When Amy Rusiecki launched the inaugural Chesterfield Gorge Ultra and 25K in 2018, the veteran race director expected to start small and enjoy some gradual, organic growth as the years went by.
Maybe it was convenient scheduling, good timing or simply the allure of a new place to run, but year two of the event – which took place June 1-2 at the Chesterfield Gorge Reservation in West Chesterfield, Mass. – saw the organic part of its growth doused with a full package of Miracle-Gro, so to speak. A field of 77 runners completed either 100 miles, 100K, 50 miles, 50K or 25K at the 2018 race. In 2019, the number who tackled those distances doubled to 144.
“That means double the smiles and high-fives along the way,” Rusiecki said of the turnout.
The smiles and high-fives were a big part of Rusiecki’s vision when she first established the race. She sought to create an event that was low-key and welcoming, where runners felt well taken care of while pursuing a personal-best distance or time or simply enjoying some long miles in a scenic venue where Rusiecki loves to train.
All of the ultramarathon distances saw an increased number of finishers this year. Seven runners finished the 100-miler, up from four in 2018. Twenty completed 100K in 2019, a five-runner improvement from last year. Meanwhile, the 50-mile finishers jumped from 12 to 30 this year and another 33 runners completed the 50K, 19 more than a year ago.
Unlike 2018 when the temperature soared above 90 degrees, runners were treated to a comfortably warm day in the 70s with a few clouds in the sky. The course was mostly dry; a few pop-up-showers landed drops on parts of the course, but not all. All in all, conditions were good for running, and the runners capitalized.
Already with a sub-24-hour finish at the Badger Mountain Challenge 100-miler in Washington in March and a 25:29:58 finish at the Riverlands 100 in Maine in May, 43-year-old Jason Koomen of Findlay, Ohio, brought home the Chesterfield Gorge 100-mile win in 20:35:20. Another Riverlands 100 finisher, 36-year-old Patrick Hayes of Newton, Mass, finished second at Chesterfield Gorge in 23:44:47. Brian Hay, 38, of Cumberland, R.I., and Jared Costable, 37, of Cumberland Center, Maine, tied for third in 24:38:07. Theresa Berna, 50, of Lyndeborough, N.H., was the women’s 100-mile champion in 26:44:54. Other 100-mile finishers were 24-year-old Adam Kratch of Boston, Mass., in 27:37:02, and 60-year-old George Alexion of Waterboro, Maine, in 28:20:16.
A common theme of the 2018 event was women winning races outright, specifically the 100K, 50-mile and 50K distances. That trend continued in 2019 with the 100K and 50-mile distances as Maureen Gillespie and Kelsey Spare threw down dominant performances. Gillespie, 35, of Dover, N.H., defended her 100K title in head-turning fashion. Her distance required four out-and-backs of the course, and she knocked 42 minutes off of her time from last year, winning in 10:01:44. Men’s champion Carsten Braun, 50, of Greenfield, Mass., followed nearly 20 minutes later in 10:21:06, followed by women’s runner-up Maria Chevalier, 44, of Cumberland, R.I. (12:14:22) and 27-year-old Jodie Davis of Boston, Mass., in 12:20:50. Emily Weld, 30, of Brownsville, Vt., rounded out the overall top five in 12:24:28, followed by Krista Alderdice, 42, and men’s runner-up Guy Alderdice Jr., 45, both of West Windsor, Vt., who finished side-by-side in 12:47:02. Konstantinos Pantazis, 25, of Northampton, Mass., rounded out the men’s top three in 12:55:19.
Meanwhile, after winning the 50K race outright in 2018, Spare jumped up to the 50-mile distance this year and the 35-year-old from Wendell, Mass., delivered a familiar result, cruising to the overall win in 7:39:12. Men’s champion Dave Dillon, 34, of Tewksbury, Mass., was her closest competitor, finishing in 8:34:05. John Sheedy, 50, of Berwick, Maine (9:13:45) and Keith McWilliams, 42, of Holliston, Mass., (9:18:51), rounded out the men’s top three while 47-year-old Julia Plourde of Dover Plains, N.Y. (9:28:47) and 36-year-old Kelyn Curitomay of Norwich, Conn. (9:52:59) completed the women’s podium.
A pair of Warwick, R.I. residents brought home the 50K wins. Robert Jackman, 36, topped the men’s field by a 20-minute margin, winning in 3:34:55, and 41-year-old Jacquelyn Jackman won the women’s race in 4:40:55. Garrett Simon, 22, of Cambridge, Mass., was the men’s runner-up (3:55:25) and 34-year-old Chris Neoh of Pelham, Mass., rounded out the men’s podium in 4:11:41. Claire Gadrow, 50, of South Kingston, R.I., was the second-place woman in 5:09:04, followed by 52-year-old Janet Sanderson of Wakefield, R.I., in 5:55:00.
Champoux, Senterfitt Win 25K
In addition to the ultramarathon races which began on Saturday, a Sunday 25K race was held. Runners at that distance raced a single out-and-back of the course with the potential for some serious speed on the non-technical rolling jeep road through the scenic Chesterfield Gorge. Interest in that distance surged from year one to year two, growing from a 32-runner field in 2018 to 54 participants in 2019.
David Champoux took top honors in the men’s field. The 54-year-old resident of Portland, Maine, logged a winning time of 1:53:27. It was just enough to hold off 15-year-old Will Draxler of Greenfield, Mass., and 25-year-old Andrew Pannish who tied for second in 1:55:25, followed by 38-year-old Randy Patrick of Fitzwilliam, N.H., in 1:56:28. In the women’s race, 32-year-old Aubrey Senterfitt of Southwick, Mass., brought home the win in 1:58:26, a new course record. She was followed by 47-year-old Ericka Emerson of Easthampton, Mass., in 2:13:58 and 29-year-old Madeleine Lempereur of Hatfield, Mass., in 2:15:59.