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 151 comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

        Scott,
        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.

  4. 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.

      AJW

      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.

  5. 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. Sixdaysinthedome.com 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Steve

    The UROY award will not be decided until the TNF50. If Krar wins the TNF50, then the award will likely go to him. If Sage wins, then he'll probably be the front runner for the award. I think Sharman, Olson, and Olsen are the locks for the next 3 spots, with the 100k road champs potentially providing a mix up if Jon Olsen finishes in the top-5.

    As for Ultra performance of the year, I believe that it should go to Sharman hands down. He destroyed the Grand Slam record, in the process grabbing an amazing 4th at WS (in one of the most competitive WS fields ever) and then he won Leadville.

    UROY if Krar wins TNF:

    1) Krar

    2) Canaday

    3) Olson

    4) Sharman

    5) J. Olsen

    UPOF:

    1) Sharman's Grand Slam

    2) J. Olsen's 11:59

    3) Clarke's GS

    4) Jones's SJS record

  15. markdorion

    It's funny, but I hear from INTERNATIONAL ultra friends, including some who are trail specialists, and THEY all suggest California's JON OLSEN should have early strong consieration for "ultrarunner of the year."

    Jon beat the best INTERNATIONAL runners in the world to win the IAU 24 Hour on a tough 1.4 mile loop in the Netherlands– with the 2nd best US total ever at 167+. The last week he set the North American 100 mile record with 11:59:28. I seriously doubt any of the popular "trail specialists" named could run within one full hour of that time.

    How does a runner like Jon Olsen not even get NAMED by a supposedly-savvy ultra blogger??? Or did A J-W mean to say "TRAIL runner of the year, and not "ULTRA runner of the year"??

    By the bye I am a trail runner, direct trail races, even once won an event in California, the birthplace of modern trail ultra running. BUT I know WORLD CLASS performances when I see them. As and aside, even a race like Western States does not draw as diverse an international field as a USA road ultra like the New York 6/ 10 day.

  16. markdorion

    To Joe F. and other multi-day racers,

    If this were any other country in the world (I include our neighbors Canada and Mexico too, your multi-day efforts would garner loud acclaim from bloggers and statisticians. See, for e.g., some of the op-eds at http://www.multidayrunning

    In the USA, we have reached a point where many runners believe that "ULTRArunning" and "TRAILrunning" are one and the same thing.

    I have also asked for years why UR magazine can't choose both a "trail ultrarunner of the year" and a road one. This would alleviate many headaches for voters and fans. But what do I know?

    By the bye, I expect several top MEXICAN ultrarunners, a good Ukrainian runner, plus Jon Olsen to duke it out at our S.U.V. 60Km here in New Mexico on Feb. 1. I wonder if any top USA trail specialists will show up??

  17. Jon Olsen

    I want to make sure the discussion doesn't get off of the topic….we are here, in reality, to celebrate those runners that have had exceptional years! Those individuals named, have been named for a reason…because they truly put together some draw dropping performances. It really is a honor to be spoken in the same breathe as the Ian's, Sage's, Timmy's, Krar's….of the world. There are still a few months left in the season. Lets see how it all shakes out:)

  18. Alex

    To be honest im quite offended. All the credit always goes to American runners. What about those who destroyed Sage and Max King in Sierre Zinal? what about Luis Alberto from Spain? I think he should be the ultra runner of the year. Man his first year racing he had AMAZING results!. Europeans dont get any credit (apart from MR KILIAN of course). I dont get it, american runners and races get so much credit. There are many europeans here who would beat these guys that have no sponsors and no recognition. In the UTMB everyone was talking about timothy olson and anton k, but guess who won it? a french guy that no one knew about. I guess this article should be titled: Male American Ultrarunner of the Year.

  19. SteelTownRunner

    +1.

    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

  20. Bryon Powell

    Alex,
    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? :-)

    -Bryon

    1. Alex

      Okay, maybe I exaggerated by writing that I was offended. Im not really hehe. But its kinda discouraging.

      -Iker karrera

      -Xavier Thevenard

      -Marco de Gasperi ( he was head to head with Kilian in the Dolomites sky race, amazing finish).

      -Philipp Reiter (maybe he didnt have the best season)

  21. Cole

    Bryon, those performance clauses have fallen out of contracts due to multiple sponsors being worn on a vest in this day in age. Companies no longer match or half-match winnings since it is rare that a single athlete has a single sponsor.

  22. Alex

    The UTMB is considered the most important and competitive race in ultra running by many. Thus shouldn't the winer of the UTMB (ultra race of the year perhaps?) be the ultra runner of the year? :)

    1. Bryon Powell

      Alex,
      Here in the US, there's long been a tradition of separating the performance of the year from the ultrarunner of the year. Obviously, winning performances at the most competitive races have significant weight, but they're not seen as defining who's best over the course of the year.

    2. John M.

      That "considered… by many" is the catch point. There is a divide, here in the U.S., between

      a) west of the plains (the mountain ultras) and east of the Mississippi (the might be ugly trail ultras),

      b) trails versus roads (with track runs being thrown in with roads, but some not even giving thought to indoor/outdoor time events and whether a track run is the same as a time event on a loop course),

      c) throwing in FKTs — as if there is some standardized certified course for an FKT,

      d) and other stuff.

