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Ultramarathon pushed through heat, storms

[Published in the Huntingdon Daily News, July 11, 2023]

Runners from across the U.S. and abroad faced heat, humidity and a thundering downpour as they raced against the clock this weekend to complete a 63-mile course through the tri-county area.

The second annual Ironstone 100K wrapped up Sunday at Greenwood Furnace State Park. The race started at 2 p.m. Saturday from Canoe Creek State Park, giving competitors 23 hours to cross the finish line.

Ironstone 100k winners, Mary Kowalski of Hollidaysburg and Raymond Stoltfus of Quarryville, Lancaster County, accept their trophies.

Race director Ben Mazur said four runners beat last year’s record. The first to cross the finish line, Raymond Stoltfus, completed the race in 14 hours and 14 minutes.

Stoltfus, who hails from Quarryville in Lancaster County, said he’s long enjoyed running and biking but is new to the world of ultramarathons, having entered his first long-distance competition in March.

His search for competition led him to the Ironstone.

“It’s an amazing course and one of the harder ones,” he said. “It’s beautiful country and (the race) is very well managed.”

The Ironstone’s defending female champion claimed her second first place win with a time of 17 hours and 16 minutes.

Mary Kowalski of Hollidaysburg has between 15 and 20 ultramarathons under her belt thus far, and many more short-distance races.

“It’s an amazing course and one of the harder ones. “It’s beautiful country and (the race) is very well managed.”

Mazur said the heat and humidity challenged this year’s group of runners.

“A lot of participants underestimated the heat,” he said.

The day’s high of 91 degrees was six points above average, according to the Weather Channel.

A thunder and lightening storm which passed through the area overnight was a “mixed blessing” for competitors.

“It cooled they down but it made the rocks slippery, increasing the technical difficulty,” he said.

Ironstone 100K race director, Ben Mazur presents defending female champion Mary Kowalski of Hollidaysburg with her second first place trophy at the finish line at Greenwood Furnace State Park.

Despite meteorological challenges, a greater number of participates finished the course in 23-hour allotted time, compared to the 2022 race, he said.

Mazur thanked the Mid-State Trail Association and DCNR for their support leading up to race day. He also thanked the park managers at both Canoe Creek and Greenwood Furnace for their assistance.

The Stone Creek Valley Fire Co. and representatives from several area amateur radio organizations, including Blair County’s Horseshoe Curve Amateur Radio Club, provided communications support for the duration of the race.

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