Two weeks after a few-dozen members reunited for their first in-person racing in nearly two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Berkshire Ultra Running Community for Service (BURCS) played host to an even larger gathering of ultrarunners with the eighth annual Sweltering Summer 8-Hour Ultra and 5K on Saturday, Aug. 14, at Clapp Park in Pittsfield, Mass.
Seventy-three runners took part in the 8-hour race while another 16 competed in the 5K on the .355-mile dirt and cinder track that loops through Clapp Park. Fifty-three runners completed at least 74 laps of the track and earned marathon status or more. Thirty-seven of them surpassed the 30-mile mark and entered true ultramarathon territory, and those who led the way were familiar faces on the Sweltering Summer Course.
Yuki Chorney, 49, of Mont Vernon, N.H., made a big impact at her Sweltering Summer debut in 2019 when she finished third overall, won the women’s race, and secured the No. 2 spot on the women’s course record board for total miles (51.16). After a year away due to the pandemic, she returned in 2021 and added to her legacy at the race. She ran one fewer lap this time and claimed the No. 3 spot on the record board with her 50.76-mile total, but this time she earned the overall victory. She’s the first woman to top the overall leaderboard in event history.
Chorney was pushed throughout the day by a trio of men who’ve also had many successful runs at Sweltering Summer, as well as two more women who’ve also experienced plenty of success at the race.
Michael Popham, 40, of Bedford, N.H., ran a personal-best for total mileage with 47.21 miles to top the men’s field and finish second overall. Popham finished ninth overall in his Sweltering Summer debut in 2019, and then finished fifth overall in the 2020 virtual edition before having a breakthrough performance in 2021. Close behind him was 44-year-old Durgesh Mankekar of Medford, Mass. Mankekar is preparing for the Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail 100-miler in October, and he proved at Sweltering Summer that his legs are primed and ready to go. The 10th overall finisher in 2019 (44.41 miles) and runner-up at the 2020 virtual race (48.82 miles), Mankekar earned a second-place finish in the men’s field and third place overall in 2021 with 46.15 miles. Hot on his heels was 2019 Sweltering Summer champion Eric Ciocca, 43, of Northampton, Mass. After tallying 52.22 miles in 2019, Ciocca rounded out the men’s podium this year with 45.79 miles.
The second- and third-place women who joined Chorney on the podium each have prior podium experience at Sweltering Summer. Lindsay Croshier, 38, of Medford, Mass., has been a regular on the podium since her Sweltering Summer debut in 2013 when she placed third. She finished third again in 2014, then was the runner-up in 2015, 2017 and 2018. She added another runner-up finish in 2021 with 44.37 miles and also placed fifth overall. Sarah Bousquet, 38, of South Hadley, Mass., rounded out the women’s podium and finished sixth overall with 44.02 miles. She finished eighth in her Sweltering Summer debut in 2016, fifth in 2017, third in 2018 and second in 2019.
Nine more runners surpassed the 40-mile mark during the 8-hour race. Jared Buchannan, 31, of Ellington, Conn., completed 42.95 miles; Chris Clapp, 51, of Portsmouth, N.H., and Bill Odendahl, 56, of Trumbull, Conn., each logged 42.24 miles; Robert Jeffers, 51, of Cohasset, Mass., finished 41.18 miles; Jay Durang, 45, of Adams, Mass., finished 41.18 miles; both Kyle Gwilt, 18, of Pittsfield, Mass., and 56-year-old Pete Colaizzo of Hyde Park, N.Y., logged 40.82 miles apiece; and 47-year-old Rick Shoup of Nagatuck, Conn., and 45-year-old Eric Chorney of Mont Vernon, N.H., each ran 40.47 miles.
Fitzroy Earns Third Straight Victory in 5K
After running the marathon at Sweltering Summer in 2017, Bethany Fitzroy turned her focus to the 5K distance in 2018. That year, she finished as the second-place female and second-place overall runner. The following year, she knocked nearly two minutes off her time and won the women’s race. The race was held virtually in 2020, and Fitzroy again topped the women’s field. In-person racing resumed this year, and Fitzroy was once again back at the starting line for the 5K. The 36-year-old from Plainville, Mass., once again found herself in a familiar position as she finished second overall and won the women’s race in 25:17. Only one runner – men’s champion Joshua Wessler, 36, of New York, N.Y. – finished faster, taking the overall win in 20:04. Wessler set a men’s course record with his effort, in what was his BURCS debut.
Sixteen runners took part in the 5K race. David Colburn, 58, of Worcester, Mass., was the men’s runner-up in 28:57, followed by Peter Fitzroy, 36, of Plainville, Mass., in 32:47. Marie Gryszowka, 36, of Spencer, Mass., was the women’s runner-up in 35:54, followed by Sarah Frank, 34, of New York, N.Y., in 37:19.
Race Proceeds Benefit the AJY Fund
The BURCS have always prioritized the “S” in their name – Service – and each of their races raises money to support a variety of causes. Proceeds from Sweltering Summer benefited AJY Fund, a non-profit organization in northern Berkshire County that provides services and support for children who’ve been diagnosed with cancer. As of Aug. 28, Race Director Benn Griffin reported that the 2021 race has raised nearly $6,000 for AJY Fund.