Course Records & Their Relative Difficulty: Men’s 100 Mile Examples

AJWs TaproomDavid Riddle’s Course Record setting run at the JFK 50 mile last Saturday got me thinking about Course Records for ultras and the relative stoutness of some of them. In a sport that is relatively young, of course, there are some courses where the record seems to be broken every other year and others that seem a bit more difficult to break. With his fantastic run at JFK, Riddle took down a 17-year old record. Here’s a quick look at some intriguing men’s 100 mile course records. We’re looking for you to share what you think are the most impressive trail running and ultrarunning course records for men and women.

Western States 100: Geoff Roes 15:07 is now the standard at this storied race. However, what makes the WS record so intriguing is not the record itself but the changes in the course over the years. By now everyone knows that Jim King’s 14:54 was run at the WS 90, so nobody pays much attention to it. But, since Cal Street was added and the course became a legitimate 100 miler the record has gone from the low-16’s to the low 15’s on about five different courses. For a thorough analysis of all these course changes you can see Craig Thornley’s article on his blog. All of the changes to the course since the addition of Cal Street have been made between the start and Last Chance (Mile 43). Therefore, a good place to measure CR stoutness is from Last Chance to the Finish. And over that section, indeed, in 2010, Geoff Roes ran 40 minutes faster than Scott Jurek did in 2004 putting to rest any debate. In my novice opinion, I think sub-15 will happen at WS sometime in the near future.

Leadville 100: After trying once in 2004 and walking in, Matt Carpenter got it right at Leadville in 2005 and obliterated the Course Record by over 90 minutes. His 15:42 has now stood strong for six years and could last a good deal longer. Anton Krupicka has come within 40 minutes of the record on two occasions and could get even closer over the next few years but, of course, time will tell. In addition, the course change that was made in 2009 as a result of a helicopter crash in the vicinity appears to now have been made permanent. Most Leadville veterans agree that this “new” course is a few minutes slower adding an additional challenge to Carpenter’s already robust Course Record.

Hardrock 100: This race actually has two course records as it is run in alternate directions every year. As a result, Karl Meltzer holds the counter-clockwise record of 24:38 set in 2009 and Kyle Skaggs holds the clockwise record of 23:23 set in 2008. Most observers believe that Skaggs’ record is the more impressive of the two. However, long-time Hardrock veterans also note that the counter-clockwise course is significantly more difficult than the clockwise course and that, indeed, Karl’s record may be just as stout. Regardless, it is clear that both records could prove tough to beat. There have been runners within an hour of Karl’s record since 2009, but there has been nobody even within two hours of Kyle since the run when he beat the second place guy (Scott Jaime) by over six hours!

Javelina and Rocky Raccoon 100s: These two records were set in 2011 by Hal Koerner and Ian Sharman and while they were set in races that do not have the same history or prestige of those discussed above, the two times, 13:47 and 12:44 are, quite simply, smokin’ fast and are likely to be in the mix for men’s Performance of the Year (along with Riddle’s JFK record) in 2011. Whether the records themselves will stand the test of time is another story.

Angeles Crest 100: From my perspective, this is the grandaddy of all Course Records. Set by Jim O’Brien in 1989, 17:35 over the rugged backcountry of the San Gabriel’s has stood the test of time. The course changes since 1989 have been minimal (in fact, the course is now two miles shorter since it no longer finishes in the Rose Bowl) and the trail conditions have actually improved over the two decades since O’Brien’s incredible run. One runner, Hal Koerner, came within an hour of O’Brien in 2008 (18:29) and was just over an hour behind him in 2006. Only two other runners, Ben Hian and Jorge Pacheco have even run under 19 hours (Hian twice, Pacheco once). According to the locals, O’Brien’s training leading up to the 1989 event was incredible as he strung together 10 consecutive 200 mile weeks and had a perfect nutrition plan on race day (Mango Nectar and CarboPlex, evidently). That, coupled with the fact that race day temperatures were in the 60’s, made it the perfect day. Anton Krupicka has suggested that if he gets bypassed in the Hardrock lottery that he would like to run AC. I, for one, would love to see that as it could be as close as anyone gets to O’Brien and may encourage other speedsters to head out to the San Gabriel’s to test themselves on one of the oldest and purest 100 mile courses in the country.

