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 266 comments

  1. Randy

    Could also make a lottery(since they are a staple of Ultras now)for your vote.A ticket for each beer AJW gets,x-tra tickets if it's a really good beer.(Lose tickets if it's Coors).

  2. Greg H.

    Chris Barry? From Keene? He gets my vote for middle school xc coach of the year. Sage gets my vote for UROY. Sage will prove it at TNF50. I'm a huge Krar fan but Sage is the man at 50miles!

  3. Fejes

    Any UROY voter that doesn't vote for Jon Olsen to win should have their voting privileges revoked immediately and permanently. Reminds me of the clueless judge in the Mayweather/Alavarez fight.

    Jon's sub 12 100 plus his gold medal win at the 24 hour WC are jaw dropping. What's more he might even break another AR in December at the Soochow Invitational 24 hour in Taiwan.

    1. Speedgoatkarl

      He'll win perfrormance of the year hands down, if he doesn't…I agree, take the voter off the panel. :-) But he didn't race anyone anywhere else, that carries weight here unfortunately. I"d bet with 20 voters, we may see a clean sweep on performance of the year, that may be a first. He's got one vote from me.

      If he kills it at Soochaw, his name goes AT LEAST top 3. This would be an example of flying under the radar with amazing performances but no competition. (except the worlds where he ran against "non-contenders" in the NA scene). It really should be a different catagory, cuz 95% of folks who even look at ultras now are looking at trail races. He'd win so easily in the 80's with a clean sweep. :-)

      1. JC

        I do not understand why Jon's performances are more impressive than the course records that were broken. Jon set the record on a track, Sage at Lake Sonoma, Jones at SJS ect. Different skills sets, yes, but to say that one is by far and a way more impressive than another is a bit of a stretch. That's why we need to look at the competition and how old the record was.

        1. Ben Nephew

          You might want to take your own advice on look the competition and how old the record was, and then you would probably understand. The reason that many ultrarunners with a more extensive background in the sport think Jon's runs are much more impressive is because the organized and competitive histories of the both the 24hr and 100 mile are much deeper than most trail events. With road and track events, it is easier to compare across races and time. Look at the competitive records of the men that own the records that Jon broke. It'll be easy, two of them are in the American ultrarunning hall of fame. I'd be interested to know what Sage and Dakota think of their runs in comparison to Jon's.

      2. Ben Nephew

        That's funny, Karl, as you realize, only in this conversation would an international win not get much credit despite the reality that US men struggle internationally at trail events. It's like saying Meb won the Silver medal, but top US guys weren't there, so whoever won Twin Cities is superior. While I value wins with strong competition, I've always looked at records as if the new record holder was competing with all the great runners that went before him.

  4. MT

    Props to Ian's comment above. Sage's most recent results seem to be drowning out his stellar performances earlier this year. Speedgoat was a _stacked_ field. And it was not even his only win.

    It seems to me, a casual lurker on this forum :-), that Sage gets the short end of the stick when it comes to public support. Especially from soul runners. If he was smarter, he would focus on touching the grass and surviving on drops of universe juice. Or at least make it appear so on his blog :-D

    1. Jon

      Doesn't matter… No other North American has run 100 miles that fast… Wait and see what happens @ Desert Solstice, if Olsen runs it… With all due respect to all of the folks mentioned, this isn't about beards or trails (exclusively) it's about ultrarunning… Period.

  5. running blind

    Absolutely Jon Olsen should be at the top. World Championship win and US record.

    Really a shame how little regard there is for the road/track ultra scene.

    Love to see road guys like Wardian step into the trails and mix it up on foreign terrain. Olsen even did this in 2012 when he ran WS100. When are the trail guys going to return the favor and step to the roads/track?

  6. Anonymous


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

    1. Scott

      I love, love this idea.

      The irunfar runner of the year award

      Performance of the year

      If I could help out in organizing it – let me know!

  7. adam

    I gota go Sage. He kicked ass at so many ultras this year already. If 100 miles is a requirement…Tim for sure. Can't go with Rob cause Tim beat him when they went head to head.

  8. Fejes

    Are multiday ultra performances banned from consideration? My 329 miles ATY 72 hour, Vol State 500k course record, 10th WC 24 hour-154 miles should be worthy of being considered notwithstanding the low number of competitors in ATY and Vol State. Or not?

  9. 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???

