There’s a certain simplicity to time-based races that seems to have a magnetic pull on Greg Soutiea. From Arizona to New Jersey, from Tennessee to Massachusetts, the 33-year-old resident of Quincy, Mass., has traveled near and far to compete at timed events.
“I like having a very clearly defined ‘finish line’ and I like that all competitors are on the same course (often still visible) for the entire race,” Soutiea said. “I also really like that these races offer the ability to ‘shut off’ my brain and just focus on my stride, pace, nutrition, and heart rate. I don’t have to worry about where to turn, how many miles are left, how far to an aid station, where the other runners are, etc., the kind of things that other road or trail races make runners worry about. Literally all I have to think about is running in circles and focusing on how to make the steps in front of me more efficient.”
The Sweltering Summer Ultra in Pittsfield, Mass., has called out to Soutiea as strongly as any time-based event he has done. The eight-hour race is put on by the Berkshire Ultra Running Community for Service and is directed by Pittsfield resident Bennjamin Griffin. Soutiea has raced Sweltering Summer three years in a row – including this year’s event on Saturday, Aug. 12 at Clapp Park – and he has been the fastest, most efficient runner each time while racking up three straight victories.
“Benn is a great race director, and the support from the race team, volunteers, and the other runners at this race is visibly sincere and heartfelt,” Soutiea said, explaining what draw him back each year. “I can legitimately feel their support before, during, and after the race. By running this race the last three years, I know many of the runners and support well, and they know me.
“This is actually the only race besides the Boston Marathon that I’ve done three-plus times. For the most part, I don’t generally repeat races since there are so many good ones in our area, but the Sweltering Summer 8-Hour always seems to fit into my training/racing plan, generally as a build for longer races. On top of that, it’s hard to pass up a race where I’ve had so much success.”
This year, Sweltering Summer wasn’t particularly sweltering – the temperature rose only to the mid-70s – and a forecasted thunderstorm missed the area. Soutiea admitted he was hoping for some rain because he loves running in it, but the absence of precipitation made for fast conditions on the .355-mile dirt and cinder loop around the park.
Soutiea hammered the loop 163 times during eight hours and logged 57.926 miles, easily outdistancing the rest of the field. He eased off the gas during the final 90 minutes, spending a few loops chatting with other runners rather than trashing his legs in pursuit of hitting 60 miles. The performance was his second-best at Sweltering Summer, trailing only the 59.703 miles that he logged in 2016. Soutiea owns the top three performances ever at the event and is the only runner to have surpassed 53 miles.
Pablo Espinosa and Brian Teason delivered the sixth- and seventh-best performances ever on the Sweltering Summer men’s record board, and they made the race for second place mighty interesting while doing so. The duo were the only other runners to surpass the 50-mile mark for the day, with the 37-year-old Espinosa of Ile Perrot, Quebec, securing second-place honors with 51.885 miles. Teason, 56, of Manchester, Vt., was a close third with 50.463 miles.
Brendon Campbell, 33, of Medford, Mass., was the top sub-50-mile runner for the day. He finished fourth overall with 46.199 miles – his longest run during his preparation for the BURCS’ Free to Run 50-Miler on Sept. 16 in Pittsfield.
Other men who surpassed the 40-mile mark for the day were Kaniehtakeron Martin, 40, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was the fifth male finisher and seventh overall with 43.711 miles; 54-year-old Bill Boyer of Great Barrington, Mass., who was eighth overall with 43.356 miles; 52-year-old Bill Odendahl of Trumbull, Conn., who placed ninth overall with 43.29 miles; 44-year-old Gregory Bubniak of Oak Ridge, N.J., who was 11th overall with 41.934 miles; and 16-year-old Thomas Cook of Adams, Mass., who finished 13th overall and was the ninth-place male with 40.157 miles. David Colburn, 54, of Worcester, Mass., rounded out the men’s top 10 with 39.802 miles.
While Soutiea threw down another dominant performance on the short loop course, a tight race for the victory unfolded among the women. Ann Alessandrini and Lindsay Croshier dueled for the top spot. It was familiar territory for Alessandrini. The 57-year-old from Johnsonville, N.Y., battled near the front of the pack the previous two years, finishing as the third female in 2015 (42.29 miles) and second in 2016 (45.133 miles). This time, Alessandrini took top billing as she completed 45.843 miles.
Croshier, 34, of Arlington, Mass., was a close second with 45.133 miles. It was her latest strong showing at Sweltering Summer. She was the second-place female in the marathon in 2015 (4:02:16), third female in the eight-hour event in 2014 (41.5 miles), and third female in the six-hour event in 2013 (35.15 miles).
Alessandrini and Croshier finished fifth and sixth overall in Saturday’s field, and they also recorded the fourth- and fifth-largest mileage totals on the Sweltering Summer women’s record board.
Laura Morris, 40, of Southwick, Mass., rounded out the women’s podium with a third-place finish among the ladies and 10th-place finish overall with 42.29 miles. Fourth-place female Kathryn Stoker of Norwalk, Conn., also surpassed the 40-mile mark. The 50-year-old Stoker finished the day with 41.579 miles. Sarah Bousquet, 35, of South Hadley, Mass., was fifth with 39.447 miles.
In total, 69 runners took part in the eight-hour event this year, making it the largest field in the four years that an eight-hour run has been offered – and more than double the turnout for the six-hour offering at the inaugural Sweltering Summer in 2013. Notably, of the 69 eight-hour runners, all ran at least 11 miles, 50 surpassed the marathon distance either by a few strides or by more than 30 miles, and 38 runners completed at least a 50K.
Sweltering Summer also included marathon and 5K distance options. Twenty-six runners finished the marathon, led by 44-year-old Cade Remsburg of West Des Moines, Iowa, in 3:21:25. The top female in the marathon was 51-year-old Jennifer Bell of Dalton, Mass., in 4:12:10. Twenty runners finished the 5K, with a pair of ladies – 35-year-old Lauren Soutiea of Quincy, Mass., and 33-year-old Maryrose Williams of Pittsfield, Mass. – doing battle for the overall victory. Soutiea crossed the finish line first in 26:39, followed 14 seconds later by Williams. Kevin Renaud, 26, of Spencer, Mass., was the first-place male and third overall in 28:53.
BURCS Race Series Standings: Sweltering Summer was the second of three events in the BURCS Race Series worth double points, as well as the second of three that runners must complete to earn BURCS Badass status. The third is the Free to Run 50-miler in September. Ann Alessandrini is the first-place female in the standings – as well as the first-place overall runner in the standings with 682.04 points. Lindsay Croshier is second with 602.62 points. Bill Boyer leads the men’s standings with 427.52 points, just ahead of Scott Defusco who has 403.6 points. For more details about the BURCS Race Series points system, as well as to view the full standings, visit the BURCS’ Facebook page.