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U.S. Olympic Trials runners smash Tunnel Hill 50-mile records

Zack Beavin and Jackie Pirtle-Hall both hammered the course records on Saturday

Photo by: Instagram/zbeavin

Trail runners gathered in Vienna, Ill., over the weekend for the Tunnel Hill 100- and 50-milers and marathon. While there was impressive racing across the board, the runs of the weekend came in the 50-miler, with Zack Beavin taking the men’s win in 5:03:06 and Jackie Pirtle-Hall winning the women’s race in 6:02:04. Both runners smashed the previous 50-mile course records, with Beavin bettering the men’s mark by 27 minutes and Pirtle-Hall beating the women’s time by 34 minutes. The pair finished first and second overall in the race, which had a limited field to align with the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. 

Beavin’s big year

As Beavin wrote on Instagram after the race, the run in Tunnel Hill was his first try at 50 miles. He said he was hoping for a sub-five-hour run, but added that he’s still happy with his 5:03. In addition to winning him the course record, Beavin’s time is the fourth-fastest 50-miler in U.S. history, and he’s just 13 minutes behind Jim Walmsley‘s record of 4:50:08. That might seem like a lot, but it’s important to note that Walmsley’s run was on pavement, while Beavin ran on almost entirely crushed limestone.

In a post-race writeup on Reddit, Beavin touched on this a bit, writing, “There’s some debate about how much slower the crushed limestone Tunnel Hill surface is versus a paved course.” He notes that ultrarunning great Camille Herron estimates the non-paved surface is about 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than paved roads, although Beavin says he “wouldn’t estimate it as quite that much.” Regardless, this surface is undoubtedly slower, and it would be entertaining to see how much time Beavin could cut from his new PB on a paved route.

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Tunnel Hill might be the biggest result of Beavin’s year, but it’s far from his only noteworthy race. In February, he competed at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta, where he finished 98th overall in 2:24:52. The 50-miler was his first race back since the Trials, and he certainly made it count with such a huge result. 

Pirtle-Hall’s record-brekaing run 

Like Beavin, Pirtle-Hall also raced in Atlanta at the U.S. Trials, although she registered a DNF. Still, she made it to the start line, which is enough of an accomplishment. She also raced the 2012 Trials in Houston, where she finished in 70th place in 2:44:22. On Saturday, she switched her focus to the trails, proving she can perform well on any surface. She finished an hour back of Beavin, but beat the next closest runner (and second-place female), April Woo, by 35 minutes. In any other year, Woo’s time would have been the talk of the weekend since it was so close to the previous course record of 6:36:35, but Beavin’s and Pirtle-Hall’s results largely overshadowed her great run. 

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In the 100-mile race, Taggart Vanetten took the men’s win in 12:19:55 (the second-fastest time in race history, just behind Zach Bitter‘s course record of 12:08:36) and Stefanie Flippin won the women’s event in 15:55:04. 

For full results from the Tunnel Hill races, click here.