    2. Patrick L

      I agree with Karl that there should be some type of standard to qualify for the award. With ultra running coming in so many different forms, how can you compare certain accomplishments? How does four 100-milers in a summer compare with a difficult FKT or a victory against an impressive field of elites?

      Perhaps it has already been suggested, but a 27-tier point system should be created so that all races/routes can be compartmentalized easily. Course record at Vermont 100? 16 points. Michael Arnstein was there and scattered banana peels all over the trail? Add 4 more points. Finish in 4th place at Lake Sonoma? 12 points. It was a stacked field with every Salomon runner in attendance and you beat every one? Add 3 more points. Good luck creating this, Karl. We can't wait!

      Baseball writers have been disagreeing for decades about MVP voting, too. Does the award go to the best player in each league or the player who's presence elevated his team into the playoffs? Voters still aren't unanimous. But as long as our young sport has an open discussion about the topic, we're doing ultra running justice.

      Thanks for getting ball rolling, Karl. You're the best!

  10. Andy R

    For me we are talking about ultra running. Endurance. All that we have talked about are amazing athletes. For me the most inspiring are Sharman , Clark and Jon Olsen.

  11. Fejes

    An overall American Record to me should carry much more weight than simply a course record regardless of the comparative difficulties associated with a particular course or it's conditions. The AR 100 mile record Jon broke has been around since 1989. As far as competition I am not sure the field gets any deeper than a World Championship. Most of the US races simply don't have many of the international competitors though that is changing with the advent of international ultra series.

  12. Chris Cawley

    Krar had a better season than TO, winning at each of the classic american ultra distances against top athletes, except for at WS100, where he lost by a very short margin after running basically just as smart a race as TO. I totally agree that in consideration for UROY, FKT's should not be heavily weighted, but I think the R2R2R is well established enough, and has been contested by such an elite group, that it could be an exception. The only possibly chink in Krar's armor, to me, is that he has not jumped in any elite races with really big vert or technical course conditions; he's clearly a runners' runner, whereas TO is developing an aptitude for races like UTMB and Speedgoat.

    Olson, on the other hand, won only the Bandera 50K in January against runners lesser known to most of us, and WS100. Anything else not edivdent on the ultrasignup records? His UTMB/RRR turnaround is impressive–and obviously the man is among the most talented ultrarunners in the world–but selecting a race calendar that allows for maximum performance on a smaller number of race days, and then winning across a diverse assortment of distances/conditions is by far more impressive to me. I think that if runners who have the time and resources to pursue extremely rigorous training volume and intensity would also include complete, dynamic, focused rest in their cycles–like pro-tour cyclists and elite road runners–they would run faster races, and the level of competition in ultra running would be elevating even more rapidly than it already has been the last couple years. TO has certainly shown impressive focus and distinct preparation for WS100, but he has not found a way to bring the shorter distances into his wheelhouse more consistently, and I think training for true speed is most effective when supplimented with rest.

    Canaday FTW? Most likely; although he has shown real weaknesses among his absurd race calendar, his combination of strength (INSANE Speedgoat course record) and speed (Lake Sonoma) may be unmatched. OTOH, Krar's only second place all season was one of the standout individual performances of 2013 AND a 100-mile debut on a day with extremely challenging conditions.

    Dakota had a reduced calendar this year, but I think any run that breaks a Matt Carpenter course record deserves a nod for performance of the year; SJS50 was a career highlight for Dakota, and you gotta give it to the guy for pursuing a wide variety of mountain activities, RDing for the first time, and then heading to an under-the-radar event for a focus race and absolutely blowing it up on one of ultrarunning's more challenging courses.

  13. Fejes

    To put the level of competition for the World Championship in perspective, there has never been an individual US gold medalist in the 25 year history of the 100k. Additionally there have only been 2 US gold medalist in the 24 hour–Mike Morton and Jon Olsen.

    1. Anonymous

      For men perhaps. For woman 100k, dont forget Amy Sproston. Shes a, great example of someone bridging the gap between road/trail . At any race over 50 miles shes a contender.
      Morton is probably the only US male
      runner that contends road/trail internationally.

  14. Dylan

    Might be time to split UROY into two categories. The sport has evolved and trail performances seem to be more highly regarded than Road/ timed performances. Comparing the four aforementioned
    athlete's remarkable accomplishments to
    road running accomplishments is like
    comparing apples and oranges. Do we weight winning Lake Sonoma 50 equally with running the fastest American 100 mile time ever? Some might argue that races such as WS100, Lake Sonoma and UROC have the most competetive fields
    and therefore deserve more weight. I
    personally have no awareness of how competetive road, track or timed ultras are…probably due to a lack of depth in coverage regarding the events and the
    athletes. I have to assume however, that
    when records stand from the 1980s that
    many great runners have made attempts
    during the long span of the record. For this reason, I would vote for Jon Olsen's
    100 and 24hrs as Performance/ UROY of the year. If the categories were split…hands down Ian Sharman Trail UROY! for its epic quality, competition, historic value and dismantling of a stout time. For what its worth I'd put Nick Clark's GS ahead of Timmy, Sage and Krar. Pretty amazing all the way around!

  15. Jake

    At this moment I would put it Sage, Ian, and Krar. The sheer number of wins in competitive ultra fields and course records Sage has put down just can't be ignored. Ian accomplishing something that's hard to fathom, running four 100 milers fast. And Krar for what he has done this year from FKT's to competitions, a range that is just astounding.

  16. AJW

    Hey everyone, thanks for all of the responses to this post. It has, indeed, been a very interesting discussion.

    As some of you know, Bryon and Meghan are in the midst of a move from Park City to Moab so they may not have followed along on this thread as much as others. I can assure you that they are paying attention and we will pull together the irunfar editorial team to figure out the best way to address your concerns.

    From my perspective, it appears as though there is significant interest in considering a new approach to determining Ultrarunner of the Year. I can assure all of you that I will be in touch with Bryon and Meghan to discuss possibilities as we know that irunfar has become the "Go-To" site for ultrarunning aficionados. That said, it is likely that whatever we come up with will not be entirely satisfactory to the entire ultrarunning community as we have clearly come to realize that you are an increasingly disparate and opinionated group.

    So, all this is to say, the overwhelming response to this rather underwhelming post has piqued our interest and please stay tuned in the next few weeks for whatever we can come up with.

    Yours, AJW

    1. Randy

      Seem to remember a lot of this same discussion last year,do the people at Ultra-Running Magazine,which started this award,just refuse to want to add any change to there UROY format?A lot has changed in ultra-running over the years in events and participation,seems like these awards should change with it.Hope iRunFar can bring these awards up to date.

      1. AJW

        Randy, you are correct, this has been hashed out before and, over the past few years, the UR Magazine critieria has changed. Most notably, beginning in 2011, voters were provided with dnf data which prior to that time was excluded from the data provided to voters. Indeed, there is frustration and difference of opinion about this award but please be assured that the URagazine folks are paying attention.

        1. Randy

          Thank's AJW,i'm on the outside looking in,so maybe i'm missing things,but sure seems what like Dylan above said,comparing apples and oranges to a lot of these great performances,and having just one UROY to represent all the different aspects of ultra-running seems kinda narrow-minded staying in the past.

  17. Mike

    The write up of Sage Canaday is weirdly sparse and lacking in details, as well as the obvious lack of "bold" font. Frankly, I feel sorry for the guy, he seems to be still trying to convince the old guard that he is a force to be reckoned with. Will he ever be accepted by the slow old guys that seem to make up the ultra contingent?

    Andy's twitter response to Sage's question about why there is a lack of details says it all…

    "space mostly. And, the assumption that any reader would know the results. Obviously, that assumption was wrong."

    I personally know that Sage has won a lot of races….do I remember them all? Hmm….no.

    [Editorial Note: Personal attacks and cursing have been removed as it is in appropriate in a discussion on iRunFar. I apologize if this appears uneven handed; however, I've just checked iRunFar's section for the first time in two days (I was moving) and this is the first comment I saw (reverse chron) with inappropriate content.

    I would encourage all of you to keep this discussion civil and constructive.


    1. Nicole

      I noticed it too; it's weirdly slanted content in an otherwise fair handed article. Along with an anonymous voting cabal, the whole thing kind of creeps me out.

  18. Sniffer

    shouldn't it be North American Ultra Runner of the Year??? and if that is the criteria then all races not held in North America would also be out. If a runner has won every race across the pond and around the globe, but never a ultra in the US they would never be considered for the award.

  19. 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.

