Demystifying The Ultrarunner Of The Year Selection Process

Aloha, TJ[Editor’s Note: On January 1, Ellie Greenwood and Rob Krar were named 2014 Ultrarunners of the Year by UltraRunning magazine. The full story on the men’s and women’s top-10 UROY is available at UltraRunning’s website.]

Last year, Karl Hoagland bought UltraRunning, but asked me to continue to organize the magazine’s Ultrarunner of the Year (UROY) voting effort. He wanted the process to be transparent and, for the first time, the list of voters was published on ultrarunning.com. But it was published without any fanfare, so I’m not sure how many people noticed.

Thirty-two people cast ballots this year (see below). By my rough calculation, this group has nearly 1,000 years of combined ultra experience! One could possibly argue that there’s someone on the list that doesn’t belong there, but as a group the collective wisdom is undeniable.

Voters are asked to complete a ballot listing (in order) their top-10 male and female runners of the year. Any runner who resides in North America is eligible to be considered. The reason for this is simple: we don’t always know the actual citizenship status of people who have emigrated, and in some cases even if we did it would be ambiguous. Ellie Greenwood, for example, now has dual citizenship in Canada and Great Britain. (The magazine has always treated Canada as a logical extension of its U.S. readership base. Many Canadians race frequently in the U.S., and vice versa. In fact, Canadian women have rather dominated things in recent years, winning UROY four of the past five years.)

Voters are given instructions, but a lot of the ranking is still a judgment call. How do you compare performances over such a wide variety of events? Consider the men’s voting this year. You have Max King setting an American record in a flat, road 100k. You have Rob Krar, on a hot day, running the second-fastest time ever at Western States–a hilly, trail 100 miler. And you have Joe Fejes running 580 miles in a six-day track race. Talk about apples and oranges!

We ask voters to focus first on the most competitive races, as there are relatively few events where there are a lot of top runners competing. Western States, Lake Sonoma, and The North Face EC 50 Mile Championships comprise the deepest elite fields in North America. (A statistical analysis of the most competitive fields will be part of the data published in the January/February issue of UltraRunning.) Add in the IAU World 100k Championships, and highly competitive foreign events like the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and Comrades. What we are saying is that we are more impressed with strong performances in elite competitions than in a fast time at a low-key race.

We ask voters to look at the entire body of work for the year. One outstanding race can be acknowledged in the separate voting for Performance of the Year. It’s not uncommon for top runners to have a bad race or a DNF here and there, especially if they race frequently. Rob Krar had a sub-par performance at The North Face in December, no doubt running on weary legs after his three 100-mile win summer. Max King came a bit unglued in the later stages of Lake Sonoma in April. It happens, even to the best of runners. So you have to factor that in, too.

We also ask voters to focus on head-to-head results where they exist. If Runner A beats Runner B every time, it’s pretty hard to put Runner B ahead of Runner A in the rankings.

Voters submit ballots with their top-10 runners. Votes are tallied on a 15-12-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis, acknowledging the fact that often the top runners are fairly obvious, but when you get down to sixth or seventh in the balloting, it’s almost impossible to differentiate.

Ballots are also submitted for the top-five Performances of the Year–meaning the best single race–and also for top-five Age Group (>50 years old) Performances of the Year. These ballots are tallied on a 7-5-3-2-1 basis.

Voters take it seriously. Many tell me that they spend several hours pouring over the results and agonizing over their rankings. “Completing this ballot was harder than any race I ran all year,” Karl Meltzer said a couple of years back, and it’s worth nothing that he ran six 100 milers that year!

The ultimate goal is to have rankings that are as objectively derived as possible, and will stand up to the scrutiny they certainly will receive.

Voters casting ballots for 2014 were:

  • Don Allison — former Publisher, UltraRunning magazine
  • Meghan Arbogast — RD, Waldo 100k
  • Gary Cantrell — RD, Barkley and Strolling Jim
  • John Catts — RD, Quad Dipsea
  • Ed Demoney — founder, Old Dominion 100
  • Mark Dorion — elite runner (TX)
  • Chrissy Ferguson — RD, Arkansas Traveler 100
  • Julie Fingar — RD, American River 50 Mile, Way Too Cool 50k
  • Tim Fitzpatrick — RD, Tamalpa Headlands 50k
  • Topher Gaylord — President, Mountain Hardwear
  • Meghan Hicks — elite runner (UT); Senior Editor, iRunFar.com
  • Karl Hoagland — Publisher, UltraRunning magazine
  • David Horton — RD, Hellgate and Promise Land
  • Andy Jones-Wilkins — RD, Thomas Jefferson 100k; elite runner (VA)
  • Erika Lindland — Contributing Editor, UltraRunning magazine
  • Don Lundell — Zombie Runner
  • Dave Mackey — elite runner (CO)
  • John Medinger — RD, Lake Sonoma 50 Mile; former Publisher, UltraRunning magazine
  • Karl Meltzer — RD, Speedgoat 50k; elite runner (UT)
  • Scott Mills — RD, San Diego 100
  • Bryon Powell — Editor-in-Chief, iRunFar.com
  • Joe Prusaitis — RD, Bandera 100k and other Tejas Trails events
  • Glen Redpath — elite runner (NY)
  • Brett Rivers — elite runner (CA)
  • Meredith Terranova — elite runner (TX)
  • Craig Thornley — RD, Western States 100
  • Ian Torrence — elite runner (AZ)
  • Ann Trason — elite runner (CA); RD, Overlook 100k
  • John Trent — RD, Silver State 50 Mile; President, Western States Board of Trustees
  • Joe Uhan — elite runner (OR)
  • Gary Wang — Managing Editor, realendurance.com
  • Blake Wood — Hardrock 100 Board of Directors

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

What are your thoughts on the selection process for UltraRunning magazine’s Ultrarunner of the Year?

John Medinger

is the founder and race director of the Lake Sonoma 50. A former publisher of UltraRunning magazine, he ran his first ultra in 1980 and has now completed more than 130 ultras. He is also the founder and former race director of the Quad Dipsea race and has served on the Western States 100 Board since 1992.

There are 81 comments

    1. @eLLiejG

      it might not mean a lot to you and many others, but I can assure you that it means a lot to runners such as myself for two key reasons. 1 – I value peer recognition from a highly qualified panel like that which is listed above. 2 – it may sounds shallow, but as a top level runner who hopes to maintain sponsors, it is a valuable addition to my running resume.

