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Trails Collective

Northeast Roots: Historic Trail Races in the Northeast

The Northeast Trail Running community has grown significantly over the past decade. Trail races can now often be found in many of the scenic gem areas of our region and filling the calendar. It’s good to recognize who our trail event pioneers were, and continue to experience classic trail vibes as they run on. Additionally, I set their inaugural runnings in the context of top headlines, songs, and movies of that year, as well as a glimpse of what the latest tech may have been on entrant’s feet.

For those who may be arriving directly here, we also have related articles on Toughest, Most Scenic, Flat & Fast, and others to come. For this round, let’s dig into Northeast trail races boasting deep roots and still classic vibes.

1996

Top News Headline:

Budget crisis, FBI arrests Unabomber, two deadly airline crashes

Top Hit on the Charts:

Macarena by Los del Rio

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Braveheart

On Their Feet
  • Adidas releases the Response Trail and with a signature trail rudder that would carry forward
  • OneSport would be rebranded as Montrail next year in 1987

Inaugural Running

Charlie Horse Half

Half Marathon

Mohnton, PA

Rachel Carson Trail Challenge

35 Miles

North Park, PA


1995

Top News Headline(s):

Trial of OJ Simpson, Oklahoma City bombing

Top Hit on the Charts:

Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Forrest Gump

On Their Feet
  • Asics GT-2000 is released
  • Nike Air Footscape with asymmetic lacing and the Air Rift with split toebox and “barefoot” feel, and the Air Max 95

Inaugural Running

Massanutten Mountain Trails

100 Miles

Fort Valley, VA

1994

Top News Headline(s):

Nancy Kerrigan attacked, Clinton accused of sexual harassment (no, not that one, an earlier one), O.J. Simpson arrested

Top Hit on the Charts:

The Sign by Ace of Base

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Schindler’s List

New Balance 1400 – Image from Fat Buddha Store
On Their Feet
  • New Balance releases the 1400
  • Saucony releases it’s Aya Triathlon shoe
  • Quiet on new models, with most brands updating existing models (including what was on my feet in 1994 – the Adidas EQT Torsion)

Inaugural Running

Conestoga Trail Run

10 Miles

Conestoga, PA

Catoctin 50k

32 Miles

Frederick, MD


1993

Top News Headline(s):

Branch Dividian rade in Waco, WTC Bombing, officers convicted of beating Rodney King, NAFTA approved, and RBG appointed to Supreme Court

Top Hit on the Charts:

I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Unforgiven

Asics Gel Kayano
On Their Feet
  • Nike releases the Pegasus RD
  • Asics Gel-Kayano trainer debuts
  • Reebok HXL first running shoe incorporating the Pump
  • New Balance releases the 1500

Inaugural Running

Bull Run Run

50 Miles

Clifton, VA

Tortoise and Hare

10k

Ithaca, NY


1991

Top News Headline:

Justice Clarence Thomas accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill

Top Hit on the Charts:

(Everything I do) I Do It For You by Bryan Adams

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Dances with Wolves

Nike Mowabb
On Their Feet
  • Adidas Oregon Ultra Tech with synthetic suede and nylon mesh upper, and EQT Torsion Support
  • Nike releases Mowabb as a trail running / hiking crossover, the Ghost Racer, the Air Max 180, and the Air Huarache
  • Reebok’s Pump technology debuts
  • Saucony first uses GRID cushioning in the SD

Inaugural Running

Seven Sisters

12 Miles

Amherst, MA


1990

Top News Headline:

US Supreme Court overturns flag burning law

Top Hit on the Charts:

Hold On by Wilson Phillips

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Driving Miss Daisy

Adidas Torsion SP w/ GoreTex
On Their Feet
  • Adidas Torsion SP with trail outsole and GoreTex Upper
  • Asics Gel-Lyte III with awesome split-tongue
  • Reebok debuts Hexalite midsole
  • Saucony Jazz 3000 shoe of the year

Inaugural Running

Monster Marathon

Half and Full Marathon

Ithaca, NY


1989

Top News Headline:

San Francisco earthquake and Exxon Valdez oil spill

Top Hit on the Charts:

Look Away by Chicago

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Rain Man

On Their Feet
  • Asics Gel-Lyte II
  • New Balance early trail’ish model with the lugged NB577
  • Nike’s second trail shoe releases, the Air Wildwood

Inaugural Runnings

HAT Run

50k

Havre de Grace, MD

Vermont 100

100k / 100 Mile

West Windsor, VT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMQT8ibAB9A

Thom Bugliosi Trail Runs

13k / 26k / 42k

Dryden, NY

Forest Frolic

7k / 15k

Virgil, NY


1988

Top News Headline:

US Navy ship mistakenly shoots down Iranian airliner, Bush beats Dukakis

Top Hit on the Charts:

Faith by George Michael

Oscar’s Best Picture:

The Last Emperor

Adidas ZX8000
On Their Feet
  • Adidas releases the ZX8000, the first model to incorporate their new Torsion control system
  • New Balance releases the 574
  • Nike releases the Air Flow and Air Stab, the latter being built to address overpronation
  • Reebok debuts its ERS (Energy Return System) technology (kinda like springs) to compete with Nike Air

Inaugural Running

Finger Lakes Fifties

25k, 50k, 50 Mile

Hector, NY


1987

Top News Headline:

A whole lotta of them regarding the Iran-Contra affair

Top Hit on the Charts:

Walk Like An Egyptian by The Bangles

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Platoon

On Their Feet
  • Adidas APS released in ’86 with a compartment & hidden rods, with a key to adjust the support or cushioning in the midsole as well as the Fire with interchangeable cushioning inserts
  • Asics launches the Gel-Lyte
  • Brooks releases Kinetic Wedge technology
  • Nike Air Max debuts first visible air pocket

Leatherman’s Loop

10k

Pound Ridge, NY


1985

Top News Headline:

US Supreme Court bars public school teachers from parochial schools

Top Hit on the Charts:

Careless Whisper by Wham!

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Amadeus

New Balance 1300
On Their Feet
  • New Balance releases the 1300 with increased stability, the “most advanced running shoe ever made” and at $130, the most expensive to date
  • Nike releases the Sock Racer an early stab at cushioning without control, the V Series including Vengeance, Vortex, and Vector, and the Cram Vendetta after the UK’s Steve Cram
  • Saucony releases the Shadow

Inaugural Running

Pisgah Mountain Trail Races

23k / 50k

Chesterfield, NH


1984

Top News Headline:

President Reagan re-elected

Top Hit on the Charts:

When Doves Cry by Prince

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Terms of Endearment

Nike Air Escape
On Their Feet
  • Adidas’ first trail crossover in the ZX500, and releases the LA Trainer to coincide w/ the LA Olympics, the New York, and Lady New York
  • New Balance releases the 670
  • Nike’s releases its first dedicated trail runner, the Air Escape, and the Epic
  • Saucony DXN Trainer designed by Rod Dixon

Inaugural Running

Nipmuck Trail Marathon

Marathon

Ashford, CT

Soapstone Mountain Trail Race

6k / 24k

Stafford, CT


1983

Top News Headline:

Sally Ride first US woman astronaut in space aboard the Challenger

Top Hit on the Charts:

Every Breath You Take by The Police

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Gandhi

Nike introduces the Pegasus
On Their Feet
  • Mizuno releases its MZ-84 with interchangeable cushioning and support system
  • Nike releases the Air Pegasus
  • OneSport (later Montrail) releases the Vitesse
  • Onitsuka the Tiger X-Calibur GT was a first to have flex grooves cut-in for flexibility on top of cushioning

Inaugural Running

Mt. Masochist

50k / 50 Miles

Montebello, VA

Mt. Masochist is quite possibly the only east coast trail event to have a legit shoe named in its honor. The Montrail Mountain Masochist would release in 1999. It was an ode to this early trail and ultra classic, and ode the community which coalesced around Dr. Horton. I owned and ran through a couple of pairs while they existed and remember them as one of the earlier models offering flexibility, cushion, and traction.

Montrail’s Mt. Masochist

1981

Top News Headline:

Reagan inaugurated and shot, Sandra Day O’Connor takes oath as first female Supreme Court Justice, Iran Hostages freed.

Top Hit on the Charts:

Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Ordinary People

On Their Feet
  • Saucony Jazz in 1981 with Maxitrac outsole that was proclaimed as much for shock absorption as grip. By today’s standards, that’s a solid trail-worthy outsole and stable platform.

Inaugural Running

NCR Marathon

26.2 Miles

Glencoe, MD

Video footage of what you can expect from the NCR Trail and surface.

1980

Top News Headline:

Ronald Reagan elected president

Top Hit on the Charts:

Call Me by Blondie

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Kramer vs. Kramer

On Their Feet
  • Adidas creates the dedicated trail category with the Marathon TR
  • Brooks releases the Hugger GT w/ GoreTex upper, and RT-1, a lightweight cush shoe
  • New Balance 620 is lightest and most advanced on market and first running shoe to sell for > $50
  • Nike Eagle, worn by Alberto Salazar in his back to back NYC Marathon wins in ’80 / ’81
  • Puma’s Fast Rider, fully lugged, only 9.8 oz

Inaugural Running

Laurel Highlands

70.5 Miles

Ohiopyle, PA

One of the longest and toughest events of its day, not just in our region, but the nation. A course which pairs beautiful singletrack with technical stretches. To this day retaining that original and classic vibe.


