A month ago, Jennifer Kenty put on an impressive display of speed when she dominated the Ghost Train Rail Trail Race 100-miler, winning the race outright by 2 ½ hours and clocking the third-fastest women’s time in course history. Four weeks later, Kenty once again turned heads – though this time it was for her patient endurance as she outdueled the rest of the field at the Race for DFL.
The Race for DFL is the creation of Race Director Amy Rusiecki as her foray into the increasingly popular Last Person Standing format of races. She first held the event in 2019 at a friend’s property. Then, in 2020 the land was no longer available, though even if it had been the race would not have happened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rusiecki sought to revive the race in 2021, and she found a willing partner in the Trustees of Reservations who agreed to allow Rusiecki to have the race at the Chesterfield Gorge Reservation in West Chesterfield, Mass. Rusiecki also plays host to the Chesterfield Gorge Ultra at the same location.
The revival of the Race for DFL took place Nov. 13-14, and runners were tasked with completing a 4.1666-mile course within the hour, with a new race starting on the hour, every hour, until just one runner remained.
Sixty-five runners showed up to race, be it for one loop, a few loops, or through the night and into the following morning. Kenty, 39, was expected to be among the favorites after the Medford, Mass., resident delivered a masterpiece of a performance at Ghost Train. It was her second 100-mile win of the year, having also won at that distance at the Chesterfield Gorge Ultra in July.
Other strong likely contenders included Eli Burakian, 43, of Brownsville, Vt., who has completed multiple 100-milers including a win at the 2018 Hamsterwheel and fourth-place finish at the Riverlands 100 this year; 18-year-old Will Draxler of Charlemont, Mass., who tied for third at the original Race for DFL and placed fifth in the 100K at this year’s Chesterfield Gorge Ultra; 42-year-old Dan Grip of Wendell, Mass., who won the Manitou’s Revenge 54-miler this year and was the runner-up at the Virgil Crest 100; multiple 100-mile finishers Jodie Davis, 29, of Boston, Mass., and Lisa Rising, 30, of Cambridge, Mass; 52-year-old Howie Breinan of Manchester, Conn., who was the runner-up at the first DFL race and a finisher of dozens of ultras; and the speedy Bryce Spare, 38, of Adams, Mass., who was the runner-up in the 100K at this year’s Chesterfield Gorge Ultra.
When runners first toed the line at 8 a.m. Saturday, it was 37 degrees, dry and sunny, though not much of that sun made it to the base of the gorge where the runners were. By early afternoon, any hopes for ideal running conditions were erased as a thunderstorm crossed the New York/Massachusetts border and closed in on West Chesterfield. The temperature plummeted and a heavy rain drenched the remaining runners. By the time the rain cleared in the early evening, the field had been whittled down to 29 runners who were on their ninth loop. After nine hours and 37.5 miles, the group dwindled to less than 20.
Spare, Rising, David Champoux, Nathan Carlson, Stephen Fleck and Tyler Silverman retired after 12 laps and 50 miles, leaving nine runners still in contention. One lap later, Robert Lynch called it a day with 54.2 miles on his legs. Davis and Nick Triolo joined him on the sidelines after a 14th loop and 58.3 miles.
Breinan and Bill Warner called it a day after 62.5 miles, and just three runners remained. The trio of Kenty, Burakian and Draxler proceeded to line up side by side, hour after hour, all through the night. Shortly after sunrise on Sunday morning, they lined up again and completed their 24th trip through the course, after which point Draxler retired from the race. Just like the first DFL, Draxler finished in third place, but this time he did so after running 100 miles for the first time in his life.
One loop later, Burakian’s race ended after 25 hours and 104.2 miles. As the Last Person Standing game goes, the winner must complete one more loop than any other runner, meaning Kenty needed a 26th trip through the course. She did so and secured victory after running 108.3 miles.
Barnett Edges Spare for Fastest Lap
In addition to the Last Person Standing competition, Rusiecki also held a competition to see which runner could complete the fastest lap of the course. Runners who took on the challenge recognized that doing so likely would impact their ability to complete the most miles and be the last runner standing. Still, a few engaged in spirited competition at the shorter distance and threw down some speedy ties. Jacob Barnett, 36, of Arlington, Mass., hammered the fastest loop in 24:36 on a day where he completed four total loops of the course for 16.7 miles. Spare was the second-fastest with a 25:50 lap as part of a 12-loop, 50-mile day.