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[RC] The Vermont 100 - by horseback - Tom Noll


Last weekend I rode the Vermont 100. Vermont is the last of the major 100s where the runners and riders share the trail. The runners and riders run together on the same course at the same time. The camaraderie between the runners, the riders, and the horses is wonderful and that camaraderie is one thing that makes Vermont special. Some of the other special things include the Vermont scenery, a well organized event, and the magic that is part of any real 100.

The Vermont 100 is a big-loop 100. Even though the trail meanders through the Vermont countryside and the track looks like a bowl of spaghetti dropped on a map, there is no repeated trail. There are preciously few big-loop, out-and-back, and point-to-point 100s left. Vermont is a real 100.

Modern 100-mile trail runs owe their start to endurance riding when a lame horse led one rider, Gordy Ainsleigh, to run Tevis on foot. The rest is history, as they say. Vermont is the last of the 100s that honors that connection between the runners and the horses.

I came to endurance riding because of ultrarunning. Some years ago, I was over 40 miles into the Wasatch 100 running along the ridges between Big Mountain and Lamb's Canyon. It was hot and I was alone on the course. From somewhere behind me, a lone endurance rider on a conditioning ride approached and rode on by me on a grey Arabian horse. The rider would get off his horse and run some of the rough trail sections and then remount and continue on down the trail. I watched the horse and rider as they disappeared on the ridges and I thought to myself, "That looks like fun. If I ever get the chance I want to try endurance riding." I learned to ride so that I could ride endurance.

I haven't run an ultra in several years, but the Vermont 100 presents the opportunity to reconnect with the ultrarunning tribe and to share the trails again. Long distance running is a part of ancient human history as is the horse. The Vermont 100 allows us, runners, riders, and horses, to connect with each other and our common past.

Like last year, I rode Springtime, a working Arabian mare. Like last year, Cindy Davis, Paul Kendall, and the others at the Kedron Valley stables conditioned Springtime for me to ride in the 100. Cindy graciously offered to crew for me this year. Cindy stuck with me beginning in the early morning on Saturday when we saddled Springtime at the stable, all though the day and night, to the following morning when we untacked Springtime in the stable and leaned on the rail while we talked about horses, Spingtime, and the Vermont 100.

If you know me, you may have heard me talk about the magic in the 100-mile distance -- a magic that doesn't exist in other rides and runs. The magic seems to appear somewhere in the darkness after 75 miles or so. Last year, the magic was at O&H Farms and the 88-mile hold when I was discouraged and depressed because a finish was out-of-reach. My crew talked with me and Paul Kendall showed me a special trick that I could use to possibly turn things around. Springtime and I left the hold and we regained our confidence on the trail. We recovered our lost time and finished with over an hour to spare.

This year there was magic at O&H again. The magic was more subtle than last year, but I remembered my difficulties while Cindy and I talked and Springtime quietly ate, under a brilliant starlit Vermont night.

The Vermont 100 is unique. In the ultrarunning community, Vermont is not thought to be as difficult as some of the western 100s. Still, the Vermont 100 is an honest 100 miles with plenty of hills and rough sections. If you make the trip to Vermont for the 100, you will not be disappointed, whether you are a runner or a rider.

Best Regards,

Tom Noll
SW Idaho


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