The Ten Best Ultra Runs of 2012

AJWs Taproom[Introductory Note: These rankings are simply the ruminations of one observer and represent a combination of domestic and international racers competing in events in the US and abroad. It, in no way, represents an exhaustive study nor does it pretend to be fully representative of all the great runs of 2012.]

It’s that time of year again! The holidays, sweet treats, dark beers, and prognostications about Ultrarunner(s) of the Year. The Ultrarunning Magazine rankings are a few weeks away, but I thought it would fun to prime the pump with a top-10 list of my own, the ten best runs of the year. I haven’t divided them by gender or distance or terrain, rather, I have simply ranked what were, in my opinion, the best of the year. Here goes:

10. Hal Koerner’s Hardrock 100 – Hal-o-Matic got the conditions he wanted, nailed his training, drew inspiration from pacing Timothy Olson at Western States, and was a natural for this year’s course direction. Hammering the long road downhills and power hiking forcefully through the night, Hal took the lead at Ouray and never relinquished it. Another big notch in one of ultrarunning’s iconic belts.

9. Emilie Forsberg’s North Face San Francisco 50 – This young Swede fought hard through some of the sketchiest conditions of the year to prevail over a stacked field. Employing solid tactics and adhering to a focused race plan, Forsberg displayed tremendous skill that belied her youth.

8. Dakota Jones’ Lake Sonoma 50 – While many have lauded Dakota’s win at Transvulcania, I believe his win at Lake Sonoma was more impressive. Against a focused field Dakota simply obliterated the competition. Running hills that most of his competitors were walking, “Young Money” showed that he has what it takes to win big.

7. Anna Frost’s Transvulcania 83k – Frosty showed up on La Palma with an intense focus and a clear goal. Running off the front from the starting gun, Anna managed the intense heat and sketchy volcanic terrain with ease and just missed breaking into the overall top-10 along the way.

6. Amy Sproston’s 100k World Championship – With impeccable pacing and perfect timing, Sproston took the lead in this prestigious race with just a few kilometers to go and surged to an impressive world-championships victory. Along the way, she led her USA team to a first place finish that firmly placed the American women in the forefront of the world ultrarunning map.

5. Sage Canaday’s White River 50 – The White River 50 is one of the oldest 50-milers on the West Coast and has seen its share of great performances over the years. Most notably, in the past few years the course record has been progressively lowered by Uli Steidl and then Anton Krupicka. In the 2012 version, young upstart Sage Canaday, running in his first 50-miler, pushed the course record even lower and gave notice that he has arrived on the scene.

4. Timothy Olson’s Western States 100 – After a sixth place finish at WS in 2011 and an outstanding spring season that included a win at Bandera and second place finishes at Lake Sonoma and Leona Divide, Timothy put together a perfect race under ideal race conditions to set a new course record and become the first runner on the modern course to run under 15 hours. It was a personal thrill for me to run the mile or so into the Rucky Chucky River Crossing with Timothy and his pacer Hal Koerner and realize that he was truly having “his day.”

3. Max King’s JFK 50 – While Canaday’s course record at White River was amazing, King’s course record at JFK was truly extraordinary. Going up against an international field of accomplished road and trail racers in America’s oldest ultra, Max King blazed his way to victory in metronomic course-record time and proved that he is the #1 sub-100-mile ultrarunner in the country.

2. Ellie Greenwood’s Western States 100 – Taking nothing away from Timothy Olson’s course record run I must say that Ellie’s course record edged him out. Besting none other than the immortal 14-time Western States champion Ann Trason, Ellie etched her name in the history books and cemented her frontrunner status for female Ultrarunner of the Year.

1. Mike Morton’s World 24-Hour Championship – The 1997 Western States champion and former course record holder broke Scott Jurek’s 24-hour record by over 7 miles along the way to a stunning victory in the 24-Hour World Championships. Shadow boxing with Jurek over the past fifteen years, Morton finally returned the favor following up on Jurek’s besting of his record in the 2004 Western States with a new record of his own. Not only did Morton secure his legacy as one of the great ultrarunners of our time, but he also made a strong case for 2012 Ultrarunner of the Year.

Happy New Year everyone!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week
Schlafly Tasmanian IPA
For the last week of the year we’re looking south to the warmer climate of Australia. Schlafly Brewing Company in St. Louis has produced an outstanding Tasmanian IPA hopped completely with Australian hops. The result is a citrusy smooth beer with a nice blend of sweetness and spice.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)
What do you think were some of the top runs of 2012?

There are 5 comments

  1. Tropical John

    These lists are always tough! But if you put Morton's run at number 1, you would have to have Connie Gardner's 149+ miles American Record in there too I expect. And Ellie's JFK (and Chuckanut and Comrades). And Dakota's Transvulcania. And Meghan's 7:41 100K at age 51. And Jon Olsen's 12:29 100 miler. And Dylan Bowman's Leona. And Leor's Skyline.

    Oh wait. That's more than 10, isn't it. . .

  2. Speedgoatkarl

    Old man Meltzer won RRR100? 44 years old has to count for something. First year races are always tough to judge…. It's all mumbo jumbo.

    Great list. I think Morton is on top too. Going over 170,and winning 5 100+ mile runs in one year is huge. He had a great season, now we just need to get Mike to the mountains. :-) Happy New Year!

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