March 16, 2002: 
New England Quartet Taking Aim at American 50km Road Record

Dave Dunham may feel a bit of "Groundhog Day" syndrome next Saturday in Pittsburgh.  The 37-year old from Bradford, Massachusetts just might find himself pulling away from an elite field and setting a new American Record for 50km, only to wake up one day and find he has to do it all over again.  That's what happened last year, when he pulled away from Dan Held halfway through a 50km race in Chicago in which they were both shooting for the official American 50km Road Record of 3:00:00, held for over a decade by Jeff Wall.  Held faded, but Dunham ran on alone to better the mark by over two minutes.  Months later, a validation measurement found the course to be short, and Dunham found himself looking at doing it all over again in the USA 50km National Road Championship coming up on March 23 on a 5km loop course along the Allegheny River.

Held won't be running this time, so Dunham has recruited some fast-legged fellow New England ultra novices to help keep the 5:45 pace necessary to achieve his goal.  Trouble is, he figures there's a good chance at least one of them may be ahead of him at the finish.  Though Dunham comes in as the favorite, either Kevin Beck, 32, of Penacock, New Hampshire, or Dan Verrington, 39, also of Bradford, Massachusetts, could be the new American Record holder at the finish.

Dunham, a veteran of the USA National Mountain Running Team and a former Mt. Washington Hill Climb champion, is one of the world's top mountain runners, and one of the country's most prolific racers at all distances and all types of terrain.  Over the past two years he has made a successful transition to ultras, winning the Chancellor Challenge 100km and the Chicago Lakefront 50km.  Verrington, also a National Mountain Running team member, has broken 2:22 for the marathon and 1:06 for the half marathon.  Beck is a sub-2:25 marathoner and was 7th American last year at Boston.  Rounding out the speedy New England novice contingent is 2:28 marathoner Mark Behan, 39, of Newton, New Hampshire.

The women's field features a re-match between the gold and silver medalists, respectively, from last year's USA National 50km trailrunning championship, Anne Riddle, 35, of Asheville, North Carolina and Anne Heaslett, 38, of Madison, Wisconsin.  The pair have emerged on the national ultra scene in a big way over the last two years.  Riddle, little known in the ultra community this time a year ago, wound up a double national champion last year, taking the USA 100km crown on this same Pittsburgh riverfront course in March, then pulling away from Heaslett to capture the 50km Trail title at the end of December. Heaslett has steadily come up through the ranks of America's elite ultrawomen over the last 5 years, and is now considered one of the top 5 Americans over a range from 50km to 100 miles.

The action begins Saturday, March 23, at 7:00AM Eastern time.  One or two live updates and immediate results will be posted on the website of the American Ultrarunning Association at:

-Dan Brannen

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