Merrimack runner fourth in Joe English Trail Challenge

AMHERST – Ned Dalzell, of Portsmouth, surged to finish the 25-kilometer Joe English Trail Challenge in 2:18:13 in May.

He was followed by New Boston’s Chad Macdonald at 2:21:27 and Tom Flummerfelt, of Winchester, Mass., at 2:26:07. Jed Crook, of Nashua, was fourth in 2:30:50.

The top female finishers were Sarah Schlaack, of Hillsboro, at 2:52:11 and Amy Johonnett, of Manchester, at 3:16:55. The top local finisher was Jennifer Treacy, of Brookline, in 3:58:20.

The Joe English Trail Challenge is an event unique in the region. It features unimproved trails with unbridged stream crossings, boulder fields and demanding terrain. There were 108 runners from New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island who sought out the rocky New England terrain as a change from road races.

The event also featured the first 12.5-kilometer course, in part accounting for a 45 percent increase in participation from last year.

Streaking to an impressive first-place finish was Kurt Hackler, of Alstead, in 58:15. He was followed by Bedford’s Anders Vikstrom at 1:13:12 and Goffstown’s Thomas Leo in 1:14:58. The top local finisher was Nathan Delyani, of Merrimack, who was fourth in 1:15:39.

The top female finishers were Julie Pendleton, of Manchester, at 1:24:53 and Kim Cole, of Kennebunk, Maine, at 1:29:37. The top local finisher was Cyndi Carr, of Amherst, in 1:36:09.

This year’s event was dedicated to Chad Denning, an endurance athlete and longtime recreation director in several New Hampshire towns, who died on an endurance run in summer 2014. George Bower, race director, announced that the course’s most challenging segment was now named the “Denning Loop.”

Denning’s widow, Becky, and two children, Lucas and Ruby, ran the 12.5-kilometer course, including the loop named for Denning.

“Many of this year’s runners knew Chad,” Bower said after the race, “and they willingly honored him by running in his selfless spirit. In this event, the question is not how fast you go, it’s how well you fulfill your potential.”

Runners praised the course for its unusual terrain.

“It’s so different from a road race,” said Lauren Silk, of Amherst. “You’re watching for flags, you’re tired. … It’s a mental game.”

Jerry Hull, also of Amherst, said, “It’s fun to run in the woods, like when you’re a kid. The trail was really cool. It was difficult wherever you went jumping over rivers and streams. … It’s a different kind of running. And it’s great scenery – fantastic scenery.”

Proceeds benefit the Amherst Land Trust for land conservation. Major sponsors included Carson City Tire of Amherst, Countryside Self-Storage of Amherst, The Derryfield School and Amherst Physical Therapy.

The challenge crossed hundreds of acres of conservation land in the 558-acre Joe English Reservation. It also crossed private lands targeted for protection by land-conservation easement.

More than 50 volunteers contributed their time to the event, which included seven aid stations and featured start and finish segments on the lakeside fields at Freestyle Farm, where a festive atmosphere prevailed with music and grilled food.

“We’re in debt to our volunteers,” Bower said, “as well as to Ariel Taylor, owner of Freestyle Farm, whose enthusiasm for the thrill of racing through the New England back country inspires all of us to bring this event to the public – and to work harder to save more land from development.”

The second event in the 2015 Joe English series is the Twilight Challenge, to be held Sept. 26, in which runners will run 6 p.m.-midnight. They may choose to run alone or in relay teams, doing laps on a 2.62-mile course, running a half-marathon, marathon or “ultra.”

For more information on that event or full results from the May event, visit