This Week In Running: November 21, 2016

This Week in Running Justin Mock TWIRThe JFK 50 Mile was a big one this weekend, and the IAU 100k World Championships is a big one next weekend. Both are among the highlights of this week’s column.

JFK 50 MILE – BOONSBORO, MARYLAND

Men

It’s been over a day since Jim Walmsley finished and I’m still trying to think of how best to describe his race. Wow, just wow.

It was another record breaker, by a huge margin. Ignoring what could have been at the Western States Endurance Run, this was probably Walmsley’s best race in what has been the best year of ultra racing in recent memory.

Already a two-time winner at the JFK 50 Mile, Walmsley, formerly of the Air Force, had nothing to chase this year but the presidential record books. He ran alone at the front and smashed Max King’s 2012 course record. Walmsley’s 5:21:29 cut a whopping 13 minutes from King’s former best of 5:34:59–a record that was already highly regarded. Keep in mind that until 2011, no one had run better than 5:46 on this course. And in that year, David Riddle’s 5:40 course record was awarded Ultra Performance of the Year honors. Walmsley was 19 minutes better than the 2011 Ultra Performance of the Year. Walmsley averaged 6:25 per mile on the part-trail, part-road course.

Afterwards, race director Mike Spinnler told Andy Mason of the local Herald-Mail Media, “All the previous JFK record holders, including me–we are all just boys in comparison to what Jim Walmsley just did.”

Walmsley’s year now included nine wins in 10 starts, six course records, and two giant FKTs in the Grand Canyon.

He’s got one race left though and it’s a big one. The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships is in two weeks in San Francisco, and it will pay $10,000 to its winner. Walmsley will face a more competitive field than he has all year, and he’ll do it on short rest.

Overshadowed by Walmsley’s run, the next three men also ran under six hours for the storied course, now in its 54th year. Anthony Kunkel atoned for a drop at the recent Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile with a second-place 5:52. If not for recent illness, Kunkel told the Herald-Mail that he likely would have tried to match Walmsley for as long as he could.

Mike Owen was third in 5:56, and Iron Mike Wardian was fourth in 5:58. Though known for his frequent racing, Wardian’s recent streak of the Marine Corps Marathon, the New York Marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon, and now JFK is exceptional. He’s been on point in each race, and included a Grand Canyon double crossing somewhere in there too.

2016 JFK 50 Mile champion. Photo: Andy Mason/Herald-Mail Media

Jim Walmsley, 2016 JFK 50 Mile champion. Photo: Colleen McGrath/Herald-Mail Media

Women

As with much of the rest of the men’s race, the women’s race too was largely overshadowed by Walmsley. Though it wasn’t a course record, women’s winner Leah Frost was outstanding. Her 6:23 finish time was the race’s third fastest ever, trailing only marks by Ellie Greenwood and Emily Harrison. A 2:42 marathoner, Frost was making her 50-mile debut. She led throughout.

Caroline Boller, doubling back from a 16th-place finish at last week’s IAU 50k World Championships on the other side of the world, was second in 6:32. It was a new master’s course record, bettering Meghan Arbogast’s 2011 result, 6:35:16.

Third-place Megan DiGregorio ran 7:02.

Leah Frost - 2016 JFK 50 Mile champion

Leah Frost, 2016 JFK 50 Mile champion. Photo: Andy Mason/Herald-Mail Media

Ian Torrence’s 200th Ultra

Though not on the podium, Ian Torrence’s 200th ultra finish was another noteworthy storyline. Having grown up nearby, Torrence said that JFK will always be his home course. He has finished JFK 22 times in 23 starts. Included in that run are two runner-up finishes and this year’s 7:17 result.

It was no coincidence that he earmarked JFK for his 200th finish–it was also his first ultra finish way back in 1994. Torrence’s high-water year was 2000 when he finished 17 ultras, winning nine. In 1999 he ran 16 ultras, winning 12.

He shrugs off the notion of another 100 finishes, “I doubt I can quit ultras, but I think I will be very selective in my choices from here on out. They are not getting easier.”

Torrence was also quick to point to Rob Apple. Believed to be the record holder for most ultra finishes, Apple’s Ultrasignup page presently lists results from 514 races.

Full results.

OTHER RACES AND RUNS

With nearly 7,600 entrants, Iowa’s Living History Farms Off-Road Race is the country’s largest cross-country race. The roughly seven-mile race includes creek crossings, hay bales, and farm animals. Men’s winner Charlie Paul ran 40:39, and women’s winner Kaci Lickteig was over two minutes in front at 48:36. Full results.

