Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon returns Saturday after 2-year hiatus

  • A competitor in a past Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon paddles down the Deerfield River during the kayaking leg of the race at Berkshire East Mountain Resort. The event returns to Franklin County this weekend. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/31/2022 2:24:26 PM
Modified: 3/31/2022 2:23:31 PM

After a two-year hiatus, the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon returns on Saturday. 

The pentathlon — which started in 2012 — was canceled the last two years due to COVID-19, but a record amount of athletes are expected to turn out at Berkshire East Mountain Resort in Charlemont for this weekend’s race. 

As of Wednesday, 180 people had signed up for the event. That’s a ways up from the previous high of 153 competitors, which included race day sign-ups. 

“It’s the most we’ve ever had sign up, there’s a ton of enthusiasm for this race,” Race Director John Ferris said. “It’s supposed to be a nice weather day and we might be close to the 200 mark by the time the race gets going.”

After two years of not having the race and on the heels of a cold winter, it’s easy to see why there is record excitement for the pentathlon. 

“People are looking at winter ending, they’re relieved that we’re in a COVID lull and everyone wants to get out of the house and do stuff,” Ferris said. “People are psyched to get together in their community and do something that is active and fun.” 

The race features five events: a 4.5-mile trail run, an 18-mile bicycle road ride, a two-mile paddle, a  two-mile adventure run and a climb up, ski down leg. Competitors have the option to split up each leg and compete as a team, or do it as a Braveheart – the category reserved for folks doing all five legs themselves. There were 26 people signed up as Bravehearts as of Wednesday, while over 30 teams had registered. 

Part of the appeal of the pentathlon is that it can be done by athletes of a wide variety of ages and abilities. The course is designed to be done by those who don’t avidly train for it, but still give a challenge to those who do. There are teams where the youngest member is 72 years old, and teams where the oldest member is 11, leading to a diverse field of athletes competing. 

“You have kids doing it together, families doing it together, you have these really high-end athletes putting out great performances. It’s a great mix,” Ferris said. “It took our race a long time to figure out a good balance on our course. We want to keep each leg hard enough where it’s interesting for someone who’s doing just that one leg but also keep it accessible where somebody with only a little bit of training can do it. We’re trying to hit that balance and we feel we’ve done that.”

With the race taking place on the first weekend of April each year, there tends to be one section of the pentathlon that proves to be especially challenging. In some years there’s been a lot of snow in March, with led to a challenging run. Other years, there’s been little snow which makes the ski portion difficult. 

This year, however, has provided a good balance. Ferris said Berkshire East has done a great job of making a lot of snow, enabling racers the chance to ski the mountain from top-to-bottom.

Ferris said he’s most looking forward to seeing all the competitors who he hasn't had a chance to catch up with in some time.

“I’m just excited to see everyone,” Ferris said. “I love the community vibe this race gives off. Even folks who are outdoor rec oriented, you see less of each other during the winter. It’s a great start to the spring. It’s going to be a great day out there.”

The race begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the main entrance to Berkshire East under the Decorative Logs. Online registration is ongoing at BikeReg.com while registration will also be available at the race on Saturday. This year’s benefactor is the Mary Lyon Foundation. 


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