All this, of course, pales in comparison to the now unbreakable Grand Teton 100 mile course record set in 2010. :)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Bell's Two Hearted AleAJW’s beer of the week is Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewery in Michigan.

This week’s beer of the week comes from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and pays tribute to Ernest Hemingway’s timeless classic, “Big Two-Hearted River.” Bell Beer’s Two Hearted Ale sports a nice crisp hoppy aroma with just the right amount of spice. In contrast to other IPA’s, the touch of sweetness in Two Hearted Ale softens the alcohol and brings out the beer flavor. Definitely a cool weather beer to have after a long run.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • How tough do you think it’ll be for folks to break the course records AJW notes?
  • What are some of the other more impressive trail running or ultrarunning course records out there?

There are 72 comments

    1. Liza Howard (was Ano

      Right! Ann Trason and there's Jenn Shelton's 14:57 at Rocky Raccoon and … well now I'm going to have to go look up female course records.

      1. Mike Bailey

        I believe Shelton's RR is also the fastest 100 miles any female has ever run on trails. Not just in the US either. I'd also put Trason's 6:09 at American River in the list

  1. Jason

    There's also Andy Jones's 1988 Ice Age 50 CR of 5:53:21. A few people have come close, but after 23 years (and counting) of a lot of fast guys falling short, it's looking pretty stout.

    1. Forrest

      Yes- Ice age 50. Few people outside the midwest realize what an amazing recond this is. I would love to see an elite national level marathon or ultra runner really take a crack at this one.

  2. David T.

    Skaggs's HR record gets the nod in my opinion. No one has even come close (not even within 2 hours). It was an inhuman performance that may never be matched or exceeded.

    1. Speedgoatkarl

      Yes, this is my favorite as well, however, I will say, noone has really nailed it in the Clockwise direction, other than Kyle. I see 24 hours in sights of someone in the next few years. Julien came very close to my record CC, and with the 2 miles extras, we could even say he was within 10-15 minutes. It'll go down eventually.

  3. CraigR

    Another stout record that is most likely never to be broken is Courtney Campbell's 1998 Laurel Highland's 70.5M CR of 10:43:34. I say never because most of the top runners don't run it. This course is no joke either.

    However, I will say that Krupicka came within 31 minutes (16:14:35) of Carpenter's CR at Leadville. My guess is when he is healthy and returns that CR will fall as well.

    Ann Trason! Unmatched. There was no one like her.

  4. Nick Clark

    Okay – so a few corrections to start out with. Tony came with half an hour of MC's record at Leadville ONCE. Nobody else has come with an hour. A stout time for sure, but definitely breakable if a field ever assembles there. And on the course change, I think it is generally agreed that the reroute makes the course 15-20 mins FASTER than the original course, so Sandes time from this year was about 1:20-5 off the record.

    To Dave T's point above on HR, Karl ran within 1:15 of Kyle's record the very next year, and Julien's time from this year would have been close, probably still slower than Karl's, as the reroute added a little over two (torturous) miles to the course. Again, Kyle's HR is super stout, but still very much in play with a focused effort, IMO.

    Western States sub-15 will be tough on the course proper, as the ridge sections slow things down considerably compared to the lightning fast section around French Meadows on the snow route of the last two years. WS vets seem to think the road around French Meadows takes about 20 mins off the course, even with the snow running early.

    Couple of recent times that I think will stand the test of time: Tony's White River (just smoking fast) and Geoff's Mountain Masochist. I haven't run either course, but both times are so much faster than anything else run there (by a bunch of respected runners) that they're going to be hard to top. I also think Tom Johnson's 5:33 at the American River 50 (1994) is pretty darn impressive. Probably comparable to a 5:36/37 at JFK, which seems to run a couple minutes slower than AR50.

