Speed, Doubling and Durability on Display at ‘Don’t Run Boston’

Two years ago, with Josh Katzman running by his side, Matt Picard made a memorable Don’t Run Boston debut. The duo stuck together throughout the day, finished together, and set a course record for the 50K race at the Trail Animals Running Club’s original event.

After a year away, Picard returned to the race on Sunday, April 14, at the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, Mass. This time, the 34-year-old resident of Jamaica Plain, Mass., spent most of the day running solo, but he enjoyed a similar outcome. He didn’t move quite as quickly as when Katzman was pushing him (4:45), but Picard earned his second victory at the event with a winning time of 5:04. Picard’s 2019 effort ranked as the sixth-fastest in the 23-year history of the DRB 50K.

Picard’s performance came on a day where conditions were on the warm side. The temperature was in the 50s at the start – a warmer start than usual by DRB standards – but then rose to near 70 degrees in the afternoon (pretty typical by DRB standards), which made the afternoon miles challenging as runners climbed Big Blue and raced down the Blue Hills Ski Hill in the sun.

Dry trails made for good running, which Picard and several others capitalized upon. Kyle Bergemann, 27, of Boston, Mass., built upon his fourth-place finish in 2017 (5:48) with a 20-minute improvement and a runner-up finish in 5:28. DRB newcomer Ryan Williams, 30, of Worcester, Mass., raced to a third-place finish in 6:09.

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Victor Zuniga and Katelyn Tocci pause for a photo before continuing at the Don’t Run Boston 50K. Both finished in 6:12. Photo courtesy of Ilya Bass.

First place among the women’s field went to DRB newcomer Katelyn Tocci. A resident of Santa Ana, Costa Rica, but frequent racer in New England (first at TNFEC-Massachusetts 50-miler in 2018; second at TARC 100 in 2015; 17th at Vermont 100 in 2014), the 37-year-old Tocci spent the day running with fellow Costa Rica resident Victor Zuniga, 40. Tocci and Zuniga finished together in 6:12, tied for fourth overall while earning Tocci first place among the women’s field. Her time was good for sixth place on the women’s course record board. Her closest competitor, Carolyn Harper (who ran 50 miles), completed 50K 17 minutes later, followed by Marcy Beard (who also ran 50 miles) in 7:24.

While some of the newer faces ran the fastest times, a few runners improved their standing on the event’s rankings for most durable runners. Norm Sheppard, 61, of Newton, Mass., earned his ninth DRB finish by completing the 50K in 8:40. Only five runners have finished DRB more times than Sheppard. Additionally, Giles Gregory, 50, of Nantucket, notched his eighth finish in 8:11, and 62-year-old Bob Najar of Portsmouth, N.H., secured his seventh finish in 10:29.

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Norm Sheppard, of Newton, Mass., refills his water bottles before continuing for a 50K finish at the Don’t Run Boston 50K on Sunday, April 14, 2019, at the Blue Hills Reservation. Photo courtesy of Ilya Bass.

In addition to the long-standing 50K race, 2019 marked the 10th year that a 50-mile course has been offered. That course follows the 50K course for the first 31-ish miles (50-mile finishers also are credited with a 50K finishing time), and then has 19 bonus miles tacked on.

Seven runners completed the 50-mile race this year, tying the record for most finishers (2010, 2012) of that distance at DRB. Notable among that number were winners Carolyn Harper, 27, of Somerville, Mass., and Howie Breinan, 50, of Hebron, Conn. They were the lone finishers of the 50-miler a year ago, and they finished together this year in 10:31, sharing the victory. For Breinan – the DRB founder – the performance marked his 15th total DRB finish, tying Craig Wilson for the most finishes of either distance in event history. It was also his eighth time finishing the 50-miler, by far the most of any runner in event history. Meanwhile, it was Harper’s third straight year finishing the 50-miler, and she ran the second-fastest time by a woman on the course (Elise DeRoo ran 9:52 in 2017).

After finishing 50-miles on Sunday, Harper turned around and ran the Boston Marathon on Monday, finishing that race in 4:00. In doing so, Harper earned the rare recognition of being a DRB-Boston Marathon “doubler.” Beard is the only other runner to “double” with the DRB 50-miler. In 2018, Samantha LeBlanc doubled with the DRB 50K.

The only other woman to complete the DRB 50-miler three times, 49-year-old Marcy Beard of San Jose, Calif., finished this year’s race in 12:57.

Other 50-mile finishers were Evren Gunduz, 37, of Cambridge, Mass., in 12:39; Stephen Anthony, 38, of Rumford, R.I., in 12:57; Patrick Hayes, 36, of Newton, Mass., in 13:01; and Garrett Tietjen, 39, of Andover, Mass., in 13:27.

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John Sherback leads a group of runners into a checkpoint on the course of the Don’t Run Boston 50K on Sunday, April 14, 2019, at the Blue Hills Reservation. Photo courtesy of Ilya Bass.
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