Locals Set Their Own Pace at Ultra-Running Event RUTFest | Outdoors & Recreation | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Locals Set Their Own Pace at Ultra-Running Event RUTFest

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Published November 2, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


Runners at RUTFest in 2021 - COURTESY
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  • Runners at RUTFest in 2021

For many, the idea of running three-mile loops around the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston for up to 36 hours seems, well, like an undesirable use of time. To put things in perspective, watching all the Harry Potter movies without stopping takes just under 20 hours, while driving directly to Salt Lake City from Burlington takes 35 hours.

But for the 101 distance runners who participated in the inaugural RUTFest (the Richmond Ultra Trail Festival) last November, those 36 hours were a chance to run distances never reached before, connect with members of the trail running community, and share food, stories and more.

This weekend, the second annual RUTFest provides an opportunity for runners of all abilities to run loops around Catamount — as many or as few as desired. Unlike other endurance races, RUTFest doesn't prescribe a specific distance that runners must complete to have "finished" the event. The environment is laid-back and supportive of all distance goals — or lack of them.

Prem Linskey, a Vermont-based distance runner, conceived the event along with the Richmond Trail Running Club.

"It's been a concept I'd been mulling over for a few years," Linskey said. "I'd done a bunch of similar races, but I didn't want there to be an entrance fee. I wanted to raise money for charity, run really far with my friends and provide a space for people to go further than they'd ever gone before."

Thus, RUTFest was born. The event serves as a community running festival, with all participants contributing $20 to one of the nonprofits that fit the theme chosen for the year. Last year's theme was recovery, and donations were spread between Josh's House, Enough Is Enough VT and the Catamount Outdoor Family Center. This year's theme is youth services, and the donations will benefit the Sky's the Limit Fund, Camp Exclamation Point, the Catamount Outdoor Family Center and the Richmond Trail Running Club, which organizes the event.

Although the race is 36 hours long, few runners stay up all night running. Some come for one day; others run both days but go home to sleep at night; some stay for just a few hours.

While five runners, including Linskey, ran 100 miles or more at last year's race, "everyone had a different plan for the weekend," Linskey said, adding that he "ran the entire time."

According to postrace calculations by the Richmond Trail Running Club, more than 30 percent of last year's runners ran farther than they'd ever run before. For two of the five runners who eclipsed 100 miles, it was the first time they'd done so.

Everyone's experience is different, and the only goal for the event is to bring runners together.

Linskey, who majored in community development at the University of Vermont, said that "community is a focal point of my life. I wanted to bring that community environment to a race."

In addition to running, each race participant is responsible for managing a one-hour shift at the event's aid station and bringing a dish for runners to share. "Everyone's a race director at RUTFest," Linskey said. "Sure, a bunch of us do legwork beforehand, but as soon as the race starts, everyone's in charge."

From course setup to breakdown, the running community is involved. Even course development is open to community input.

"I don't want to tell people what to run," Linskey said, so he asked runners to submit course variations and then put the most popular suggested routes to a vote.

Last year's RUTFest winner, Will Robinson, ran 112 miles, which he said is still his longest effort. Although he was unsure about what the event would look like, he knew that he wanted to push himself. "I set a goal of 100 miles and started out socially running on and off with a friend. I then would find others to run with as the event went on," Robinson said.

While Robinson, a trail running enthusiast from Middlebury, entered RUTFest to compete, he interacted with runners of varying levels during the race. One person he did a few laps with was running in between dropping off and picking up her child from a birthday party.

Aaron Kinsey of Williston said he had "no goal for last year's event" but was able to finish his first marathon.

"This type of event is great because there's not really a lot of pressure," Kinsey said. "You can bring your family, which is nice because my kids and wife enjoy walking the trails at Catamount." Kinsey said his goal this year is to run at least another marathon.

This year's RUTFest is set to be just as fun, unpredictable and community-oriented as last year, according to Linskey.

"It really is just a supportive and chill atmosphere," he said. "Everybody's just so proud of everyone else for doing what they're doing."

RUTFest runs from Saturday, November 5, 6 a.m., until Sunday, November 6, 6 p.m., at Catamount Family Outdoor Center in Williston. Register at ultrasignup.com or email richmondtrailrunners@gmail.com to learn more.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Going the Distance | Locals set their own pace at ultra-running event RUTFest"

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