    On the women's side, it would be great to see the women push to get close to a few of AT's records. I think Ellie proved this year that the WS record is very much in play; however, her Leadville record hasn't even come close to being pressured. Her AR50 is super stout too. I think Ellie was a good half an hour or so back on it this year. Ann's records will go down with time, though. No reason to think they are untouchable.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Nick,
      Thanks for the corrections and the great additions to the list.

      Too bad world 100ks is so close to AR next year. It'd be sweet to see Riddle, Wardian, and the speed oriented guys (it wouldn't be fair to call these guys "road guys") showdown there.

      I wonder if and when there might be enough draw to get a field to assemble for a Leadville CR attempt. With the draw of Western States, the growth of UTMB, and the possibility of a big money 100 joining the calendar, something special would have to come together to make Leadville THE event of the season or something close. That said, such things do happen… just look at Rocky Raccoon this year. One specific factor against a field assembling for Leadville is that anyone going for the record or hoping to stay close to those who are would need to acclimate at altitude for a few weeks before hand. That's a big commitment.

  5. CraigR

    Need to give some love to Zach Gingrich's 2009 Kettle Moraine 100 CR of 15:17:32. Eric Clifton also held this one for 20 Years. Granted Clifton's time of 15:57:09 was back when the race started at 3PM and required him to run all night(Now starts @ 6:00AM).

  6. David T.

    Can anyone speak to the weather and course conditions at the time some of these records were set? In particular I am interested in the conditions when Skaggs set his record. I read that the conditions during this year's HR made it one of the most difficult. This seems like a huge factor in comparing course records year-to-year and between different races. For HR, the San Juans, especially at the altitudes HR hits, can be unpredictable and unforgiving.

    1. FastED

      There was a lot of snow on the course that year, especially in American Basin. But having a lot of snow is a mixed bag because on the steep slopes it helps in both directions – up and down. But in places like American Basin where the snow was deep, post holing was common. In my opinion Kyle was probably slowed down by 45 mins to hour by the basins.

  7. Bill

    Not a race but Billy Blands 13:53 for the 72 mile 27,000ft Bob Graham Round in the UK is one of the most outstanding ultra running records.

    Mark Hartell (hardrock 100 28:49 in 2003)has the second fastest time over an hour more in 14:54 only four have gone under 5 hours including Billy.

    To try and compare how good Billy was his record for the Wasdale fell race (21 mile 9,000ft) is 3:25 Rob Jebbs best is 3:46. Rob has the record for Zegama still (3:54)as Killian was 3 seconds outside this year.

        1. Tim

          Bill, glad you mentioned Billy Bland, I think that time could be among the hardest records to beat. I would also recommend that anyone interested in fell running read "Feet in the Clouds – A Tale of Fell Running and Obsession by RIchard Askwith.

  8. AJW

    Yes, no doubt there are some excellent women's course records out there that have been in the same hands for a long time (many, by the way, in the hands of one woman). Perhaps this is fodder for a future Taproom Post. (Anybody remember the "Year of the Woman" column I wrote a few weeks ago?)

    And, following up on the Ice Age thread, how about Andy Jones' sub-4 hour run at the classic road ultra Strolling Jim. Sub-6 min miles for 40 rolling miles, that is, indeed, stout.

    AJW

  9. Jake Rydman

    In 2010, a few weeks after the WS course was set on fire by Geoff, a no-name newbie by the name of Thomas Crawford took a crack at the 100 mile distance for the first time at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100. He had some recognition from some of the other top guys based on a record setting run that year at Leona Divide, but it seems nobody considered him a serious contender as it was his first 100. Thomas not only won in 17:47, but set a new CR on a harder course (which introduced a 2mi, 2000' climb at miles 30 & 80) than was previously run in 18:59 by both veterans Erik Skaden and Mike Wolfe. 2nd place finisher Brett Rivers had to say this: A huge congrats to Thomas Crawford on CRUSHING his first 100 mile in course-record fashion in 17:47, simply amazing.  First hundred, no course preview, no pacer, hopefully people take notice as in my opinion this is going to be a very underrated achievement for 2010 racing (taken from BR's blog). Having run this race this past summer, I'm blown away by this time and by how consistent his splits were if you ever get a chance to check 'em out; his splits are simply unreal on this two-50mi-loop course…….I think I may have seen his name on the WS app list.

