Mountain bikers made room for trail-runners at the Freetown 50 on Sunday, Sept. 17, in Assonet, Mass., and the two-wheeled and two-legged athletes shared a tough, technical challenge at Freetown-Fall River State Forest.
The mountain biking races encompassed the bulk of the field, with riders tackling three or two loops of the course in the fifth annual 50-mile and 50K rides. Ultrarunners made their debut in the festivities, however, and a small but hearty group gathered at the starting line for a “heavy” 50K ultramarathon in addition to a 17.2-mile “short course” race.
From 2014-2016, the race had been the Rock Hard Marathon, but it evolved into an ultramarathon this year, as race director Michael O’Connell told MassUltra.com earlier this year.
Ultrarunners were given nine hours to complete the two-loop, 35-mile course with its multiple steep climbs and technical, rock-covered singletrack trails. Seven runners successfully completed the challenge.
A close battled unfolded during the first loop between Jon Lawson and Justin Ellison as the pair ran in close contact and rolled through the midpoint about two minutes apart. Mark Weldon was also in striking distance, seven minutes off the lead and five minutes out of second. The 50K’s lone female, Kara Spera, followed a few minutes behind Weldon.
Lawson took command during loop two, and that’s also when Spera moved up. The technical course took its toll on all of the runners, and everyone lost at least a minute per mile off their pace during their second trip around the course. Lawson managed the loop the best, however. The 45-year-old from Portsmouth, R.I., was the lone runner to finish each loop in less than three hours as he pulled away for the victory in 5:32:43. Ellison faded a bit, but the 29-year-old held on for second place in 5:51:45.
Spera had the second-fastest loop two of any runner, and her steady performance allowed the 35-year-old from Lynn, Mass., to surge into third place overall in 5:57:49, just ahead of Weldon, 56, of Assonet, Mass. Weldon finished fourth overall and was the third-place male as he dipped just under six hours, finishing in 5:59:27.
The remaining trio of runners – Jeff Dixon of North Attleboro, Mass.; Adam Morales of Somerset, Mass.; and Andrew Ferrarini of Westport, Mass. – all finished in close proximity to each other. Dixon, 51, finished fifth in 8:00:20, followed 35 seconds later by Morales, 27, in 8:00:55. Ferrarini, 36, followed in 8:08:05.
In addition to the heavy 50K, 14 runners finished the 17.2-mile race with 24-year-old Danny Huang of Medford, Mass., taking the top spot among the men in 2:24:09 and 51-year-old Janet Walker of North Falmouth, Mass., earning first-place female honors in 3:22:23.