      1. Mic_Med

        Well that's my problem with the "award." Why does this award hold any more weight than an award from a random blogger? If UltraRunning Magazine wants it to, then there should be something associated with it: A prize purse, a bonus from your sponsor, heck, even just a trophy. Other than the kudos, it ultimately means "nothing," and that's the problem I have with it. I'm not saying it's not a heck of an honor, I'm saying the opposite. It IS a big deal, but I wish it had value.

        1. @eLLiejG

          A random blogger is one persons, often ill-informed, opinion. UR Magazines award is from a huge panel of people who consider the voting process seriously and have established a fair voting process over many years, as this article explains. I don't see why money has to be involved for something to hold weight. I've won Western States twice, it didn't win me money but I can tell you it means a lot

        2. Tim

          Mic_Med doesn’t it mean the potential for sponsors and as Ellie said it looks good on the resume when looking for sponsors? If anything it opens the door to other things and builds a brand.

        3. @LArunr

          You can make a point that a lot of things in ultras ultimately amount to "nothing" to the outsider looking in. A 100 mile race to earn…a belt buckle, whether you're 1st or last? No prize purse at States, Sonoma, Hardrock, blah blah?

          If you don't understand the accolade and acknowledgement from some pretty darn notable peers/pioneers of this little sport, not sure I can explain it let alone try to quantify it. Not all currency has to be monetary. It'd be interesting to ask those in contention if they'd rather get a $10,000 prize purse from winning say TNF50 or being named UROY and getting nothing. I'm inclined to think most would pick the latter but maybe I'm just projecting.

          1. Mic_Med

            I was with you until you asked about earning a 10k prize at the most competitive 50 miler in the US or the UROY title. I think that'd be an excellent question to pose and I think you'll be quite mistaken. Maybe should have gone with a $500 paycheck at Mom's Mountain More than a Marathon Ultra vs UROY.

            1. @LArunr

              Point was whether short-term fulfillment is more satisfying than a distinction that will stand the test of time. Even hardcore fans of the sport will be hard-pressed to name the TNF50 winner from 5 years back versus the UROY. And ultimately, I think the cache and weight the "title" carries can more than make up for that dollar amount in sponsorship deals down the line.

            2. Mic_Med

              I don't know, I think you're stretching with the comparison. There's no short term fulfillment from winning a hyped race, as even Ellie chimed in with the fact that she won Western States twice. I remember who wins races, not the UROY by UltraRunning Magazine.

            3. @LArunr

              Fair enough. I'll stand by it. States is clearly held in higher esteem than almost all other races. I'd rather win UROY/WS and walk away with zilch than win TNF50. Maybe you're right though, maybe I'd be in the minority.

            4. @SageCanaday

              Billy, I think my perspective of MUT Running is much different from yours, but (in reference to the wise words of Buzz Burrell’s comment on AJW’s last column) that’s great! What we all find as individuals in the sport and attach value to is ultimately what defines our own perceptions of MUT. I think we should celebrate this diversity!

              So (to paraphrase Buzz) find what is true to your heart and pursue that.

              [So in my own mind] Winning TNF50 had a lot of sentimental and lasting value – and also [in my own mind] doing my best at the most competitive ultra trail race on US soil [ in my mind: TNF50] had been a long-term goal. Sure winning $10,000 was great to pay rent in Boulder, to pay off student loans, buy food etc., but the flow experience of racing a balls-out, championship 50-miler in the mud against lots of tough runners, puking, and overcoming a lot of physical discomfort in order to execute a 100% effort takes the cake.

              Place and prize money in that regard doesn’t matter (and neither does trying to please others to win a UROY award) because that is all external and based on other’s perceptions of success.

              That being said, of course winning a prestigious race like WS100 can pay huge dividends in sponsorship opportunity (i.e. if you are sponsored by TNF…maybe not so much if sponsored by PI or Montrail nowadays but I digress..).

              To me (and obviously many others) UROY is very important and I greatly respect the process, the hard work, the dedication and the history of former runners and the voting process/panel. Rob and Ellie had amazing years to win and they completely deserved it.

              But essentially we’re all still going to be pretty biased with our beliefs and that’s okay. We each have our own journey to follow for bliss. Whether that is determining if winning $10,000 in a race, or winning UROY (with potential sponsorship opportunity) or winning a WS100 is “better” than the former is beside the point IMHO.

              So with this all in mind, IMHO, your whole premise of “would you rather…” isn’t really a valid or appropriate comparison.

            5. @LArunr

              Hey Sage. Appreciate the thoughtful reply. My response was more geared towards explaining that the "value" of winning an award like UROY transcending immediate monetary benefits the original poster was questioning. TNF50 kept coming to mind because it was recent and it had a huge prize purse. Obviously I was there to witness and document it because it was a hugely competitive race and frankly, I'd put it as 1b to Max's 1a in terms of performance of the year IMHO (I may have even told you as much). But to not digress too much further, examples like TNF and WS only came about because they are well-known and for the prize purse (or lack thereof). Apologies if it sounded like it was discrediting your performance or sentimental value to you personally. It will go down as one of the gutsiest races in recent memory for sure.

    1. @eLLiejG

      1 – Big smile on my face. 2 – something to add to my running resume and publicity on various social media channels. 3 – motivation for 2015. 4 – no cash, no trophy, this is old school ultrarunning community at its best :)

      1. Tim

        Thanks Ellie I was trying to pose that question to Mic_Med and I didn’t hit reply to his thread it was sort of a set up question if you know what I mean :-)

        Congrats on winning UROY wish you a healthy 2015!

  1. @jmaytum13

    Do they need to get something? Recognition from your peers for your accomplishments can be a heck of a thing. Not everything needs to be tied to a trophy or a pay check.

  2. @WeiDe2014

    I understand that only americans and candians are eligable, though there are heaps of people reading UR magazine abroad and following the news on irunfar. We see more americans race in europe, and i think it is time to also allow the other runners to be counted in.
    they too could benefit from winnig sponsors and recognition.
    I enjoy the american ultrarunning culture and am coming back over to run rocky raccoon in three weeks. Be great to share this uroy spirit with us by counting us in =)
    Not that i dont think ellies and robs award are well deserved!
    Just saying, think about it

    1. @eLLiejG

      I think TJ is likely the best to comment on this but my comments would be that it would be a HUGE process if UR Mag were to make their award international. I am sure the voters panel right now would agree that they are not qualified to vote from a worldwide perspective so firstly it would involve getting a much wider panel of voters to represent all continents and even then you would have voters voting with limited knowledge (as the knowledge of their own country would far outweigh their knowledge of other continents). Yes, ultras are becoming more international but by and large the fields of races are still dominated by runners from the country that the race is taking place in. I would agree that if say Western States was starting to get year on year the top 5 runners be non-North Americans then the UROY award might have to go international as otherwise it starts to look too localised as an award. North America is a large enough geographic area that the award holds some weight. It would be interesting to know if their are similar awards in any other countries?