  20. Astroyam

    This would indirectly promote running slow. Imo peaking and running as close to human potential on a day is the most exciting type of racing. Whatever the distance and terrain, the most inspiring performance is the ground breaking course record. Truly memorable performances are ones like MC leadville or Skaggs Hard Rock or this years SJS 50. You dont often get those trying to race as much as possible. They require focus.

    1. Speedgoatkarl

      But they are still running "slow". MC's average pace was near 9:30's, Kyle Skaggs, near 12:30 per mile. That's pretty slow, and even though they are "fast" in comparison to the course, it's still slow running for a long time. I agree watching a road marathon is exciting cuz they are hammering till someone breaks, much like a hill climb in the Tour De France. I think alot of us run lots of ultras mostly cuz' we just like to do it, and the accomplishment is the reward. I run too many, no doubt, but so what, the prize is likely a silly belt buckle, a plaque. Throw in some money and it would make a difference. But that's another topic. We'll bring that one up later.

      1. astroyam

        I'm not so concerned about the actual pace, m/m. What I really find exciting is runners getting close to absolute maximum human performance. Whether it's Usain Bolt at 9.58 sec/100m, or Hard Rock. For any event, there's a time that humans cannot go below. Approaching that is the most inspiring thing. Right now there's lots of room in ultra running for lowering records, because it's a newer field of events, relative to say the 100m or 10k. A 'Golden Age', hence the flurry of FKT interest.

  21. Ian Sharman

    Also something people haven't mentioned is the difference between American Records and World Records. Jon's runs this year are incredible, but I'd argue that many of the trail runs mentioned above are at world class levels – faster than anyone ever, not just Americans. US track records are well off world records (WRs – 188 miles for 24hrs, 11:28 for 100 miles).

    Josh Cox's 2:43 50k American Record wasn't performance of the year a couple of years ago, despite being just seconds off the world best and being frankly incredible compared to other ultra performances that year.

    1. Lstomsl

      Agreed, some of Europes best have come over and taken a shot at WS, hardrock, Leadville, Speedgoat, pikes peak, etc. and they've done well, even won some of them, but the CRs still stand.

  22. Fejes

    Ian, congrats on your awesome accomplishments this year focusing on the Slam! I really enjoy watching you mix it up and run a bit if everything-not only do you run tough trails but last year you ran Desert Solstice (Track), ATY (24 hour) and other varied events. Your sub 13 hour 100 miler a couple years is probably very close comparatively speaking with Jon's Sub 12 hour when you consider the trail surface you ran it on. I give you major props for running all surfaces unlike many other ultrarunners.

    My major beef (if it ain't obvious by now) is simply the omission of Jon's name as one of the 4 top candidates in the article . A more appropriate title for the article would have been "Some Early Thoughts on the Trail UROY". I sincerely hope that was the reason AJW didn't mention Jon as the front runner or as a contender for the award.

    Mountain Trail, Road /Track and even Multiday ultras are all admittedly significant different animals. My odds of beating you, Rob, Sage, or Tim are in any trail or race for less than 48 hours is slim to none. However I think I have pretty good odds competing against you four (or anyone) in the 48, 72 or 144 hour events.

    1. Cole

      Fejes, if you can't beat Sharman over 42K-100 miles, you are not beating him over 48-72-144 hrs. That's not how running works, just ask Scott Jurek (2:38 marathoner).

    2. scott

      Fejes, have you ever run a 100 miles at Rocky Raccoon? It's night and day compared to running around a track. Speaking of, Ian probably had to run the last hour of that race in the dark or extremely low light. The course is full of exposed roots, sharp consise turns, lots of little rollers, and smaller sections of soft dirt and rocks. It also consist of approximately 5,000 feet of elevation gain. That's 5,000 feet more than a track. 5,000 feet is huge, especially when you throw in the roots, turns and uneven surfaces. I'd like to guess the Rocky Raccoon trail is an hour and a half slower than a track over a 100 miles, but I'm just guessing. I don't think Jon breaks 13:30 on this trail, probably not even 14 hours mainly due to him not being trained on this surface to go 100 miles. Mile Morton ran it last year and went over 15 hours. I'm sure that was mainly contributed to not being 100% or having a bad day, but that is what the trail and sun can do to you. With that being said, the day that Ian broke the record was pretty much the perfect day and I don't know if that course record will ever go down. And with that being said, the 2014 USATF 100 mile trail championship will be at Rocky Raccoon. It would be cool to get Ian, Jon, Mike and all the other fast guys to go out and give it a go.

      I know AJW has run the course, maybe he has some better input. Also, they changed the course some years back and took out the only road section and made it all trails. AJW, did you run the course after the change?

      1. Speedgoatkarl

        Not sure what you mean by "full of exposed roots". Dude, that track is smooth as a babie's bottom. Pick your feet up. The 5k of elevation gain might be on paper, but it's flat….oh it's flat.

        Being a USATF 100 mile championship is cool, but is it really exactly 100 miles. It starts and ends in exactly the same place.

      2. AJW

        Scott, yes i ran RR100 before and after the changes and felt like the new course added about 45 mins to the course due to more rooty singletrack and many more little annoying twists and turns. My guess is Ian S would have been around 12:10 on the older, easier course (although some GPS data had that old course at 97 miles while the current course is a bit over 100 miles)

      3. scott

        I guess what I was trying to get at is I think you were off trying to compare Ian's Rocky Raccoon 12:44 to the 11:59 track time. I would guess it more comparable to the 11:28 world record. Just my opinion. Yes Karl, it's definitely flat in the trail scene but nothing like a synthetic domed track. You could also say The Bear is flat compared to Hardrock…

        1. Tom W

          I agree on both counts. Ian's time does not get near enough credit. Have been a lot of great runners at Rocky over the years and his time is 30 minutes faster than anyone else has managed. Will be interesting to see if temperatures are low and a fast field shows up what time is needed to win in 2014.

      4. Jon

        I ran 13:14 at the Rocky Road 100 mile in 2012 with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain and I didn't have Hal and Anton breathing down my neck. This was also without any crew assistance….BTW Ian and I ran at Desert Solstice together last year … Check the results. Don't get me wrong, if I was voting for UROY I would definitely put Ian in front of me, but don't question my ability to run fast off the track :).

        1. Ian Sharman

          It's very difficult to compare road/trail/track and no 2 runners would have the same differences in pace between them. Jon's run incredibly well on both fast trails and the track (and something like a 2:27 road marathon, I believe).

          Of the races I saw in person this year I think Timmy's WS100 was as good a run as any of the ultra track/road world records – the heat, competition and perfection of that run was something special. But I'd still argue that the best ultra run of the year is almost always by the winner of Comrades (not a North American). Having seen the course records go down there a few years ago, the pace required to run sub 6 min miles for 55 miles of hilly roads is better than anything in the US or European ultra scenes. In context, it's about the only ultra Ellie Greenwood can go to where she isn't the favorite and the men's field is far deeper.

          What I'd love to see is the top Comrades' runners from recent years on the easy trail 100s, but that's barely more likely than the Kenyan marathoners doing it. $10k for winning (a very few selected) trail races doesn't compare to $100k+ for those road races.

          1. SageCanaday

            Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think 1st place at Comrades is still "only" $30,000 USD. To earn over $100k on the roads you either have to WIN Boston, Chicago, or NYC (at least in the US)

            1. Bryon Powell

              A runner can achieve a significant multiplier effect from sponsor prize matching. I can't remember with certainty, but I think Nedbank offers 50% or 100% matching if you're in their jersey on race day. I think Nike used to offer a 50% bonus. Ian, Ellie, or Wardian would know more.

  23. AJW

    Randy, I agree. From my perspective it would make sense to perhaps have two UROYs:

    1. Road/Track UROY

    2. Trail UROY

    If we did this, then, we'd need to address the distance issue. It may be difficult to further divide the UROY field into sub-100k and over 100k, for example, but clearly, we have seen that 50Ks are an entirely different animal than 72 hour runs, etc…

    One idea, in this regard, that has occurred to some, is to have specific criteria for runner's to be eligible for UROY. This could be restrictive and, in some cases, counter to the independent nature of ultrarunning in general but it seems to me that if the athletes knew what the criteria was they could plan their racing schedules accordingly.

    More food for thought…

    1. AJW

      Cole, as far as I know there is no "ownership" over the Ultrarunner of the Year Awards. However, Ultrarunning Magazine has been conducting their rankings since 1981, and that, along with tracking every ultra finish in North America, has been the reason, until recently, that they have been the recognized authority in Ultrarunning. I am not saying that is the way it should be but having results published in UR magazine has been generally recognized as the factor that gives an event and/or a performance, legitimacy.

      And, just for the record, I have no formal relationship with UR Magazine (as I do with irunfar). However, I am friends with two of the former publishers, Don Allison and John Medinger, as well as the current publisher, Karl Hoagland.


      1. Cole

        AJW, thanks for the clarification. Then perhaps we can have a motion to improve the selection process. Is it American only (as in the past)? Is it North American? Why is it not global (is it not a global sport)? UltraRunning has been myopic in the past, but I feel we are at a point that we can accept this sport as global, and it has also moved past the 24hr track records of the past. Those are part of the sport, but we are finding a true venue over mountain and trail for these endeavors that really test the human body. I disagree with Karl about establishing a mileage limit/range. Some athletes know how to peak and may choose to peak once per year and a quality performance should trump a quantity performance. Anyway, my top list would be Jornet, Hernandez, Heras, Krar, Tim Olson, and Canaday. Those guys made 2013 what is was in this sport.

        1. Speedgoatkarl

          I agree is should be global, this way there is no arguement. But let's hypothetically think of some super fast Kenyan coming in and running through the marathon time in say 2:07, then pushing on to another 5 miles, makes it a 50k, runs 2:32 or something like that. He destroys the world 50k record. Is he eligible for the Ultrarunner of the Year…..globally thinking? I say no way. Performance absolutely, but no way UROY. Just an analogy, but miles, even if it were say 150 required would force the runner to run a few events, not just one. More mumbo jumbo….this post could break records. :-)

          1. Cole

            But this happens in mainstream Track & Field, which makes the ROY process political, but exciting. Every year, especially World Championship and Olympic years, the pundits at Track and Field News have to weigh whether an Olympic Gold medal performance out-weighs a World Record or Course Record at London, Berlin, Chicago, NYC, especially if that athlete doesn't race the WC or Olympics.

            Some years the singular performance is staggering enough to warrant ROY status, but other years, the accumulation of great performances in a season out-shine a singular performance. That's why we need an expert panel in which I would hope you and the likes of AJW, Bryon, etc. are part of that panel.

            We can't let an arbitrary number dictate or influence an athlete to jeopardize his/her career or negatively impact that runner's reputation, which is the reason why the best endurance athletes in their prime do not attempt 24hr-72hr races. The good thing with the new generation is that the 100 mile distance is not be-all, end-all in ultra running. We have learned that a 100K over mountains can be just as compelling as a 100 mile. Sage Canaday should not have to be "forced" to run a 100 miler to prove anything, just like we shouldn't "force" Olsen to take up 5,000m racing.

  24. Fejes

    Cole, I completely disagree and no need to ask Scott–I've run enough 24s the past few years to gain a pretty good understanding–many phenomenal 50-100 mile runners are simply not effective in the 24 hour or multiday events. Free entry to my 6 day indoor track event at the Alaska Dome in Anchorage next August 4 if Rob, Sage, Ian or Tim want to try the long stuff. for the details. Cole-"test the human body"? Are you suggesting the road/track as well as 24 hour events don't? Anyone who hasn't been tested in these events just ain't running hard enough. Sorry.

    1. Speedgoatkarl

      I tried it once in San Diego, running around in a circle for that long is mind bogglng, I lasted 71 miles, and took a nap. What Joe Fejes had done at 3 days is incredible, it takes real mental strength to run and continue that long. Enjoy the Dome….it's all you man.

  25. Fejes

    Thanks Karl–you got a free invite too–although I know the hamster wheel ain't your cup of tea!!–I'd live to see you join us for the Worlds next year–it will be fun to see what goes down in remaining 24 hour qualifiers at OKC and a Desert Solstice–I'm glad I was able to punch an auto qualifier this year by getting 10th at worlds.

    1. Speedgoatkarl

      If I were to even venture to run the worlds, I'd have to join USATF…No thanks, then sign some silly thing making me subject to random drug testing…No thanks again. No, I"m not on drugs, but ask Amy Sproston and Scott Jurek about annoying visits…No thanks again. :-) I'd get smoked so hard, my ashes wouldn't even be present. I'll stick to the mountains. I just have different interests is all. I have this other long run in mind next year, something beyond 72 hours, or even 40 days…..