Timothy Olson won the Thailand Ultramarathon, a 100k race through the jungle. Full results (when available).

On his way to San Francisco, Miguel Heras won the K42 Adventure Marathon in Argentina, finishing in 3:26. Veronica Ramirez won the women’s race in 4:24. Full results.

The Dead Horse Ultra in Moab, Utah had 50 mile, 50k, and 30k race distances. In the long course, Jeason Murphy and Melissa Beaury were victors in 6:58 and 8:16, respectively. Gordon Gianniny and Rachel Downey won the 50k in 3:35 and 4:11. And in the short course, it was Toby Lefere and Shawnie Mulligan on top in 1:57 and 2:13. Full results.

Melissa Beaury - Dead Horse 50 Mile champion

Melissa Beaury, Dead Horse Ultra 50 Mile champion. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

NEXT WEEKEND – IAU 100K WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS – LOS ALCAZARES, SPAIN

Men

Runners from some 32 countries will take part in the men’s race. Not included in that group (for women, as well) is the Russian federation, presumably still blocked from IAAF International Competitions following suspension last year in response to a large-scale doping scandal. Still, seven of last year’s top-10 finishers are expected to return including defending champion Jonas Buud. He led Sweden to team gold a year ago, but the five-man South African entry looks to be an overwhelming favorite. I guess we’ll see if Comrades Marathon success translates to this flat 10 x 10k course and its frequent turns. Keep in mind too that last year’s race might not be the best predictor of success this year–man-of-the-moment Walmsley was just 28th at this race in 2015. Also, Team Japan is looking strong, bringing four runners–three team members score–who have recent 100k PRs at 6:40 and faster. That’s some depth there!

  • Hermann Achmuller (Italy) – 14th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Jerome Andrieu (France) – 20th 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Henri Ansio (Finland) – 15th 2016 IAU Trail World Championships
  • Jerome Bellanca (France) – 8th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Dominique Bordet (France) – 18th 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Radek Brunner (Czech Republic) – 3rd at 2016 Spartathlon
  • Jonas Buud (Sweden) – 1st at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Giorgio Calcaterra (Italy) – 3rd at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Asier Cuevas (Spain) – 2nd at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Brendan Davies (Australia) – 19th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Wouter Decock (Belgium) – 5th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Fritjof Fagerlund (Sweden) – 6th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • David Gatebe (South Africa) – 1st at 2016 Comrades Marathon
  • Didrik Hermansen (Norway) – 6:39 recent 100k PR, 2nd 2016 Western States
  • Oleksandr Holovnytskyy (Ukraine) – 16th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Tatsuyo Itgaki (Japan) – 11th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Gift Kelehe (South Africa) – 1st at 2015 Comrades Marathon
  • Ludwick Mamabalo (South Africa) – 2nd at 2016 Comrades Marathon
  • Bongmusa Mthembu (South Africa) – 3rd at 2016 Comrades Marathon
  • Florian Neuschwander (Germany) – 9th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Rufus Photo (South Africa) – 5th at 2016 Comrades Marathon
  • Andre Rangelind (Sweden) – Ran 6:51 for 100k in 2016
  • Jose Antonio Requejo (Spain) – 3rd 2014 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Jarle Risa (Norway) – 1st 2016 Ultravasan 90k
  • Pavlo Stepanenko (Ukraine) – 15th IAU 100k World Championships
  • Yoshiki Takada (Japan) – 5th 2014 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Kaitarou Toike (Japan) – 4th 2016 Lake Saroma 100k in 6:40
  • Tomasz Walerowicz (Poland) – Ran 6:53 for 100k in 2015
  • Hideaki Yamauchi (Japan) – 2nd 2016 Lake Saroma 100k in 6:39

The top U.S. finisher last year was Joe Binder, and he too is included in this year’s group.

  • Joe Binder (U.S.) – 21st at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Zach Bitter (U.S.) – 1st at 2016 Javelina Jundred
  • Geoff Burns (U.S.) – 1st at 2016 Mad City 100k
  • Matt Flaherty (U.S.) – 24th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Chikara Omine (U.S.) – 26th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Patrick Reagan (U.S.) – 3rd at 2016 UltraVasan 90k

Full entrant list.

