October opened with a bang for New England ultrarunners. With cooler temperatures starting to settle in and a still jam-packed race calendar, the Oct. 1-3 weekend had to be broken into two roundups to capture everything. This first one starts with the eye-popping battle between Ed Clifford and Brian Burke at Bubba’s Backyard Ultra as the duo raced for nearly 48 hours before only one was left standing.
Bubba’s Backyard Ultra
In the inaugural edition of Bubba’s Backyard Ultra in 2019, just 19 runners toed the line and Ed Clifford of Raymond, N.H., took home the win with 86 miles.
What a difference two years makes. On Saturday, Oct. 2, 66 runners took on the third annual last-person-standing format event in Center Conway, N.H., racing a 3.5-mile loop every hour, on the hour, until only one runner remained standing and was able to complete a final lap. Clifford, 56, secured his third straight victory with a record mileage performance, but it only happened because he was able to withstand a fierce challenge from 39-year-old Brian Burke of Somerville, Mass.
Of the 66 runners who started the event, 61 completed at least 10 hours for a 50K. The top 25 runners competed for at least 20 hours and surpassed the 100K distance. From there, the field progressively dwindled. Fifth-place female and 18th overall finisher Katherine Van Kirk, 24, of Cambridge, Mass., stopped after 66.5 miles. One lap later, third- and fourth-place women Sarah Davidson, 40, of North Conway, N.H., and Sydney Dolan, 24, of Boston, Mass., halted with 70 miles on their legs. Women’s runner-up Hilary McCloy, 38, of Jackson, N.H., ended her race after 23 hours and 73.5 miles, at which point 28-year-old Maia Buckingham of Burlington, Vt., was the last woman remaining alongside 13 men.
Others soon stopped. Shane Robinson, 44, of North Conway, N.H., and John Roy, 27, of Manchester, N.H., finished with 84 miles apiece. Four more runners — Declan Kiley, 22, of North Woodstock, N.H.; Adam Ribeiro, 30, of Lowell, Mass.; Bill Cobb, 35, of Portsmouth, N.H.; and Will Robinson, 26, of Middlebury, Vt. — retired after 27 hours and 87.5 miles. When Buckingham ended her race after 94.5 miles alongside 30-year-old Austin Black of Intervale, N.H., just five runners remained in the field.
Will Peterson, 23, of Yarmouth, Maine, was the first of the remaining runners to retire, though he’d made it 30 hours and 105 miles. Three hours later, 36-year-old John Paul Krol of Waitsfield, Vt., stopped with 115.5 miles on his legs. One loop later, 40-year-old Andrew Drummond of Jackson, N.H., ended his journey with 119 miles.
After 34 hours, it was down to Clifford and Burke. They stepped back up to the starting line and took on another loop. Then they did it again, and again, and again. For 10 straight hours it was just Clifford and Burke, side by side at the starting line trying to outlast each other. Finally, after 44 hours and 154 miles, Burke was done. Clifford returned to the starting line by himself and gutted out one final loop. His third straight victory was the hardest with 157.5 miles.
Broken Arrow Skyrace 52K
Two New England residents selected a grueling race to attempt for their first trail ultramarathons. Matt Doubleday, 28, of Portsmouth, N.H., and Belinda Nyakowa, 41, of Leominster, Mass., traveled to the West Coast to race the fourth running of the Broken Arrow Skyrace 52K on Saturday, Oct. 2, in Lake Tahoe, Calif. The New Englanders took on a rugged, high-altitude course that began at 6,200 feet and amassed more than 10,000 feet of climbing on rocky, highly technical terrain with plenty of exposure.
Both Doubleday and Nyakowa endured the challenge and successfully finished. Doubleday – whose previous trail races included the Chocorua 25K and Kilkenny Ridge 25K in New Hampshire – finished 63rd overall in 6:45:27. Nyakowa followed a few hours later in 9:16:51.
Of the 303 runners who started the race, 274 finished within 12 hours. The men’s and women’s victories went to Seth Ruhling, 27, of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Allie McLaughlin, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colo., who set new course records with times of 4:24:46 and 4:59:42, respectively.
Sheila Boyle closed out her first decade of ultrarunning by completing her first 100K. Boyle, 54, of Concord, Mass., traveled cross-country to California to race the ninth edition of the Cuyamaca 100K on Saturday, Oct. 2, in Julian, Calif. The race took place on trails mostly within Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, covering three separate loops and summiting 6,500-foot Cuyamaca Peak along the way. Boyle was one of 159 runners who finished the race within 19 hours, while another 72 started the race but did not finish. Boyle finished 69th overall and 15th among the women’s field in 15:04:08.
While the race was at least the 15th ultra Boyle has completed and her first 100K, she has gone farther before. In 2018, Boyle finished the Ghost Train 100-miler in 24:11:03.
Crested Butte Ultra
Course records fell at the fourth running of the Crested Butte Ultra 50K on Saturday, Oct. 2, in Crested Butte, Colo. Frenchman Baptiste Petitjean, 26, and 31-year-old Anne Flower of Covington, Ky., both hammered the course that wound its way through the Gunnison National Forest and set new men’s and women’s course records, finishing in 4:25:02 and 5:06:17, respectively.
Three New England residents also were among the 169 finishers of the race. Valerie Moore, 29, of Quincy, Mass., successfully earned her fourth ultramarathon finish and second of the year, placing 74th overall in 7:19:35. Dawn Montague, 43, of Greenfield, Mass., earned her second ultra finish – and second in Colorado – when she completed the race in 7:52:00. Additionally, ultra newcomer Hannah Ladeau, 27, of Manchester, N.H., crossed the finish line in 9:11:28.
The event also included 53-mile and 105K ultra races. No New England residents were among the finishers of the 53-miler, and no results were available for the 105K.
*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.