2010 The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships Editorial

The North Face Endurance Challenge 2010I have a tendency to go on ad infinitum in my articles here at iRunFar. My men’s and women’s previews for the 2010 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Championships are great examples of this. While this year’s TNF Championship races call for such treatment, I’m taking a different approach. Why? Three reasons:

  1. iRunFar already provided a blow-by-blow of the event via Twitter on race day.
  2. We’ve already provided the race results with links to race reports and commentary, so you should already know that Anna Frost and Miguel Heras are the champions.
  3. I don’t have the time to write a 3,000 word novella about the race! :-)

Instead of my normal approach, I’ll get all editorial on you regarding prize money in ultras, the globalization of ultrarunning, and the uniqueness of racing in the Marin Headlands.

Money and Racing
I had some spirited conversations about money and racing while in San Francisco. In particular, a respected foreigner said that it changed the nature of the sport and implied it was not for the better. I would agree that prize money at least changes the nature of a particular race that offers it, but I don’t think that the money necessarily results in a change for the worse.

When a highly competitive trail ultra offers no prize money, it’s more common for a larger percentage of the elites to run more within themselves in the early miles. This is particularly true of runners who know they have little chance of a top three place. In contrast, a large cash purse leads to everyone and their mother going out with the lead pack and trying to hold on. I’d never seen anything in an ultra as crazy as the 30 guys who came through the mile 9 aid station within 10 seconds in the pre-dawn hours Saturday morning.

Personally, I prefer to race a conservative, well-paced effort, but there’s inherent excitement in everyone throwing down until all but one guy or gal blows up. Runners two through twenty might be far off their fastest possible time for the day, but you know with little doubt that at some point along their course they hit their limit. They failed, but in failing learned about themselves. For example, it was damn cool seeing young Dakota Jones racing side-by-side with Geoff Roes at mile 30 before seeing him spent and in fourth place at both mile 45 and the finish.

Dakota Jones TNF EC Championships 2010

An exhausted Dakota Jones getting a hug at the end of the TNF EC Championships.

The Globalization of  Ultrarunning
The most exciting development in ultrarunning in the past year or two might be the globalization of the sport. Though, perhaps, globalizaion is wrong word, as Europe and Japan seem to have been integrated for a while. No, the big thing is the integration of the International (and, particularly, the European) and American ultrarunning scenes.

In 2009, Tsuyoshi Kaburaki and Jez Bragg finished second and third at Western States. In 2010, three of the top eight men at Western States were foreign with Kilian Jornet of Spain second, Gary Robbins of Canada fifth, and Ian Sharman of the UK eighth. (There were actually four if you count Glen Redpath, a Canadian living in the US, who finished seventh.) The women’s Western States champ? Tracy Garneau of Canada. Don’t worry, this street goes both ways with Krissy Moehl winning the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, the premier 100 miler outside the US, in 2009. This year, American Mike Wolfe finished second at the improvised UTMB, while he and Geoff Roes were running strong at the front of the canceled version of this year’s race.

Here at the end of 2010, two foreigners – Anna Frost of New Zealand and Miguel Heras – won the one of the most competitive trail ultras ever run on US soil. Foreign men also took sixth (Jez Bragg, UK), eighth (Thomas Lorblanchet, France), eleventh (Christophe Malarde, France), and twelfth… sort of (Uli Steidl, Germany became a US citizen this year). Behind Frost, foreign women took second (Lizzy Hawker, UK), eighth (Marlene Flores Paredes, Chile), ninth (Kasia Zajac, Poland), eleventh (Tamsin Anstey, Canada), and twelfth (Cristina Carvalho, Brazil). Injuries and travel problems took out other top foreigners, including Tsuyoshi Kaburaki, Jonathan Wyatt, Sebastien Chaigneau, Ellie Greenwood, and Tracy Garneau.

Anna Frost Lizzy Hawker TNF Championships 2010

Anna Frost (NZ) and Lizzy Hawker (UK) after placing first and second at the 2010 TNF EC Championships. (Photo Stephan Gripmaster.)

The point of those long lists above is to show that ultrarunning is now a truly global sport. No, it’s not likely that the speedy Frenchman are going to destroy your local 50k course record next year. The mixing will be limited primarily to marquee events due to funding, but you can count on world-wide showdowns at future Western States, UTMBs, TNF EC Championships, and a few other races.

I think this globalization is fantastic. It’s great fun to watch the world’s best go head-to-head. From talking with the top runners from both sides of the Atlantic, I can tell you that most feel the same way. They want to race the very best runners in the world, regardless of where those competitors reside. On the flip side, I’ve seen nothing but respect, admiration, and cordiality between international competitors the past two years.

It’s yet to be seen how long this unification will last. At least here in America, many of the best ultrarunners have focused on athletic pursuits and/or the enjoyment of life rather than maximizing potential employment income. That’s what makes many of them such damn cool people. However, that leaves many dependent on sponsor support to attend distant races. It’s encouraging to see such support in these less than stellar economic times. I think the marked upswing in the popularity of trail running is partly responsible. Regardless of the cause, I hope sponsors continue to lend such support. For what it’s worth, I’ve heard rumblings of additional American sponsors sending top runners to UTMB in 2011.

Ahead at the Headlands
Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, the Marin Headlands host numerous races every year with the Miwok 100k and TNF Championships being the most notable. The never flat, but rarely technical terrain appears to uniquely favor … or disfavor certain athletes.

Before the TNF Championships, Sean Meissner pointed out that Kami Semick had never lost in the Headlands. That streak ended when Anna Frost crossed the line ahead of her. Still, she ran a stellar race that was just three minutes slower than her win in 2008, which covered a faster course than the one run this past Saturday.

In contrast to Kami, Geoff Roes remains winless in five tries in the Headlands. Other than getting lost while leading Way Too Cool this year, Roes has never lost an ultra outside the Headlands. His second place finishes the past two years at the TNF Championships show that he’s no slouch in Marin, but others are able to run faster. Perhaps, the trails aren’t steep or technical enough to suit Roes’s strengths. Whatever the reason, we hope to see him give himself another shot or two for a Headlands victory in 2011.

Geoff Roes Dakota Jones TNF EC Championships 2010

Geoff Roes leads Dakota Jones during the 2010 TNF EC Championships. (Photo Stephan Gripmaster.)