Women

A slightly smaller group–26 countries, with generally fewer runners on each team–make up the women’s field. 2015 champ Camille Herron (U.S.) is a late scratch with injury, leaving the women’s race wide open. With Herron absent, the U.S. still returns two members of last year’s gold medal-winning team, and is the team favorite. Team Japan should also contend for gold, as they bring four runners with recent PRs under 7:52. Sweden has a three-woman team who’ve all performed well in at least one of the last two editions of this event. With three team members scoring, however, they need strong performances from each of them to contend as a team.

Contenders from the international group include:

  • Kirstin Bull (Australia) – 8th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Monica Carlin (Italy) – Many-time IAU 100k Wold Championships podium finisher
  • Mai Fujisawa (Japan) – 15th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships in 7:56, just ran 7:42 at the Lake Saroma 100k
  • Veronika Jurisic (Croatia) – 11th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Aiko Kanematsu (Japan) – 7:47 at 2016 Lake Saroma 100k
  • Laurence Klein (France) – 14th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Chiyuki Mochizuki (Japan) – 2nd at 2014 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Mikiko Ota (Japan) – 13th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Frida Södermark (Sweden) – 12th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Sophia Sundberg (Sweden) – 13th at 2014 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Nikolina Sustic (Croatia) – 7:40 100k PR
  • Stina Svensson (Sweden) – 7th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Jo Zakrewski (U.K.) – 5th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships

The U.S. team includes:

  • Meghan Arbogast (U.S.) – 17th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Sarah Bard (U.S.) – 4th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Traci Falbo (U.S.) – 1st at 2016 Mad City 100k
  • Pam Smith (U.S.) – 2nd at 2016 Spartathlon

Full entrant list.

CALL FOR COMMENTS

  • Do you agree that Jim Walmsley’s JFK 50 Mile is a better performance than either his Lake Sonoma 50 Mile or his Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim FKT?
  • Am I right in eagerly anticipating the South African men’s race at the IAU 100k World Championships, or will they go the way of the Kenyans at the IAU 50k World Championships (zero finishers)?
  • What other races can be added to this week’s commentary?
Justin Mock

overcame years of disappointment to finally win a burro race in 2014. He has also run as fast as 2:29 for the marathon and finished as high as fourth in the Pikes Peak Marathon. He also writes for Running Times.

There are 37 comments

  1. bob

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to see some ‘head to head’ battles between Jornet and Walmsley?Anyone know if either of their ’17 schedules would set the stage for that to happen? Based upon his already stellar performances, I think it’s safe to say that Walmsley is a very rare talent that comes along once or twice a generation – in any sport, and we will continue to witness – in awe – race results like he’s had this season!

    1. Matthew Curry

      In his interview on Ginger Runner Live, he did say he’d like to race Kilian at Zegama. Would be fascinating over technical stuff.

      1. bob

        I too watched that video – must have missed that comment. Any race course that favors more of a ‘runners’ race would best suit Walmsley as he is just SO FAST, and not that he isn’t almost equally good on technical stuff, it’s probably the great ‘equalizer’ for those racing against him.

    2. andrejs

      That would be interesting to see, but I think they’re two very different beasts. I’m afraid that on technical terrain, Jim won’t come even close to what Kilian can do. But then again, surprises do happen.

      1. Bryan Jolly

        You’d think Kilian would be able to get him on the super techy/steep stuff but then you look at Jim’s r2r2r and that descent he did in the dark… it would probably be pretty well matched.

        1. Meghan Hicks

          Brian,

          This comment is not meant to question a guy like Walmsley’s potential on super-techy Euro trails, only to point out the fact that the South and North Kaibab Trails in the Grand Canyon are not technical in comparison to technical European trails, like what’s found on the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon course.

          South Kaibab has some rocks, holes, and water bars, indeed, but it’s wide, graded for livestock, has significant areas of flat and compacted trail surfaces to land one’s feet upon, and the mostly even layout of water bars allows for rhythmic movement.

          While the Zegama course has something like 10 or 12 miles of relatively non-technical trail where you can open up in a similar way that one can on the corridor trails of the Grand Canyon, when it is super-technical, the trails are characterized by the trail surface being entirely composed of rocks (as in, no gaps in which to lay your feet, and a diverse array of rocks throughout the course, sometimes big boulders, sometimes moveable scree, sometimes un-moving and cobblestone size), thick leaf beds which obscure whatever is underneath them in the forests below treeline, regular steepness akin to the final pitches up and down Kroger’s Canteen on the Hardrock course, a combination of steepness and features which require athletes to use one or both arms and scramble, and often wet and therefore slippery surfaces because of the wet spring climate in Basque Country.

          It would be fun to see a guy like Walmsley train for and race something like Zegama. There are some places where he could really hammer like he’s been able to on courses like Bandera, Western States, and the Grand Canyon. But at least half the Zegama course would require totally different movement patterns and skill sets than what he’s so far had to employ in the courses he’s chosen.

    3. Pete

      I know it was a long two years ago but remember that Walmsley had difficulties in the very steep+technical 2014 Speedgoat 50K, finishing over an hour and half after the winner. Could have just been a bad day, sure, but let’s first see if he wants to return to races like this.

      1. GPR

        To be fair, he won (and set a CR) at the Old Gabe 50K less than one month before Speedgoat. The Old Gabe course profile shows 11K+ feet of climbing. Likewise, those were his first two forays into the ultra-distance (according to ultrasignup). Very interested to see what he does on some technical terrain now that he’s learned how to race at these distances…

  2. Ben

    I’d suggest Walmsley’s Lake Sonoma performance was still the UPOY because of the following:
    1) He crushed the CR at a race where more of the current speedsters from the previous 3-4 years have taken a swing at it (Varner, Miller, Bak, DBo, Krar, etc.) The list goes on.
    2) JFK has not had nearly the same depth in recent years with this fast group of runners competing year after year so we don’t know how great his JFK time is compared to the other studs

    However, considering he ran untouched at JFK and demolished a Max King CR where Max was likely at his peak is super impressive.

    I think there could be some debate but it’s looking Jim has the three best performances of the year as of today. The hard part is simply sorting out the order of 1-3 ;)

    1. bob

      Good point with your take on the Lake Sonoma race, but forgive me for my confusion as to point #2. I think we DO know how great a performance the JFK was with or without your comment about lack of depth in recent years – he showed up, ran the course, competition or not, posted a time, the time was phenomenal, end of story. Your sentence after point #2 summed it up – any time someone can ‘demolish’ a Max King record pretty much puts it up there as something special.

      1. Ben

        I guess my point is that if Varner, Miller, Bak, DBo, Krar, etc. all showed up to JFK in the last 3-4 years I’d be willing to bet the CR would not have stood since 2012 and Walmsley likey would have still set the CR but it wouldn’t look as crazy as it does today. Personally, I’m more impressed by CRs set at races where the competition is really strong where all the fast guys show up. For example, if Jim goes on to win North Face against that competition? Forget about it, game over.

        1. bob

          Hmm, my guess is that ‘maybe’ Krar, or a select other few guys could have lowered King’s course record if they had chose to race it, but the fact remains that Walmsley hammered this course, and in my opinion is even more impressive because he wasn’t pushed by ‘really strong competition.’ On the contrary, I am less impressed with course records taken down when there is a stellar field, as they bring out the best in one another, making it ‘easier’ to accomplish than when basically ‘time trialing’ on one’s own.

          1. Graham Peck

            I have been out at JFK, racing or spectating, about 8 times now. The weather was the fastest I’ve ever seen if you are in the sub-7 hour crowd (it turned nasty at about 1 PM with a 20 degree drop in temps, rain, and wind). Absolutely no wind with temperatures rising from 40 to 60 during the morning for Jim. When Zach Miller ran 5:38, it was a blustery day so I regard that performance on par with King’s 5:34. Jim’s performance was totally freaking awesome and it definitely proves that a lot of those aforementioned names have it in them to put up sub 5:40’s there. It’s not a billy goat’s race.

    2. Ben Nephew

      I think one needs to consider the history of JFK, it would be great if the RD could contribute his thoughts. My point is that JFK has been around for a very long time, including periods when US runners were running very fast for 50 miles and 100k. Several of those runners have run very fast for 50 miles or 100k. It is a runner’s race, and he has destroyed the times of many very fast 100k runners, including Mike Wardian, who has a silver and a bronze from the 100k world champs, in addition to Max’s phenomenal 100k US record. Have any of the guys on your list run a really fast 50 miles or 100k, other than Miller’s run at JFK? Based on relevant results, it would be interesting to see how Geoff Burns, Pat Reagan, or Zach Bitter, on a good day, might do at JFK. Jim took 13 minutes off the time of a 6:30 100k guy. Max probably went through 50 miles at close to 5 hours, in less than optimal conditions. It is not crazy to think that Jim has the potential to take the 50 mile and/or 100k world records. Not sure about the 50k and the shorter speed needed for that. Many very fast 100k runners have run 30 minutes faster than there JKF time for 50 miles, sometimes during a 100k…

