Sacramento Running News

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Rites of Spring: American River 50

April 10, 2013 By: John Blue Category: General Running News, Masters Runners, Trails, Ultrarunning

Second woman finisher Tera Dube navigates the trails. (Photo by Sean Dulany/Freeplay Magazine)

Second woman finisher Tera Dube navigates the trails. (Photo by Sean Dulany/Freeplay Magazine)

As we crowded up on the levee near the start line for the 2013 running of the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run, two things were dominating conversations of the old timers: the temperature and the crowd.

It was warm, and it was also humid and still. I spotted a few trash-bag wearers, but most people were lightly dressed—at least for 6:00 AM on an early April morning. It always unnerves me when it’s unseasonably warm at the start of an ultra.

The crowd was huge. There were around 1,100 registered runners in the field, which is much larger than in previous years, and makes this race one of the country’s largest.

The run starts on the levee top, heads downstream for about a mile before making a U-turn and running up the parkway, upstream toward Folsom. As we turned onto the parkway, the pack of runners passing the other direction above us seemed to go on forever in the pre-dawn light.

Although the morning was warm, it would be hard to call up a better day for a long running event. Cloudy skies, mild temperatures, no wind or rain. The trails were soft and forgiving without too much mud. Everything was green—especially the poison oak, which was a constant presence along the trails.

Despite the favorable conditions and huge crowds, no one managed to break six hours this year—something that is usually required of the overall winner of this race. This could be due to the race no longer being a Montrail Cup event, or it could just be the year. One positive development was that the top men were all in their twenties. It is good to see a new crop of fast runners coming up through the ranks. Our sport depends on it.

Galen Farris and pacer Jen Pfiefer in the hunt for a PR and age group win. (Photo by Sean Dulany/Freeplay Magazine)

Galen Farris and pacer Jen Pfiefer in the hunt for a PR, top-10 finish, and age group win. (Photo by Sean Dulany/Freeplay Magazine)

But to be completely frank, what happens at the front of the race is something that only affects a handful of people out of the multitudes. At the end of the day, those talented few and the those at the back of the pack all had a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery and cheerful volunteers that lure people back to this event, year after year.

Matt Flaherty, 27, of Chicago, was the big winner, opening up a lead early in the race with a sub-2:49 marathon, and finishing in 6:08:17. Eric Senseman, 24, of Madison, Wisconsin, was second in 6:20:58, and Paulo Medina, 28, of Lima, Peru (but running in Northern California), finished third in 6:45:25.

For the women, it was Pam Smith, 38, of Salem, Oregon, who came out on top with a finish time of 6:54:02, which was good enough for 6th overall. San Luis Obispo’s Tera Dube, 40, was the second woman in 7:11:13. Ana Guijarro, 32, of Fontana, California, rounded out the top three women, coming in at 7:28:43.

There were some outstanding performances by the masters athletes, too, starting with Tera Dube’s 2nd overall place amongst the women. The second and third masters women were Stephanie Finelli, 44, who came in at 7:40:15, and Abby Peterson, 42, who finished in 8:06:39.

The masters men crowded up the top-ten overall positions, with Jean Pommier, 49, finishing first master and 4th overall in 6:47:39. Coming in second masters and 5th overall was Mark Lantz, 47, with a 6:52:06. Paolo Castiglioni, 44, was third master and 9th overall in 7:01:54.

Complete results can be found here.

The afternoon was pleasant and most finishers stuck around for a bit, enjoyed a beverage or two, shared stories about their run, and cheered as their slower friends ran across the finish line. All in all, not a bad way to enjoy a day along the American River.

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