Runners endured the full spectrum of weather conditions during the first 20 years of the G.A.C. Fat Ass 50K, from bone-chilling temperatures far below freezing, to blizzard conditions, to rain, ice, sun and unseasonably warm temperatures.
The 21st annual event took place Saturday, Jan. 4, at Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield, Mass., and it featured a little bit of everything. Patches of snow and ice covered the 6.2-mile loop course, as did a fair amount of mud thanks to some thawing in the mid-40s temperatures and the rain that fell on and off during the race. The damp yet comfortable conditions were ideal for runners who sought several loops and didn’t mind having mud-coated calves and shoes.
While the weather has fluctuated from year to year, what hasn’t changed is the laid-back atmosphere. More “fun run” than “race,” the classic New England ultra remains a popular draw for runners seeking their first ultramarathon of the year, as well as those looking to log a lap or two with friends to set the tone for the new year. For the second year in a row a crowd of around 150 runners packed the starting line, and for the second year in a row 30 of them completed five loops of the course for an official 50K.
Familiar faces led the way among both the women’s and men’s fields. Jeff Ingalls, 49, of Newburyport, Mass., earned his third victory in six tries on the course, completing his five loops in 4:07. His other victories came in 2014 and 2017 to go along with third-place efforts in 2013 and 2015 and a fourth-place finish in 2016. Meanwhile, 38-year-old Brian Burke of Somerville, Mass., was the men’s runner-up for the second year in a row, clocking a time of 4:16. A G.A.C. newcomer, Jason Rahel, finished third in 4:23, followed two minutes later by 40-year-old Ross Anderson of Franklin, Mass., and 54-year-old Paul Young of North Andover, Mass., both in 4:25. For Young, it was his fifth top-five finish at the event.
A year after placing second in the women’s field, 34-year-old Kristen Smith of Danvers, Mass., took top honors in 5:08. It was a strong start to 2020 following a big year for Smith that included runner-up finishes at the Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail 100-miler and the Big A 50K as well as a fifth-place finish at the Manitou’s Revenge 54-miler. The women’s runner-up, 35-year-old Robyn Bratica of Milford, Mass., finished in 5:26, followed by 2015 winner Lynn Poyant, 56, of New Bedford, Mass., in 5:40.
The 22nd annual G.A.C. Fat Ass 50K is tentatively set for 9 a.m. Saturday, January 9, 2021, at Bradley Palmer State Park.