The jam-packed September racing calendar rolled on during the Sept. 16-18 weekend, and that means another two-part roundup is necessary to capture the action of the New England crew. We’ll catch up on the Kilkenny Ridge 50-miler, Grindstone and Run Rabbit Run in Part 2, but here in Part 1 we’ll catch up on Daniel Grip’s pursuit of the course record at the Forgotten Forest 9-Hour Ultra in Connecticut, and then head to Colorado for the Red Feather Trail Jamboree before closing out with the Barkley Fall Classic in Tennessee and the Pawling 24-Hour Trail Festival in New York. There’s plenty to read – and that’s just Part 1!
Forgotten Forest 9-Hour Ultra
There are course records, and then there are Kousky course records.
Justin Kousky was a force on the New England trail- and ultrarunning scene long before the COVID-19 pandemic. His first ultra victory came at the 2010 G.A.C. Fat Ass 50K, after all. Still, the Connecticut resident raised his profile mightily during the pandemic with his assault on the Fastest Known Times of many trails in the region – a tally that stands at 59 current of previously held FKTs as of today.
All of that is simply to say that when Daniel Grip showed up to the starting line of the seventh annual Forgotten Forest 9-Hour Ultra on Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Roosevelt Forest in Stratford, Conn., and had his sights set on the course record, Grip knew he’d need to put up a big number. Kousky had the record of 55.98 miles from 2019. Grip has made his share of FKTs (14) and has a few course records to his credit, so the 43-year-old resident of Wendell, Mass., knew he had a chance.
Racing alongside a small field, Grip ran solo on the loop course and didn’t have runners on his shoulder pushing him. Instead, he had Kousky on his mind, and that was motivation enough to push. Ultimately, Grip’s great effort came up just a few strides short, perhaps due to measurement changes during the event’s history. Grip finished with a winning tally of 55.90 miles, just .08 behind Kousky’s record.
While Grip delivered the biggest performance of the day, the greatest depth was displayed by the women’s field. Three of the top four overall finishers and seven of the top 10 were women, led by 35-year-old Stephanie Machabee of La Jolla, Calif., who finished second overall and first female with 45.15 miles. Tracy Freeman, 49, of Southington, Conn., was the third overall finisher and women’s runner-up with 40.85 miles, followed by Qiuju Gu, 50, of Weston, Conn., with 38.70 miles.
Brian Kowalsky, 33, of STratford, Conn., was the fifth overall finisher and men’s runner-up with 36.552 miles. Bernie Prat, 37, of Fairfield, Conn., rounded out the men’s podium and finished eighth overall with 34.402 miles.
Of the 23 runners who took part in the event, 19 surpassed the marathon distance and 17 surpassed 50K mileage.
Red Feather Trail Jamboree
Jason Baker cut his teeth in the ultra world in New Hampshire at the Ragged 50K and Kilkenny Ridge 50-miler in 2021. Now, the 23-year-old resident of Carver, Mass., is taking on the trails of Colorado.
Baker took on the tough and steep Quad Rock 25-miler in May, and then raced his first Colorado ultra at the inaugural Red Feather Trail Jamboree 50K on Saturday, Sept. 17, in Red Feather Lakes, Colo.
Racing on a course entirely above 7,300 feet with a high point of 8,500 feet, Baker raced hard on the smooth singletrack trails of Ben Delatour Scout Ranch and placed 16th out of 99 finishers in 5:52:40. Silas Thompson, 28, of Fort Collins, Colo., won the race in 4:21:22, followed less than two minutes later by 38-year-old Matthew Daugherty of Loveland, Colo., in 4:23:15.
Baker wasn’t the only New England resident in the field. William Godsman, 53, of Cambridge, Mass., finished 49th in 6:58:04. An ultrarunning veteran, Godsman ran the Red Feather Trail Jamboree as a final tune-up before the Javelina Jundred 100-miler in late October in Arizona.
Barkley Fall Classic
For most runners who dream of running the Barkley Marathons, their only hope of getting into the exclusive event is to win entry at the Barkley Fall Classic. The top male and female winners of the Fall Classic gain automatic entry into the main event in the spring.
Several New England runners took their chance at the eighth annual Barkley Fall Classic 50K on Saturday, Sept. 17, at Frozen Head State Park in Wartburg, Tenn. They gained a taste of the Barkley course and its grueling terrain, some of them for the second or fourth time.
Ultimately, 108 runners finished within 13 ½ hours, but the automatic berths in the main event eluded the New Englanders. Aaron Bradner, 35, of Salem, Va., secured the men’s spot with his win in 9:28:36. Andrea Larson, 37, of Wausau, Wisc., finished third overall and earned the women’s berth in 10:02:08. One New Englander was in the hunt, though. Brendan Gilpatrick, 38, of Waterville, Maine, placed sixth overall in 10:22:16. It was his second crack at the course, having finished 36th at the 2019 race in 11:12:09.
Melissa De Fabrizio, 34, of Stratford, Conn., finished 43rd overall in 12:23:25, a slight improvement from 2021 when she finished in 12:26:56. First-timers Dave Baird, 46, of Shelburne, Vt., and Timm Huffman, 37, of Manchester, N.H., placed 51st and 57th, respectively, in 12:35:04 and 12:38:50. Christopher Acree, 32, of Somerville, Mass., finished the 2016 event in 12:15:12 and made his return six years later where he placed 81st in 13:02:55. Zachary Miller, 32, of Nashua, N.H., followed close after in 83rd place in 13:04:00. It was Miller’s fourth straight time finishing the Barkley Fall Classic. He finished the 2021 race in 10:45:36; placed 16th overall at the 2020 race in 9:41:08; and finished the 2019 race in 11:14:25. Finally, 38-year-old Jennifer Boshco of Billerica, Mass., finished 92nd in 13:08:59 in her Fall Classic debut.
Pawling 24-Hour Trail Running Festival
Conquer the World Endurance played host to the third edition of the Pawling 24-Hour Trail Running Festival on Sept. 17-18 in Pawling, N.Y. Runners had 24, 12 or 6 hours to complete a 1.7-mile loop course as many times as they wanted.
All 26 runners in the 24-hour race surpassed the marathon distance and one – Budjargal Byambaa, 40, of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, surpassed 100 miles, finishing with a course record 104.16. First-place female and second overall finisher Jennifer Bernard, 35, of Hyde Park, N.Y., broke her own women’s course record with 94.08 miles. Three New England residents were among the finishers, led by 71-year-old James Gawle of Webster, Mass., who was one of three runners who tied for sixth with 75.6 miles. Additionally, 65-year-old Laurel Flax of New Boston, N.H., finished 35.28 miles, and 45-year-old Jon Shepherd of West Hartford, Conn., logged 26.88 miles.
Another eight runners competed for 12 hours, led by 28-year-old Sean Escaravage Jr. of Beacon, N.Y., with 53.76 miles. Kim Hooper-Stanley, 60, of Bethel, Conn., finished second among the women and third overall with 42 miles, trailing Lucia Dudjak, 43, of Holmes, N.Y., who had 45.36 miles. Fred Murolo, 65, of Cheshire, Conn., was also among the finishers with 33.6 miles. In the 6-hour race, 41-year-old Emily Grant of Greenwich, Conn., led the field of nine runners with a first-place tally of 28.56 miles.
*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.