The USATF-NE Mountain Circuit spans ten races over seven months. Points are scored based on each race completed. This is based on place percentage of the winner’s time.

You must complete 7 out of 10 races to earn GOAT STATUS and receive an automatic bypass to Mount Washington for the annual road race.

Races can be all-uphill, or up-and-down courses and the courses may be a single loop, multiple loops, or point-to-point. Footing in mountain races may be on pavement, trail, or a combination. Paths can be wide and well-worn or single-track and require uninterrupted attention.

The races are as follows starting in April:

  • Sunapee Scramble 1: 4 miles vertical to the top of Sunapee
  • Sunapee Scramble 2: up and down for 2 repeats 8miles
  • Sleepy Hollow VT: 10k trail and dirt road, switchbacks
  • Ascutney: 4 miles to the top and ½ the distance and elevation to Mt Washington
  • Pack Monadnock: 10 miles road with last 2miles in the park with an elevation gain similar to Mt Washington
  • Loon Mountain: Named “The Most Competitive Hill Climb” by Runner’s Magazine, Loon has a reputation as one of the country’s toughest mountain races. This is due in large part to the kilometer ascent of North Peak via the black diamond trail known as Upper Walking Boss. ‘The Boss’, as it’s affectionately known, is roughly a kilometer of grassy slope with angles that exceed a dizzying 40% grade!
  • Greylock: 8 miles paved road to the top of Greylock mountain
  • Waterville Valley: 7 miles to the top with a series of switchbacks before descending to the base for the finish
  • Cranmore Mountain: This consists of 2 loops to the top and bottom for approximately 8 miles. This race involves some technical running as well as a steep ascent up the face of the mountain.

I have been running the Goat series for about 8 years. I have had some years when I was not healthy enough to run and other years when I felt fantastic. Before the Goat series, I had always loved running the Mt Washington Auto Road Race which is 7.6 miles with 11% average grade and 22% grade at other points. However, it’s based on a lottery, so I learned the only way to guarantee a spot was to run 7 out of 10 Goat races to get the coveted automatic bypass.

The first race I entered was Wachusett. The course itself didn’t seem too daunting as it is a 4-mile road race to the top followed by a 3-mile trail/road downhill. However, as I nervously joined the pack at the base to begin the ascent, I started to see the excitement of running these races. First off, I was stunned by the lack of Lycra and flash. This was a ragtag team. There were elderly men in short shorts with WWII knee bandages on. There was no way to tell who was good and who was great. Everyone was friendly and happy to be there. What I loved is that there was a sense of camaraderie without the fierce competition because you couldn’t really tell where your place was overall.

After that, I was hooked. As I conquered each mountain, I started to make friends and see familiar faces. We would run together, talk together, breathe hard together, and laugh together at the end. We were genuinely proud of each other’s efforts. At the same time, I was getting in the best shape of my life which was the best preparation I could have for Mt Washington.

What can I say about Mt Washington? It is the “mother of all mountains”. It has become a metaphor for me of what you can accomplish no matter the odds. It is fondly dubbed “just one mile”, yet the sense of joy at finishing is like nothing I have ever experienced before. There are times during the ascent you question your strength both physically and mentally and wonder why you are even out there. But to balance those times are the incredible views and unpredictable weather conditions that make this a standout race.

When I got to meet Teddy Marak last year, our club president, it was a real thrill. I knew he was an experienced runner, and I was excited to see what he thought of the experience. To see the look on his face as he crossed said it all. His wife Anna and I were volunteers which was also a grueling but rewarding experience due to the wild weather at the summit.

I would love to have more RMHP runners explore something outside of their comfort range and join me whether in training or at the races. It is truly an incredible experience.

Patrice French is a long-time member of the Ronald McDonald Running Club.