  10. CJ

    In my opinion, Kyle's HR record will never be broken unless someone trains in Silverton for 2-3 months leading up to the race. That's some very specific terrain that takes time to navigate and become familiar with

    1. CraigR

      Ever here of guys by the name of Krupicka or Jornet? My guess is that one of them will take that record. Both these dudes spend morre time at "altitude" then anyone on the planet. And the fact that more and more Euros are coming across the pond to tackle our courses.

  11. Jeff

    Bell's Amber is indeed one if the greatest beers. But isn't Bells in K-Zoo? AJW says the U.P., which I'm pretty sure is wrong — or at least used to be.

    1. AJW

      Jeff, the label says U.P., the bottle says K-Zoo, and the website just says "MIchigan". So, I shot for the middle. Wherever it is, they make damn good beer!

  12. AJW

    I've heard that there was a bit of twittering out there today about this post particularly from those who were disappointed I had not included any women's Course Records in the discussion. That was not an oversight nor was it disrespectful, it was, quite frankly, simply because there is not much all that new or compelling to talk about.

    But, for the record, here goes:

    WS — Ann Trason 17:37

    LT — Ann Trason 18:06

    WF — Ann Trason 22:27

    Women's GS Record — Ann Trason

    Also; AR, Miwok, Firetrails, 24 hour, 48 hour, 72 hour, etc…

    She never ran Hardrock but, I am guessing, if she had, she'd be in the 26 hour range.

    Lastly, I must say, I know Ann.

    And, as proud as she is of all those CR's and all those wins, she never really raced against just the women. She raced against everyone. And, that is her legacy…She is, truly, the best there ever was….

  13. Anton Krupicka

    Nick, glad you made the Leadville corrections. I would put the post-2008 Leadville course at ~18-20min faster for the top guys. I know that I feel like I'll have to run at least 15:25 there now to not feel sheepish about besting MC's standard.

    I think Geoff's 18:30 Wasatch deserves a mention. I've only been on a few miles of the course, but it's another one that was breaking new ground by a full hour (of course, Karl followed only 42min later), so seems like it should be quite stout.

    Leadville has the paradoxical combination of relentless altitude and an almost completely uninspiring course (save Hope Pass). This is why I think it has been tough to attract top runners there to amass a depth of fast times. The Leadville mythology is almost enough to make up for these things, though–and the competitiveness has been gaining steam over the last few years, just like mountain ultras as a whole–so I think we'll continue to see more sub-17hr times there. 15:42:59 is really fast, though.

    1. Speedgoatkarl

      Bingo, finally someone hit Geoff's Wasatch! His 18:30 there will likely stand for quite a while. I was the guy chasing, and my second place time was 19:12, still very fast, but Geoff really nailed that one that day. Being the guy who lives here, I probably have the most respect for that one. I have some room for improvement on that 19:12, but not sure if Geoff has much room on the 18:30.

    2. Scott Weber

      Here's a chart comparing the men and women's winning splits at Leadville for the years 1992 to 2011 (additions & corrections appreciated):

      http://www.coachweber.com/leadville100winningspli

      PS1: If the course is potentially running that much faster for the leaders as Anton notes (great post btw), then hopefully it means that there's some additional 30 or so minutes of wiggle room for the back-of-the-packers … I'm certainly could use it (coming back to do it myself in 2012 after 22 years of sloth :-) … last finish at Leadville for me was in 1990.

      PS2: It will be interesting to see what the new trail section paralleling the Winfield road will do. If nothing else it will mean a whole lot less dust in the lungs for the majority of the runners.

