UMass professor Greg Tew teams with partner to take third place in 2023 Trans Alpine Race

  • UMass professor Greg Tew, right, and partner Brian Arquilla took third place in the 2023 Trans Alpine Race in Europe last month. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/3/2023 4:59:41 PM
Modified: 10/3/2023 4:58:41 PM

After a last-minute dropout from his partner, Greg Tew was left without a teammate 24 hours prior to the first day of the 2023 Trans Alpine Race in Europe — a prestigious running event.

Tew, the Head of the Tew Research Group in the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at UMass, heard from his friend Rene Unser that another participant in the race was dealing with the same scenario – a partner bailing at the last minute.

So, Tew and that other participant, Brian Arquilla, chose to join forces the day before the event. Unbeknownst to them, it would be the best decision they made. Tew and Arquilla placed third out of 30 teams in the 50-plus age division.

“Due to injury and some scheduling conflicts, both Greg and I’s run partners couldn't compete in the event,” Arquilla said. “I think both of us were looking to make the best of our time overseas. So only about 24 hours ahead of the race, a mutual friend introduced us and suggested we should race together. So yeah, it went great. We became quick friends.”

The seven-stage race spanned from Sept. 9 through Sept. 15 and totaled 256 kilometers – which is equivalent to over 22 miles a day. The course began in Northern Austria and traveled south through Switzerland before ending in Italy on the final day.

Being a thrown-together duo, Tew and Arquilla decided to relax and enjoy the beautiful views throughout the week. They didn’t want to put too much pressure on themselves. And due to the length traveled each day, it gave Tew and Arquilla (a resident of Vernon, British Columbia, four hours east of Vancouver) plenty of time to get familiar with one another.

“I think it's way more enjoyable when you're just having a good time,” Tew said. “Brian and I basically got to know each other as we're running around the countryside. I think not knowing each other definitely helped have no pressure because nobody knew what to expect. It was kind of like let’s just see what happens.”

Arquilla had never heard of Tew, but was eager to meet him after finding out they had a few similarities.

“I got Greg's name, and I'm like, ‘Who the hell is this?’ Arquilla said. “So I did a quick Google search and found that he's an engineering professor at UMass Amherst. And I do science. So I said, ‘OK, there's some similar interests there.’ Then when we got to meet each other, we became quick friends.”

For most of the week, Tew and Arquilla sat in fourth place – one spot off a podium finish. They kept chugging along hoping to catch the third-place team, but the two never did. Then they found out that it was because that team had to drop out. Tew and Arquilla were winning the war of attrition.

“As the week went on, we were like, ‘Oh my,’” Tew said. “And then we moved to third, not because we caught third place, but because third place dropped. But in the end, it’s a seven-day race. That's the point.”

As two people above 50 years old, recovery in between days was the most important aspect of the event. Tew and Arquilla made sure they received daily post-race massages, did cold plunges, and ate plenty of protein to limit muscle soreness as much as possible.

Having their routine set in place each day gave them a leg up on their competitors.

“Greg introduced me to some recovery strategies, which helped a lot,” Arquilla said. “Like post-race massages, cold-water plunges, and protein intake. For me, some of that post-race recovery stuff was pretty new. So it completely changed my game, and it went a really long way.”

Sleep was at a minimum during the week as well, as most of the non-running time was spent on recovery and stretching. Each morning, Tew and Arquilla woke up very early to get their days started. 

“That’s the grind,” Tew said. “Right away, you essentially go into recovery. You gotta eat, you have to get to your hotel, get rid of your wet clothes, do everything to get ready for the next day. Many of those days we started at 4:30 (a.m.).”

The daily grind was worth it in the end, as a spot on the podium awaited Tew and Arquilla at the finish line.

“It was amazing, ridiculous,” Tew said of coming in third. “I’m not an accomplished runner. I do OK in my age group. But the idea that we could go to Europe and finish third – I mean, the other teams were all sponsored teams. It was gratifying seeing all the training that you put in turn into a good result.”

While it was nice to have an extremely successful race, the best part was the friendship they built along the way. Tew and Arquilla have talked nearly every day since they each returned to their respective homes, and they are certainly thankful that the 2023 Trans Alpine Race brought them together.

“I think that was the most interesting part, that these two strangers just pulled it off,” Arquilla said. “And Greg's a really easy guy to get to know, and he’s likable. I think we just kept it light. We were laughing at everything and really just tried to enjoy the event, the Alps, and enjoy making new friends. And we've still been texting, even post race, just chatting about what we're doing now and things like that.”


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy