Some Early Thoughts on Male Ultrarunner of the Year

AJWs TaproomWhile there are still a few months left in the year, it’s a reasonable time to begin thinking about Ultrarunner of the Year.* And, I have to say that this year seems to be one of the toughest to pick in the last decade. Of course, it’s always difficult parsing out the various results and comparing courses, distances, and head-to-head matches but this year, for me, it really is a toss-up between four guys (and yes, I am stealing a page out of Karl Meltzer’s book and throwing down some odds).

Sage Canaday

Sage Canaday - 2013 Cayuga Trails 50 mileThis guy has had a wonderfully consistent season on a variety of different courses. His racing has been varied and his performances have proven both his versatility and persistence.

The Big “But”: Sage has not yet made the jump to the 100-mile distance and that could sway some few voters.

Odds of winning: 8-1

Ian Sharman

Ian Sharman - 2013 Leadville 100What to say about Ian? The guy blasted through the Grand Slam in an 11-week competition with Nick Clark and ran with focus and grace. His win at Leadville and second place at Wasatch propelled him to new heights and it’s hard to argue with the grit and determination it takes to gut out a Grand Slam like Ian did.

The Big “But”: In head-to-head races with the other UROY contenders, Ian lags a bit behind.

Odds of winning: 6-1

Timothy Olson

Timothy Olson - 2013 TNF UTMB

Tim won Western States with a scorching time on a truly scorching day. Were it not for his course record run in benign conditions last year, his 2013 WS alone might have, in the past, propelled him to being a shoo-in for UROY. But alas, it is likely to be much tighter this year even with his “second season” of racing in which he traveled around, beating a variety of different fields on a wide range of courses.

The Big “But”: Even with his incredible run at WS, Tim’s resume lacks that big “wow” race that often sways voters.

Odds of winning: 4-1

Rob Krar

Rob KrarRob started the year innocently enough, winning at Moab Red Hot and quietly beating Dakota Jones there. Then, he traveled to Leona Divide, an old and established race on the SoCal circuit, and blistered the course record. Two weeks later, he made history in the Grand Canyon by throwing down a new Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim FKT there by over 20 minutes. He decided to jump into Western States having earned a spot in Leona and ran the fastest second place ever and the fastest debut Western States 100 ever. Then, after taking it easy in the second half of the summer and winning TransRockies, he won the UROC 100k over a talented international field. Amazing!

The Big “But”: Rob did not win Western States. While that may seem nitpicky given the resume listed above, it will matter to some voters as head-to-head comparisons are important.

Odds of winning: 3-1

Wrap Up

Indeed, there are still a few months left and I know some of these guys may still have some racing left in their legs. But, in my opinion, it’s not too early to begin speculating, so, let’s have at it! Who’s gonna take it?

Bottoms up!

PS. I will have a similar look at the Female Ultrarunner of the Year contenders in my October 18th column.

* Editor’s Note: AJW is discussing ultrarunner of the year candidates who reside in North America. Obviously, other runners would warrant consideration if the geographic scope of consideration where larger.

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Flagstaff Brewing CompanyThe week’s Beer of the Week comes from Rob Krar’s home in Flagstaff, Arizona. Flagstaff Brewing Company’s Three Pin Pale Ale is a unique spin on that classic style. It’s got a hoppy start and a malty finish that I like. It’s certainly not a “big” beer, but it’s one of those that seems like it’s gone before you even get started. In other words, it’s fast, like all these guys above.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • Which of the guys above do you think has the current edge for the North American ultrarunner of the year title? Who’ll get it in the end?
  • If you were to add a fifth (and sixth?) runner for serious consideration, who would it be and why?
  • If we expand the scope of consideration to the rest of the world, Kilian Jornet is obviously a strong contender. However, who else outside of North America would be in the running for global men’s ultrarunner of the year?

There are 51 comments

  1. Anonymous

    What about Jon Olson? Gold at the World 24 Hour Champs, and recently setting the North American 100 mile record? Think it's worth a few votes…

  2. Dean G

    Sharman – top 4 in all four of Grandslams TM ;) , winning one, second in another, and takes the record under 70 hours…. Krar wins as brightest new star – and maybe 'Guy we suspect is going to be a superstar' – but I'D vote Ian for UROY.

  3. Lstomsl

    If it was 100 miler of the year iid say it's a toss up between Timmy and Ian. Timmy for one stellar performance and Ian for consistency over the summer. If it were short distance it would have to go to Sage, who has been unbeatable at 50 miles and under and set several stout CRs. But as ultra runner of the year I say it comes down to Krar and Dakota. While R2R2R and WS FKTs fall every few years, Matt Carpenters ultra records have stood for a decade despite some stout competition. The only one to have beaten one of Matt's records is Dakota and he did it by almost 30seconds a mile. And the only person to have beaten Dakota is Rob Krar. Robs won at 50k, 50 miles, and 100k and set multiple CRs and was second at his first 100 and one of the most competitive ever. Dakota hasn't done a 100 yet but he has been very competitive at them in the past and also did some community service as the RD for a spectacular new race in Telluride. That counts for something to me. Have to go with Krar first and Dakota second.