      1. Fejes

        Speed goat-in your honor next time I go to Pinhoti trail Im gonna grab a few loose rocks and roots and will place them on the synthetic track to at least make feel like a tough trail runner! I hear you on the USATF membership but they do give decent reimbursement for travel so I can't bash them too bad! Yeah, I'm fine with the random drug tests at least until Smirnoff Gin and blue cheese stuffed olives reach the banned list. Getting smoked is exactly what happens to me when I step on any trail whether Pinhoti, Superior Sawtooth or even a manicured surface– I'll stick with my hamster wheel loopy loops. BTW congrats on your Pinhoti performance few years back–it is nice seeing you and some West Coasters do some Southern Trails. Best of luck!

  26. Gerell

    That's my point Karl…..not everyone has families and a day job, that takes serious strain on getting out and putting in the miles. I think more props should go out to "those runners" that are being pulled this way and that emotionally and physically… How many runners in the top ten at a major ultra have kids and a day job?

  27. Fejes

    Scott, I'm not sure what Ian's RR would translate into but his performance was no doubt incredible. Part of the beauty of track is no translation is required as needed with trails. I was in awe watching Ian, Jon and Michael Arnstein fly round the track last year at Desert Solstice with Jon running a stellar 12:29 and Michael going sub 13 too. My 14:41 pr 100 at Desert Solstice isn't anywhere near those guys however I did end up with best 24 156 plus miles in the 24 which ain't bad for 47 year old full time attorney whose running is simply a hobby. BTW my marathon pr set back in 1995 is a rather pedestrian 2:47.

  28. henry t

    Let's just drop 50k's from consideration. I know someone came up with the definition that an ultra is any run over a marathon, but realistically most people on this forum only care about 50 miles and up, and place special emphasis on the 100's. In my opinion, FKT's should not count, nor should races like Transrockies or Sables. That being said, Krar is still right up there, and TNF 50 should decide it. Even though it is the North American UROY, it doesn't logically follow that foreign races should be excluded. It may be a long time before another North American scores as high as 4th place in Mt. Blanc.

  29. Dylan

    If the category remains UROY and includes any ultra distance performance …road, track, timed, trail, mountain, fkt, etc…my vote would be for the runner with greatest success at the broadest range of distances and styles. If no clear candidates exist the weight should be given to any runner with a volume of success that includes an historic achievement. A trail or road specialist with many wins within their chosen distance or style would come next. For me that is the struggle this year. Ian's Grand Slam Vs. Jon's world 24 and American Record 100…both Historic and both remarkable.! If either fellow crossed styles for even one race with some success it would make the decision clear.
    If I was a betting man Id bet that Krar,
    Timmy, Sage and Ian could and would all
    enjoy success at a world level for road,
    track, and timed ultra events. They'd just
    have to WANT to do that, which is a
    pretty signifacant hurdle. Its not clear to me that many of current mens US road/track/timed team members would cross over quite as well to the trail side ? Obviously discounting the proven few…(Morton, Jurek come to mind but their achievements are broad enouh to defy categorizing them.)
    I appreciate Karl giving a nod to the challenges of running around a track.
    Real question…
    Is the panel voting for the UROY made up of a broad enough group to really judge the broad variety of performances? If not, diffuclty of a given event could be confused by looking at simple metrics that mean less than we really appreciate …ie
    elevation gain, trail quality, competiition etc. Arguments can always be made for or against…for instance ( my opinion) Ian's best performances …RR 100 and Grand Slam this year both had very challenging
    competition, which prove the value of the performaces. Jon's 100 miles had no competition. But couldn't one also argue that going that fast for that long with no one to push you proves the value of the performance and effort? These are all just questions with no answer. I certainly dont have the answer?!

  30. AJW

    Olsen ran WS several times back in 07-10ish. Had one epic back-from-the-dead race where he got off the cot at Hwy 49 and finished strong. Dude's a battler.

  31. scott

    Tim Olson is probably my favorite UR, but I don't think he gets it this year. It comes down to Krar, Sharman & Sage and that's the order I would vote them now I think. If one of these guys wins NF Championship they should get it. If no one wins, might have to give it to Ian Sharman.

  32. Dave Mackey

    AJW..Lets give the attention to the ladies first next year..They get the backseat most of the year as it is!

    Jon Olsen is really not getting a fair shake.. he should be the fifth choice in this list as his performances are truly international performances on an international stage. UROY really does need two categories of road UROY and trail UROY.

    Regarding internationals being considered candidates for UROY, that is too big a can of worms to open.

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