A combination of perfect weather, a slightly different course, and ridiculous competition led to incredibly fast times at this year’s The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. After fierce battles, Zach Miller (pre-race and post-race interviews) and Ida Nilsson (pre-race and post-race interviews) came out on top with fast finishes right behind them from Hayden Hawks (pre-race and post-race interviews) and Magdalena Boulet (pre-race and post-race interviews).
Truly, this year’s race was the pinnacle in the event’s 10-year history in the Marin Headlands. Below, we dive into the full story.
Thank you to The North Face for supporting our coverage of this race.
As usual, we’ll be updating this article with additional results as well as links to race-related articles, photo galleries, and race reports. Check back.
2016 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Men’s Race
Over the past decade, there have been few things more spectacular than watching Zach Miller (pre-race and post-race interviews) go out at breakneck pace in races and, often enough, sticking it. Well, today that was topped by Hayden Hawks (pre-race and post-race interviews) getting into a veritable game of go-for-it chicken against Mr. Miller with the only loser in the deal being the six-hour barrier. From the gate, Miller went to the front only to have Hawks charge off and push the pace. Back and forth it would go for much of the day. Neither relented despite running “stupid” per Miller. Sometimes you jump on the crazy train and it takes you to an incredible destination. Such was the case today. With roughly 5 kilometers to go, Zach still had a mere one-minute lead to his credit so he ran 16 minutes to the finish to win by barely two minutes. This duel from gun to line was incredible to witness in person.
Behind Miller and Hawks there were three sets of folks toward the front: the implosions, the steadies, and the chargers.
In the middle, folks like Jorge Maravilla (pre-race interview) were Mister Consistents. I don’t think I saw Jorge outside of the range of fourth-to-sixth place all day. He finished fourth. Greek runner Dimitris Theodorakakos sits ninth, eighth, and eighth in my notes before finishing sixth. Likewise, Paddy O’Leary seemingly hung around ninth or 10th place throughout the day. Some folks would drop back fast, a few others would sneak past, but on Paddy would go to take ninth.
Dang, if there’s someone that’ll have a leader checking his shoulder at the end of an ultra these days, it’s David Laney (post-race interview). He was in 11th at mile 20 and was in fourth 13 miles later. He’d finish third. I’m pretty sure that Alex Nichols (pre-race interview) had to come from a lot further back to take fifth. He was in the late-teens at best at mile 10 and only cracked the top 10 nearly two thirds of the way through the race.
A couple of folks in the top 10 escape these classifications. Sage Canaday (pre-race interview) led the chase behind Miller and Hawks for much of the race, often sitting in third. All that early speed slowed Sage later, but he still hung on for seventh. Then there were the two breakthrough performances run by Erik Sorensen and Brian Condon to take eighth and 10th.
2016 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Men’s Results
- Zach Miller (Nike) — 5:56:03 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Hayden Hawks (Hoka One One) — 5:58:07 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- David Laney (Nike) — 6:15:16 (post-race interview)
- Jorge Maravilla (Hoka One One) — 6:23:43 (pre-race interview)
- Alex Nichols (Scott) — 6:33:43 (pre-race interview)
- Dimitris Theodorakakos (Salomon) — 6:34:42
- Sage Canaday (Hoka One One) — 6:35:52 (pre-race interview)
- Erik Sorenson — 6:38:43
- Paddy O’Leary (The North Face) — 6:39:19
- Brian Condon (Scott) — 6:42:43
- Jim Rebenack — 6:43:44
- David Ryland — 6:45:17
- Scott Spillman — 6:47:14
- James Walsh — 6:51:11
- Dan Kraft (Nike) — 6:56:49
- Cody Reed (The North Face) — 6:58:09 (pre-race interview)
- Emerson Trujillo — 6:59:24
- Brian Gillis (GU) — 7:03:01
- Mark Hammond — 7:03:12
- Benjamin Stern — 7:08:03
2016 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Women’s Race
This year’s female champion Ida Nilsson (pre-race and post-race interviews) is a two-time NCAA Division I champion in the 5k and steeplechase from her collegiate career at Northern Arizona University and a 10-time Swedish national champion in track and field. That is to say that she has wheels and among the fastest raw leg speed in the women’s field. Her entrance into trail and ultrarunning beginning in 2015 has been quickly successful, with her 2016 including big wins at Transvulcania this spring and, now, the TNF 50.
Ida’s race today seemed smooth as butter, with her running in second position for the majority of the race behind early and long-time leader Megan Kimmel (pre-race interview), the defending champion. Her late move for the lead didn’t become apparent until mile 44 when she had overtaken the lead and started building the six-minute gap she’d have over the rest of the field by the finish. A hip injury in the fall had required her to do much of her training on skis, rather than long runs, and she had said before the race that she wasn’t sure how the later miles would go. Well, numbers don’t lie, and her strong close to the finish shows that she’s well converted her track-and-field legs to the rigors of the hills.
