With Thanksgiving just a few days away, several ultrarunners from New England sought out opportunities to burn a bunch of calories prior to the big holiday feast. Most headed to Maryland for the classic JFK, and two Massachusetts women, Somerville’s Sarah Aponte and Boston’s Kate Mingle earned top-10 finishes, as did Vermont’s Alexander Jinks. Additionally, Eric Despres of Gardner, Mass., earned his second straight podium finish at the Dinosaur Valley 100 in Texas, and Westminster’s Will Bradley tallied 200 miles in Florida at the Icarus UltraFest. All of those feats are highlighted in this week’s roundup.
The JFK 50 is always the site of fast performances, and the 57th annual 50-mile race was no exception on Saturday, Nov. 23, in Boonsboro, Md. 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 2019 edition saw 953 starters and 867 finishers within 13 hours, including 55 from New England. That included one of the top 10 men and two of the top 10 women.
In the men’s race, 25-year-old Seth Ruhling of Chattanooga, Tenn., built upon his recent victory at the StumpJump 50K by hammering out a hard-earned victory at JFK in 5:38:11., good for the fifth-fastest time in course history. Zach Bitter, 33, of Phoenix, Ariz., was a close second in 5:42:06, followed by 27-year-old Luke Paulson of Carrboro, N.C., in 5:44:51. They were the lone runners to finish in less than six hours. A New England resident came close to joining them, however. Alexander Jinks, 33, of Montpelier, Vt., spent the entire day in the top 10 and finished sixth overall in 6:10:58. It was the two-time Ghost Train 100-mile champion’s debut performance at JFK. Not far behind him was 24-year-old Andrew MacGibbon of Goffstown, N.H., who finished 14th overall in 6:34:09. Tim Goric, 33, of West Hartford, Conn., placed 30th overall in 7:03:08, and 40-year-old Sean Meehan of Bloomfield, Conn., finished 67th in 7:50:24 to round out the top New England men.
A close battle went right down to the wire in the women’s race, with 39-year-old Cecilia Flori of Hamilton, New Zealand, winning in 6:46:30, followed by 29-year-old Caroline Veltri of Boulder, Colo., in 6:47:48, and 28-year-old Ellie Pell of Ithaca, N.Y., in 6:48:21.
Two Massachusetts women cracked the top 10, led by Somerville’s Sarah Aponte, 29, who steadily climbed through the field and finished fifth in 7:19:21. Boston’s Kate Mingle, 28, placed ninth in 7:43:37.
Dinosaur Valley 100
A year after placing second at the Dinosaur Valley 100-Mile Endurance Run, Eric Despres returned to Glen Rose, Texas, on Nov. 23-24 for another shot at the course at Dinosaur Valley State Park. Formerly known as the Big Cedar Endurance Run and held at a different location, Dinosaur Valley challenges runners with a multi-loop course with a variety of surfaces. Runners tackle a five-mile loop at the start, followed by nine 10.5-mile loops on singletrack dirt and doubletrack trails with a mixture of buffed-out sections and rocky, rooty technical trail.
The race routinely has a low finisher rate, and 2019 was no different. Of the 19 starters, just six finished. Once again, Despres was among the top performers. Despres, 44, of Gardner, Mass., improved on his overall position by finishing second this year in 25:44:25. Brent Heady, 44, of Irving, Texas, won the race in 24:44:25.
Despres finished the 2018 race in 23:09:12, a mark that remains the third-fastest time on the course.
The sixth annual Icarus UltraFest once again offered runners the chance to take on a 1K loop course as many times as possible within 144 hours, 72 hours, 48 hours, 24 hours, or 12 hours on Nov. 21-24 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. One New England resident was up to the challenge, and he took part in the longest time offering.
Will Bradley, 33, of Westminster, Mass., was one of 11 runners who entered the 144-hour event, and Bradley was one of seven who reached or surpassed the 200-mile mark. Bradley finished seventh overall with 200.48 miles completed. Pablo Espinosa, 38, of St-Polycarpe, Quebec, was the top overall finisher with 405.47 miles, followed by 50-year-old Mark McCaslin of Clarkston, Mich., with 329.2 miles.
Bradley took part in the 144-hour race at the 2018 event and posted 100.24 miles, so he doubled his effort this time. Up next for Bradley are two major endurance challenges in 2020 with the 200K Salsa Walk in Semla, Texas, in February, followed by the Infinitus 888K in Vermont in May.
*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.