There was a popular local attraction for New England ultrarunners during the March 25-26 weekend as the Trail Animals Running Club played host to its annual To Hale and Back 6-Hour Ultra. Still, the allure of options beyond New England was alluring for several runners from the region. Several local runners earned podium finishes at the Spring On the Trails Endurance Runs in New York, with Massachusetts residents Matt Pacheco and Brenda Fortin earning victories. In Arizona, Woburn’s Scott Traer dashed to victory at the Crown King Scramble. Also out west, Rhode Island’s Cole Crosby delivered an eye-popping performance with his 346-mile run from Los Angeles, Calif., to Las Vegas, Nev., at The Speed Project. All of those efforts, along with the Behind the Rocks Ultra in Utah and the Georgia Death Race, are featured in this edition of the roundup.
The Speed Project
Cole Crosby has been pushing his endurance limits in ultramarathons since his early 20s. Now 34, the resident of Cranston, R.I., is pushing those limits even further.
In 2022, Crosby completed the Cocodona 250 in Arizona and finished 12th overall, covering the distance in a few seconds shy of 84 hours. On March 20-22, Crosby upped the ante with an even more ambitious effort when he took part in The Speed Project, an unsanctioned 346-mile race from the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, Calif., to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign in Las Vegas, Nev. While some participants tackled the event on relay teams, Crosby ran it solo and finished in 92 hours and 57 minutes. He was the first solo runner to complete the route.
Spring On the Trails Endurance Runs
A trio of New England residents brought home victories from the third annual Spring On the Trails Endurance Runs 12- and 6-hour ultras on Saturday, March 25, in Lagrangeville, N.Y. Runners took on a 5K loop course with 250 feet of climbing per loop.
Nineteen runners took part in the 12-hour race, and all but one surpassed the marathon distance. Matt Pacheco, 38, of South Hadley, Mass., led all runners with 24 laps and 72 miles. Jordan Snyder, 32, of Port Jervis, N.Y., followed with 63 miles, and 39-year-old Rufus Chaffee of Worthington, Mass., rounded out the men’s podium with 60 miles. Brenda Fortin, 39, of Worthington, Mass., finished fourth overall and was the first-place female with 57 miles, one lap ahead of women’s runner-up Rebecca Burke, 47, of Portland, Conn., who completed 18 laps for 54 miles. Art Byram, 59, of Glastonbury, Conn., joined them as the final New Englander in the overall top 10, finishing eighth with 51 miles.
Thirty runners took part in the 6-hour race with 10 surpassing the marathon distance. Thomas Wolfe, 17, of Grantham, N.H., led the way with 39 miles, followed by Kari Smith, 42, of Highland Falls, N.Y., who topped the women’s field with 33 miles. Johnny Bontemps, 38, of Beckett, Mass., was the men’s runner-up and fourth overall finisher with 30 miles. Additionally, Concetta Puelo, 40, of Stratford, Conn., was the second-place woman and fifth overall finisher with 30 miles.
Crown King Scramble
Scott Traer makes his home in Arizona now, but the pride of Woburn, Mass., still represents the Bay State on his race registrations.
Traer has delivered some impressive performances during his time living out west, and the latest came on Saturday, March, 25, when Traer cruised to victory at the Crown King Scramble 50K in Phoenix, Ariz. Traer, 42, outdueled 35-year-old Nick Coury of Scottsdale, Ariz., for the win, finishing in 4:06:18, a full 13 minutes ahead of Coury’s 4:19:35. You Wang, 37, of Larkspur, Calif., placed ninth overall and first among the women in 4:55:16. There were 230 finishers within 11 hours.
Behind the Rocks Ultra
A handful of New England residents took part in once of the most scenic ultras in the west at the ninth annual Behind the Rocks Ultra on Saturday, May 25, in Moab, Utah. The event offered both 50-mile and 50K distances and took runners on a journey through the Behind the Rocks Wilderness Area, racing on technical slickrock trails while taking in panoramic views for much of the day.
Two New Englanders were among the 62 finishers of the 50-mile race within 14 hours. Jeff Miner led the way as the 52-year-old from Andover, Mass., placed 13th overall in 10:24:49. Jenn Brooks, 43, of Gloucester, Mass., finished fifth among the women’s field in 11:40:37. Only three runners finished sub-nine, led by overall champion Annie Hughes, 25, of Leadville, Colo., in 7:41:10. Hughes’s closest competitor was women’s runner-up Anna Fisher, 30, of Salt Lake City, Utah, who followed in 8:11:14. Men’s champion Scott Mehring, 33, of Lakewood, Colo., placed third overall in 8:54:56.
An additional 140 runners finished the 50K race within 11 hours. Alex April was the lone New England resident in the field for that distance. April, 32, of Manchester, N.H., placed 55th overall in 6:47:44. It was his second ultra. April made his ultra debut at the Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail 30-miler in October 2022. Jonathan Rea, 30, of Boulder, Colo., won the 50K race in 3:51:18.
Georgia Death Race
Dave Jackson has a passion for tough, rugged mountain races. The 35-year-old resident of Brookline, Mass., took on his latest challenge at the 11th annual Georgia Death Race on March 25-26 in Blairsville, Ga. The 74-mile race tested runners with technical trails and around 16,000 feet of climbing while running from Vogel State Park to Amicalola Falls State Park. More than 240 runners started the race and 88 did not finish. Chris Crowley, 30, of Brooklyn, N.Y., led all runners in 15:12:16, followed by women’s champion and overall runner-up Jana Fridrichova, 44, of Hagerstown, Md., in 15:37:56.
Jackson battled the course and ultimately finished 97th overall in 22:04:41. It was the second straight year Jackson has finished a grueling mountain race in Georgia. He successfully completed the Cruel Jewel 50-miler in Blue Ridge, Ga., in May 2022. The mountain-lover also finished the brutal Kilkenny Ridge 50-miler in New Hampshire in 2021.
Jackson was one of two New England residents among the 155 runners who finished within the 25-hour time limit. Emilio Navarro, 56, of Cranston, R.I., finished 121st overall in 23:21:26. The 2022 finisher of the Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail 100-miler opened 2023 by completing the Rocky Raccoon 100. Up next for Navarro is the Manitou’s Revenge 54-miler in June in Windham, N.Y.
*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.