The North Face Endurance Challenge championship event slated for Nov. 17 in San Francisco was canceled due to poor air quality caused by the wildfires in California, and that kept Needham’s Patrick Caron from showcasing his potential against some of the top ultrarunners in the United States. The cancellation of that marquee event didn’t mean it was a quiet weekend for racing in the United States, however. Numerous runners in Massachusetts took part in the TARCkey Trot 6-Hour Ultra in Lexington, Mass., while a handful of others ventured beyond the Bay State to compete at races in Arizona, New York and Maryland. Winchester resident Roos Karssemeijer highlighted the weekend with a victory at the Pass Mountain 50K in Arizona.
Pass Mountain 50K
Roos Karssemeijer turned some heads in December 2017 when she threw down a strong performance at the TARC Fells Winter Ultra in Stoneham, Mass., and won the 32-mile race by nearly 20 minutes. It wasn’t her first ultramarathon victory – she previously won the Steep Rock 50K in Connecticut in 2016 – but it was noteworthy given the technical difficulty of the Skyline Trail at the Middlesex Fells Reservation.
Just two weeks prior to her performance at the Fells, Karssemeijer had placed 28th at the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K championship event in San Francisco, Calif.
Karssemeijer, 32, has been quiet on the ultramarathon scene in 2018, but the resident of Winchester, Mass., emerged on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the starting line of the ninth annual Pass Mountain 50K in Mesa, Ariz. By the time she was finished racing through Usery Mountain Regional Park and the Tonto National Forest she had made quite an impression.
Karssemeijer clocked the sixth-fastest time by a woman in course history along the way to winning the race in 5:19:28. Her closest competitor, 39-year-old Karleen Dirmantas of Gilbert, Ariz., finished seven minutes later. For Karssemeijer, the performance marked a personal record for the 50K distance (she ran 5:27:49 at Steep Rock).
While Karssemeijer won the women’s race, the men’s victory went to 32-year-old Chris Mocko of Boulder, Colo., in 3:29:17. He held off 27-year-old Stephen Kersh of Flagstaff, Ariz., by 77 seconds. The top four finishers posted sub-four-hour finishes, and the top 11 broke the five-hour mark. Seventy-four runners finished the race within nine hours, and Karssemeijer was the lone New England resident in the field.
NYRR NYC Knickerbocker 60K
Hundreds of runners have flocked to New York’s Central Park in late November each year since the late 1980s to take part in the annual New York Road Runners’ NYC Knickerbocker 60K, a 37.2-mile race through the famed park in Manhattan. This year was no exception.
More than 350 runners took part in the race on Saturday, Nov. 17, braving chilly temperatures in the 30s while completing nine paved loops through the park. After running an initial 5.2-mile loop, runners then completed eight 4-mile loops before finishing.
Eight Massachusetts residents were among those to join in on the fun. That group included Lee Dickey of Danvers. The 65-year-old wasn’t among the fastest finishers – he completed the race in 8:58:30 – but he has enjoyed the event more frequently than any other runner from the Bay State this year. The 2018 race marked the 11th time Dickey has completed the Knickerbocker 60K since 1998.
Other local finishers were Suchart Klaikaw, 29, of Somerville (6:26:55); Ann Welch, 38, of Medford (7:11:55); Brian Pryor, 41, of Wilbraham (7:25:26); Jessica Welch, 40, of Jamaica Plain (7:48:41); Anne Giovanoni, 45, of Somerville (7:48:42); Barny Sanchez, 40, of Charlton (8:09:22); and Jill Weiner, 56, of Malden (8:11:50). Giovanoni took part in the race for the second year in a row while the others were first-time participants.
Abel Amarilla Pereira, 48, of Woodside, N.Y., was the men’s winner in 4:24:36 while Emeline Lagache, 35, of France won the women’s race in 4:50:48. The top 15 overall finishers completed the race in less than five hours while 356 runners finished within 10 hours.
Fast times are always the norm at the JFK 50, and the 56th annual race on Saturday, Nov. 17 in Boonsboro, Md., was no exception.
The classic ultra takes runners over rocky portions of the Appalachian Trail, flat and smooth dirt on the C&O Canal Towpath, and ultimately onto paved roads, and it is among the largest ultramarathons in the United States with more than 700 runners finishing the race annually. The 2018 edition saw 762 runners finish within 13 hours, including 16 Massachusetts residents.
None of the Bay State runners vied for the victories. Jared Hazen, 23, of Flagstaff, Ariz., won the men’s race in 5:34:21, good for second all-time on the course, followed by Zach Miller, 30, of Manitou Springs, Colo., in 5:41:02 as the lone sub-6-hour finishers. Kate Pallardy, 33, of New York, N.Y., was the women’s winner in 6:40:35.
While a win didn’t come home to Massachusetts, a handful of the local runners were among the fastest in the field. Thomas Gennaro, 32, of Boston led the local crew with a 32nd-place overall finish in 7:15:56 during his JFK 50K debut. Shortly after, Norton’s Christopher Cappellini, 52, finished 41st in 7:26:24, followed by 35-year-old Marc Almanzan of Jamaica Plain who was 53rd in 7:45:15.
Narrowly missing out on a top-100 finish was 47-year-old Paul Chekal of Lynnfield. He placed 102nd in 8:43:24. Amit Oza, 35, of Jamaica Plain followed 14 minutes later in 8:48:59, good for 132nd place.
The top Massachusetts woman to finish was Lori Mitchener. The 42-year-old resident of North Reading placed 169th overall in 9:20:26. For Mitchener, it was her fastest performance at the JFK 50 in three tries.
Other Massachusetts residents to finish the race were Wilmington’s Thomas O’Shea, 44, in 9:34:43; Waltham’s Sean Prior, 44, in 9:42:54; Billerica’s Michael Kent, 55, in 9:56:42; Northampton’s Tara Strassburg, 38, in 10:00:29; Newtonville’s Ian Woodcock, 36, in 10:06:01; Pepperell’s Andrew Bragg, 49, in 11:28:57; Arlington’s David Poirier, 53, in 11:28:57; Bedford’s John Wiedey, 48, in 11:28:58; Hyde Park’s Joe Rossi, 39, in 11:54:42; and Essex’s Joanne Phalon, 63, in 12:18:28.
For Poirier, it marked the 12th time he has finished the JFK 50 while Bragg finished for the sixth time.
*Editor’s Note: Results are found on a variety of sites, including ultrasignup.com, UltraRunning Magazine, and official race websites. We do the best we can to find as many results as possible to report on and recognize the local ultrarunning community.