  4. Anonymous

    I think it is alwasys dangerous just to look at one race and say that should make anyone a lock for UROY. Although history shows later performances seem to have a bigger impact.(probably because it is fresh in peoples mind) Some people may race TNF but have had a long racing season and doing it more because it is an opportunity to meet up with many runners at the end the year. That is one of the greatest things about the sport is that the runners seem to really enjoy the opportunity to run/race together. I don't think Ian who has ran 4 100's starting with Western States or Tim who has ran 3 100's and other races if they chose to run would be able to be as competitive as they could at a different time. It comes down to focus and some people will go into the race well rested because this is a race they have considered a focus race for the year. Others will feel the racing season is over for them and they may pass altogether or run it less competively.

  5. Anonymous


    Can you set up an informal UOY poll on this site and enable the collective wisdom of the iRunFar community to be captured?

  6. Speedgoatkarl

    I have an idea to qualify for the voting for UROY. And I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned yet.

    What about having a total number of "miles raced"? Perhaps about 300-350 total? This would take Dakota out. Not that he's in it anyway IMHO, but having some kind of criteria like this might eliminate the "one time big race winner". Such as Dan Held years ago. It's different now, but it would at least thin it out a bit. Ultras are about running far.

    FKT's are out, they don't count, they shouldn't, I could very easily pull a Rosie Ruiz and go run the Wind River Highline Trail, set a ridiculous FKT, and who would really know if I were joking or cheating? Or who would even know if it's stout or not?

    I'm not saying anyone is cheating, don't call me on that, but I'm just sayin', that only races should matter.

    1. Lstomsl

      I'd support the idea of the one-time big race winner. I suspect in the future however as the sport gets more competitive we will see the top guys running less and training more scientifically, truly peaking for specific races. Like marathoners and cyclists do. It's impressive to see folks like Sage being competitive January to December (assuming he runs TNF). But it's also impressive to see folks just crushing it 3 or 4 times and never having a bad day…. Maybe 200 miles is enough???

  7. Speedgoatkarl

    I"m not so sure US runners struggle with international trail events. Dakota WON Transvulcania, 4th and 5th at UTMB this year for Foote and Olsen. Sage and Olsen at Transvulcania 2013. Not sure if those efforts are "struggling". :-) It really is mumbo jumbo. And look at Joe Fejes, his 72 hour run I think qualifies for this year right? Super stout….

    I do agree that records mean alot, and to look back who held them means alot, even with no comp. Sometimes it means even more to break a stout record all alone.

    The season isn't over yet, let's just hope these jokers in congress can let us run on Forest Service Land. I think that would be first priority right now.

  8. SteelTownRunner


    It's not just that Jon broke a record that has been around for 20+ years. Look at the number of people who have broken 12 hours for 100mi and their resumes. It is a performance we are unlikely to see for a while in spite of Jon's humble assertion that his record will be broken soon.

    …and the field at the WC – far deeper than any trail ultra with the *possible* exception of UTMB.

    My vote would go to Jon

  9. Bryon Powell

    You shouldn't be offended. The article lays out the scope of consideration and acknowledges… even calls for discussion of those elsewhere who've had outstanding seasons. Now's your chance to discuss those such as Kilian, Luis Alberto, and others! Let us know who else has crushed it this year aside from those two? :-)


  10. Lstomsl

    In he cycling world there are distinct specialties of mountain, road, and track. Within each there are sub specialties of XC, downhill, time trailing, one day or stage races, and even then there are sub-sub-specialties for sprinters, climbers, etc and each rider chooses focus races that suit there specific abilities. Bottom line is nobody would think of arguing over whether a track performance is better or worse than a downhill mtn bike race performance. Or arguing over who is the cyclist of the year. It's apples and oranges.

    In running ere is less official organization. UROY is meaningful because it has a history but there is nothing saying that they can't just decide to do so e different as the sport changes. Or that somebody else couldn't do something completely different of they want. Heck it's 2013 and we have the Internet. I could put up a web site with my opinion tomorrow, or even a poll tomorrow but nobody would care because nobody knows who I am. But Trail Runer magazine could have their own set of awards specific for trail runners. IRunFar could have a people's choice type of awards. Karl could post his Speedgoat awards on his website jf he felt like it. The sport is growing. There is room for more than just one award from one place decided by a select few anonymous elites. Why argue about what this one award means or should mean. Why not put forth some solutions for different awards. International, track, distance specific, FKT, whatever. If the process is worthy, the awards will gain prestige. Kind of like we have multiple awards for movies that don't always make the same decisions, and don't always have the same process, and don't necessarily carry the same prestige. But they are there nonetheless.

  11. Anonymous

    Instead of the award being assigned by a website or a magazine, why not just have the people vote — readers/subscribers submit whatever name they want, tally the entries and BAM! you have a reader/subscriber voted winner.

    Most folks have established an opinion based on their individual preferences of runner personality, event type, terrain, degree of inspiration, etc and therefore have an opinion. At this point I am unclear as to why it is left to an editorial staff of a website or magazine to determine…

    If an "award" is mandatory, than perhaps create relevant categories that represent the variety of competition that exists (Trail, Road, Track) and represent the participants (North American, International) that participate.

    This approach would better represent the wide variety of ultra events, and IMO is more thorough and fair.

    Specific (rather than general)awards would also expose the larger ultra community to the different categories of "ultra" — and the people pushing the envelope of human endurance.

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