1979

Top News Headline:

Nuclear power plant accident at Three Mile Island, PA; Sony releases the Walkman; First snowboard invented;

Top Hit on the Charts:

My Sharona by The Knack (Pink Floyd releases The Wall)

Oscar’s Best Picture:

The Deer Hunter

Saucony Trainer 80
On Their Feet
  • Nike’s Daybreak with trail-worthy outsole
  • Nike’s first Air model, the Tailwind
  • Reebok releases the Aztek and 10k in 1978, and Aztek Princess, a women’s-specific model, in ’79
  • Saucony Trainer 80, another unintended, but totally trail-worthy beut

Inaugural Running

Old Dominion

100 Miles

Fort Valley, VA

Based in what would become an epicenter of trail and ultra community in the US, Old Dominion upped JFK’s ante. A classic course which flows, asking you take it out, not encumbered by technicality or extreme elevation, and to find your limit. Then keep going.


1978

Top News Headlines:

Space Invaders launches computer game craze; First even cellular mobile phone releases in Illinois; Son of Sam convicted

Top Hit on the Charts:

Shadow Dancing by Andy Gibb

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Annie Hall

On Their Feet
  • Onitsuka Tiger to release the California in 1978, and with Viren winning golds in ’76 Olympics wearing their shoes
  • Saucony Gripper in ’77, and, Ms. Gripper in ’78. An original (unintended) trail beauty.

Goshen Gallop

5k / 10.2k

Goshen, VT

“Runners looking for an exceptional backcountry course find it here… in the Moosalmoo National Recreation Area. From a natural obstacle course to a stunning surprise view from the south end of Hogback Mountain, the Gallop’s elevation profile and rugged terrain have earned the race the nickname “the toughest 10k in New England.” Bragging rights for any serious runner that complete the satisfying and breathtaking experience. But you don’t need to be a hardcore runner to participate… the 5K is equally exhilarating, and you can still brag (just half as much).”

Drone footage of Blueberry Hill area

1977

Top News Headline:

Carter pardons Vietnam war draft evaders; Star Wars opens in theaters; NASA Shuttle first test flight

Top Hit on the Charts:

Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright) by Rod Stewart

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Rocky

On Their Feet
  • Adidas TRX with trail outsole worthy lugs
  • Brooks Villanova, and the Vantage which offered an EVA midsole and varus wedge for prontation Control, Brooks first RW #1 shoe
  • New Balance 320
  • Nike Elite (trail-worthy outsole), years into 1973’s Boston release, Waffle Trainer patent filed

Inaugural Running

Escarpment

Image from Kirk Kittell

18.6 Miles

Windham, NY

Escarpment was truly ahead of its time and to this day one of the best and toughest trail races in the country. Dick Vincent created as gnarly and technical a course that you’ll find anywhere. Yet, it flows smooth as silk for those savvy over such terrain.


The Walsh PB Fell Runner: Released around 1970. To this day, original and bad-ass.

1963

Top News Headline:

JFK’s Assassination

Top Hit on the Charts:

Surfin’ USA by the Beach Boys

Oscar’s Best Picture:

Lawrence of Arabia

Phil Knight receives first shipment of the go-to Onitsuka running shoes, and establishes Blue Ribbon Sports in Oregon in 1964.
On Their Feet
  • Adidas wouldn’t release their first dedicated run trainer, the Achill for another five years, in 1968.
  • BRS manufacture and sales of the Cortez becomes the Nike Cortez in 1971

Inaugural Running

Cumberland Valley Athletic Club Hike

later to be known as

JFK

50 Miles

Hagerstown, MD

Originally the Cumberland Valley Athletic Club 50 Mile Hike, the event was a call from JFK for the military to be as fit and held to the test used by Teddy Roosevelt:

“In 1963, the initial inspiration behind the event came from then President John F. Kennedy challenging his military officers to meet the requirements that Teddy Roosevelt had set for his own military officers at the dawn of the 20th Century.  That Roosevelt requirement was for all military officers to be able to cover 50 miles on foot in 20 hours to maintain their commissions.  When word got out about the “Kennedy Challenge”, non-commissioned military personnel also wanted to take the test themselves as did certain robust members of the civilian population. all persons to be fit enough to run 50 miles.”

One of if not the only event grandfathered in and permitted to run on the AT. Consistently one of the most competitive in the nation and the largest ultra in the United States. This is our region’s, and nation’s, trail event foundation. For a deeper dive, check this out.

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