    3. Sean

      I'm going disagree with both Alex and Joe, and reiterate what Ian said in a previous comment about Comrades being the most competitive ultra in the world each year. The Comrades winner doesn't earn the title "World Champion", but the world championships of any sport aren't necessarily the most competitive event of a sport.

      That said, I believe Jon's 11:59 is the world-best POY so far this year. However, this article is supposed to be about UROY, not POY.

  23. Fejes

    No UTMB is not the most competitive event. The World Championship is to which Jon Olsen. Jon was also on the 100k team and slated to run the World Championship which unfortunately was cancelled. I also don't believe anyone in the World has run a faster time this year (or in recent years) for a 100 miles.

  24. Fejes

    Sean, I will concede that Comrades may have as competitive group of international runners as the WC but I discounted the race (rightly or wrongly) for being a non recognized distance compared to standard 50k, 100k, 100 mile, 24 hour events. Then again I'm not sure any trail race with a time faster than an existing world record at such standard distances would be recognized.

    1. John M.

      That standard distance thing puzzles a lot of runners. As ultramarathons grew in number, the "need" for all things being equal factor kicked in. If you go back a few years there were many "odd" distance ultras: 75k (road), 38-mile (trail), and so on… even time events had nonstandard stuff: 6-hour trail, 24-hour on a five-mile country loop, 41.2ish-mile (road–paved and gravel), 70 miles (trail), 40.5 miles (road), 36.2 miles (trail)… and so on.

      The rules for USATF/IAAF records will keep trail stuff from the "real" records pages. There isn't even a category for the indoor run Olsen just had–have to throw it into the "all comers doing whatever" to get recognized.

  25. AJW

    Hey everyone, thanks for all the comments and for keeping the conversation constructive.

    Just an FYI, for the past two years I have done my own "Year in Ultraunninng Selections" in a January column. Last year's is linked below. If there is sufficient interest (and we could figure out how to tabulate results) perhaps we could morph this into some kind of People's Choice Awards. As you'll undoubtedly note if you look at last year's article I pretty much just made it up as I went along. It's fun, but it's just one guy's opinion. I, for one, like the two categories I invented, Rookie of the Year and Surprise of the Year. Clearly, a road/track and trail separation might be warranted, as well.

    http://www.irunfar.com/2013/01/second-annual-ajws

  26. John M.

    Cole — that kind of generalization is close to being just plain silly. Kouros, one of the greats of ultramarathon running, seldom went to trails (one finish at Western), but no one has even come close to what he did in time events or at the Spartathlon. That is part of the issue in ultramarathon "awards"–the variety of venues seems to reward a variety of talents, not all of which transfer from one course to the other.

    1. Ian Sharman

      For me Kouros is the best ultrarunner ever, yet he couldn't run trails and his one trail event I'm aware of was an over 20hr Western States. But on the flat stuff he's light years ahead of anyone else.

        1. John M.

          From September 1988 UltraRunning: 20:12:54, 24th overall. "This year's race also marked the WS debut of the legendary Yiannis Kouros. He had just broken the world record for 1,000 miles three weeks prior to the race, and had run 100km in Belgium the week before in 7:36. His intent was to just run the course and learn the trail, perhaps returning next year when he could be more competitive."

  27. Sean

    Cole, not only is that generalization silly, as John M says, but you are simply wrong. You clearly didn't research last December's Across the Years race in AZ, so let me summarize it for you. Ian won the 24 hr race with 109 miles. Joe won the 72 hr race, running 141 miles for his 24 hr split.

    Also, not quite sure what your point is when referencing Scott. Ian's marathon p.r. is faster than Scott's, but Scott's 24 hr distance is better than Ian's.

    1. Ian Sharman

      I did walk the last 70 miles of Across the Years so the 109 miles was more of a forced suffer-fest to mentally prepare for the Grand Slam than a race. I should have stopped due to injury (it then forced me to basically take off Jan and to not run in Feb). Joe's run over the 3 days was very impressive but I can see why this type of event doesn't appeal to a lot of talented runners since tiny loops aren't as inspiring (to me) as mountains and trails.

  28. Jon Olsen

    Sean……is absolute right…..kind of:) I've got depressed many a times watching some of Kilians insanity on YouTube…..I come away thinking….no matter how hard I train….I will NEVER be that. And I know there are other Euro Freaks out there doing amazing things. I think the American "general public" won't consider any Europeans until they come to the US and win any big races…such as Kilian and Heras.

    I know better than that however.

    1. Lstomsl

      Don't be depressed. Killian could never be you either. He almost cried last week having to run a paved bike trail on vail pass for a few miles…..

  29. 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.

    1. Sean

      "because nobody knows who I am."

      Don't kid yourself, buddy. I do, as do all of the other SCRUDites! This is the internet – you cannot hide!

      1. Lstomsl

        I am officially awarding the LSTOMSL award for most Improved beer mile of 2013 to you Sean. And also the award for most entertaining post-beer mile can crushing.

        1. Sean

          Thank you so much, Lstomsl (don't worry, your real identity is safe with SCRUD). I am honored to have those prestigious awards bestowed upon me. These not only mean that my season has been a success, but on a much broader scale, my runner career has been a success. Perhaps I should consider retiring. Does that come with social security benefits?

          And to my esteemed employer, Powell, I anxiously await said cold day in January. Perhaps we can have an iRF promotion on that day for 8 minutes and 49 seconds.

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