Call for Comments
I’ve braced myself, so feel free to comment away.

  • What do you think about prize money in ultras?
  • Do you enjoy the globalization of ultrarunning? What are its upsides and downsides? Any matchups that you’re particularly interested in? (I can’t get the thought of Roes, Krupicka, Jornet and Heras at UTMB 2011 out of my head)
  • What makes the Headlands such a unique place with regard to racing?

There are 129 comments

  1. Livan

    "I can’t get the thought of Roes, Krupicka, Jornet and Heras at UTMB 2011 out of my head", I too Bryon, I´ll be waiting to seek the race in front of my pc. I´m finisher of UTMB 2007, and DNF in UTMB 2006, and I think that´s the best ultra trail race in the world.

    Best wishes from Spain.


  2. Pierre

    First, can't get enough of that live twitter feed of any race.

    Second, money brings… cheaters. Any controls after TNF50 SF ?

    Third, a sport needs super athlete that motivates us. I'm very impressed with Anton's regime (mileage) and attitude (super relax). Of course, Geoff is super solid too, and #1 in the world.

    C ya in Chamonix 2011.

    Pierre (Montreal Qc)

  3. Anonymous


    add to your list NICK CLARK for UTMB 2011. He is a runner from Colorado very very very strong like Heras he raced in shorter road races ( I believe Heras comes from 1/2 Marathon distance and then Raids, correct me if I am wrong please)BOTH are FENOMENAL at LONG and STEEP courses. They are going to have a lot of fun racing against each other. Nick has been beaten twice by spanish runners in 2010 but not by much, @ WS 100 (kilian) and @ PP Marathon (jordi), by spanish runners. If he doesn't race as much in 2011 he should show up to France to shake things up.

    Saludos from USA,


    1. Livan

      Miguel Heras comes from Raids and then he start to mountain marathons, no road races, he also like climbing and BTT, but from 2008 he raced some 100km ultra trails with quantity of mountains. Miguel Heras has won this year Transgrancanaria (123km), CruzaTenerife (65km), Transvulcania (83km), Cavalls del Vent (84,54km) ,Scaccabarozzi (43km) ,second in Andorra Ultratrail (112km, very hard and tecnical race), second in Kima (50km).

  4. Alex M

    I think that the money in Ultra's is an unavoidable evil. Ultra’s are becoming more popular as people discover the joy of trail running. Yes I would like to be idealistic and say that running on trails and feeling the world around you is reward enough in itself, but people gotta eat.

    These guys put in an incredible effort in training and achievements most think insane. I think we can hope that their kind, humble and laid back disposition (which has distinguished them from other runners) remains even when the money increases.

    Is globalization of the sport a good thing? Absolutely, a race to be the best should be against the best.

    Match-ups, I would love to see the same top 10 (plus Krupicka and Jurek) racing hard at the 85 mile mark of WS100. That would be awesome.

  5. Trail Clown

    First of all, great coverage, it just keeps getting better. Second, keep the editorials coming, you should include one after every major event you cover. Third, great photos in this editorial, love the shot of Roes looking back at the comp (and/or photographer). Fourth, this editorial touches upon the major evil in any endeavor, and so, good choice on the editorial! As for my two cents on the topic, I believe it is a necessary evil, in order to expand the sport (which I think would be an awesome thing, for people's health, for awareness of environmental issues, etc. etc.). I do think the top dogs in ultrarunning are going to be vulnerable to suffering the same plight as other sports stars, however, in that they will be over-extended, over-exposed, over-judged, over-idolized, etc. Their personal lives may suffer–but that might have happened even without the increased publicity, money, global opportunities, etc, simply because of their unwavering dedication to the activity. So my hope is that the top performers keep that "enjoyment of life" perspective you mentioned. But overall, this trend has been going on for some time now, and the result is millions more people involved in trail running, many more trail races being launched (aren't there close to one hundred 100 mile races now in North America alone?) and now, thanks to irunfar.com, people get to start their day watching some really cool videos/interviews of the sport they love. For those of us who in the past always started the day reading our favorite trail running magazine, this new development makes every day like Christmas! And the global competition/rivalries, that just makes for great drama. Make sure you keep learning as many foreign languages as you can, especially Spanish, so you can interview Heras next time!

  6. Kim Neill

    Bryon: Thanks for your ad infinitum coverage. Please keep it coming, but make sure you get your own races in too. Hope you're enjoying running on the snowy trails, but be careful of weird little overuse things from twisting and slipping.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Thank, Kim. As for me and racing, I'm back. I ran the half marathon out at the TNF races. So far my 2011 race calendar includes: Red Hot Moab, Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50k, Rocky Mountain Double Marathon, Western States, and UTMB. :-)

  7. ScottTomKretz


    Excellent editorial here; and I think if anyone is qualified to bring these topics up, it's probably you.

    That being said, I was thinking about the whole prize money thing myself while sitting on the edge of my seat and following Twitter. Even via 140 character or less snippits of information, the race was tremendously exciting, due no doubt to the fact that so many top runners came out for a piece of the prize purse. But while that did draw some competitors who may not have otherwise showed up, I think a look back at Western States this year point to a phenomenon in ultra-running that you won't find in road racing up to the marathon distance. Western States drew a great deal of amazing talent, and at least from my outsider's view it didn't seem to be about the money, but rather about the opporunity for the top 100-mile runners in the world to duke it out with each other.

    However, in road races, if there's no fairly large sum of cast at stake, big names aren't likely to show up. I'll use this year's Denver marathon as an example. Olympian Datahn Ritzenhein had made late plans to run the half marathon there to get a good, competitive effort in before the NY marathon, but even with his name being thrown into the hat, the race couldn't draw any more upper-level elite runners against whom Ritzenhein felt he could get in a good race against.

    So while I think the money has and will continue to play a role in drawing a large field of elite ultra runners, I think there's ultra runners are inclined to show up and face other top ultra runners for the sake of testing their own limits rather than for the sake of taking home money. But, if large purses start to crop up at more races, that could change.

    All the best in training for what sounds like an awesome year, Bryon.


  8. Mark Ryan

    First of all, best race reporting – Bryon Powell, best editorials in Trail Runner Mag – Bryon Powell, best photographer – Gripmaster hands down something about his use of depth of field and the way the greens "pop" from his photos is amazing.