  14. E. Honeyfield

    I’ve always wished some math wiz would go through all the results of 100 milers and make conversion factors to show what Y hours on one course would equal on a different course. I realize there are so many factors at play that make this very difficult (course changes, weather, each athlete's strengths/weaknesses, etc..), but even rough conversion factors would be cool if for interesting conversation only.

  15. Mike Bailey

    Okay, hopefully I don't repeat anything that's already been said. I think ultra course records are a lot like Bannister's four minute mile. When runners consider a time untouchable, it always makes it tougher, though they have the talent to conquer it. Clifton was a "mere" 2:38 marathoner yeld held a CR for 17 years that nobody came within 4 minutes of(Mackey, Wardian, Ricklefs, Nippert, Koerner, Jurek, and so on). I think David Riddle's time is incredible, yet it's not inconceivable that sub 5:40 will be broken soon, and possibly low 5:30's. I think Clark Zealand's 4:30 at Promise Land 50k will hold for a while. Most people don't realize the talent that has run that race over the years and nobody has come close on a course that hasn't changed. Roes' Masochist will stand for a while because it required the best US ultrarunner at the time to have his best race ever, with ideal weather conditions. It also looks as if all the course reroutes to WS make Jurek's 15:36 all the more stoute, though I don't know the course. On pure speed, Andy Henshaw's 6:47 at the Mad City 100k deserves notice. On pure endurance, Mike Morton's near American record at the 2011 Hinson Lake 24 hour, with 163 miles, was off the charts. Given the heat, sand, and 250 slower runners on the course, he nearly matched Jureks record that was done in ideal weather, on pavement, with other fast runners. Just my two silly little cents. Don't forget Valmir Nunez's 22:51 at Badwater! Great topic.

    1. Aaron

      Valmir had perfect weather for Badwater. At least it was perfect for Badwater.

      I think averaging the top ten times at any event over its time and then seeing how much faster the leader was over that average could give you a good look at how a CR would stack up with course changes. Seeing a win and CR over a larger percentage then the average times would be the bigger accomplishment???

      1. Aaron

        Okay, so I started putting together some times to see how CR's worked out.

        I kept it simple and just got the average winning times for the past 10 times the event was held and then got the percentage the current CR is over the average.

        I did 4 runs.

        Western States

        Average winning time(over past 10 years) – 16:20

        CR – 15:07 Average over winning time – 7.1%

        Hardrock

        Average winning time – 26:43

        CR – 23:23 Average over winning time – 12.6%

        Rocky Raccoon

        Average winning time – 14:25

        CR – 12:44 Average over winning time – 11.8%

        JFK

        Average winning time – 5:57:36

        CR – 5:40:45 Average over winning time – 4.9%

        It's not perfect, but you can at least understanding of how game changers come in play when the big percentages occur and make the record very noteworthy!

        1. Mike Bailey

          Aaron, those are great stats. I wonder how Geoff Roes' 6:27 at Mountain Masochist stands up. Most year's winning times are in the 7 hour range, which nearly a 10% improvement, though last year's winning time of 7:23 was one of the slowest winning times ever. White River also has a huge gap between Uli Steidl and Tony Krupicka's times vs everyone else (nearly 20-30 minutes). The 5:33 CR at American River is another one that nobody comes within 20 minutes of most years. I think one of the key points is that the elites only have 2-3 focus races a year, and they are choosing big name events like WS, JFK, North Face,etc. That's why the CR's at these events are that much more impressive compared to others which have not yet seen their share of elites going 100% there. Matt Carpenter's Leadville and Kyle Skagg's Hardrock were both these guys' single focus race during the given year. Each trained exclusively for the race, delivered with exceptional performances, and now hold very hard to match course records. So, it's not outlandish to understand how Skaggs ran hours faster than Jurek's best time and faster than Speedgoat Meltzer. If Geoff, Karl, Tony, or Killian trained the way Kyle did for '08, then I could fathom another sub 24, or sub 23. So many variables all the time, and that's one of the great wonders of ultras :-)

          1. Aaron

            Mike:

            Here are the 3 you asked for.

