The arrival of May meant the return of more in-person racing across the United States. Among the most notable for New England ultrarunners were the Ultra Race of Champions in Virginia where Vermont’s Aliza Lapierre raced to victory, and the 10th annual Big A 50K in Maine that featured a field consisting almost entirely of New Englanders and a dynamite debut performance by Lila Gaudrault. Those races and more are featured in this week’s roundup.
Big A 50K
The 10th anniversary edition of the Big A 50K was held on Saturday, May 1, in York, Maine, and race founders and directors Bob Najar and Rich Collins treated runners to a day of sunny skies and stellar running conditions on the trails up, down, and all around Mt. Agamenticus.
The race field was capped at 50 runners, and they were required to complete three loops of the course within 10 hours. Ultimately, 43 did so, including one who delivered an impressive debut performance as an ultrarunner.
Lila Gaudrault, 18, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, finished second overall and first in the women’s field with her speedy time of 5:54, just three minutes off the overall win. For Gaudrault, it was her first ultramarathon, and it just might foreshadow what’s to come in the years ahead. A two-time Maine Class B cross country state champion at Cape Elizabeth High School, Gaudrault opted to forego her senior year of cross country after the COVID-19 pandemic generated so much uncertainty around whether races would take place. Instead, she turned her focus to training for marathons, trail ultras, and mountain races.
Only one runner completed the course faster than Gaudrault, and it required a solid effort to do so. George Aponte-Clarke, 52, of Portland, Maine, improved upon his fourth-place finish at the 2019 race by earning the overall victory in 2021 in 5:51.
Joining Aponte-Clarke on the men’s podium were Thomas Jarvella, 36, of Stratham, N.H., who finished in 6:05, and Matthew Marden, 42, of Framingham, Mass., who finished in 6:23. Joining Gaudrault on the women’s podium were Vermont’s Alexandra Brooks, 31, in 6:28, and Kristen Smith, 35, of Danvers, Mass., in 6:37. All of the men’s and women’s podium finishers secured spots in the overall top 10.
Additional top-10 finishers were New Hampshire’s Joseph Reeves, 44, in 6:27; Richard Kee, 32, of Beverly, Mass., in 6:29; Brendan Harrigan, 38, of Franklin, Mass., in 6:36; and Dan Gardoqui, 48, of Cape Neddick, Maine, in 6:37.
Ultra Race of Champions
After a 15-year run of dominating a majority of the trail ultramarathons that she entered, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Aliza Lapierre to press pause on racing in 2020. When she made her long-awaited return to the starting line, she picked up right where she left off — with a win.
Lapierre, 40, of Richmond, Vt., left the confines of her home state for the first time since the pandemic began when she headed to Skylark, Va., to race the Ultra Race of Champions 100K on Friday, April 30. She entered the race as one of the favorites, and her position was further solidified when some of her top competitors were unable to make the trip due to the pandemic. Ultimately, Lapierre ran among the top overall runners in the field, finished sixth overall, and topped the women’s field in 10:18:57, more than two hours ahead of her closest competitor.
David Hedges, 23, of Ithaca, N.Y., topped the men’s field in 8:51:19, holding off 38-year-old Stefano Ruzza of Lutherville Timonium, Md., by three minutes.
In addition to Lapierre, three more New England residents were among the 73 runners who finished the race within 20 hours. Graham Simon, 27, of Jamaica Plain, Mass., finished 35th in 13:41:51; Ryan Corken, 35, of Reading, Mass., was 49th in 14:18:56; and James Weedman, 38, of Middletown, R.I., finished in 17:08:33.
In addition to the 100K, another 98 runners completed the 50K race at UROC. Seabiscuit Horseman, 29, of Princeton, N.J., topped the men’s field in 3:32:57 while Tressa Breindel, 42, of Richmond, Va., led the women in 4:18:27. Two Massachusetts men were among the finishers of that race. Cody Frost, 39, of Andover placed 25th in 5:07:11 while Kingston’s Logan Arendt, 22, placed 37th in 5:22:50.
Alexander County 24-Hour
Padraig Mullins was the only New England resident on the track for the Alexander County 24-Hour race at Alexander Central High School on May 1-2 in Taylorsville, N.C., but the 39-year-old resident of Norton, Mass., struck a notable milestone.
Mullins completed 100 miles or more for at least the 25th time during an ultra event when he completed 100.0863 miles. Of the 43 runners who took part in the race, 15 finished 100 miles or more, with the top men and women earning spots on the U.S. 24-Hour National Team. Nick Coury, 33, of Scottsdale, Ariz., led all runners with 148.1377 miles, followed by 47-year-old Lee Whitaker of Fort Mill, S.C., with 133.1994 miles. Loretta Tobolske-Horn, 49, of Brighton, Mich., finished third overall and was the first woman with 111.539 miles.
The race was Mullins’ second ultra of 2021. Up next, he is slated to run the 24-hour race at Six Days in the Dome in Milwaukee, Wisc., in June.
Salt Flats Endurance Runs
Miriam Schwartz picked a truly unique course to run her first ultramarathon.
Schwartz, 40, of Belmont, Mass., traveled to Wendover, Utah, to take part in the 10th running of the Salt Flats Endurance Runs on April 30-May 1 at the Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway. Unlike traditional singletrack dirt or New England rock, the out-and-back course spent the majority of its miles on salt flats with just a handful of miles on mud.
Schwartz was one of 52 runners to complete the race, finishing in 7:42:18. Don Reichelt, 35, of Fairplay, Colo., led all runners in 3:55:04, followed closely by race runner-up Emily Viehl, 25, of Salt Lake City, Utah, in 3:58:34.
No New England residents were among the 55 finishers of the 100-mile race or the 35 finishers of the 50-mile race that were part of the same event.
*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.