This video has a surprise ending in more ways than one!
What is the Ultra? The Ultramarathon is a long distance race consisting of distances greater than the traditional 26.2 miles of the marathon. While common distances of 50km or 50 miles are most often found, other events like this one, are timed duration events. Why the Rhode Island 6 Hour? Rhode Island has a rich tradition of road running, and the weather in mid-November makes for ideal running conditions.
Rhode Island 6-Hour Ultra
November 15, 2009 Warwick City Park, Warwick, RI
This first time and only ultra in Rhode Island was founded by Bob Jackman, an accomplished ultra runner himself. In years past, RI played host to the “Nifty 50 Miler” which gave way to the Breakers Marathon (now called the Amica Marathon) in Newport, RI several years ago. As a result, the smallest state was without an ultra. To fill the void, Jackman decided to put on a 6–hour ultra run on a USATF certified 2.70121 mile loop on a rolling bike path in Warwick City Park. Expectations were low in terms of the response from ultra runners for a first time event of unknown quality, but the turnout was surprisingly high with 80 registered ultra runners and 29 relay teams of 2-6 runners per team.
By race morning the remnants of a nor’easter from the day before were all but gone, and the weather was near perfect with temperatures in the high 40’s, overcast skies, and no wind, for what would be a spirited and close competition between the top two favorites.
Ben Nephew (34) from Mansfield, MA and Martin Tighe (51) from Providence, RI would battle back and forth, and push each other hard for the entire 6 hours, both running 19 loops (51.323 miles) before time expired. Nephew planned to take it out at 6:45 pace, and Martin figured to let him go, and hover back at 7:00 pace, running conservatively in order to make his goal of 50 miles. At the end of the first loop, Tighe and Nephew were running together, passing the 2.7 miles at 6:16 pace. So much for pre-race plans… The race was on.
Tighe and Nephew continued to run stride for stride for the next three loops, passing 10.8 miles at 1:10:12 (6:30) on pace for 5:25:00 for 50 miles. On loop # 5, Tighe pulled away by half a minute, but in this battle of punch / counter punch, Nephew gained it back on loop #6 (16.2 miles). Once again they were dead even.
On the 7th loop at 18.9 miles, Tighe dropped the hammer, running the fastest single loop of the day – at 6:08 pace, and followed that up with 6:11 pace for the 8th loop (21.6). Tighe’s lead had grown to a minute, and he would continue to increase it, loop by loop, to 7:16 by the end of the 15th loop (40.5 miles).
In the ebb and flow that is an ultra, it was up to Nephew to turn the tide. Over the next 3 loops, from 40.5 – 48.6 miles, he averaged steady 7:35 pace while Tighe ran 8:29 pace for the same stretch. By the start of the next and final loop, they were again dead even, as they had been so many times in the going. The 7:16 gap (at 40.5 miles) was now down to zero, and the final 2.7 miles would determine the outcome. As game and gutsy as Tighe is, Nephew was the stronger of the two, taking charge and passing 50 miles in 5:47:55 to 5:48:20 for Tighe. Nephew finished his 19th loop at 5:58:41 winning this first annual 6-hour ultra, with Tighe one minute behind at 5:59:41- with just 19 seconds to spare in order for the loop to count. Both ran the same total distance of 51.323 miles.
Mike Carroll (43) from Millville, MA finished 3rd overall, running an extremely consistent and steady race, hitting each of the first six 2.7 mile loops through 16.2 miles between 6:56 and 7:00 pace. Carroll’s marathon split was 3:04:49 (7:03). His last 5 loops from 32.4 – 45.9 were run between 8:36 and 8:49 pace. Carroll capped off his race with one ‘add-on’ loop of 0.8907 miles at 8:27 pace for a grand total of 46.811 miles in 5:57:01 (7:37 pace).
In the women’s race, Lisa Mikkelsen (44) from Holliston, MA held the lead for the first 8 loops (21.6 miles), with Daniele Cherniak (48) from Cohoes, NY trailing in 2nd place by as much as 6:23 after 13.5 miles. At 13.5 Mikkelsen was averaging 7:46 pace, while Cherniak was content to hang back at 8:14 average. Cherniak closed the gap to 3:38 at 21.6, and by the end of the next loop (24.3 miles), the tide had turned as it had in the men’s race. Cherniak had taken the lead for good, and was now in front of MIkkelson by 23 seconds.
Cherniak passed the marathon split at 3:42:23 (8:29 pace), and 50K at 4:24:42 (8:31 pace), and continued to increase her lead over Mikkelson to nearly 26 minutes after 13 loops (35.1157 miles). Slowing somewhat in the final hour, Cherniak completed two more 2.7 mile loops at 9:07.0 pace. At this point, after 15 loops and 40.5 miles in 5:51:26, Cherniak did not have time for another 2.7 mile loop, but did have time to tack on an “add-on” loop of 0.8907 miles before the 6 hours elapsed. The “add-on” loop was made available after 5 hours. Based on remaining time, energy, and personal assessment, runners had the option of running one or two of them to add to their grand total. Cherniak logged as much mileage as she could before the time expired, completing one “add-on” loop (at 8:45 pace) for a grand total of 41.409 miles in 5:59:14 (8:40 pace overall).
Mikkleson completed 13 loops of 2.7 miles (35.1157) and was still in 2nd place, 5:04 up on Stephanie Arango (24) from Cincinnati , OH. Isabel Lowell (29) from Hartford, CT., also completed 13 loops and was over 6 minutes behind Arango. At this point, unknown to each other and with time a critical factor, all three women opted for the ‘add-on’ loop. The race for second was in the balance.
After completing one add-on loop, Arango had closed the gap to 3:32 with ‘only’ one more ‘add-on’ loop of 0.8907 miles to go. Lowell had also gained some time on Mikkleson, but was 10:33 behind. Arango had picked up her pace from 10:58 for her 13th loop to 9:43 for the first of two add-on loops. Mikkleson had run her 13th loop at 10:16 pace, and then slowed to 11:26 pace for her first add-on loop. The race for second place would come down to the final 0.9 miles.
Arango held pace (actually increased it to 9:41) and on that last ‘short’ loop, surged ahead of Mikkleson to take 2nd with a time of 5:44:20. Mikkleson finished 3rd, just 39 seconds behind Arango at 5:44:59, while the steady and composed Lowell was 4th at 5:51:42. Total distance for this ultra trio was 36.897 miles each.
64 of 67 ultra runners completed at least 10 loops (27.012 miles) and received “ultra” medals for their accomplishment. The top 3 men (Ben Nephew, Martin Tighe, Mike Carroll) and top 3 women (Daniele Cherniak, Stephanie Arango, Lisa Mikkelson) won cash awards of $150, $75, and $50 respectively. In the USATF-NE championship division, the top 3 male open runners were Nephew, Tighe, and Seth Roberts (57) from Longmeadow, MA. Tighe also won the masters division, with Roberts 2nd, and Jake Scheiffelin (46) from Barrington, RI 3rd. Lisa Mikkelson won both the USATF-NE women’s open and masters titles.
Ray Nelson – USATF National Certifier