The ultrarunning scene is reopening slowly and cautiously as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to increase its presence throughout the United States. Only a handful of in-person races have taken place in recent weeks, most of them in the West, with minimal representation from New England residents who would be required to travel cross-country. Two Massachusetts men made the journey and represented the region at the USATF Utah 50-Mile Trail Championships at the Squaw Peak 50 on June 13 in Utah, and we have them covered in this edition of the roundup.
Squaw Peak 50
The Squaw Peak 50 bills itself as the fourth-hardest 50-mile race in the United States with its combination of altitude and more than 13,000 feet of vertical gain in the Wasatch Mountains. That made it a fitting test of ultrarunners’ grit as the host of the USATF Utah 50-Mile Trail Championship event on June 13 in Provo, Utah.
The event is one of the first in-person ultramarathons to take place since races nationwide were either canceled, postponed or changed to virtual events as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe. Safety procedures were implemented to make the event happen, including wave starts, cupless aid stations, runners not allowed to grab snacks at aid stations, and cancellation of the pre-race meal, among other changes.
The altitude, elevation change, and mixture of singletrack trails, dirt roads and pavement provided plenty of challenge as well as opportunities to run fast. Hayden Hawks, 29, of Cedar City, Utah, took full advantage, taking home the men’s victory in 7:28:40 and setting a new course record by seven minutes. Ashley Paulson, 38, of St. George, Utah, topped the women’s field and placed ninth overall in 9:22:01.
Of the 248 runners who finished within 22 hours, only two hailed from New England. Jeff Miner, 49, of Andover, Mass., had a strong day and finished 27th overall in 10:53:53. Additionally, 67-year-old Al Catalano of Newbury, Mass., placed 230th overall in 17:07:20. Catalano raced on terrain that was familiar to him as a two-time finisher of the Wasatch 100-Miler (2002, 2004).