All eyes were on Patrick Caron when the 50-mile runners stepped to the starting line of the TARC Fall Classic on Saturday, Sept. 29, at Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle, Mass. The attention was understandable, and well-earned. Caron made his ultramarathon debut on this course in 2015 when, at age 18, he raced to a second-place finish. That year it took a course record by Billy Preston (7:52:53) to keep Caron from victory. Caron has returned each year since then, and each time he has bettered Preston’s mark with a new course record.
The expectation was that Caron would do so again this year, and he didn’t disappoint. Now 21, the resident of Needham, Mass., once again made history with a record-setting performance. His winning time of 6:52:04 is faster than anyone has run on the course. Caron is the only runner to have gone faster than Preston for 50 miles at the Fall Classic, and he owns the top three spots.
Caron may have entered with the spotlight on him, but the breakthrough performance of the day was turned in by 24-year-old Megan Lenane. A resident of Billerica, Mass., Lenane doesn’t have a lengthy ultramarathon resume, but what’s there is mighty impressive. She was the overall winner of the Moosalamoo 36-Mile Ultra in Goshen, Vt., in 2016, and she closed out that year as the second-place woman in the 40-mile race at the Fells Winter Ultra.
The Fall Classic was Lenane’s return to ultras, and she left a lasting impression. The former cross country and track athlete at UMass-Lowell put her speed on display from the opening 10-mile lap of the five-loop course, and she steadily pulled away from the rest of the field – both women and men – save for Caron who was in his own orbit. The women’s field was stacked, and it proved to be the fastest in the four years that the 50-mile distance has been offered at the Fall Classic. Lenane was simply superior, however. She led the ladies’ field wire-to-wire and spent much of the day in second place overall. That’s where she ultimately finished; her time of 8:15:52 demolished the previous course record (8:51:50 by Deirdre Lowe in 2017) by 36 minutes.
Proving the depth of the women’s field, both the second- and third-place women – 38-year-old Katie Cooper of Marblehead, Mass. (8:49:52), and 36-year-old Kara Olivito of Medford, Mass. (8:51:34) – also went below the previous course record. For Cooper, the race was her ultra debut.
Notably, only two other humans – Caron and Preston – have completed the 50-mile course faster than Lenane.
Lenane’s closest competitor was the men’s runner-up, 21-year-old Chase Smith, a native of Charlotte, N.C., who is currently a student at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass. Smith threw down nearly even splits for his five loops and closed strong on Lenane during the final miles, but finished just a few strides behind her for third overall and second among the men in 8:15:56. The race was Smith’s final tune-up before attempting his first 100-miler at Ghost Train later this month. Brian Butterfield, 39, of Southborough, Mass., rounded out the men’s podium in 8:41:52. Butterfield will also be racing the Ghost Train 100, as will Caron – the Ghost Train course record-holder.
Twenty-eight runners finished the 50-mile race within 13 hours; the top nine did so in less than 10 hours.
While the 50-miler was the main event, the 50K featured a larger field of ultrarunners. For some, like 64-year-old Anne Craig of Woburn, Mass., the race capped off a full year of diligent training toward a successful first ultramarathon. For others, like 42-year-old Blake Pomeroy of Rowley, Mass., the day resulted in a major personal-record time for the 50K distance.
In the battles for the podium, the most head-turning effort was delivered by Amanda DeBlauw. The Fall Classic 50K women’s course record has stood since 2012 when Larisa Dannis threw down a 4:36:04 performance that has looked untouchable in the years since. DeBlauw didn’t quite dethrone Dannis, but the 41-year-old from Newmarket, N.H., came pretty darn close. Her time of 4:38:34 was good enough to win the women’s race by 14 minutes and lock up second place on the ladies’ record board. Runner-up Emily Rose, 30, of Portland, Maine, turned in the fifth-fastest time in the race’s eight-year history with her mark of 4:52:51. Elizabeth Lynch, 53, of Milford, Mass., rounded out the women’s podium in 5:25:03.
On the men’s side, 46-year-old Will Swenson of Andover, Mass., defended his title in the 50K. His winning time of 4:04:24 was a nearly four-minute improvement from 2017, and he finished eight minutes ahead of runner-up Michael Pulli, 41, of Medford, Mass., who finished in 4:12:41. Victor Velazquez, 27, of Boston, Mass., secured third place in 4:27:54 by holding off fourth-place Marc Almanzan, 35, of Jamaica Plain, Mass., by 3 1/2 minutes.
The top 13 overall finishers all posted sub-five-hour finishes, and 41 of the 93 finishers completed the race in less than six hours.
Half Marathon and 10K
Two non-ultra distances were also offered, and numerous runners took advantage. There were 117 runners in the half marathon and 50 runners in the 10K.
Nora Weathers, 23, of Somerville, Mass., highlighted the half marathon race as she smashed the women’s course record by more than two minutes on her way to winning the women’s race by almost 18 minutes in 1:37:23. Ed Cullen, 31, of Rumford, R.I, won the men’s race in 1:34:24, fending off 21-year-old Garrett Simon of Cambridge, Mass., by 77 seconds.
In the 10K race, 28-year-old Galen August of Medford, Mass., edged fellow Medford resident Mikael Sodergren, 35, for the men’s win by 37 seconds with a time of 32:03. Amelia Keyser-Gibson, 22, of Cambridge, Mass., was the women’s winner in 47:44.
Up Next for TARC
The Trail Animals Running Club’s race series rolls on with its only race outside of Massachusetts – about a half-mile across the border in Brookline, N.H., with the Ghost Train Rail Trail Race on Oct. 20-21. Runners will tackle 100-mile, 90-mile, 75-mile, 60-mile, 45-mile, 30-mile and 15-mile distances during the 30-hour event.
Following Ghost Train, the TARC season will close out with the TARCkey Trot 6-Hour Ultra on Nov. 17 in Lexington, Mass., and the Fells Winter Ultra 40-mile and 32-mile races at the Middlesex Fells Reservation in Stoneham, Mass.