            Mountain Masochist

            Average 10 year winning time – 6:58

            CR – 6:28 Average over winning time – 7.3%

            American River

            Average winning time – 6:07

            CR – 5:32:18 Average over winning time – 9.5%

            Leadville

            Average winning time – 17:09

            CR – 15:42:55 Average over winning time – 8.5%

  16. Aaron

    Check out how Ann Tason's CR at Leadville stacks up.

    Leadvill Women's Average 10 year winning time – 21:18

    CR – 18:06:24 Average over winning time – 15.1%

    1. Bryon Powell

      David, as I posit below, I think field size must be considered when looking at this differential percentage metric. It's much easier for someone to be a big statistical outlier in a small data pool (smaller race).

  17. Bryon Powell

    I think it's very important to keep field size in perspective when comparing course records to average winning times. From the four examples above, the differential percentage has an inverse relationship with field size. From largest to smallest: JFK (4.9%) >> WS100 (7.1%) > RR100 (11.8%) >> HRH (12.6%).

    There's also a rough correlation between length of race existence and low differential. From oldest to youngest: JFK (4.9%) > WS100 (7.1%) >> HRH (12.6%) ~ RR100 (11.8%). Note the RR100 exception to the trend, but HRH was founded in 1992 with RR coming a year later in 1993. Perhaps, the correlation is better tied to total competitors in race history as JFK and WS hold their places and RR and HRH swap to a progression that ties to the differential percentage.

    Just some late night thoughts.

    1. David T.

      There is clearly some correlation and it would be helpful to do some trend analysis over the ten years to see how consistent the winning times are.

      However, in regard to HR, the "quality" of the winners is fairly consistent with top level competitors winning many of the years and many top level level competitors placing in the top 10. It may not attract the depth of WS but in regard to who wins there is not a lot of difference (Kyle Skaggs, Karl Meltzer (multiple time winner), Julien Chorier, Scott Jurek, Jared Campbell, David Horton, etc.).

      1. geoff

        David,

        I think you are right to some degree. certainly the hardrock winner has been a very strong runner virtually every year… and Kyle's record there is without a doubt one of the most impressive in the sport… this said though, in most years if the field were as deep at HR as it is at a race like WS or UTMB the winning times would be much faster (whether it be by the same runner or another runner) than they have been. many years (of course not every year) at HR all it takes to win is being a legit top level runner. you can then go out and have a pretty average day and win the race. at a race like WS or UTMB it does matter who you are, you have to have a pretty dang good day to win the race, cause if you don't have a good day there are dozens of other legit racers waiting in the wings to take advantage. Going back 10 years in hardrock history you have several races in which the winning time was slower than 28 hours. even once I believe when the winning time was over 30 hours. if HR had the depth of top level competition of WS or UTMB you would never see a race with a winning time slower than 26 or so.

      2. geoff

        not to take anything away from karl, as what he's done at HR is super impressive, but there have been at least a couple years in which he's pretty much only needed to finish to win the race. karl has shown that he can go out and grind out a sub 30 hour run at HR 99 times out of 100. in almost every year that he's run it that's all he's needed to do to win the race. if HR had more depth a lot of Karl's HR winning times would have needed to be an hour or two faster for him to win. something that if pushed he probably could have done… and if not then someone else would have won with a faster time. to assume that the hardrock 10 year average winning time is anywhere near as solid as the WS 10 year average time just because the HR winner is always a top notch runner is for this reason not an accurate assumption in my mind.

    2. geoff

      I'd have to agree with Bryon here. these are fun stats to look at, but in many cases I think these numbers tell us more about the typical strength of field at a given race then they do about the impressiveness of one particular performance at these races. Pretty much the larger the race the lower these percentages are going to be (with some random exceptions), and then when you start to look into some really small races you will see some huge numbers here. if races were all equal in terms of field size you could attach some value to an individual performance in this way, but with how varied the competition is from race to race i really don't think there is a whole lot here in terms of an indication of the impressiveness of a particular performance.