      1. @WeiDe2014

        Thats ture, the effort would be tremendous. Unfortunatley in Germany for example we do not have such awards. I think the culture of ultrarunning goes back much longer innthe US and you have UR magazine, which specifically caters to ultrarunners. We have trail or running magazines, but nothing that specific.
        I guess through some race series such as sky running and the likes there is acknowledgement also, just a diffferent kind from the UROY award.
        I followed the world 100ks live, great effort ellie, amd congrats on the award!

      2. CharlieDalziell

        Congratulations Ellie – Incredible year! That Comrades video is something special – I love that the commentators don't even know you are flying up so quickly and they are completely unprepared when you do pass.

        Is it UROY really only open to North American athletes? Isn't this your third win but only your first as a Canadian?

        1. @eLLiejG

          Thank you for your congrats. Yes, it is my 3rd UROY – 1st as a Canadian citizen but the award is also open to residents on North America and I was a permanent resident in Canada when I won the two times previously.

  3. Meghan Hicks

    UltraRunning magazine has been awarding Ultrarunners of the Year since 1981. The list of men’s and women’s winners, http://www.ultrarunning.com/features/reference/ul… plus now Ellie Greenwood and Rob Krar for 2014, represent a literal who’s who of North American ultrarunning in the last three-plus decades. This list symbolizes a stunning collection of performances. The list also symbolizes trends of dominance, runners who represented the North American scene for longer or shorter periods of time. Finally, the list represents the opinions of an educated and observant peer group to those runners.

    In my opinion, there is tremendous inherent value to having one’s name on this list, for the historical context it provides, from the perspective of aligning/comparing modern performances/performers with those of the past, because it represents a community’s acknowledgement of runners’ efforts, and, most importantly, from the fact that the each of the runners on the list ran fast and smart for a whole year to get their names on it.

  4. @bpurcell72

    "(A statistical analysis of the most competitive fields will be part of the data published in the January/February issue of UltraRunning.)"

    I have the Jan/Feb issue but I don't see this particular stat. I remember seeing it in past years and was looking forward to seeing it since I ran in both Lake Sonoma and North Face 50 SF. Hoping this was just a space issue and they'll add it in the next issue? Or did I miss it somewhere?

  5. Meghan Hicks

    Hi all,

    A quick note, as a couple questions have been asked of Tropical John. He’s in transit today to, wouldn’t you guess, a vacation in Hawaii. He said he’ll stop by after his travels and answer questions. Thanks for your patience in the meantime!

  6. @mackeydave

    Thanks for posting this John! This might get me into hot water, but to further transparency here is the ballot I entered.
    MALE ULTRA RUNNER OF THE YEAR
    1. Rob Krar
    2. Sage Canaday
    3. Max King
    4. Dylan Bowman
    5. Zach Miller
    6. Chris Vargo
    7. Alex Varner
    8. Zach Bitter
    9. Jorge Maravilla
    10. Jason Schlarb

    FEMALE ULTRA RUNNER OF THE YEAR
    1. Ellie Greenwood
    2. Magdalena Boulet
    3. Emily Harrison
    4. Stephanie Howe
    5. Rory Bosio
    6. Nikki Kimball
    7. Larisa Danis
    8. Pam Smith
    9. Darcy Africa
    10. Jodee Adams Moore
    Here are my hindsight thoughts on my ballot. I think I should have given more weight to multiday or track runs; next year if I am involved in the balloting I will do so. That said, I think there is room for categories: 1) top 5 multiday/track runs; 2) mountain ultra trail: 3) road ultras. Or combine 2 and 3, but multiday is a very different sport I think.
    I also don't put as much on 100 milers as other balloters I suspect. For me an ultra is an ultra.
    I believe races that have lotteries (ie Western States and Hardrock) are limited in the number of elite competitors. I think their outcomes are important but also realize they are limited in true comparison of runners.
    The most competitive ultras or records are most valuable. If a runner stays in their region and doesn't seek out to race the top competitors, then they rank lower. That said, the track is really not competitive enough for me to rank high, but again I do need to value individual records more (ie Tracy Falbo could have ranked in my ballot)
    International results are probably most important to me., ie Max at World 100K, Schlarb and Rory UTMB, Sage at a top Ultra Skyrunning race, Ellie at Comrades or Nikki at Marathon Des Sables.

    1. Ben_Nephew

      What, no bonus points for 100's? Don't you know a 10k gold medal is worth twice a 5k gold medal? Do you think your opinion on categories is common, Dave? Even with some decent overlap between road and trail right now, I'd rather see separate categories. Putting them together seems comparable to trying to rank road racing and XC racing as one, or road and mountain biking. It'll be interesting to see how the competitiveness of the lottery races compares over the coming years with more and more competitive races that compile their competitive fields like all major marathons.

      1. sharmanian

        Ultra running includes so many disciplines in my mind – more like treating all of track and field as one event to work out the 'best' overall (side-note: it would be Aston Eaton in my opinion, yet he could get beaten in almost any discipline by most Olympic-standard athletes specializing in a given event).

        Road, easy trail, technical trail, mountains, deserts, jungles, plus different distances for each…the number of categories is pretty much endless. The only way to try to compare is to look at a performance at a given type of race relative the the best performances ever at that style of event and to also factor in how competitive that type of event is in general. It looks like that's what the UR Magazine panel tries to do, but there are a lot of value judgements involved.

      2. @mackeydave

        Hey Ben, I hear you on the increased distance maybe being worth more, but I disagree. The races that are less than 100 miles are more competitive and much much more accessible for a top runner to compete at. TNF 50 in San Fran was much more competitive than Western States, and light years more competitive than Hardrock because few can get in to these races. Lake Sonoma 50 is the same way, and John does a good job keeping it competitive and accessible, even though it fills. I see Zack Miller's CR at LS 50 and Sage's TNF 50 more valuable than HR 100 or WS 100 wins. WS does have a decent system with the Montrail Cup series and Ultra Trail World Tour entries to somewhat help solve this issue, but they are still limited in weighing performances simply by their popularity.