    As far as prize money goes, it kinda takes away from that grass roots feel and accessibility of the common joe midpacker to race alongside the elites. More spots in top races going to sponsored racers etc.

    I have no dreams of winning UTMB or WS100 but just to one day show up and run and finish. As prize money increases, so will entry fees making something that was once so accessible little more than a long version of Boston or NYC.

  9. Matt

    With money comes cheaters… yes, but also with growing competition and globalization (i.e., more people and more competition). Another unavoidable evil in ultrarunning is doping. I don't know whether it's already there but surely it will be sooner or later. Obviously it's a touchy issue but it would be extremely naive to think that in the sport that requires such a huge stamina nobody among the elites is (or at least prone to) cheating. And we're no angels, including ultrarunners. If ultrarunning keeps developing, we'll be able to see more clearly a new dynamic of this triangle of money, globalization and doping. Like in many other Olympic and non-Olympic sport disciplines. Is it sad? I think it's perfectly normal process of professionalization of any human activity that brings both dangers and opportunities as well.


    1. Bryon Powell

      I think we're quite a ways away from any wide-scale doping in ultrarunning. If someone were to win every ultra with prize money in the US, what would they win? Maybe $20-30,000. As for sponsorship money, I can't imagine there are more than half a dozen runners bringing home more than $20,000 per year. Excluding Dean Karnazes, maybe at the VERY top end someone makes in the ballpark of $100,000 annually. To put that in perspective, the average Tour de France level domestique makes $200,000-$300,000 per year. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12169326445118227… . If someone wants to do drugs to earn money, ultrarunning is not even close to being the right sport for them in which to do it.

      1. Matt


        Thanks a lot for your reply. I think you’re right when you talk about the “here and now” of ultrarunning. But, it’s hard to say that this sport is not going to change when money and globalization come (the assumption we already made). I agree that today there is not much temptation. You give numbers to prove that. But, again, the logic of development will alter these numbers. We don’t know when, but we know already that ultrarunning is not the same it was five years ago. What it will be like in the next five? I’m a sociologist and for me ultrarunning is a swift-footed changing phenomenon that achieves its new phase of development, and that brings new mindsets, patterns of behavior and business dynamic. To sum up, ultra changes, and although we're not prophets, some directions can be predicted.

  10. drizzle


    I think you're completely missing the point in regards to prize money. You talk about money altering race strategy, but fail to mention that most of those elites probably wouldn't have even been at the race if it weren't for the generous prize purse.

    I was one of the top finishers at JFK this year. I went in thinking I was running at the "largest and oldest" ultra in the country, but now I feel like I ran a second class event. None of the big ultra names were there besides Wardian – and he was still tired from the World 100km race and probably only came because he lives so close.

    I believe that if the money continues to grow through prize purses and sponsorships you'll see guys like Max King – who can run a 2:15 road marathon – transition more frequently to trails and ultras in search of more earnings and attention. Is that good for the sport? I don't know. But I think times will continue to get faster as a direct result.

    1. Bryon Powell

      I think the prize money was invaluable in making the TNF a premier event. Now that it's a premier event, I think the level of competition is a huge draw for the runners and their sponsors. The race has grown to the prestige that Salomon brought many of its top runners to the race. Presumably, they want their runners racing on the big stages in the world and the TNF Championships are now one of them. The same runners and companies want to compete at the other most prestigious races – Western States and UTMB – even though there isn't any prize money.

      I don't think there's anything wrong with the TNF Championships drawing folks away from other races. Previously, you had a number of top 50 mile races each fall, such as JFK, Mountain Masochist, and, in some years, Stone Cat. Those races were within two or three weeks of each other and that led to a dilution of talent. There was no single championship 50 mile race… and now there is.

      I can't really speak as to what draws Max to trail and ultrarunning, but given how long he spent racing the steeplechase and world level cross country rather than road races with higher purses, I can't imagine that money is what's drawing him to the trails. I think it's more of a case of a guy who obviously loves trails running longer as he gets older.

      1. drizzle

        All I'm saying is that the reason there is a single championship 50 mile race now is because there is significant money being put up. That is what is drawing people from other races.

        I apologize if I came across sounding like I knew what Max King's motivations were for running trails and ultras. That was not my intention. I really don't think there is very much money in road racing for a 2:15-2:25 guys and the competition level in trails and ultras is definitely lower. That said, I doubt Max would deny that he loves to win major trail races. He wouldn't be winning many major road marathons. That by itself is enough motivation for some people.

      2. Craig Redfearn

        Is not White River 50 Mile the USATF 50 Mile Trail Championships? I am seriously surprised that this event is not more publicized as it usually brings in quite a few top names. And it is for the most part a very runnable course. Krupicka has lowered the CR for two straight years. No telling how low it would go if some of the other big guns from around the country/world were to show up.

  11. John Maytum

    I think it's interesting that so many people feel that prize money is a "Necessary Evil" in trail running. Are people afraid that their small trail races will become too large and they will lose that unique feel? If so…don't fret….other less known events will pop up that you can then join. We shouldn't deny elite athletes a prize purse just because we want to preserve the "Grass Roots" feel of the sport. Nor should we label it as a necessary evil. Getting paid to pull off a remarkable athletic feat is not evil.

    On globalization…this is just fantastic. A bigger pool of athletes means more competition which in turn leads to more compelling races. This can also lead to all sorts of interesting matchups. Losing at the headlands to heras might give Geoff and Co. a bit more incentive when it comes time to run UTMB 2011.

    1. Trail Clown

      I used the term "necessary evil" without giving it as much thought as you did. Well said, points taken. I guess it's akin to wanting to return to a "Little House on the Prairie" feel in this country– ain't gonna happen and I guess it's not evil to have our citizens making more money than they did in the "Prairie" days. But what is evil, of course, is the lust for money, kind of what you see in road running and other sports (and corporate America in general). It's inevitable that it's heading toward trail running, and I still see it as a necessary evil. The sport needs to grow, and the abuse of money (soon trail RD's will be offering millions for the best European elites to come over and run) will follow.

  12. Matt

    Reasons Against Prize Money

    -Ups the anti for doping, look at pro cycling.

    -Possibly changes the motivation and reason that some run trails.

    -Trail running is about minimal impact, money could bring more impact. i.e fans, helicopters? and the entourage that comes with all the excitement.

