Two up-and-comers on the Massachusetts ultrarunning scene delivered impressive performances at big races on March 12. Boston’s Jack Murrel threw down a dominant performance at the Bel Monte 50-miler in Virginia and set a course record along the way. Meanwhile, Stoneham’s Brian Brennan narrowly missed a podium finish in his ultra debut at the Griffith Park 50K in California. Those big performances lead off this edition of the roundup.
Bel Monte Endurance Runs
Jack Murrel burst onto the ultrarunning scene two years ago with a top-10 finish at the White Pine 50 Backcountry Run in Utah. A year later, he turned heads with his top-25 performance at the Leadville Trail 100-miler, completing the high-altitude race in just over 22 hours. On Saturday, March 12, Murrel earned his first ultra victory at the 18th annual Bel Monte Endurance Runs in Lyndhurst, Va. Racing in the event’s second edition of its 50-mile race, Murrel threw down a dominant performance on the singletrack trails and jeep roads of the George Washington National Forest. The 28-year-old resident of Boston, Mass., pushed the pace and set a course record with a winning performance of 7:53:36. His closest competitor finished 21 minutes later.
Bel Monte is the first of what Murrel hopes will be a big year of racing. Up next, he will race the Napa Valley 50K in April, the Cruel Jewel 100-miler in May, and the Standhope 100-miler in July.
Murrel was one of 49 runners to finish the Bel Monte 50-miler within 13 ½ hours. Two other New England residents – Jason Roberts, 42, of New Canaan, Conn., and 41-year-old Alex Markle of Burlington, Mass. – also finished. Roberts placed 25th overall in 11:25:57; Markle was 36th in 11:58:56.
Another 77 runners finished the 50K race, including a pair of Connecticut residents. Kimberly Battipaglia, 50, of New Haven, and Vincent Framularo, 40, of Trumbull, ran together and finished together, Battipaglia in 7:02:25 and Framularo a second later in 7:20:36.
Griffith Park 50K
The Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail is still seven months away, but Brian Brennan is already primed and ready to race. Brennan, 22, of Stoneham, Mass., will race the 50-miler at Midstate Massive in October, but he made his ultramarathon debut at the Griffith Park 50K on Saturday, March 12, in Los Angeles, Calif. For Brennan, the performance was mighty impressive.
Brennan held his own in the sixth edition of the race, which amassed 6,200 feet of climbing on the hilly singletrack trails of Griffith Park, close to the iconic Hollywood Hills. Seventy-six runners completed the race within 10 ½ hours, but Brennan needed less than half that time. He finished fourth overall in 4:28:32, just 80 seconds away from a podium finish. Jesse Haynes, 49, of Corto de Caza, Calif., earned the win in 4:01:13.
Old West 50K
Laura Becker started running trail ultramarathons during the pandemic, and she proved to be quite good at it. After multiple virtual events, her first in-person ultra in July 2021 at the Angevine Farm 50K ended with a runner-up performance. She built upon that with a first-place overall finish at the Forgotten Forest 9-Hour Ultra in September, amassing 50 miles for her effort.
Becker, 37, of Manchester, Conn., kicked off 2022 with another strong showing. This time she raced the sixth edition of the Old West 50K on Saturday, March 12, in Julian, Calif. Competing on the trails of Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Becker finished 12th out of 73 finishers and secured a spot on the women’s podium by finishing third in the field in 5:07:50.
Jessica Schnier, 24, of Spring Valley, Calif., and Sarah Greenlee, 37, of San Diego, Calif., placed fourth and fifth overall and took the top two spots in the women’s field in 4:33:18 and 4:37:56, respectively.
Damon Valenzona, 35, of San Diego, Calif., led all runners in 3:50:25. Seng-Lai Tan, 50, of Sudbury, Mass., was the only other New England resident to take part in the race. He finished in 8:00:52.
The popular Yeti 7/11-Hour ultramarathon returned for its sixth edition on Sunday, March 13, in Lithia Springs, Ga. Runners competed for either 11 or 7 hours on a four-mile loop course of singletrack, doubletrack, mixture of flat and rolling hills at Sweetwater Creek State Park. Sixty runners took part in the 11-hour race, including Greg Wolodkin, 55, of Sutton, Mass., who tied for 15th overall with 32 miles. Richard Higgins, 53, of Canton, Ga., led all runners with 52 miles.
Another 51 runners completed the 7-hour race, but none were New England residents.
*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.