        1. 3vium

          Hi Dave,

          I agree that it is very important to take into account the competitiveness of the various races and it seems you have done a good job w/r/t this in your voting. However, when one speaks to competitiveness there does not appear to be consensus on what that is exactly. The following study has taken a shot at it from an analytical perspective:
          http://itsallaboutthevertical.wordpress.com/2014/

          What is found is that the 2014 Western States is about as competitive as the 2014 North Face Endurance Challenge Championship*. The North Face race had a deeper field (21 at 2014 WS vs 42 at 2014 North Face SF 50 finishers in the "competitive" group). But the finishing time distributions for each race are very similar. Both races have fast winning times so the three elements to "competitiveness" (i.e. the finishing time distribution relative to the winning time, the depth (number of finishers in the competitive group), and the excellence of the winning time relative to course records or prior winning times in similar conditions), give the North Face race a clear edge on overall competitiveness, just as you have asserted.
          This same study also found that the competitiveness of WS increased substantially when the Montrail Cup entry process was introduced, again just as you assert.

          Leadville on the other hand is not very competitive when compared to WS and the North Face SF 50 in the same study so it may be that Krar's Leadville win had less impact on his UROY award, at least if competitiveness is a primary factor in weighting the various performances.

          I totally agree on the "accessibility" front and this is a primary reason that WS does not have as deep a field as North Face SF 50. But it should not diminish the outstanding performance by Krar this year at WS- in fact one might argue that if Krar had some "pressure" from a deeper field he might have taken down the course record even with the heat (purely speculation).

          I think you did an admirable job in your voting and I trust that the other panel members have done the same. Thanks for participating in what will never be a clear-cut process, but that is the nature of awards- there is always second guessing from the peanut gallery!

          *and both are found to be as competitive as one the most competitive road races- the Falmouth Road Race

        2. Ben_Nephew

          That was sarcasm, we are on the same page. I also agree that TNF was much more competitive than WS despite the claims of the study above. I think the relevant metrics are the percentage spread of the top 10 or how many runners were within 10% of the winner, while also considering the quality of the field. I don't think I've ever heard someone argue that Boston is more competitive than London.

  7. @JohnOnate

    Ranking and comparing the results of ultrarunners is a daunting task and I think the process Tropical John described is transparent but (from my experience in academic medicine in admissons) forming a ranking list without facilitation and discussion can cause problems with consensus. I think the current process of creating a list of eligible athletes sounds good but because the events are so different and the background of the voters are so diverse (you have the President of Corp that sponsors several of the athletes on the list to elite runners and RD's) that with out facilitation it will be hard to get consensus on closely ranked individuals. John mentioned this problem with the bottom half of the lists. Additionally it is my opinion that Ultrarunning is a international sport and each year it is more obvious that having a ranking for North American Residing/located Athletes is arbitrary. For example not including Nuria Picas in the women's ranking is particularly glaring.

    1. Ben_Nephew

      I'm not sure I'd describe it as arbitrary. This is a magazine award, not some sort of international governing body. The magazine is based in North America, most of the readers are from North America, and the panelists are much more qualified to comment on North American runners. Even if the desire and qualification to go international was there, is there enough overlap to even do it? Not sure how you would rank Rob Krar when he never traveled overseas and only raced a handful international runners.

      1. @JohnOnate

        I am pretty sure that the readership for Ultrarunning Magazine has expanded beyond the USA. If the Magazine truly wanted to focus only on North American Runners and Races then results from events such as Comrades World 100K and UTMB would not be a factor in the decision…on the contrary the results of North Americans in international races had a significant factor in Ranking (perhaps not enough for Rory).

        It is my opinion that a reader outside of the US/Canada would view the fact that they basically include anyone who has a mailing address in the USA or Canada but does not include athletes from Mexico or other countries in Central America as being quite arbitrary. Additionally the experience, data and information from coaches, race directors, media (Megan and Bryon for example) composing most of the current panel could come to consensus on comparing the races and athletes. It is not rocket science, you look at the course and competition and results. The process of comparing the 2014 results of Rob Kaur and François D’Haene would be a great debate and would help illuminate the global sport of Ultrarunning.

        1. SeanMeissner

          Who said that Mexican and other Central American athletes are excluded from the voting? Just because there are no athletes from those countries who received votes doesn't mean they're excluded; it just means none of the voters deemed a runner from those countries worthy of receiving a vote. Make no mistake, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama are all North American countries, and if an ultrarunner from one of those countries was deserving of receiving UROY votes, they would.

          1. @JohnOnate

            The athletes considered by the panel are chosen only from those who reside in the USA and Canada. Here is the paragraph from the article that explains that point:

            "Voters are asked to complete a ballot listing (in order) their top-10 male and female runners of the year. Any runner who resides in North America is eligible to be considered. The reason for this is simple: we don’t always know the actual citizenship status of people who have emigrated, and in some cases even if we did it would be ambiguous. Ellie Greenwood, for example, now has dual citizenship in Canada and Great Britain. (The magazine has always treated Canada as a logical extension of its U.S. readership base. Many Canadians race frequently in the U.S., and vice versa. In fact, Canadian women have rather dominated things in recent years, winning UROY four of the past five years.)"

            1. @JohnOnate

              If you add any country contiguous with North America then that is the Western Hemisphere. That would include North America, Central America and South America.

            2. SeanMeissner

              But I wouldn't add South America, as that is a different continent. These awards are for any person residing in North America, which includes Greenland, Canada, USA, Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean Nations/Islands, so therefore, South America isn't included. It's really quite simple.

        2. Ben_Nephew

          I would interested to know how many international subscribers there are to UR. I'm guessing the percentage is quite small, and I don't think relatively few international subscribers necessitates the need to cover events and runners all over the world.

          I can't think of a running sport that does national rankings where they ignore international competitions.

          I agree that it is not rocket science, it is not science at all to try and rank runners and races that rarely overlap with a panel that has knowledge of only a subset of the runners and races. Based on their comments in their international coverage, I would guess that Bryon and Megan are more confident with ranking NA runners than European runners (correct?), and as examples, they are exceptions. The rest of the voting panel does not travel quite as much to international events and cover races professionally. To assess international courses and competition you need to have a certain degree of familiarity that this panel does not have. I would not think a panel of Europeans ranking Americans would have much relevance. Ranking does not have to be highly scientific, but it should be better than judging ice skating competitions. If you want international rankings, look at individual IAU events or Skyrunning. What we need to help illuminate the sport is more international race coverage, more athletes competing internationally, and greater organization to support international championships. Bryon, Megan, the IAU, Skyrunning, and the folks at Salomon have made great progress in this area.

  8. wnyates

    Great insight into the UROY voting which every year is getting more and more dificult for the voters I'm sure. My only comment would be with the growing number of media outlets covering the sport, it would be nice to see some representation from those media sources on the voting panel. Brian Metzler at Competitor magazine and Eric Schranz at Ultrarunnerpodcast are two that come to mind just off the top of my head.

  9. EvanKimber

    My curiosity is who and how the panelists are decided. Does Tropical John decide, or UR mag? Also, for the elite runners that are also voters, seems a bit awkward to be voting for yourself, as there seems to be instances of overlap (e.g., a panelist/voter who is also in the top 10).

    I like the voting process and think it works out pretty well at the end once everything is tabulated. I just wonder on a further statistical reliability basis if having a larger sample size would improve this. There are hundreds of subject matter experts even in our small sport. I also wonder if the criteria can be sharpened some more, as Dave Mackey's comment above shows that there can be an inter-rater reliability issue as some voters may be biased toward certain events or distances over another.

  10. ajoneswilkins

    Following up on Big Mack's post here is my entire UROY ballot. I think I missed a few and also went a little sentimental on some others but, in general, this year was not as difficult as the past three. I will say I do enjoy taking part in this panel and take the voting seriously. I know others do as well and while I know it is not a perfect science it's as close as we have to a true championship. Hell, the Baseball MVP has something like 2000 voters so we're actually lucky to only have 32.

    Also, I will confess here (although it will hardly be surprising to most) that I am a voter with a bias toward 100 milers and a bias toward the most competitive 100s. That said, I do not, de facto, give the WS winner the first place vote every year. In fact, in the last six years I have only voted for the WS winner to get UROY three times.

    OK, here're my full ballot:

    MALE ULTRA RUNNER OF THE YEAR
    1. Rob Krar
    2. Max King
    3. Sage Canaday
    4. Jeff Browning
    5. Brian Rusiecki
    6. Dylan Bowman
    7. Mike Wardian
    8. Seth Swanson
    9. Timothy Olson
    10. Ian Sharman

    FEMALE ULTRA RUNNER OF THE YEAR
    1. Ellie Greenwood
    2. Rory Bosio
    3. Stephanie Howe
    4. Kaci Lickteig
    5. Meghan Arbogast
    6. Pam Smith
    7. Magdalena Boulet
    8. Traci Falbo
    9. Darcy Piceu
    10. Nikki Kimball

    MALE SINGLE BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
    1. Leor Pantilat JMT FKT
    2. Max King World 100K
    3. Rob Krar WS
    4. Zach Miller Lake Sonoma
    5. Sage Canaday TNFEC 50

    FEMALE SINGLE BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
    1. Ellie Greenwood Comrades
    2. Rory Bosio UTMB
    3. Traci Falbo Tunnel Hill
    4. Ellie Greenwood World 100K
    5. Pam Smith Angeles Crest 100

    MALE BEST AGE GROUP PERFORMANCE
    1. Scott Mills Hardrock
    2. Mark Richtman Way Too Cool
    3. Bob Hayes Bighorn 50K
    4. Gary Knipling Grindstone 100
    5. Bill Dodson Way Too Cool

    FEMALE BEST AGE GROUP PERFORMANCE
    1. Gunhild Swanson Javelina
    2. Barbara Ashe Tahoe Rim Trail
    3. Meghan Arbogast WS
    4. Maria Shields JFK
    5. Diana Fitzpatrick WS

    1. EvanKimber

      I really appreciate you and Dave being willing to publicly post your votes, love the transparency. But since you've done so, I did want to ask you two things:

      Timmy Olson is one amazing runner, and you admitted to being biased toward the 100 mile distance yet he placed 13th at Hardrock and DNF'd at UTMB. So I'm wondering how you figured him to be 9th?

      You have the John Muir Trail FKT from Leor Pantilat as the male performance of the year. Are we really considering FKT's in the performance columns and rankings? What he did was undoubtedly incredible, but I feel like making FKT's official in the same way as races are a slippery slope at best. How do we set the line in the way of governance? What if someone summited Denali with a wristwatch and said he broke Killian's record? And is Strava or Garmin Connect or Movescount somehow an authority to the validity of FKT's? Does someone or a body of people need to be around to externally verify?

      1. ajoneswilkins

        The FKT thing became an issue a couple years back when Jennifer Pharr Davis was first in the ranking for her Appalachian Trail Record.

      2. Ben_Nephew

        Evan, that is a funny comment about Denali. That is basically what happened to Kilian's record on the Grand Teton. Someone took a picture of their watch as proof of beating Kilians time by about 30 seconds. Kilian also wanted to run the JMT a few years ago, but could not get a permit. If he had, I don't think Leor would have had a FKT on it this year. Leor's supported run was only 3 hours faster than the new unsupported record by Andrew Bentz. The PCT record was more impressive. I like my FKT's, but I don't understand their inclusion in this ranking. The point of going for the FKT is to get the FKT, that is the award, period.

        1. EvanKimber

          Ahh that's funny, my example was completely hypothetical as I had no idea about the Teton FKT. But alas, just proves the problematic nature of FKT performance inclusions. FKT's are still awesome to know or hear about but to me they are more of a folklore/local legend kind of record. Anyone can go out on any day and any condition and try to beat it, unlike races where you get 1 shot a year against a field.

        2. Meghan Hicks

          Ben and Evan,

          I know most of your discussion is about ‘governance’ and ‘proving’ the validity of FKTs, but I just want to add to your comments for those readers who might not know, Andy Anderson, the athlete who reset Kilian Jornet’s Grand Teton FKT (by 59 seconds and 10 days after Kilian) is a well-respected mountaineer who has guided on the mountain and who also has/had (not sure if he still maintains the records) speed records on Longs Peak and Mount Whitney. As far as I know, he, indeed, used watch splits to claim his FKT on the Grand, but he’s definitely a viable ‘someone’ in this storyline. That is, I believe his speed-record claims. In case you’re interested, here’s the interview iRunFar published with Andy after his Grand record in 2012, http://www.irunfar.com/2012/08/andy-anderson-gran….

          1. @runwillt

            Meghan – Thank you for speaking on behalf of the viability of Andy Anderson's FKTs. As I already mentioned below I would love to see more emphasis on FKT's or having their own award as well.

            Evan – Anyone who wishes to dismiss FKTs as local folklore legend records is still living in the past and refusing to accept the change that has come to this sport along with the technology and methods that are capable of verifying FKTs. I'm sure there is already performance enhancing drugs in our sport that we aren't capturing in our races, but that hasn't stopped us from accepting the race results at face value. Whether we like it or not, the day will come when Ultrarunning magazine will have to strip someone of their UROY award because of drugs. If we think we are immune, then we are only dooming ourselves sooner.