      1. geoff

        …also worth mentioning is that almost every course mentioned here has had some course changes over the years, making numbers like this even less indicative.

      2. David T.

        Clearly it is neither the number of people that race in a particular race nor how long it has been around. Instead it is the quality of the front runners. You could have a small race that year after year attracts a group of some of the very best MUT runners around. This race would produce some very stout CRs. I think Hardrock falls into this category.

  18. Aaron

    I just did these numbers for the sheer boredom of it. I do think course changes and a 10 year period did not change the average much at all. In fact having the changes in the average times helps equal everything out even more. Average times will change as the times get faster every year too.

    Also agree that the number of elite level runners have the largest impact on just how much you will be able to lower a CR. You get 10-20+ at the top 50 milers and usually 3-5 at most 100's (at least until not too long ago). You are just not going to decimate a course record with that high of a competitive race where the top 10 are separated by much less of a margin than any 100 miler.

  19. Flaherty

    I would like to target Jones' CR at Ice Age eventually. I don't think it's in the cards for 2012, but maybe 2013 or 2014. I also don't know if I'd be ready to give it a real shot by late spring. His 4:54 50 mile Canadian Record is pretty incredible, run two years after his Ice Age record.

    The conditions seem to make his record all the more impressive. From the Message from the Race Director (Jeff Mallach) on the Ice Age website: "With temperatures surpassing 80 degrees, Andy ran a 5:53:41, a record that still stands 22 years later. When asked by a reporter how he was feeling at the finish, Andy replied, 'I was 25 when I started, I’m 35 now.'"

  20. Mike Bailey

    I agree with Dave T. The field size, 1100 at JFK being the largest, does not effect the record times. The average time at JFK is something in the 10:30 range, which reflects the abundance of recreational runners and first timers that an event, and to some degree easier course, like JFK offers. Once could almost say the top 10 times aren't relevent, but perhaps where the top 3 finishers stack up. A deeper elite field awlays generates the fastest times, as well as epics battles. Look at what David Riddle and Wardian did at JFK, Roes vs Krupicka and Kilian at WS, and Roes vs Meltzer at Wasatch. It takes the best to bring out the best.

    Bryon Powell's correlation to the age of the event is on par because it means these key elite match ups have had more years to occur. One other stat I would consider is where the 2nd and 3rd place runners were in relation to the winner. The Hardrock results are extreme in that there might be a 2-3 spread between 1st and 2nd. I would add that Skaggs was 6+ hours ahead of 2nd, meaning his CR was not generated out of a "racing" effort. He knew the course well enough, and probably went into it knowing goal splits, and potential finish time. The distance, and toughness of a race causes these big time gaps, and even bigger gaps when elites runners "specialize" their training for a single race.

    Ultras also tend to have the craziest weather. Heat and cold can slow things down a lot year to year. When Mark Lundblad won JFK in '08 it was a windy 19 degrees and he lost nearly 10 minutes for a train crossing. Odd things can skew the stats, so it's tough to know all the little stories that lead to the numbers we see on paper.

    1. AJW

      Carpenter and O'Brien also went off the front right from the gun.

      All the WS records (since Johnson) have been set in much closer company.

      On that note, another fun comparison to determine field strength is to look at the overall time gap (as a % of the winning time) between the 1st finisher and the 10th finisher. For starters, look at the time spread between 1st and 10th at WS2004 and the same spread in WS2011. Clearly, over the last eight years, that race has become much more competitive regardless of the speed of the winner.