    Reason For Prize Money

    -Money could bring more money to invest back into trails and natural areas.

    -Higher caliber of runners at races that give prize money duking it out to the end.

    Personally I like ultra's being unadulterated and all about the love for being out on the trails pushing your personal limits and testing them against others. Maybe if I had the speed to be in the prize money I would feel a little different, I don't know. On a side note I liked the Western States show down much more than the NF50.

    Happy Running!

  13. Dave

    Thanks for bringing up the sensitive subjects Bryon. My two cents..

    Why I run, in order of importance

    1) for the sake or running itself

    2) love of the outdoors

    3) to test what my mind and body can do

    4) to compete

    5) money

    Money does not bring the best out of everyone, nor is it "evil" to have in a race. I have busted my butt just as hard as this past weekend at TNF 50 as at other races in Marin (and a billion other non-money locations), just for the pure thrill of seeing what my body and mind could accomplish in a beautiful place. Miwok 100k 2008 I feel I ran my best race ever, and that was without competition and money, and most races are just like this. You won't see the trail elites out there to make a big living of the sport; the ones who make any significant living, like Dean, do so from marketing themselves, not from winning prize purses. And it is safe to say that Dean has done great things for the sport of running without affecting grass roots experience.

    People who think money is bad for the sport have irrational fears about "impurifying" of the sport. This is hogwash and for runners/races of a very traditional mindset (western states 100 comes to mind; ironically they are a big money for-profit business and not as grassrootsy as you may think, and they offer no prize money at all). I love the small non-prize races just as much as races that have money, and for all of us %95 of races in the US and internationally will never have prize money, which is fine, so we can get whatever experience we want on any given weekend. The rare prize money is sometimes the last carrot draw the best to come to some races (JFK included), but mostly the top guys and gals just want to duke it out and have a good time doing it in a spectacular setting.

    1. Anonymous

      At some point though these elite runners are not going to be able to afford the sport they love. According to a recent post by Dakota Jones, he had to front the bill for his entry fee and travel expenses for the NF50. Additionally Nick Clark and Tony Krupicka made statements about dropping the $375 (I may be off $25 dollars in either direction) for the coveted Western States 100 entry . I feel the simple trend of increased entry fees is keeping many great "ultra marathon competitive fields" from coming together. Just a thought……….

      1. Bryon Powell

        The Western States entry fee is a joke. I love the race and the people it brings together, but the entry fee is beyond belief. I wish they'd cut half the hoopla, get cash rather than four tons of schwag from sponsors, and lower the fee to be in line with the other 100s at around $200-250. As most elites only focus on a small number of races, they can handle one or two reasonably high race fees. I've likely got less money than most of these guys, so I know the pain… but, at least for me, a race like WS is my big splurge for the year.

        1. Anonymous

          Furthermore, (sorry I hate to rant) I find it quite ridiculous that you (Bryon Powell) has to pay for entry. The promoters should be forever grateful for the quality coverage you brought to the event this past year. You made observers, who for the most part, generally had no prior knowledge of ultras, get excited with the in depth interviews and commentary around the event.

      2. Stack

        I may be off but I'd like to think Anton, Dakota and other sponsored guys are at the very least getting their entries paid for. They may have to drop their own money but probably get reimbursed (maybe only if they attend?) by sponsors. if this isnt the case then i'd be surprised and saddened.

          1. Bryon Powell

            There's actually a surprising amount of variation in the US re sponsorship between teams and even among runners on the same team. Some sponsors are more or less gear only. A few give gear and a small amount of cash (presumably, to cover some travel and entries). A few companies offer a modest amount of cash as well as reasonable support with regard to attending races. A few top names command larger paydays than their peers, but many of these also have increased rolls with regard to marketing or product development.

            It was interesting to learn this weekend that a wider scope of sponsors provide race entry and expense coverage in Europe.

  14. Stack

    $ IN ULTRAS:

    I hate the thought of not putting the money in the pockets of the runners but if $ is to be spent I think more needs to be spent on publicizing and online (and maybe even some TV?) coverage. Bryon did a great job with the twitter updates but I honestly think its kind of sad that twitter is the best NF can do for this race. It can't be hard to have a cool graphic/website with a stylized map of the course showing where the runners (or maybe top 30?) are located on the map in real time via GPS tracking/chips. I would envision a map/page where you could click on a portion of the course to watch a brief video of someone running (pre-recorded of course) up that hill, or click and see pictures of the view. see elevation profiles and pace charts, etc. Maybe the race puts chips on what they think might be the top 30 (M & W) but a runner could have the option of paying a little extra with their entry to wear one. I know I would have no shot against competition like this but I would have family and friends that would probably want to follow me along the course. And if I'm already paying $ for registration and $$$ for flight, hotel, etc. then bucking up a little extra for this would probably be a no-brainer. (especially if I could access my race info/stats after the fact).

    Ultimately I would hope more/better coverage would increase the fan-base/popularity and in turn possibly give rise to more prize money at other marque events. This hopefully would mean a decent revenue stream for the top guys via prize money and possibly more/better sponsorships.


    I think there is an elephant in the room on this one but maybe he has been wearing camouflage so some havent noticed? Globalization is awesome in general and I live for the day that we could possibly see a trail ultra find its way into an olympic setting and it seems like most involved in the sport agree. The 'elephant' would be… what about the African runners? Will the Americans and Euros still think globalization is such a good thing if the Kenyans, Ethiopians, etc. step onto the scene and start destroying CRs and winning races by a ton? And no… Geoff Roes is not a Kenyan in disguise even though he does fit the description ;) The thought of the African runners even caring about ultras sounds absurd to some but if the prize money climbs high enough and the popularity increases… i say just watch it happen. For every household Kenyan name we know… there are 50 others of similar talent in Iten, Kenya just waiting to make a name on the international stage. I know if I was Montrail, NB, NF, Solomon, etc I would probably be in contact with someone in Iten looking for a kid who wants to make ultra racing his 'thing' while he's still trying to make it big in road racing, track, etc. I know it may not be that easy but its worth a thought… right Topher? :) Is it possible that even the crazy Kenyan's can't hold a match to a Geoff Roes type in a very technical 100mi w/ an insane amount of elevation? It would either be really fun to watch with a surprising outcome… or a bit of a let down and set ultra racing back a bit in terms of legitimacy. Would fans/runners want to take that gamble or does globalization really only means unification of the ultra running scene as it is today?

