Just as race director Amy Rusiecki was starting to lay the foundation for the Beast Coast Trail Running Series in 2019 and early 2020, she encountered a massive route-blocking blowdown in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the better part of 18 months, Rusiecki was forced to cancel races, including the Mt. Toby Ultra 50K and 24K twice.
Normalcy gradually returned to the Beast Coast series in the latter half of 2021 as races returned. Finally, after two years of uncertainty, the 2022 series enjoyed an optimistic start with the return of the Mt. Toby races on Saturday, April 9, in Sunderland, Mass. More than 150 runners showed up to race the two distance offerings, tripling the turnout from the inaugural running in 2019.
The surge in popularity was most noticeable in the 50K. Just eight runners raced that distance in 2019, but 52 toed the line this year with 52 ultimately finishing within nine hours.
The race started and finished in Sunderland Town Park, and that afforded runners the friendliest footing they’d encounter throughout the race. That’s because Rusiecki crafted a figure-eight-style course through Mt. Toby State Forest that consisted of rugged singletrack and doubletrack trails. Adding to the challenge, runners amassed around 7,000 feet of climbing including three trips to the summit of Mt. Toby and a pass through a cave.
The obstacles did little to slow down Daniel Grip. The 42-year-old resident of Wendell, Mass., knows the Mt. Toby trails quite well, and he raced with confidence. Grip started fast and quickly built a gap on the field. He led from start to finish, winning by more than an hour and setting a men’s course record in 4:33:41. Matt Geary, 31, of Haydenville, Mass., was a distant second in 5:42:42. Jason Sarouhan, 44, of Northampton, Mass., and Rufus Chaffee, 47, of Worthington, Mass., battled hard for third place, but Sarouhan had a bit more kick in his legs at the end and secured the final spot on the men’s podium in 5:46:44; Chaffee followed in 5:47:00. Ned Dalzell, 36, of Newbury, Mass., rounded out the top five in 6:04:07.
While Grip’s victory was his latest of many ultra triumphs in recent years, women’s champion Isabel Lane was victorious in her ultra debut. Lane, 23, of Cambridge, Mass., finished sixth overall and topped the women’s field in a record time of 6:04:56. She was followed a few minutes later by runner-up Kehr Davis, 45, of Pittsfield, Mass., in 6:11:29. Emily Kisicki, 36, of Montpelier, Vt., rounded out the women’s podium in 6:41:11. Shortly after, 31-year-olds Emily Andrews of Watertown, Mass., and Lisa Rising of Cambridge, Mass., rounded out the women’s top five, finishing together in 6:55:32.
Shamey, Wensman Set Course Records in 24K
While the 50K ultra was the main event at Mt. Toby, a strong and deep field of runners packed the starting line to race the 24K distance. Ninety-seven runners ultimately finished within five hours, summiting Mt. Toby once while amassing more than 2,700 feet of climbing along the way. Both the men’s and women’s course records also fell. Matt Shamey, 42, of South Deerfield, Mass., and Ryan Williams, 33, of Concord, Mass., threw down a fierce battle at the front of the pack, but Shamey ultimately outkicked Williams to the finish line for the overall win and men’s course record in 1:52:06, slightly ahead of Williams’ 1:52:08. Brian Rusiecki, 43, of South Deerfield, Mass., rounded out the men’s podium in 1:57:09. No other runners broke the two-hour mark.
Joining Shamey in establishing a new course record for the 24K was women’s champion Jada Wensman, 28, of Cambridge, Mass. She started strong, opened a sizable gap on the field, and won in 2:15:21 while also placing 10th overall. Sophia Velicer, 23, was the women’s runner-up in 2:24:24, followed closely by Elizabeth Atwater, 42, of Sudbury, Mass., in 2:24:51.
Up Next in the Beast Coast Trail Running Series
The Mt. Toby Ultra and 24K kicked off the Beast Coast Trail Running Series on April 9. Up next in the series is the approximately 12-mile Seven Sisters Trail Race on May 7 in Amherst, Mass., followed by the Chesterfield Gorge Ultra and 25K on June 4-5 in Chesterfield, Mass. The Race for DFL and Mt. Tom Trail Race will follow in the fall, as well as a new event that is still in the works.