MassUltra Roundup: Joe English Twilight Challenge and El Taco Loco

A week after hundreds of New England ultrarunners took on the Ghost Train Rail Trail Race, the Oct. 22-24 racing weekend was mostly quiet for ultrarunners in the region — but not entirely. The Joe English Twilight Challenge welcomed runners for an evening of running in New Hampshire, and it leads off this edition of the roundup.

Joe English Twilight Challenge

A year after it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Joe English Twilight Challenge celebrated a return to in-person racing on Saturday, Oct. 23, at Freestyle Farm in Amherst, N.H. The event was first held in 2014, and since then it has been a popular attraction for runners due to its quality trails, hospitality, and unique offering as an evening race.

The event included a 6-hour ultra, as well as marathon and half marathon distances and relay options. Runners in the 6-hour race had to complete at least 11 loops of the 2.62-mile course to earn ultramarathon mileage. Of the 54 runners who took part, 19 achieved ultra status.

Leading all runners was Julia Huffman of Manchester, N.H., who completed 15 laps for 39.3 miles. Molly Karp of Natick, Mass., finished second overall with 13 laps for 34.06 miles. Joining Karp with 13 laps were the top two men, Alex Cabrera of Brookline, N.H., and Rick LeClerc of Sudbury, Mass. Cabrera finished 26 seconds ahead of LeClerc for the men’s win. Rounding out the men’s and women’s podiums were Mickel McClish of Beverly, Mass., and Katherine Jacques of Taunton, Mass., with 12 laps apiece for 31.44 miles. Others who also finished 12 laps were Peter Lawry of Charlestown, N.H., Christopher Naime of Wilmot, N.H., Taylor Scull of Bedford, N.H., and Emily Schoemmell of Pepperell, Mass.

Nine runners completed 11 laps for 28.82 miles. They were James Morrissey of West Boylston, Mass.; Allie Bartak of Sunapee, N.H.; Michele Norman of Wellesley, Mass.; Jessica Howland of Worcester, Mass.; Jacqueline Milzman of Rockville, Md.; Mike Fuller of Eliot, Maine; Roger Larrivee of Bedford, N.H.; Faith Eherts of Nashua, N.H.; and Emily Lowrey of New Boston, N.H.

In addition to the 6-hour race, runners also had the option of racing a marathon or half marathon. Marathon winners were Mark Nelson of West Kingston, R.I. (4:42:43) and Brenda Phillips of Arlington, Mass. (4:52:06). Winners of the half marathon were JD LaVallee of Henniker, N.H. (1:34:33) and Bridget Ybarra of Amherst, N.H. (1:41:09).

El Taco Loco

Lauren Mendoza already has a 100-mile finish to her name; she completed 104 miles last fall at the Hamsterwheel in New Hampshire. Mendoza didn’t have a 100K on her resume, however. That changed on Saturday, Oct. 23, when she took part in the second running of the El Taco Loco Trail Races in San Antonio, Texas.

Racing on the singletrack trails of the Land Heritage Institute, the 39-year-old resident of Feeding Hills, Mass., had a solid day of racing and earned her first 100K finish. Mendoza finished 15th out of 35 runners within 15 hours, and she was the first-place woman in 10:48:13. A local San Antonio runner, 28-year-old Garrett Philbrick, took home the overall win in 8:04:01. In addition to the 100K, another 77 runners completed a 50K race. No New England residents competed at that distance.

*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.

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