    As far as current match-ups… I don't care about the usual Roes v Tony v Kilian v etc… I want to see Roes v Marin in a competitive 100 mile race. Are there any 100mi @ Marin? Other than that… UTMB of course.

  15. Yassine

    Interesting thread and congrats to everyone who ran last weekend at NFEC. I had initially planned to be there but was feeling the effects of a long season (achilles tendon issues) and other life responsibilities got in the way. Anyway, I did a blog post a little while back on similar issues. You can read it at:


    Thanks for the great race coverage Irunfar!

  16. John Beebe

    Just watch Ellie Greenwood. This girl is amazing, after seeing her destroy the Canadian Death Race 2010, I think she is pretty much unstoppable. I'd actually warn the men or she might blow by them too!

  17. Pablo Vega

    Regarding money:

    If it comes more regularly to races it will obviously change the sport. For good or for bad?. Difficult answer, I am accepting the multi-angle arguments and probably is impossible to give a final answer suitable for everybody.

    For me (100% personal), it will change the sport for bad and it will lose a big part of its main attractiveness: competing just for honour & glory on the way that Tony, Geoff or Nick have been showing us.

    Money -any reasonable amount- will never compensate the feelings and satisfaction I had after my first win at a 100K race. I would love to go to WS to test myself against the big American or International names just for the pride of it (too bad the lottery was not good for me for 2011).

    One last point: I strongly believe that if a race has $10.000 for winning prize (even $1.000), it should at least have anti-doping control. Always. We should not let doping to be financially profitable, it is the first rule to fight against it.

    Huge congrats for your page, Bryon. You are making a lot for this sport.

  18. Terri Schneider


    Thanks again for your excellent coverage and for everyone who opened up some stimulating conversation. I wanted to share a bit of an insiders perspective on the prize money issue coming from another sport that went through these growing pains.

    I matured as an endurance athlete at a time when the sport of triathlon started to incorporate prize money. Prize money not only launched the sport in various ways it allowed a lot of people, like me, to travel the world enjoying a career as a professional athlete in a sport I adored.

    The insertion of prize money into triathlon wasn't "good" or "bad" it just required a different atmosphere to emerge. And it required not only the sport and the sporting federations to impeccably organize, it required the athletes who wanted to make a living at the sport to organize among themselves (which is what we did) and also step up their games on AND off the race courses.

    A great athlete who makes a living at a sport isn't just talented in their sport, they need to offer sponsors and the media a broader piece of who they are in order to thrive (ie. Dean). Or, they hire a really great agent (ie. Dean). Again, these aren't good or bad, it just is the way things work when money is inserted into a sport. Ones work then, doesn't come just in the training and racing – it is much huger and much broader.

    That said, the essence of any endurance sport that allows prize money is always and forever still about the passion that all the athletes bring to their game. A thriving athlete is such because they bring the love of their sport into play at every race – that will never change. What does change for a pro is perhaps the way they go about organizing their season, their training, who they embody as sponsors, etc. One doesn't win a long trail race on sponsorship money – they win it on the love of being in the hunt on the trails – and they share that love with everyone in every race. And they have great seasons when they are smart. Athletes who make reasonable money consistently have to be really smart.

    Also, if prize money is inserted (and even if it is not) there WILL be cheaters. If there are no cheaters in trail racing, now or then, then it is indeed a unique sport (not me, but history talking). In that, the sport will be required to organize around drug testing, course setting, timing, etc.

    The really interesting piece is that money draws attention. Attention would draw more non-trail people to enjoy the trails, and as to whether that is "good" or "bad" is each persons call…. :)

    I'm co-director of a women's trail half marathon (shameless plug – http://www.ditrailruns.com :). I initiated this event for three reasons; to teach more women to safely enjoy trails, promote a 'green' race and to offer prize money to female trail racers. Our prize money is humble but it offers a perk for a job well done (in 3 divisions!) and it has also drawn a LOT of sponsors to our event which allows us to give out awesome prizes and goodie bags. For these reasons, we are a relatively new but thriving race and we get about 50% new trail runners to our event each year. The stories I have heard of how running on trails has positively changed peoples lives are phenomenal. I suspect you all can appreciate the enthusiasm of someone who runs through an old growth redwood forest for the first time…

    Looks like this has turned into a bit of a dissertation – woops – thanks for listening!

    Thanks again Bryon and all who shared. I really appreciate your site and all you offer the sport as well as your huge enthusiasm and honesty. Here's to your awesome upcoming season!

  19. mayayo

    Quite there with Pablo in all.

    Yes, prize money might be good…if only we ensure that it does not pave the way to cheating. I.e: Leadville 100 medical postrace research already shows a much too common use of "pills" on the trail, even with no money involved

    Yes, trail running globalization is superb. No argument there, just pure pleasure in seeing best worldwide talents challenge each other for us to enjoy and cheer all of them on. WS100 might learn quite a few things from UTMB to that end, for sure.

  20. Kieran

    I think that some money is necessary for the sport to reach its potential. Kilian wouldn't be doing what he's doing without the backing of Salomon, and it's going to be tough for Anton, Geoff and the American greats to compete with him without the same kind of support. This sport requires extraordinary commitment, and it's unrealistic to expect athletes to reach their full potential without doing it full time. The only way our best athletes can get there is by dedicating themselves fully to the sport, and the only way they can do that is if someone is there to help support them financially. That means they must receive some remuneration, and whether they get it indirectly through sponsors or directly from races, it's imperative for them to compete.

    With the growth in the sport, lots of companies are growing (La Sportiva, Montrail, New Balance, Salomon etc.), the only question is how that's shared with the athletes who help to get us excited about it.

  21. Andrew S.

    This sounds so fishy. Guy comes from behind out of nowhere to win a 50 miler for $10,000. His brother was convicted for EPO.

    Money = Dope.

    1. ser13gio

      Very poor argument. It was his brother, not him, do you see the difference? If you don't know his career, please, first google his name, and then start to make silly opinions, if you want. It's a shit using doping, but also accusing this way.

      And I agree with you that money atracts doping, but not with these quantities, it's a joke.