            AJW – So awesome that you included Leor's FKT as male performance of the year! So awesome to see the old school honoring the new school and realizing its value!!! This is what we need from the old guard for positive change to happen. Thank you for looking outside the box and appreciating someone else's version of their own "Western States".

            Ben – I'm glad you mentioned Andrew Bentz's unsupported JMT FKT. That largely went under the radar compared to Leor's supported JMT. Even Leor himself stated that Andrew's performance was much stronger than his. This goes to show what happens with this current system of voting and the subjectiveness of it all. I would love for Ultrarunning magazine to step up their game and figure out a way to help move forward the ability to compare apples to oranges fairly. It will be hard to do, but they are the people to do it and I believe they can, but only if they wish to.

            1. Ben_Nephew

              The fact that one of the most well known runners on the panel chose Leor's run as POY when Leor didn't even think it was the strongest performance on that single trail underscores how difficult it is to try and rank so many different categories, and this doesn't even get into the futility of trying to expand it internationally. I don't think this is the venue for ranking FKT's. That should be done on Peter Bakwin's site, or some other FKT focused venue. Even if it was a separate category here, the best panel to rank races may not be the best panel to rank FKT's. I like how Buzz just summarized the FKT's on the long trails without a ranking, although it would be nice to see a summary of some of the shorter FKT's.

          2. Ben_Nephew

            Hi Megan,
            The point I wanted to make is that I think by 2012 we were at point where GPS verification should have been a requirement. It wasn't a comment on Andy, it was more of a reflection on some of the verification issues that there have been on some routes that I think could have been avoided.

            1. EvanKimber

              Meghan – I'm with Ben 100% on this issue, I'm talking solely about governance. I'm not discrediting Andy at all, but for folks who use a wristwatch to record FKT's, how can common folk verify it or know the exact route or path taken? If FKT's are truly the way of the future here and are going to be included in the same vein as races, we have to do something in the way of governance and acceptable measurement.

              @runwilt – I did not "dismiss" FKT as local folklore legend records, and funny that you seem to think local folklore legend records is a dismissal to begin with! Then you falsely assert that I'm living in the past because of it! Come on now – none of this is true. My main point of FKT's of this whole thread is that including them with official races for performance of the year and votes for UROY is a slippery slope at best. We need governance and agreed upon consistency for measurement and verification before we can start making them official like races.

            2. Meghan Hicks

              Evan and Ben,

              As mentioned in my comment, my notes about about Andy Anderson’s record and experience were not directed at either of you specifically, but directed at any reader who might come across your conversation and be inclined to write off or question the veracity of his effort.

  11. akopa

    Apples & Oranges indeed ….
    My guess is that if the UROY was based on the jaw drops, head shakes, and "Holy smokes!" of the readers, then the men's winner would be Joe Fejes. That stuff is just in a whole different zone …. the twilight zone :)

  12. deanger

    Perhaps, as recognition for winning the award, the male and female award winners could be added to the list of eligible voters for the future editions.

    1. @eLLiejG

      A nice idea but just because someone can run fast and consistently enough to win UROY does not mean that they are qualified enough to vote, I myself certainly am not! Plus, many who win UROY hope to compete for the title in future years so it would bring in the issue of being able to vote for an award that one is personally hoping to be in contention for.

  13. TropicalJohn

    A bit of commentary on several good points here.

    UltraRunning is a US magazine and has historically done a thorough job of covering US and Canadian ultras. Overseas races are only occasionally covered, mostly when a lot of North Americans are present. So, the award has always been a North American UROY. In recent years we have seen more true international competition, but it is still pretty spotty. As a result a true worldwide UROY would be pretty subjective at this point. Plus I'm not sure any of the voters have enough knowledge to compare the quality of a winning time at, say, Diaganole des Fous, Ultra Trail Mt Fuji, or Eiger 101 – all pretty significant international races – to races in the US.

    The quibble of what constitutes North America can be finessed until a Central American or Caribbean islander merits consideration. I'd certainly think Mexico would qualify. (Jorge Pacheco, a Mexican citizen who lives in Los Angeles, was UROY in 2008).

    The most competitive field list was deferred until the March issue due to space limitations. Karl says they'll put it up on the UR website shortly. Lake Sonoma, Western States, and The North Face SF were 1-2-3 for men, virtually a three-way tie. Western States was a clear number one for women, with Lake Sonoma a solid second and then a significant dropoff to third.

    From time to time, a few voters have been in a position to cast votes for themselves. We've just asked them to be honest, and they have been, I think. More often than not, they've placed themselves lower in the voting than the group as a whole.

    And yes, there are biases. I expect each and every one of us has a different view of what wows us most. That's why there are 30+ voters; individual biases become insignificant in the overall total.

    Most of the voters this year have been participating for several years. There's always a few changes in the panel each year but the core group has a lot of experience doing this. Ultimately Karl Hoagland has the final say on who votes, he is the Publisher and it's the magazine's award.

    Is it important? significant? I think Ellie sums it up nicely. Among elite runners, yes it is. Mostly because it is peer recognition, awarded by a panel of well-respected, highly-qualified voters. And because it has the depth of history – this is the 35th year the UROY has been awarded. In our neophytic sport, that goes back almost to the beginning of time. The award has earned a certain gravitas over its history; it should be viewed as significant.

    1. EvanKimber

      Really appreciate you diligently answering my questions and others too, Tropical John. Now get off the internet and work on that tan for crying out loud!

    2. @SageCanaday

      Hey John..Happy Birthday and thanks for your explanations! Just out of curiosity: what was the rank (in actual order) of the most men's "most competitive field/race" this year?

      Thanks again for all you do for the sport and enjoy your time in Hawaii!

      1. TropicalJohn

        The UR analytical approach is pretty simple. The UROY winner gets 40 points, the runner up gets 39, and so on, so that every runner who receives at least one vote counts for something. Then you look to see who competed where and add 'em all up. (This approach ignores foreign runners, since they are not eligible for UROY, So races with many high level foreigners don't score as high as they should. The Rut 50K is a good example of this.)

        Using this approach, Lake Sonoma was first, WS100 second and TNF-SF third for men. But the totals were very close and given the simplicity of the analytical method, one could argue that all three were about equal.

        For the women it was much more clear cut, with WS easily first, Lake Sonoma a solid second, and then a dramatic dropoff to third place, with 3rd through 10th all pretty close.

        Ok, back to the beach. . .