      1. Ryan

        I’d really like to see a fast American guy take a crack at the 50 mile WR. Even if they can run a sub-5:00 50-miler, I’d like to see it. The strength that Jim showed coming off the AT onto the towpath at JFK was impressive, and I agree that Jim would have a chance at the record if he trained correctly for it.

      2. Ben

        We already know Jim is the best trail runner at 50 miles today in the US. He’s proven that this year. Is he the best at 50 miles on the roads? We don’t know because he hasn’t run a flat road race with his current fitness. Same goes with a flat 100k road race or loop course like the IAU races.
        What we DO know is that on mostly runnable terrain even with a lot of gain and loss Jim is the cream of the crop today at 30k up to 93 miles ;)

  3. Kyle

    Jim Walmsley’s JFK 50 was crazy fast.

    Two records out there that wonder if are on his radar….Jim Obrien’s AC100 and Andy Jones’ sub 4 hours at Strolling Jim?

    Not sure anyone has come close to either one of those records.

    1. AJW

      Kyle, I completely agree with you on those two records. Jim’s AC and Andy’s Strolling Jim are amazing. I am not sure how close anyone has come to Andy but I know in over 25 years nobody has come within an hour of O’Brien’s 17:35. I think with a focused training bout and a well-executed race Jim could do it. I’d love to see him give it a shot!

      1. Kevin

        The AC100 record has always intrigued me. Not sure why the elites don’t swipe it? I’d imagine someone like Walmsley could put at least an hour on that CR, if not much more. Not meant as a slight on O’Brien. There’s just meat on the bone there for an elite 100 miler.

  4. Burke

    Walmsley is impressive. Incidentally, earlier in the month David Riddle, a one time JFK CR holder, broke Karl Meltzer’s course record at the Pinhoti 100 by about 18 minutes with a 16:24.

  5. Ian Sharman

    Looks like South Africa are taking the World 100k seriously for once and they’ve got the talent to set a new overall 100k WR (6:10 on a track or 6:13 on roads, I believe). David Gatebe ran a 5:19 Down Run CR for 89.3 rolling kms at Comrades (5:45/mile pace with around 4,000ft of ascent) which was arguably the best ultra performance ever. So if he, or his very fast team-mates, can emulate close to that we’ll see a race on par with Comrades.

    1. Ben

      This brings up a great point – if Jim really wants to run with the best he should line up at Comrades. That would put things in perspective and we could understand if what we are seeing from him this year is truly world class or if he’s simply (which is far from simple) the best in the US right now.

        1. SageCanaday

          Leonid’s “up record” of 5:24 is absolutely ridiculous…like it should have an asterix next to it (for those that don’t know what I’m talking about read the article that G linked to above).

  6. Ellie

    Ian, I’m intrigued too to see how the four amazing SA guys with outstanding Comrades results do at Worlds. My only hesitancy is that any SA runner of their caliber trains so religiously and so specifically for Comrades with so much prestige and money on the line. Will they have done the same for Worlds? I’m not sure, but keen to see!

  7. Ben Nephew

    Good luck to the US teams at the IAU race. It is worth noting that the US men have Geoff Burns that has run almost as fast as Max when he won the IAU race, Pat, who has run within 5 minutes of that, and Zach, who has run a 50 mile time equivalent to a sub 6:40.

    I feel bad for the US women with only 3 athletes, no margin for anyone having an off day. Late scratches seem to be common on these IAU teams, so late that alternates are not able to race. This is unfortunate for both the competing members, as well as the potential alternates. The US is too strong not to send full teams. I’d be interested to know how late you can add alternates.

  8. Jordan Vondy

    Let’s not forget Walmsley’s win/CR at Bandera 100k in January. While it doesn’t have as much elevation gain/loss as other courses, Bandera is very rocky and technical with almost no smooth trail and Jim dropped the Jorge Maravilla’s CR by 18 minutes. There is speculation that he might not do as well on technical terrain, but I think the reality is that we just haven’t seen it YET. I would love to see what he can do at Hardrock.

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