      1. Matt

        Guys, please, show more respect even if you don't agree with your interlocutor. Besides, we can't simply run away from the doping issue. Little money involved is not sufficient argument. There are many levels of doping. Blood transfusion is the extreme and I wouldn't say it's already around in ultrarunning. But different "Leadville pills"? People don't dope exclusively for financial reasons.

        1. Anonymous

          Ok more respect I agree, but if you going to play the dirty game of acusations show courage and writte your last name too, don't act like a coward Andrew. That way we can greet you if you show to the old continent to race or hike.


        2. ser13gio

          I agree, money is not everything… but is the main reason; and a tiny argument to sustain that this sport is clean is that there is no money. Of course, I believe someone is today using doping, I'm realistic, we are human and not different from other sports or daylife activities.

          Sorry to the owner of the site, I was unpolite, but I hate doping as much as fallacies.


  22. Alison

    Okay folk, let's be realistic here. Ultrarunning is not likely to become a spectator sport, therefore the prize purses will likely stay low. Traveling to big races gets expensive, so to get a quality field, I think it is important to have some level of prize money. Many elite runners spend a lot of time and effort training and have lower commitment and thus lower paying jobs because of that. So, in summary, things (prize money wise) are likely to stay pretty close to how they are now, and I feel that it is fair to offer prize money to attract a better field.

    1. Pierre

      I think that money brings a lot of elites. 10k$ might not be that much but to win against other big names will get you a bigger sponsor. I'm pretty sure Killian is at least in the 6 figures range having won the UTMB twice. Contrary to what u wrote Alison, i think that Ultra's might be even on t.v. someday. The landscape we run on is sometimes spectacular. If u do the UTMB (or CCC, TDS) in Chamonix, u'll know what i'm talking about. Watching guys and ladies race on that terrain on t.v., it would be like watching the Tour de France going through vineyards, castles, mountains…. beautiful. I'll make a prediction, people running ultras will double within the next 2 years. This sport is growing fast and needs to make sure athletes stays as pure as the terrain we are playing on. Meaning… we need dope controls and not time ban but life ban, period.

  23. Stack

    is doping an issue in other endurance sports? i thought it was the 'sprint' types that were helped by doping.

    i've heard of the blood transfusion thing but obviously thats not something that can be done on the trail in the middle of a race :)

    1. Matt


      a) There is doping in all kinds of sports including golf.

      b) The blood transfusion is a pre-race/event thing and takes circa 15 minutes.

    2. Livan

      I think that if Roes, Mackey, Jones, Schlarb, Bragg or someone of the country won the race, we don´t talk about dope today, only talk about the great victory of that man. A sorrow is that Miguel Heras is spanish an he runs under the flag of Salomon and it hurts. Nobody is capable of thinking that Miguel won the race because he is a great runner?

      1. Bryon Powell

        Livan, I think many … or most think Miguel won because he's a great runner. There will always be a few doubters, no matter what the result. I wish that weren't the case, but it likely is.

  24. Ian Sharman

    Athletes who compete for their country get doping tests. This also applies to ultrarunners, certainly for the road ultras like the 50k/100k and, presumably, for the US mountain running team also.

  25. Ben Nephew

    I have no issues with prize money. I really don't see any downsides, and it will lead to improved performances by all, which is exciting. One negative change I've seen that is independent of the money is the growth of trail running, and how it has impacted a lot of races. I miss being able to show up at a race and register. As races have gotten bigger, the fees have gotten larger while at the same time you have to register months in advance. Most of the growth of the NF races is not attributable to the money, it's intense advertising. Don't get me wrong, I love that more and more people are trail running, and hope it continues. I just don't want Bear Mountain to turn into the Boston Marathon. I mean, we had to take a bus to the start this year??

    I don't agree that money changes tactics either. The way a race unfolds is an organic development that is directly a result of the field. At Bear Mountain 2009, everyone took off like it was a 10k. It was faster than the start of the IAU trail challenge in Serre Chevalier. The inefficient pacing of so many ultra runners is something I don't understand (time in the bank??), but recently people have been running more evenly. At Bear Mountain 2010, with Roes and Parr there, the start was much slower, and the same was true of NF DC last year with Wardian setting the pace at the start. I'm not sure all those guys that went out too hard learned something new last weekend. Most probably knew they were going too fast.

    I hope that the trail companies put more money into competitive races, possibly working with USATF or the IAU. Neither organization is perfect, but look at what the USATF MUT has done with US mountain running over the last decade. In my two IAU races, I've been incredibly impressed with the organization at both events. Even the world road 50k is only a few years old, I think the Galway race was the second most competitive 50k behind Two Oceans this year. It is unlikely that most trail and ultra runners will make a lot of money from the sport, so national or international funding will be extremely helpful in creating the most competitive championship races possible.

    The Headlands is an incredible place to run, but it's not very technical. You can run many trails while looking around, or even with your eyes closed. If people want to distance trail races from road ultrarunners and marathoners, more technical races may be needed. However, the hills of the Headlands compensate for the lack of technical trails to some extent. Many people that have done well there can handle tough trails. The most unique challenge in my opinion are the runnable downhills. Even if you can find similar terrain to train on, I don't know how many people practice running downhill that hard at the end of long runs. I think running well on that course requires some very specific training, similar to the Boston marathon.

  26. Pierre

    I think it is very normal to raise suspicion against Miguel. I'm not talking about being guilty by association but when his brother Roberto, is found positive (stage 20, Tour of Spain 2005) at one of the biggest bike race in the world (another endurance event), i just think what if.. what if Roberto told him, hey… that's how you do it. What if… that is why UT will eventually need doping controls.

    1. oliver

      Don't forget, even our sport needs it, doping controls are very very expensive. The organizer has to pay for it. So I think in big races, (specially with price money) is a must, but for smaller ones are not necessary.

  27. Ravi

    Given how much effort these guys and gals put in training, having a reasonable payday is a good thing. How else to make a living?

    I also think it will draw attention and interest to the sport, which is good…let's get more people off the asphalt and onto the trails.

    The more interest, the more people will want to protect trails and build new ones. Good for everyone.