        1. @SageCanaday

          Thanks for your reply John.
          Hmmmm…that’s a very interesting process in naming the “most competitive” fields!
          So in essence (based on what you just said) the category should be called: “The most competitive ultra-trail races in North America based off of only a select number of [voted on] US-only runners.”

          Granted I placed slightly worse at LS50 when compared to TNF50 – however when quantitatively comparing those two races (sorry I can’t help myself as I’m a numbers/stats guy) I came up with these stats pretty quickly:

          Lake Sonoma 50: There were only 12 runners within an hour of the winner.
          The North Face 50: There were 22 runners within an hour of the winner.

          Basically there was a much higher density of top runners at TNF50 when compared to LS50. We can also see that besides Max King (7th at LS50) and David Laney (5th at LS5-) nearly all of the top guys that raced LS50 also raced TNF5. The other major difference being the “freshness” of Zach Miller’s legs as at TNF50 since he had just raced Worlds 100km two weeks prior vs. being fresh at LS50.

          Also, I know you said non-US runners were not considered in rating the competitiveness of these races [don’t get the logic there] so with TNF50 we need to take out guys like Tofol Castanyer, Ricky Lightfoot, Mike Aish? And Michel Lanne etc. (all very good runners who added quite a bit of competition and depth to the field!)…

          But on the same token we still get to add in the US runners that raced TNF50 but not LS50 this year: guys like Dakota Jones, Dylan Bowman, Jorge Maravilla, Tim Tollefson, Timmy Olson, Mike Foot, Josh Arthur, Mike Wardian etc..That is a pretty significant addition of US-only runners!

          When considering those facts, IMHO it appears that TNF50 was a lot more competitive than LS50 this year. Again, though I may be way off here so I’ll admit to some personal bias!

          1. TropicalJohn

            I tend to agree with you. The lack of accounting for foreign runners is an obvious weakness. But explaining a complicated and somewhat arbitrarily defined mathematical formula – and then applying it to dozens of races to come up with a list – is a project that is likely going to be left to others. Good fodder for the ultra geek world (of which I fully admit to being a charter member). Others may come up with other formulaic approaches that are even more valid.

            By any measure, it's pretty clear that TNF-SF, WS, and LS50 are currently the three big dog races, scattered nicely throughout the year. (And I think TNF would be even better if it weren't so late in the year. I wish they'd move it October; any number of folks have shut it down by December.) Any race in which Rob Krar can finish 12th, or Max King 7th, or have the top 3 finish within 2 minutes, is a good race to be a part of!

  14. Ben_Nephew

    I agree, Sage. You should take a look at the analysis posted in response to Dave Mackey's post above. The density of the front of field is a more objective measure that doesn't compound the opinions from the voters or introduce the confounds of omitting international runners and those that have impressive performances at distances up to 50k who are unlikely to get UROY points.

  15. @runwillt

    Wow! Lots of great commentary. I've been wanting to comment for awhile, but have also been biting my tongue. Please excuse my inability to express myself poetically via written communication Here it goes: The UROY awarded by Ultrarunning magazine has a deep, rich history within our niche little sport, hence why I believe the award is considered one of the highest honors by our elite athletes and creates great excitement from the ultra running community at large. This is why I feel this award needs to change direction right away or else it will lose all of its prestige. I explain why below.

    20 years ago the only way to find out about the competitiveness of the athletes in the sport was to read Ultrarunning magazine. There was no ultrasignup or irunfar race day twitter coverage. If you wanted to register for a race, you found the address in ultrarunning magazine and mailed in your registration. If you wanted to find out how races around the USA shook out you would read about it a couple months later in Ultrarunning magazine.

    So when it came that time of the year again, each year Ultrarunning magazine would assemble a panel, who then voted based off of what they have seen throughout the year in the magazine; and every year you got yourself an UROY. It was simple and the best formula for the day. To show how Non-competitive the sport was, you have females with 11 straight UROY and only 15 different female UROY over 34 years. The male side doesn't look much different. I'm not discrediting any of these amazing historical yearly accomplishments, I'm just stating that the competition was not as deep as it is today, making it easier to determine a UROY. Yes, I would have loved to watch all the greats over the years toe the line in their prime together at WS100 under perfect race conditions. That's not going to happen, and that is not what this yearly award is about so there is no point in going there.

    Fast forward to today and the competitive side of the sport is so much greater, making it harder and harder to determine a UROY and especially a 2-10 ranking to boot. This sport is no longer a fringe North American sport and its media outlet has left print media in the dust (sorry Ultrarunning phyical print magazine), but yet the voting criteria and process remains the same for UROY. We seclude ALL the great ultra runners that we are ALL well aware of only because of their mailing address. We do our best to compare a thousand different races ranging from a 6 day indoor track race to a 50k off trail mountain race, from a 50 day FKT to a 3 hour 50k. We have lotteries, course records, DNFs, and race competition to throw into the analysis to determine who is the best. And when it is all said and done Ultrarunning magazine still tries to do things the same way.

    I'm not saying Ultrarunning magazine should change. They created the award and have stood beside it for 34 years, but I think it is fair to say that the longer they resist to change the UROY award criteria, then the less this award will mean to everybody year after year, until "poof" it no longer exist, just like what will eventually happen to the physical print magazine. The award and physical magazine will both be a thing of the past.

    The reason for this comment and not just sitting back and biting my tongue is because, I don't want to see that happen. I don't want to see this most important award disappear and mean nothing. I don't want 34 years of history to be for naught. I think we all want this award to continue to shine and be the beacon it has been in the past. And for that to happen, change needs to happen.

    In my Opinion two things need to happen:
    The UROY award needs to be awarded globally. This is a global sport with global talent. Choosing to ignore that is the quickest way to destroy this award's credibility. It's been said that this is too hard and too broad to accomplish. That is just us refusing to change. Figure it out. We have technology and mass information at our hands. It can be done and if Ultrarunning magazine won't do it, then someone else will step up. This is a great chance for Ultrarunning magazine to shine globally. Let's not look like the stereotypical self absorbed American fools that refuse to acknowledge the world around us. We are better than that and this is our chance to prove it.

    The UROY award needs categories. We can't keep comparing apples to oranges and hope for everyone to be content with the outcome. The more competitive the sport becomes, the more specialized athletes will become. Where are those lines supposed to be drawn in the sport to divide it up? I don't know, I'll leave that to someone smarter than me, but it is easy enough to see you could at least have a road/track/flat trail award and a mountain trail award. I personally would love to see more divisions like FKTs, etc… but again that is just me. Ask the panel, they are a smart group that has been around for a long time. They'll be able to figure out something.

