry running/hiking event.

Trail-running and speed-hiking enthusiasts will now have the option of entering 5-, 12.5- or 25-kilometer events.

Designed and directed by a team of experienced marathon, road-race and cross-country organizers, the three events have in past years attracted trail runners and hikers from throughout New England and as far away as Texas. The events appeal to competitive runners, fitness enthusiasts, and people who love the outdoors and support the protection of land for outdoor recreation.

The three courses start at Freestyle Farm, a 300-acre equestrian center in Amherst. Thanks to the donation of facilities by farm owner Ariel Taylor, all three races start in the scenic hilltop pastures of Freestyle Farm and continue onto groomed equestrian trails.

All three courses introduce the “challenge” part of the event by departing from the groomed trails onto woodland tracks. The 12.5- and 25-kilometer courses continue onto Joe English Reservation, a roughly 560-acre conservation area also in Amherst. The two longer courses descend into the valleys and climb the hills of Joe English Reservation.

Organizers expect more than 300 participants based on previous years’ sign-ups and new offerings.

Those running the 25-kilometer course are estimated to finish in three to five hours. As an option, 25-kilometer runners may also choose a 30-kilometer event by running the 5-kilometer course beforehand. Finish times depend on how quickly participants negotiate a host of backcountry obstacles: ledges, stream crossings, rocky slopes. The 25-kilometer runners ascend a total of nearly 3,000 vertical feet.

There are no paved surfaces, no houses and no motor traffic on the course. The start/finish area is an 8-acre field offering unobstructed viewing and good course visibility. There is ample space for parking and concessions.

Proceeds of this fundraising event go to the nonprofit Amherst Land Trust for protecting open space and conservation land. The trust is seeking sponsorships of the Joe English Challenge and for its sister event, the dusk-to-dark Joe English Twilight Challenge on Saturday, Oct. 7.

For more information, registration or sponsorships, visit Joe-English.org.

– Submitted by Amherst Land Trust