  28. patrick

    a functional issue i see in ultra running's growth:

    training for an ultra is different than a 5K or even a marathon (obviously) and, for elites down to back-of-the-backers, the risk of injury is very high (the recent drop-out list for TNF EC 50 is evidence). it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict your health and fitness some 6-8 months in advance. if the current trends of earlier registration dates and larger, non-refundable entry fees progresses (as is likely), i will be interested to see how race attendance changes both in terms of # of entrants and their collective "level" of ability. in my mind, i see the early registration and the cost as eventual deterrents for a majority of amateur runners. in this way, though, i think small, local, "grass roots" (what is the big attraction for things with this moniker?) ultra trail races will continue to flourish. so no worries there.

    other thoughts on these topics:

    drug testing will be the norm for the half-dozen or so, larger international trail races, but not before we go through a season of "suspicious" wins, lots of dramatic internet-based finger pointing and wild conjecture liberally voiced (often anonymously). i bet this happens within 3 years. it's going to suck so hard.

    to me, more important than the initial question of money in ultras, is how in the hell are we (the ultra running community) going to figure out how to film these things? i agree that it would make compelling television, but to capture it adequately will be…expensive. once ultras are broadcast-able, the larger sponsorships and money will roll in. until then…nike is not going to put up big cash for something that gets covered via a twitter feed. …so let's not put the horse before the cart.

    lastly, assuming the downward global economic trend continues (as it sure seems it will), there is no doubt that ultra running will continue to thrive. it is when the economy begins to pick back up that this anticipated, mass-media "boom" in ultra running will really occur. so…if you're hoping to score some money on this whole deal, um, position yourself strategically? time to wrap this up.

    thanks bryon for the coverage! y si necesitas traducciónes al ingles, te ayudaré.

    -patrick from michigan.

    1. Bryon Powell

      It'll be interesting to see which is the chicken and which is the egg with regard to funding and filming ultras. Western States was broadcast on national networks back in the early 1980s. The characters are certainly there in our sport. Even the international support is there. I conducted interviews with non-English speaking foreigners as there were a large number of polyglot runners at the race.

      From the media standpoint, I can tell you that the money to support coverage remains negligible at best. Even with some hotel and travel support from The North Face (appreciated) as well as a forthcoming paid (not much) article in Trail Runner Mag, I wouldn't come close to covering my expenses if a few individuals hadn't made donations. Seriously… I was a (the) primary news source on race day at the one of the three most competitive trail ultras in the world this year and it's possible that I'll still lose money on it. This isn't meant as a rant, but as a candid assessment of the current funding of ultra coverage. I dream of a day when I can bring the major trail companies together to support my and others' efforts at media support, but that remains a dream. Until then, I cross my fingers and hope to not take too much of a loss on covering a given race.

      Gracias por la oferta. ayuda internacional es siempre apreciada.

      1. Stack

        I'm hoping Bryon can confirm where this Andrew is from (by seeing IPs of posters?) If he is from CLT that would be a strange coincidence but I'm an Andrew S. that lives in Charlotte as well and I seriously hope nobody thinks this is me. And if 'Anonymous' knows me personally then you probably know better than to think its me. If not then did Andrew S say he was from Charlotte somewhere?

        And to adddress the 'smile on his face' comment made by Andrew… Geoff had a smile on his face pretty much the whole race and I'm sure he's clean. and would still like to hope that everyone else is as well.

        As far as Heras' race… I agree with footfeathers and Geoff said it right after the race… Heras ran a smart race.

    1. DavidP

      It is pathetic when we don´t understand or don´t wanna understand that someone is better racing than anyone we use fallacies.

      Heras was the best on Saturday´s race.

      First one to tell that was Geoff Roes, a real gentleman (read his blog).

      Miguel Heras is Roberto Heras´ brother and ….. what about that??

      Miguel works very hard every day as gas instalator in Spain and trains as much as he can, and more important, when he can, even at night.


      Nobody gives him anything for free.

      He has been racing raids since 2003. Don´t know if you understand what raids are… google for it, please.

      This year he just focused on trail running and it´s been and amazing year for him.

      Maybe Kilian Jornet is the only one who can "fight" with Miguel when he´s in a good shape (Kilian dixit)


      (from ser13gio.blogspot.com one of the best blogs about running)

      Perhaps for americans it´s been a surprise Heras won. I can tell you for europeans has not. You should look more on the other side of the ocean in order to learn some things. Just like europeans have done this year (Kilian in Ws, Heras, Lorblanchet, Bragss, and so on….).

      I don´t mean american runners, or course. I´m talking about american "fans".

      As Byron says on the article this year a lot of american runners went to UTMB to race and to win, not to hike, and a lot of euro runners went to US in the same way.

      This is the best for ultrarunning nowadays.

      Don´t try to break it up with stupid "chauvinism" and try to be more "open minded".

      As Geoff says, he´s been beaten by Heras the same way he beat Anton and Kilian on WS this summer. So simple and so easy.

      Relax on your commentaries Andrew S.




    2. Bryon Powell

      Miguel Heras is a classy and charming guy. Despite our language barrier, he made me feel very welcome when spending time with the Salomon team last week. He was more than willing to be interviewed. His enthusiasm for ultra trail is self-evident. His talent for endurance sports is nothing new… I know he impressed the heck out of me at the first version of UTMB this year. I, for one, have zero suspicion that he did anything outside of the rules or mores of our sport… so, unless someone has some facts, let's let this whole Heras doping thing rest.

  29. KenZ




    I'm rather new to ultras, but my perspective on the money thing seems relatively in line with others.

    My impression from the four that I've run (3×50, 1×100) is that there are like 5-8 people in a race of hundreds who actually care about place. The rest of us just love the personal challenge and the social companionship. I don't see money changing that for us crowds.

    For the front runners, will $ change it? Sure. Maybe they can eek out a living. Maybe more top runners will show up for the money races. Maybe it'll defray entry costs. And yes, maybe there will someday be cheating, but not by the current crop of leaders from what I've seen. It's not in their nature. So if there is cheating, then as someone earlier said, that'll sort itself out, with drug tests, and/or GPS tags so that post-race their course adherence can be verified. Maybe the extra money will change the atmosphere a bit, but there will ALWAYS be low key races without it. Like Marathons: Don't like the crowds at Boston? Run a local trail one with a bunch of friendly no-names. No problem.

    More money also brings in more research. Research into best feeding and hydration practices. Training methodologies. Injury avoidance. Lighter gear. Whatever. And us in the masses can choose whether or not to listen, learn, and/or buy, or not.

