Niles and Mazaheri take USATF 50 km Road Championship Titles

Written by USATF Championship liaison Meghan Canfield. Photos: Meghan Canfield.

This past Sunday, February 27, forty one hardy USATF members lined up for the USATF 50 km Road Championships in Heckscher State Park on Long Island, New York, hosted by the Greater Long Island Running Club (GLIRC). Temperatures were in the 30s with a wind holding flags perpendicular to the pole.

At stake were automatic spots on the U.S. 50 km National Team to compete at the IAU 50 km World Championships to be held in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on May 28, 2023. Winners with qualifying times (3:33 for women, 3:00 for men) would earn a spot, while all who run qualifying times will make the list of athletes under consideration.

Top women coming for the pursuit were Alexandra Niles, with a marathon PR of 2:40, Melissa Tanner, marathon PR 2:44, Regina Lopez, 2nd female at Heckscher 2021 in a time of 3:36 and marathon PR of 2:42, and Autumn Ray, a 2:37 marathoner. Included on the men’s side were, Rajpaul Pannu with a marathon PR of 2:17 and 100k PR 6:28:31, Bijan Mazaheri, marathon PR of 2:15, Zack Beavin, marathon PR of 2:18 and 2nd place at the 2021 JFK 50 Mile in 5:35, and Ryan Clifford who ran 3:13 at these championships in 2021.

50 km Road Championship

Autumn Ray finishes 2nd woman in 3:29:16. Photo: Meghan Canfield.

Pannu led the charge from the gun, with Mazaheri and Beavin seconds back, in 17:41, after the first of ten 5k loops. Lap was similarly fast, but by lap 3 the wind and chill started to dig in and they slowed to 18:02, 18:11, 18:14, with Beavin pulling out after his 5th lap in just under 20 minutes. He decided to avoid the chance of injury and put his sights on staying healthy for the Mad City 100k in April. That put Ryan Clifford into 3rd, a good minute back.

Laps 6 and 7, Pannu and Mazaheri remained similarly paced in 18:29 and 18:30, but in lap 8, Mazaheri pulled ahead with an 18:07 to Pannu’s 18:29. Mazaheri continued his surge with lap 9 in 17:56 with an accumulated time of 2:42:54, and the question was could he pull off a 17:06 final 5k to get a qualifying 3:00? Spectators watched in anguish as he showed up with the final 600 meters to go, and less than 2 minutes to achieve the time. He crossed the line in 3:01:01, the USATF 50 km Road National Champion, but unfortunately did not qualify for the National Team. Pannu continued to slow with laps 9 in 19:35 and 10 in 20:07, but held on for 2nd place in 3:04:58. Clifford continued to run relatively consistent laps, and finished a solid 3rd in 3:06:52, bettering his 2021 time by nearly 7 minutes.

In the women’s race Alexandra Niles led Autumn Ray by 9 seconds, and Melissa Tanner by 39 seconds, at the end of lap one in just over 20 minutes. The next lap played similarly, but after 4 laps Ray had taken the lead. Tanner kept the top two in sight, and Niles regrouped by lap 7 and pulled Ray back in. At the marathon mark, it was Niles in 2:52:11, Ray in 2:53:04, and Tanner in 2:55:09. The order would remain the same to the end, with Niles taking the USATF 50 km Road Championship in 3:25:12, earning her the automatic spot on the U.S. 50 km National Team. Ray’s 2nd place time of 3:29:16 and Tanner’s 3rd place of 3:29:49 will add them to the list of women for consideration to the U.S. 50 km National Team. Also of note is that both Ray and Tanner are master’s runners in the 40-44 age group, and Tanner is just 15 weeks postpartum.

50 km Championship

Rajpaul Pannu and Bijan Mazaheri 1 second apart at 25k in just under 90 minutes. Photo: Meghan Canfield.

USATF Mountain Ultra Trail gives a special thanks to GLIRC for hosting this event. They really know how to put on a national championship as this is their 6th time doing so. There were many hardy volunteers working together like a well oiled machine, enduring the harsh conditions, and putting the athletes’ experience before all else. Thank you Team GLIRC!!

Official USATF Championship results can be found on this Google Sheet.

Complete race results for the Heckscher State Park GLIRC 50K/25K Runs can be found on