Magdalena Boulet (pre-race and post-race interviews) has become something of a Bay Area trail running queen in the three years since she debuted at ultrarunning at the 2013 TNF 50 and finished second. Everywhere we went, people knew of and actively cheered for Magda, and she waved, smiled, and high fived back. If anything, she was the fan favorite.
To be honest, Magda didn’t quite look like Magda to me until we saw her just beyond the halfway point, and she would say after the race that she struggled to find her legs until after Stinson Beach at mile 30, attributing this fact to her race at UTMB a few months ago, its requisite recovery, and perhaps not quite enough training for this year’s race. But when we saw her after the halfway point, it was like her focus had returned and her stride had opened and the Magda we know was back in the race.
Fourth here last year, Ruth Croft (pre-race and post-race interviews) moved up a spot to finish third, and ran 10 minutes faster in doing so. This year, she employed a more conservative start, and didn’t move herself into the realm of podium position until about halfway through the race. At around mile 25, Ruth and Magda were running together in third and fourth, a battle that would continue for some miles. In this section, Ruth would also briefly give challenge to Ida, who at the time was running in second position behind the still-leading Megan. Ruth would ultimately drop back behind Ida and Magda, but her conservative start perhaps led her to run strong to the finish for third place.
Fourth place went to Canadian Annie Jean, whose best performance in trail and ultrarunning until now is probably a 12th place at the 2016 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. She’s also been the winner of many local ultras in Canada. As early as mile 10, Annie was running in sixth position, a spot she would roughly hold for quite a long way before she would pick off a few positions for fourth place.
Clare Gallagher ran an impressive race in that she went out close to the leaders in the early going, dropped back to the 10th at mile 32, before fighting her way back up to fifth at the finish. If Clare yo-yoed a bit, Sandi Nypaver was a winch in that she started a ways back and kept reeling in the runners ahead of her. She didn’t crack the top 10 until around mid-race, was eighth by mile 25.5, and finished sixth. Kasie Enman ran a consistent race, hanging between fourth and sixth for most of the race before finishing seventh.
Keely Henninger bounced around ninth and 11th for much of the race before earning eighth. Stephanie Howe Violett (pre-race interview) says she’ll be happy to have 2016 behind her, especially now that it goes out with her finishing in the top 10 at such a strong 50 miler. Early leader Megan Kimmel (pre-race interview) suffered calf issues late in the race that quickly dropped her back to 10th. If we recall correctly, a similar issue afflicted Kimmel late in the 2012 edition of the TNF 50.
2016 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Women’s Results
- Ida Nilsson (Salomon) — 6:59:49 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Magdalena Boulet (Hoka One One) — 7:06:12 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Ruth Croft (Scott) — 7:20:45 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Annie Jean — 7:24:41
- Clare Gallagher (The North Face) — 7:25:25
- Sandi Nypaver (UGo Bars) — 7:27:08
- Kasie Enman (Salomon) — 7:33:59
- Keely Henninger (Nike) — 7:38:05
- Stephanie Howe Violett (The North Face) — 7:42:04 (pre-race interview)
- Megan Kimmel (Asics) — 7:46:34 (pre-race interview)
- Laura Kline — 7:47:53
- Sarah Keyes — 7:50:18
- Felice Kelly — 7:54:49
- Elizabeth Simpson — 7:54:55
- Ellie Pell — 7:59:57
- Megan Chamoun — 8:01:27
- Kim Magnus — 8:01:29
- Nicole Kalogeropoulos (Altra) — 8:07:27
- Cassie Scallon (Salomon) — 8:09:59
- Rachel Paquette (The North Face) — 8:17:12
2016 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Articles, Race Reports, and More
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iRunFar has received an incredible outpouring of support from the Marin area trail running community, and our race-week coverage has been the conglomerate work and support of some 20-plus people. We are so grateful. Thank you to Dylan Bowman as well as Brett Rivers of the San Francisco Running Company for hosting our pre-race interviews. Thank you to the following people who volunteered to help deliver our race-day live coverage: Kirsten Kortebein, Francois Grenier, Charlie Avis, Chris Blagg, Maili Costa, Charity Thurman, Ezra Becker, Rudy Rutemiller, Misha Shemyakin, Gilbert Lemieux, and Hal Rosenberg. Thank you to iRunFar’s volunteer office team on race day, including Marissa Harris, Jon Allen, Ellie Greenwood, Nick Pedatella, and Eric Senseman.