    1. @JohnOnate

      I agree with your comments. The amount of amending and explanation needed to justify the ranking indicates a need to least a review the process of ranking. I think the resistance to ranking international runners along with the bias to 100 mile trail races (admitted by some of the voters) is a product of choosing who makes up the selection committee.

      Ultra Runner Magazine should be commended for making the committee public. However, the first process for change should first start with the selection of the voting committee. Personally I think that any current elite who is actively racing, has sponsorship and who could be considered for the award should not be on the selection committee. There should not be a situation where the a member of the selection committee would have rank herself or himself. Additionally, I think representatives from corporations , such as the President of Montrail, should not be on the committee for obvious reasons such as voting for their athletes to get an award that would give their business a lot of free marketing. Additionally Montrail sponsors many of the races whose results have a great impact on the voting. At the minimum this can be interpreted as the fox guarding the hen house or at worse a cleverly designed way of having marketing appear to be an award based on merit alone.

      Sage came up with a simple but clever way of ranking objectively the competitiveness of a race based on the standard deviation of the times of racers compared to the winning time. Ultra-signup already does this to some extent.

      However UltraRunning is privately owned magazine; the award however old and storied it is is a product of the editors of UltraRunning and can be what the leadership wants it to be. This magazine is special and has documented the evolution of a new sport that was once provincial to the USA and a few other place in the world to a truly world wide movement that is growing rapidly. I also think the magazine needs to adapt or it will be left behind and possibly replaced by some other entity. iRun far is a great example of adaption. This year alone many of the articles and race coverage by the website have not been on North American races or solely on North American residing runners.

  16. EricWhitbrook

    I also think the "it's a north american thing" only is really weak and I agree that more categories in general would be great to highlight such a diverse array of mind blowing achievements. But it is just a magazine poll at the same time and getting too serious about the prestige and the process and blah blah also leaves a bad taste.

  17. Meghan Hicks

    I’ll add a couple questions and thoughts to the conversation about whether or not UltraRunning magazine’s UROY award process (or some other hypothetical award process) could/should globalize and categorize. I will say that I have spent a lot of time thinking about these possibilities and talking about them with others in the community, but I don’t think I’ve formulated well-developed opinions.

    1. Award categories- One potential downside of designating categories that I have heard others talk about and that hasn’t come up in conversation here yet is the further compartmentalization of our already niche sport that this could cause. For instance, taking all the top track performances of 2014, in North America, into a separate category whittles the list from which voters would choose into something that’s very small. This is meant as no disrespect to those whose performances would fit in this category; it’s rather my attempt at an objective statement based upon the small number of utra-distance track races that occur in general on our continent in a calendar year and the number of high-level performances that emerge from those.

    Is it, thus, a ‘better’ achievement to win a category award if your performance is being compared to only a couple others? Or that, in 2014 specifically, ultra-track-racing standouts Joe Fejes, Traci Falbo, and Zach Bitter achieved respective fifth, eighth, and eighth in the UROY rankings after they’ve been ‘pitted against’ all the other people who did outstanding things in our sport this year? Thoughts?

    Also not really talked about here yet reference categories is what a challenge it would be to designate useful, objective categories. If you, for instance, divide road and trail races, you leave behind a bunch of hybrid races. If you divide into 100k and above distances and below 100k distances, one could further argue that a 100k versus a multi-day stage race and 50 miles versus a half marathon are still too different to be rightly paired.

    In summary, UROY award categorizing presents loads of challenges that may not be obvious at the outset.

    2. Global inclusiveness of awards- I have been a part of lots of conversations about this, and this is another concept that seems really easy in premise but challenging in actuality.

    I think the biggest challenge to having a global ranking presently is that, although our sport is in huge expansion mode and people are traveling quite a lot to race, many racers never see each other in the course of a year. For instance, Ellie Greenwood and Núria Picas are yet to meet each other in competition, and either have François D’Haene and Rob Krar. Whereas here in North America, the top women and men usually find most of each other in competition once every year or two.

    While not all the North Americans on the 2014 UROY list raced each other this year, the fact that a number of them did provided some solid data for comparing runners. For example, though it was already a big challenge for me to choose among Rob Krar, Max King, and Sage Canaday for the top-three UROY spots, the fact that they each saw each other in competition this year helped with the decision. I can’t imagine being asked to choose between Rob Krar and François D’Haene for a men’s international UROY. They both did amazing things with 2014.

    The other big challenge I see is finding a qualified field to make the votes. I think it’s virtually impossible to have any one person or small subset of people who would be qualified enough to judge the quality of a performance or series of performances for the diversity of athletes who would be included. For instance, let’s just use Max King at Ice Age as an example. He beat an old, tough, and revered course record there. Is there any person from outside of North America who is versed enough in North American ultrarunning to recognize the significance of Max’s performance in that historical context so that he or she could compare it to something that happened in New Zealand or Europe or wherever? In the same light, though it’s iRunFar’s job to globally follow the sport, I don’t think Bryon or I are versed enough in Spanish trail running to necessarily understand when, say (hypothetically), Miguel Heras does something historically significant at a ‘small’ race in Spain, and be able to compare that to counterpart performances in North America. Finding voters with the appropriate depth and breadth of knowledge on an international level sounds hard!

    Thanks, everyone, for the good conversation here.

    1. @runwillt

      Great insight Meghan. I think this open honest pubic dialogue is a good first step to figure out how to make this great award even better. It is through people honestly asking "How do we make it better and overcome the current issues?" instead of just burying our heads in the sand and saying "Change can't happen", that we will continue to see a positive reaction in future years.

    2. Ben_Nephew

      I entirely agree with the comments on the global ranking, and it seems that the same rationale could be applied to the categories of ultrarunning. I don't think Joe Fejes races Max King all that often! Sure, it is possible to think of too many categories, but there is a happy medium. There don't seem to be all that many races that fall into a gray area between categories. Trail, road/track, multiday. What about setting up a poll here where runners (choosing their favorite discipline) would vote whether or not that they would like to be ranked within their own discipline or together with all disciplines? You would have three categories with a choice of independent or together for each.

  18. astroyam

    Well, I think all things considered the Uroy process and final rankings are pretty right on! You'll never please everyone…

  19. @JohnOnate

    I think addressing the challenges is a far better choice than the award becoming provincial and meaningful only to one corner of the world. The world is so interconnected and there are good models of how to approach international ranking such as the World Marathon Majors. Instead of relying only on the wisdom of a expert panel perhaps an expanded panel could help develop a points system (owned and copyrighted by UltraRunner Magazine) that could be used to compare International Results.

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