Since 1998, the G.A.C. Fat Ass 50K has kicked off the new ultrarunning year in New England all but three times. The 2004 and 2018 events were canceled due to dangerous weather – severe cold or blizzard-like conditions – and the 2021 race was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Snow blanketed the course again this year, but with plenty of time to plow roads – as well as COVID vaccines now widely available – neither weather nor pandemic prevented this year’s event from happening. Familiar faces and newcomers alike came together to usher in the new year and log some miles at this classic New England ultra.
Around 100 runners took part in the 22nd running of the G.A.C. Fat Ass 50K on Saturday, Jan. 8, at Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield, Mass. They once again took on a 6.2-mile loop course, with some runners aiming to run or walk one loop and many others pressing onward for the full five-loop 50K.
Davis Rogers made his local trail-running debut in October when he raced to victory in the 8.3-miler at the Powisset Farm Trail Run in Dover. Less than three months later, the 25-year-old Gloucester resident surged onto the ultra scene with a winning effort. Rogers took home the victory in 4:54, holding off 42-year-old Ben Schersten of Beverly, Mass., who finished second in 4:59. The race was Schersten’s debut at the Fat Ass event, though he’s no stranger to G.A.C. races. He previously won the Stone Cat marathon in 2018 and finished in the top 10 at the Stone Cat 50K in 2019. Rounding out the men’s podium was Ricky Kee, 33, of Beverly, Mass., in 5:05. Dan West, 36, of Hampton, N.H., finished fourth overall in 5:18, followed by Sam Davis, 28, of West Roxbury, Mass., in 5:26.
Topping the women’s field and placing ninth overall was Crystal Ross, 41, of Carver, Mass., in 5:55. A veteran ultrarunner, Ross made her G.A.C. race debut at the Fat Ass 50K. Xiali He, 46, of Upton, Mass., finished second in the women’s field in 6:40, and Jennifer Rizzo, 38, of Marblehead, Mass., rounded out the top three in 7:17.
Of the total participants at the Fat Ass 50K, 19 completed the 50K distance. Another 11 earned marathon finishes, led by Greg Esbitt, 48, of Ipswich, Mass., in 4:40.
In addition to logging miles, many runners brought clothing to donate to Beverly Bootstraps, a non-profit organization that provides social services to communities on the North Shore. Runners amassed three large bags of clothing to donate.