Runners Deliver Super-Sized Performances at Scaled-Down Notchview Ultra

In hopes of bringing back the Notchview Ultra for in-person racing amid the COVID-19 pandemic after being forced to cancel the 2020 event, the Berkshire Ultra Running Community for Service (BURCS) offered a scaled-down lineup of time and distance offerings for 2021.

What started in 2017 with three time offerings (24, 12 and 6 hours) grew into a massive multi-day endurance festival in 2019 with 135 runners taking part in one of the 72-hour, 48-hour, 24-hour, 12-hour, 6-hour and 3-hour races or the Quadzilla (4x52K).

The BURCS obtained approval from the Trustees of Reservations to play host to this year’s event on Sept. 10-12 at Notchview Reservation in Windsor, Mass., but they scaled the lineup back to just three time-based options – 48, 24 and 12 hours – with 71 runners taking part, to allow for plenty of extra space on the 1.9-mile loop course. The small field produced plenty of big-time performances in each of the time categories as nearly every course record was either matched or surpassed.

Nobody had a bigger weekend than Jessie Makela. Makela made her Notchview debut in 2019 with a 171-mile performance in the 72-hour race. This year she took on the 48-hour event, and the 37-year-old from Mystic, Conn., did more than just set a new women’s course record for the event – she also established the overall course record. Makela hammered out 129.2 miles, surpassing both the men’s course record of 123.5 miles by Bill Odendahl in 2019 and the women’s course record of 121.6 miles by Claire Robinson-White from 2019.

While Makela led the way, the entire women’s record board for the 48-hour event was rewritten this year. Robyn Bratica, 37, of Milford, Mass., also surpassed the previous women’s course record and tied the men’s mark with a 123.5-mile performance. Rounding out the women’s podium and overall top three in the 48-hour event was April Farnham, 54, of Plainfield, Vt., who tied the previous course record by cranking out 121.6 miles.

George Alexion, 62, of Waterboro, Maine, finished fourth overall and topped the men’s 48-hour field with 119.7 miles, a performance that was matched by 29-year-old Benjamin Manning of Palmer, Mass. Rounding out the men’s podium was Robert Breckenridge, 50, of Keene, N.H., who logged 114.0 miles.

Of the 37 runners who took part in the 48-hour race, 21 surpassed the 100-mile mark with women earning 10 of the top 15 spots. Karen Giroux, 55, of Salem, Mass., and Claire Robinson-White, 42, of Milton, Vt., each completed 110.2 miles; Celeste Fong, 45, of Middletown, Conn., logged 106.4 miles; Sue Tarnawa, 51, of Pittsfield, Mass., completed 104.5 miles; Ann Alexion, 54, of Waterboro, Maine., 38-year-old Tiffany Fischer of South Grafton, Mass., 47-year-old Sandee Landon of Hudson, Mass., and 25-year-old Kimberly Wrate of New Hartford, N.Y., all completed 102.6 miles; and Judy Proteau, 47, of Marlborough, Mass., finished 100.7 miles. Additional men who surpassed 100 miles included Bill Odendahl, 56, of Trumbull, Conn., with 108.3 miles; John Brown, 63, of Northbridge, Mass., and Ira Wheeler, 43, of Danville, Vt., with 102.6 miles apiece; and 50-year-old Michael Crutchley of North Stonington, Conn, 39-year-old Beau Fair of Pittsfield, Mass., and 51-year-old Matthew Hall of Dudley, Mass., with 100.7 miles apiece.

In the 24-hour race, 38-year-old Benjamin Simanski of Greenfield, Mass., made a dominant Notchview debut, setting a new course record with 108.3 miles after surpassing Orefice’s record of 102.6 from 2019. Simanski became the second male and third runner ever to break the 100-mile mark in the 24-hour race at Notchview. He was joined in that accomplishment a few hours later as the top two women also surpassed 100 miles. Both Mae Polson, 37, of Leeds, Mass., and Rebecca Burke, 45, of Portland, Conn., finished 100.7 miles, tying the course record which Burke established in 2019. The trio of triple-digit mileage runners outdistanced the remainder of the field by a large margin. Men’s runner-up and fourth overall finisher James Attardi, 30, of Worcester, Mass., finished his race with 76 miles, followed by 33-year-old Nick Curelop of Great Barrington, Mass., with 70.3 miles. Jake Dissinger, 39, of Northampton, Mass., logged 68.4 miles in his final tune-up before racing the Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail 100-miler.

Sixteen runners took part in the 24-hour race. All of them ran at least a 50K, and 12 surpassed the 50-mile mark.

The 12-hour race rounded out the weekend. Of the 18 runners who took part, 16 surpassed the marathon distance and 14 tallied a 50K or farther. None had a bigger day than Durgesh Mankekar. The 44-year-old resident of Medford, Mass., earned his third podium finish at a BURCS race this season (third at Jug End; second at Sweltering Summer) by taking home the overall win in the 12-hour race with a 62.7-mile performance. Mankekar tied the men’s course record (set by Matt Aponte and Matt Breidenstein in 2019) while also wrapping up his build-up to October’s Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail 100-miler. A few loops behind Mankekar was 35-year-old Emily Kisicki of Montpelier, Vt., who led the women’s field and finished second overall with a women’s course-record performance of 58.9 miles. Kisicki broke the previous record of 55.1 set by Rebecca Burke and Ann Alessandrini in 2018.

Rounding out the men’s podium were Tony Didomizio, 35, of Rocky Hill, Conn., with 53.2 miles and John De Sousa, 60, of Springfield, Mass., with 49.4 miles. Joining Kisicki on the women’s podium were Erin Wilkie, 32, of Clinton, Mass., and Kathryn Stoker, 54, of Norwalk, Conn., with 51.3 miles apiece.


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