The sun was shining at Sandy Neck Beach as runners arrived on Saturday morning, Jan. 12, and made their way from the cozy confines of the Snack Shop down to the starting line on the sand.
The blue sky, lack of snow, and seaside location may have hinted that it was a warm day, but that was far from the case. The Cape Cod Frozen Fat Ass 50K has had its share of diverse weather during its first 12 years, ranging from warm temperatures and sunny skies, to rain and snow. The 13th edition of the race in Barnstable, Mass., was no different. The sun was a disguise for the 20-degree temperature and strong wind gusts that froze the runners to their core.
The temperature never rose above 30 during the course of the next 10 hours as 30 runners completed two loops of the course that took them up and down the beach, as well as on a winding tour of the sand dunes, for a 50K finish. Another 48 runners stopped after one trip around the course for a 25K.
The combined 78 runners made it the largest turnout ever for the Cape Cod Frozen Fat Ass, surpassing the 72 that took part in the 2017 event and 70 in 2018. Not bad for a race that had just seven finishers during its inaugural running in 2007.
The race has attracted plenty of newcomers in recent years, and new faces turned in many of the fastest times at both the 50K and 25K distances this year. As evidence of the event’s “family reunion” feel, though, several of the participants in 2019 have been toeing the starting line in the sand for years. That includes Fred Murolo of Cheshire, Conn., who might not be the fastest ultrarunner in the field – he posted a 50K time of 8:05 this year – but his endurance is undeniable. Murolo is the only runner to have finished the 50K race all 13 years.
Another longtime regular at the race brought home the win in the women’s 50K race while fending off a pair of newcomers. Jenny Hoffman of Cambridge, Mass., made her debut at Cape Cod in 2015 when she cruised to victory in 5:29. Since then she has a second-place finish in 2017 and fourth-place finish in 2018 to her credit, but Hoffman returned to the top of the podium in 2019 with a winning time of 5:24. Hoffman was followed by Kristen Smith of Salem, Mass., in 5:38, and Taylor Verville of Tiverton, R.I., in 5:54.
The top two places on the men’s 50K podium were occupied by first-time runners of the Frozen Fat Ass. Brendon Campbell has racked up plenty of impressive ultramarathon performances during the past few years, including a third-place finish at the 2018 TARCkey Trot 6-Hour Ultra and fourth-place finishes at the Free to Run 50-miler and Sweltering Summer 8-Hour Ultra in 2017. The resident of Medford, Mass., earned the elusive victory at Cape Cod as Campbell logged a winning time of 4:36. Campbell barely fended off Jacob Varekamp of Norwell, Mass., who trailed by 10 minutes at the race’s midpoint and was closing during the final stretch down the beach before ultimately finishing two minutes back in 4:38.
A trio of runners all racing for the third year in a row – Rob Rives of Richmond, Vt.; Will Holets of Boston, Mass.; and Barnstable resident Jim Diggins – were the next three finishers. Rives and Holets finished together in 5:04 to tie for third place, followed by Diggins in 5:20.
In the 25K race, Cape Cod newcomer Alfonso Marquez earned the men’s victory in 2:12 while Marek Bykuc – the fourth-place finisher in the 50K in 2018 – was the runner-up in 2:17. Another Cape Cod newcomer, Ethan Finkel, rounded out the men’s top three in 2:20. The entire women’s 25K podium was new to the event. Rebecca Cotugno secured a first-place finish in the women’s field in 2:17, followed by Erin Brown in 2:33 and Catherine Gill in 2:45.
*Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 10:12 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27, to correct the men’s third-place finishers in the 50K.