The Stone Cat 50 bills itself as having a “very runnable” course. That’s a true statement in ordinary years for runners who take the challenge of navigating four trips around the 12.5-mile loop course with its singletrack and doubletrack trails and rolling hills.
The 18th annual Stone Cat 50 wasn’t an ordinary year, however.
When runners stepped to the starting line on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Willowdale State Forest in Ipswich, Mass., a steady rain pelted them. They stared into a blurry haze caused by their headlamps reflecting off the falling drops while puddles formed at their feet.
As is always the case in trail-running, the same course doesn’t run the same from day to day or year to year. The weather wreaked havoc on course conditions and a wet, sometimes mud-soaked course mandated that this would be one of the slower years at Stone Cat in recent memory.
The course records would not be in danger on this day.
Both the men’s and women’s races featured runaway winners in Michael Pulli and Sarah Pandiscio.
Racing Stone Cat for the third time, Pulli earned his first win on the course. The 42-year-old from Medford, Mass., built a comfortable lead and never looked back, winning in 7:15:11. He previously finished fifth in 2015 (7:33:00) and 12th overall in 2014 (7:50:23). A Stone Cat newcomer, 36-year-old Brian Burke of Somerville, Mass., claimed the runner-up spot in 7:47:19. Will Swenson rounded out the men’s podium by placing third in 7:58:48. Swenson, 46, of Andover, Mass., matched his best finish ever at Stone Cat, having also placed third in 2015 (7:26:19). He also has a sixth-place finish (7:07:37 in 2016) and a ninth-place finish (7:38:29 in 2014) to his credit at Stone Cat.
Roy Van Cleef, 39, of Harvard, Mass., narrowly missed out on a men’s podium finish, placing fourth overall in 8:00:06. Stone Cat regular and men’s course record-holder (6:10:55 in 2013) Sebastien Roulier, 44, of Sherbrooke, Quebec, placed fifth in 8:05:16.
Similar to Pulli, Pandiscio won the women’s race by a sizeable margin, although Aliza Lapierre’s course record of 7:06:13 from 2011 remained safely out of reach. Pandiscio, a 28-year-old resident of Somerville, Mass., built upon a strong year that included a fifth-place finish at the Vermont 100 by winning her Stone Cat debut. She dominated the race and her lead was never threatened as she cruised to the win in 8:17:09 and placed seventh overall. Her closest competitor, 27-year-old Lisa Rising of Cambridge, Mass., secured the runner-up spot in her Stone Cat 50 debut, finishing in 9:01:28. Rebeccah Geib, 29, of Bar Harbor, Maine, improved upon her fifth-place finish in 2017 by finishing third this year in 9:13:54.
Schersten, Woodcock Win Marathon
In addition to the 50-mile race, another 189 runners completed two loops of the course and a little extra distance for a marathon. Hannah Woodcock, 24, of South Hamilton, Mass., finished third overall and dominated the women’s field, winning in a time of 3:40:25. Her closest competitor, 42-year-old Greeta Soderholm of Underhill, Vt., finished in 4:19:04 while Jennifer Corbett, 41, of Portsmouth, N.H., placed third in the women’s field in 4:29:01. Melanie Mahoney, 39, of Marlborough, Mass., narrowly missed out on the podium as she placed fourth in 4:30:27.
In the men’s race, Ben Schersten, 39, of Beverly, Mass., won the marathon in 3:35:52, followed by Stephen Chaloner, 31, of Portsmouth, N.H., in 3:39:02. Erik Swanson, 45, of Amherst, Mass., rounded out the men’s podium in 3:46:08.
Three more Massachusetts men – 61-year-old Matthew Curran of Gloucester, 29-year-old Brooks Goodyear of Boston, and 49-year-old Squantch Sears of Rockport – also finished in less than four hours. Curran posted a time of 3:49:48, Goodyear clocked a time of 3:53:50, and Sears finished in 3:55:45.
The top seven overall finishers completed the race in less than four hours, and the top 45 finished in less than five hours.