  21. Dominic

    Having trained and raced a bit on The AC over the past few years, I would say the course is not faster. Jim O'Brien's pacer has noted over the past couple years how much more technical the course has gotten over the years of fires, storms, FS closures and neglect. That's not to say Hal Winton hasn't worked extremely hard to keep the trails passable every year, he just has had resources to keep the trails in prisitine 1989 condition. Sure, the finish used to be 1.7 miles of downhill city streets longer and there used to be a ridge scramble on Upper Winter Creek, but the Cooper Canyon section is a half mile longer and has a much slower road section compared to the fast downhill singletrack of pre tree frog times. Furthermore, most of the middle high country miles are exposed now with much more sun and heat in the middle of the day from miles 40-68. This has also dried out the soil and made it much more technical and rocky.

    Furthermore, I'm 99% certain we won't see a day in July of temperatures in the 40's-60's that occured when the CR was set. This isn't to take away from the incredible feat that Jim O'Brien achieved 22 years ago, just to help readers appreciate the course that has endured and transformed into the unique challenge that it is today. I'm sure the record will be broken, but the talent, tactics, and execution required to break the record will have to be much more than meets the eye.

  22. outsideinmi

    I just have one addition to the names of course records that need to be recognized as "stout" or "amazing" — Jennifer Pharr Davis in 2011, at 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes — not a RACE,and not in the Men's 100 mile category, but definitely course record that will stand for a while. Karl tried to break that record too, and i hope he tries again, along with some other ultra – elite men.

  23. Brett

    I think Matt Carpenter is done racing longer events like this now. But he would have been a good candidate to make a run at it in years past. I think TonyK and Geoff Roes, and Kilian could all make a run at it, among others. Of course, they first have to get in. :)

  24. Brett

    I'd like to add a few:

    Jamie Donaldson's 2010 Badwater female CR: 26h16m

    Matt Carpenter's 2004 San Juan Solstice 50: 7h59m – Dakota Jones ran within 15 minutes of it a couple years ago and said at the awards ceremony it was the best race of his life. And that was with a 20-30mph tailwind across the Divide for a dozen miles, perfect weather, and low water/snow.

    Mike Morton's 163.9 miles at Hinson Lake 24 Hour – about 1 mile from breaking the 24 hour men's american record despite being on a trail – what are the odds anybody can run more than 164 miles on a trail in 24 hours anywhere ever again?

  25. Mike Bailey

    Greetings Brett. I actually referenced Mike Morton's run way up on the message board. It still blows my mind that such an incredible performance, at such a low key event, hasn't received the attention it should. I don't know if anyone will break 163.9 miles on trails under 24 hours any time soon. I suspect those that could do it would take a crack at an American record on a fast paved course, like at the 24 hour worlds. I can't imagine anyone right now, other than Morton, who would attempt it, given that most trail 24 hour races draw little attention (ie Hinson Lake). In my book, this is the performance of the year. I'd be curious to see if Morton accepts an invite to the US 24 hour team. I don't believe they held a 24 hour world championship in 2011 (though it was at the 2010 worlds Jurek set the US record).

    1. Brett

      Ahh, I see it now, you beat me to it!

      I saw Mike both the last 2 years when he put up the 163.9 and the 153 or whatever it was the previous year.

      In 2010 the heat index was over 90F for 8 hours and over 80F for 12 hours.

      This year, it was 'cooler', but the heat index was still over 80F all day.

      And most impressively, there were over 200 people on the loop. So there is no way he ran tangents while hopping around everyone. 163.9 miles is well over 100 laps on that course. If he ran > .01 mile per loop out of his way while moving around groups of people, than he actually did run over the American Record…although not technically given credit for it.

  26. Anonymous

    I don't think deep fields are not required at all for CR's. A deep elite field does not always generate the fastest times due to racing, but those performances do get the most attention on message boards. The key thing with the strength of CR's at competitive races is number of attempts from top athletes that are fit. Just take a look at the front page of the ultrarunning magazine site, most of the recent CR's were not what I would call close races. Many runners who win races are motivated whether or not there are other's close to them, and best tend to run their own races.

  27. Andy J

    We'll I'm 50 now.

    Strangely I could have gone faster that day. I had a bad stretch for about 5 miles that probably cost me 5 minutes.

    I think this record is beatable.

    I consider the Strolling Jim course record my best race.

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