For New England ultrarunners, the Ghost Train Trail Races have long served as a source of wonder about the human potential for speed and endurance.
Year after year some of the region’s fastest 100-mile performances have been turned in on the Milford and Brookline Rail Trail in Brookline, N.H., within a mile of the Massachusetts border, and in recent years Ghost Train has produced some of the fastest 100s in the world. In 2016, Patrick Caron garnered national attention when the then 19-year-old hammered out one of the top-10 fastest 100s in the country that year with his course-record performance of 14:51:21. A year later, Caron returned to Ghost Train seeking to raise the bar. The resident of Needham, Mass., did just that, cranking out an eye-popping time of 13:50:43, a mark that at the time was the third-fastest 100-mile performance in the world that year.
At this year’s race on Oct. 20-21, Caron opted to run the 45-mile race and save his legs for a major West Coast ultra in a few weeks, but that decision didn’t dampen the intrigue about human potential. That’s because Alexander Jinks showed up intending to do something special, and he turned in a masterpiece unlike any before seen at Ghost Train.
Jinks, 32, of Montpelier, Vt., cruised through his first trip through the course (7 1/2 miles out; 7 1/2 miles back) in 1:37:07 for a 6:28 mile pace, and his second trip through the course came at a 7:08 clip. When he hit the 60-mile mark in 7:29:45, spectators and other runners took notice that a spectacular performance was unfolding and Caron’s course record was in peril. Jinks continued to hammer the course for several more hours, and his pace only dipped slightly as he went along, even when taking into account brief pauses to refuel. His slowest out-and-back averaged a 9:16 pace (miles 75-90), and all eyes were on Jinks as he pushed the pace for the final 10 miles at an 8:48 average pace. His winning time – a remarkable 13:29:19 – was the second-fastest 100-mile performance in North America this year. Only New York resident Jim Sweeney’s time of 13:09:32 at the Hennepin Hundred earlier this month was faster according to UltraRunning Magazine’s data.
Jinks was the runner-up at the 2017 race in 15:25:00, and he also finished second in 2016 in 17:10:00. His performance Saturday highlighted what was a remarkable year for Ghost Train. The event has been around for 10 years, and this is the eighth year a 100-miler has been offered. A record 76 runners completed 100 miles within the 30-hour time limit, and another 322 runners completed anywhere from 15 to 90 miles.
Although Jinks outdistanced the field by more than three hours, his closest competitor also had a noteworthy day. Brian Butterfield, 39, of Southborough, Mass., completed the 100-miler for the second year in a row, and he improved by more than 50 minutes. In fact, Butterfield’s runner-up time of 16:41:02 was the eighth-fastest in Ghost Train history. He was followed by 28-year-old Xavier Perreault of Terrebonne, Quebec, in 18:01:20.
Jinks wasn’t the only runner to make his presence felt on the continental level with his Ghost Train performance. Deirdre Lowe also garnered notoriety for her speedy performance. The 39-year-old from Salem, Mass., built upon her runner-up performance in 2017 (18:44:38) by delivering another smartly-paced, disciplined effort. She rolled through 60 miles in less than 10 hours and then battled through a tough final 40 miles to bring home the women’s win in 18:43:23. According to UltraRunning Magazine’s data, Lowe’s performance was the 17th-fastest 100-miler by a woman in North America this year.
Lowe’s closest competitor, 46-year-old Yuki Chorney of Mont Vernon, N.H., missed cracking the continental top 25 by just three minutes with her runner-up time of 19:22:13. She was the overall winner of the 75-mile race at Ghost Train in 2017. Jessica Goldman, 45, of Dover, N.H., was third in 19:44:39 after placing sixth in 2017 (22:37:45). Goldman previously won the 100-miler at Ghost Train in 2015 (21:19:00) and finished third in 2013 (21:47:00).
Twenty-seven runners completed the 100-miler in less than 24 hours. That included Dima Feinhaus, 55, of Waban, Mass., who placed fifth overall in 19:21:52 and notched his second straight top-10 finish; John Brown, 61, of Northbridge, Mass., and Doug Beaulieu, 54, of West Newfield, Maine, who both earned their third and fastest finish of the Ghost Train 100 with Brown placing eighth overall in 19:45:15 and Beaulieu finishing ninth in 19:56:31; and Adam Kempner, 46, of North Easton, Mass., who earned his first 100-mile finish while placing 10th overall in 20:25:22.
