A light weekend of ultrarunning was on tap in the United States on the final weekend before Thanksgiving, with just a handful of ultras across the country. One race dwarfed them all as the nation’s oldest ultra,the JFK 50, played host to around 1,000 runners in Maryland, including several from New England. Meanwhile, a few others headed West to Utah for the Dead Horse Ultras in Utah. Both races are covered in this week’s roundup.
The nation’s oldest ultramarathon, the JFK 50, played host to its 58th annual race on Saturday, Nov. 21, starting in Boonsboro and finishing in Williamsport, Md. Runners tackled portions of the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal towpath along the way.
The race typically captures attention for the top-tier talent that it draws for its elite field. This year was no different, however the eyes of the sport were also directed at the event as it welcomed up to 1,200 entrants and used 250-person wave starts during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting its highest levels throughout the country.
The event’s top runners didn’t disappoint as Hayden Hawks of Cedar City, Utah, hammered home the win in 5:18:40. The top five men all finished in less than 6 hours. In the women’s field, Camille Herron of Alamosa, Colo., earned the victory in 6:31:14 while finishing 11th overall out of 636 finishers within the 13-hour time limit.
Twenty-nine New England residents were among the finishers, and Blake Benke of Westport, Conn., was the top finisher from the region, placing 29th overall in 7:18:30. Dima Feinhaus of Waban, Mass., placed 58th in 7:47:31; Rufus Chaffee of Williamsburg, Mass., was 63rd in 7:54:28; Brenda Fortin of Williamsburg, Mass., was 72nd (and the ninth-place female) in 8:04:28; Matthew O’Halloran of Wilton, Conn., finished 78th in 8:40:21; Brian Power of Westport, Conn., was 86th in 8:46:47; and Beth Peterson of North Easton, Mass., finished 98th (13th female) in 8:20:39.
Others who finished in less than 10 hours were John McCabe of Stamford, Conn. (8:50:55); Arnold Twitchell of South Paris, Maine (8:58:18); Todd Falker of Somerville, Mass. (9:25:31); and JT Neal of Woburn, Mass. (9:53:09).
Additional New England residents who were among the finishers of the 50-mile race were Shonda Morris of Sudbury, Mass. (10:14:31); Eliza Duddy of Marlborough, Mass. (10:14:32); Tommy Johnson of Eastham, Mass. (10:37:26); Jeffrey Ray of New London, N.H. (10:45:08); John McNamara of Medway, Mass. (10:55:50); Katya Divari of Ashland, Mass. (11:05:32); Michael Xiang of Winchester, Mass. (11:08:22); Benjamin Fry of Woburn, Mass. (11:11:00); Jeff Burdeshaw of Westport, Conn. (11:33:45); Mark Laferriere of Somersworth, N.H. (11:34:40); Randy Goad of Berwick, Maine (11:34:44); David Toothaker of Brunswick, Maine (11:37:57); Rhiana Sherwood of Millbury, Mass. (11:54:47); Jonathan Loer of Millis, Mass. (12:00:04); Robb McDonald of Newport, R.I. (12:01:02); Timothy Loftus of Manchester, Conn. (12:06:55); Rami Mitri of Holliston, Mass. (12:12:30); and Raj Woolever of Brunswick, Maine (12:33:30).
Dead Horse Ultras
Scenic views and a blend of slickrock and sandy trails lured a handful of New England residents out West for the fifth annual Dead Horse Ultras on Saturday, Nov. 21, in Moab, Utah. The course wound its way through the Magnificent Seven Trails system and treated runners to panoramic views of Arches National Park and the La Sal Mountains along the way.
A trio of New England residents tackled the 50-mile race, which included 4,500 feet of climbing on the highly runnable course. Kimberly Fischer, 33, of Portland, Maine, was the top finisher from the region as she placed 87th overall in her second ultra, logging a time of 10:41:26. Steven Gourley, 30, of Colchester, Vt., earned his first-ever ultra finish in 11:30:10, good for 119th place. Erin Tiernan, 41, of Oak Bluffs, Mass., was the final of 139 finishers, crossing the line in 12:36:47 for her ninth ultramarathon finish and second 50-miler.
Alex Nichols, 35, of Colorado Springs, Colo., took home the win in the men’s field in 6:10:58, while 36-year-old Kristina Trygstad-Saari of Bozeman, Mont., won the women’s race in 7:22:04 and finished seventh overall. Both set new course records in their respective divisions, with Nichols toppling the previous men’s course record that was held by former Boston, Mass., resident Kyle Pietari who won the 2018 race in 6:23:06.
There were 252 finishers in the 50K race, led by 42-year-old Jason Schlarb of Durango, Colo., in 3:35:26. None of the finishers at that distance were New England residents.
*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.