SOUTHINGTON — Sixteen miles into his goal of 30 miles — through hilly trails pocketed by roots and holes — Brian Cascone, of Southbury, stopped to tend to a tight hamstring as other racers passed.
“If you can do this, you can do anything,” Cascone said before he jumped back into the Connecticut Trailmixers’ Fall Fling 400 Race at the Southington YMCA’s Camp Sloper.
The race weaved through two miles of trails before returning to the starting line, where racers could take a break for food and water, or keep running. The 400 in the race’s name referred to its 400-minute length, from 8 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. on Sunday.
“It lets you decide how far you want to go and at what pace. I think that’s part of the appeal of it,” said Michael Lo Presti, president of the Trailmixers. It also allows runners to carry less with them, since they can pick up more water each lap or drop their jackets off when the temperatures rise with the sun.
“We try to make it a very welcoming environment for people who want to reach new distances,” said Lo Presti, who is from Southington.
The proceeds from the race’s entry fee are split between the YMCA and a charity that donates running shoes to high school and middle school runners.
Even with the hills and the rocks, roots and ruts, trail running can be easier on runners than paved paths. Lo Presti said the soil doesn’t cause as harsh an impact each time a runner’s leg come down.
“People sometimes find they can sometimes go longer and farther on the trails than on the roads,” he said. This year’s two longest runners surpassed the record set at last spring’s race at the camp, finishing 20 of the 2-mile laps.
Jay Mitchell, one of those two racers, finished his 20th lap with seven minutes left.
“It feels pretty awesome,” Mitchell said. Having placed in the top five at plenty of races, this was his first win.
For many of the racers, the trails keep them running by keeping them interested.
“It’s so much easier to go out and have an hour disappear,” said Kurt Lindbloom-Broberg, of Newington, as he walked off the trail for a break after finishing his 10th lap.
A few minutes into a road run and he’s checking his watch to see how long he’s been running and how far he’s gotten. On a trail run he’s too focused on obstacles and his surroundings to become bored enough to start checking the time.
“It’s deceptively easy, you feel like you can keep going,” said Josh Blanchfield, of Hartford, who came to the race for the first time this year with his friend Maureen Welch, who lives with him in Hartford. “Three hours go by fast.”