In addition to the 76 runners who completed 100 miles, four others ended their day at 90 miles. Gregg Norris, 51, of Rockport, Mass., and Sarah Chapin, 45, of Providence, R.I., were among them as they sought 24-hour mileage efforts. Norris finished 90 in 21:21:32, while Chapin completed her mileage in 22:49:54. Additionally, 22 runners completed 75 miles, led by 38-year-old Justin Kousky of Westport, Conn., in 13:44:35, and Gregory Lowe, 54, of Ipswich, Mass., in 14:03:47. Claire Gadrow – who holds the top two spots on the women’s 100-mile record board – was the top woman and third overall finisher of the 75-miler in 14:15:38.
Smith, Karp Cruise to 60-Mile Wins
Since making his Trail Animals Running Club debut in the fall of 2017 at the TARC Fall Classic 50K with a 10th-place finish, Chase Smith has become a force to be reckoned with. The 21-year-old from Charlotte, N.C., went on to finish fourth at the TARC Fells Winter Ultra 40-miler in December, and then raced to a runner-up finish at this year’s Fall Classic. Building on that progress, Smith finally ascended to the top of the podium by winning the Ghost Train 60-mile race. He cruised to victory in 9:55:57. Men’s runner-up John Fegyveresi, 41, of Quechee, Vt., followed in 11:15:26. Meanwhile, Smith’s closest competitor was the women’s winner, 36-year-old Molly Karp. A resident of Natick, Mass., Karp easily outdistanced the rest of the women’s field and finished second overall in 10:38:48. Toni Tessier, 45, of Lisbon, Conn., was the women’s runner-up in 12:06:32.
Caron Claims Another Ghost Train Record – This Time at 45 Miles
After making Ghost Train history at 100 miles during each of the previous two years, Patrick Caron opted for the 45-mile race this year to save his legs for a major November ultra. The change of distance simply allowed him to run faster and claim another course record. The 21-year-old from Needham, Mass., blazed to the win in 5:00:51, annihilating the old course record by nearly an hour and a half. Joseph Mello, 42, of Milford, N.H., was a distant second in 7:21:55 while turning in the sixth-fastest time in course history at that distance. Jaime Clogston, 42, of Claremont, N.H., was the third overall finisher and the first-place woman in 8:20:26. Stephanie Dar, 31, of Clifton Park, N.Y., was the women’s runner-up in 9:16:43.
Gillis, Benway Blaze to 30-Mile Victories
A year after finishing third at the Ghost Train 15-miler, 44-year-old Peter Gillis bumped up to the 30-mile distance. The resident of Manchester, N.H., ran away with his first victory at a trail ultramarathon with a winning time of 3:53:59. Gillis fended off a tough challenge from 35-year-old Gregory Sturgis of Concord, N.H., who kept it close throughout the race before finishing second in 3:58:39.
In the women’s race, Karen Benway built upon her string of solid finishes during the past two years. After winning the Rock the Ridge 50-miler and finishing seventh at the Vermont 100 in 2017, Benway was the runner-up of The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler at Wachusett Mountain earlier this year. Benway, 45, of Williston, Vt., carried that momentum into Ghost Train where she raced to victory in the 30-mile race in 4:24:49 while finishing tied for third overall alongside Chris Cover, 53, of Richmond, Vt. Meredith Pinault, 41, of Belmont, Mass., was the women’s runner-up in 4:46:25, followed by Tracy Schultz, 36, of Waltham, Mass., in 5:04:09.
Thirty-five of the 107 finishers of the 30-miler completed the race in less than six hours.
Lewicke, Walker Win 15-Mile Race
In addition to the ultramarathon distances, Ghost Train also included a 15-mile race on Sunday that consisted of one out-and-back trip through the course. Seventy-nine runners took part in the race. John Paul Lewicke, 33, of Arlington, Mass., earned the men’s victory in 1:41:01, holding off 30-year-old Stephen Horaj of Stoneham, Mass., by four minutes and 48-year-old Lewis Chamberlain of Eliot, Maine, by five minutes. Hayley Walker, 23, of Somerville, Mass., was the women’s winner in 2:08:03. She finished three and a half minutes ahead of runner-up Hanna Ogilvy, 27, of Melrose, Mass., who turned in a time of 2:11:36. Jodie Davis, 26, of Boston, Mass., rounded out the women’s podium in 2:14:32.