    So really, money may change things, but you'll always be able to find a place where it's not changed.




    I've seen it oft-noted that one of the possible reasons older men and women do well in these things as compared to (most) young males is less testosterone (clearly tons of other physiological reasons as well). I just chuckle at the beginning of these races I'm in watching all these people, mostly younger and male, launch off at paces that CLEARLY they aren't going to be able to sustain. And then it's fun the second half to always pass, and never be passed. Will money change/influence this? Only for the ones that weren't going to win anyway! Like you say Brian, they should come away from these a bit wiser. Terrain being equal, marathons are generally run faster with a negative split. Not sure how that holds up for 50s, but the point is that early pacing at a measured pace for your ability is key to your own personal best time. So one must by strong AND wise to win. Money does not make you wiser. Or stronger.

  30. ScottD

    I hear there is going to be an interesting article about the varying sponsorship levels in Running Times soon.

    Most of my sponsors provide free gear (which I'm naturally wanting to talk about anyway), and if I had a dream race in mind, I'm sure they would chip in. But honestly I've been surprised to find out how much can be "comped" just by asking the providers directly – hotels, airlines, races, you name it. Don't downplay the audience you've built here, Bryon, I bet you've got some comp mojo ready to roll.

    Although I'm personally indifferent about prize $$$ in ultras, I would like to see it spill over to the surrounding dedicated media, like irunfar.com. 2-3 sponsorships would give you a lot of freedom, Bryon, and maybe even a benefits plan. That sort of cash comes flying around only when it can't be put to work directly in a race.

    Looking forward to your States prep coverage!

  31. Joseph

    A provocative thread of comments. I wonder when the Ethiopians and Kenyans will move into trail ultra running? Things will get even more interesting–pretty sure of it.

    1. Dave M

      Not a good idea to make doping allegations without proof. Having thought alot about TNF 50 this past weekend, my gut tells me that there was no doping going on. I think Heras had superior traction on the muddiest parts towards the end of the race when he needed it(which he showed me after the race; I had racing flats basically). Heras had also stomach trouble early on, which probably led to conservative early running which led to excellent later stage running. Plus he is simply super-strong and has trained hard.

      That said, there is nothing to lose by doping testing in the top international calibre races, prize money or not (but it does cost alot of money and regulation to do this.) But even then there will always be speculation; look at bike racing.

  32. Bryon Powell

    Scott, while it's a whole different subject, I think that the ultra racing scene risks becoming too fractionated. The sport is growing tremendously and countless new races are popping up… and many of them are quite good. That's spreading the talent out to a wide group of races. I think it's good that a couple races will put significant money out to draw all of the elites to a single event to duke it out. (By significant, I mean well over $1,000. Anything less barely covers travel and lost work unless you're local.)

  33. Bryon Powell

    Mark, thanks for the too kind words. I agree about Gripmaster. He's the man. I need to hire him for a quick shoot the next time we're together.

    As for your second paragraph, both Western States and the TNF Championships are pretty darn egalitarian. WS lets in a small number of runners via the Montrail Ultra Cup. I've tracked the entrants in the TNF Championships and elites around the world need to enter before it fills just like anyone else. Anita Ortiz couldn't get in last year and David James only got in last minute off the waitlist. I think a few TNF athletes may have entered after the field was closed, but I'd rather have a main sponsor let its healthy athletes in last minute than fill 15 spots only to have 7 or 8 race.

    Don't ever count on prize money at Western States or UTMB. It won't happen until race leadership changes.

  34. Bryon Powell

    Going forward White River will no longer by the USATF 50 mile trail championship. While there are some notable exceptions, White River's great fields of the past were actually largely regional runners from Washington, Oregon, and BC. Neither the marginal cash not the more marginal prestige of a USATF championship were enough to draw top competitors even on a national level.

  35. Bryon Powell

    I agree that there will always be grassroots race and events in ultrarunning. In fact, the vast majority of ultra races will stay grassroots…. and if there's plenty of grassroots events why would we get upset if there are championship level events. To put this in road running terms, if every small town has a 5k spring run and 10k turkey trot, should the local runners get upset that the Olympics are contested? I think not.

  36. Bryon Powell

    Mackey, you've hit the nail on head… or a whole deck's worth of nails on the head. I'm no elite, but I'm excited to run Western States and UTMB next year. You know what? I'm also excited as hell to be running the Red Hot Moab, Antelope Island Buffalo Run, and Rocky Mountain Double Marathon. Each race on my calendar will be quite different, but I'm looking forward to them all.

  37. Bryon Powell

    If Krissy Moehl can't even get into the race without earning a Montrail Ultra Cup spot, then I know the race directors aren't playing any favorites. The $370 is well over a week's earnings for me this year, but I'll gladly pay it…. but if I win a silver buckle next year, I still might give it back in hopes of a cheap entry fee in 2012.

      1. Bryon Powell

        It'd be interesting to see which out of the top 10 get their entries covered by sponsors. I'd guess at least 4-5 of last's year's top were covered then and for a return trip this year. On the women's side, two of last year's top 10 were certainly covered for the 2010 race, and I'd say at least 3 are covered for next year (if they return) with maybe 2 additional women covered.

  38. Bryon Powell

    Scott, I'd love to chat with you about your comping experiences. I had to pay for a hotel the first night I was in the Bay Area covering the race. That kinda guaranteed that I'd end up in the hole for the weekend.

    No complaints here if more money spilled over into supporting the media. At various times, I've received some support from companies to cover races (not necessarily even races they sponsor), but, to date, only two companies have provided any significant cash backing for iRunFar. I dream of a day when I can put together a proposal for a year's worth of iRunFar coverage to a confederation of Salomon, The North Face, Montrail/Mountain Hardwear, La Sportiva, and others. Trust me, I'm thankful for what I have and the support I've received, but this ain't an easy row to hoe.

  39. Edu Martinell

    My take,

    Money: it's never a black or white thing. Money will come sooner than later (though it's complicated that it flows as it does in other "more spectacular and easier to film" sports). And I don't think that's bad "per se". It just needs to routed the right way and we don't have to let money control the sport, but rather add value to it. Also, WS100, UTMB, … they are never going to have cash prizes as they simply do not need that to draw the best runners and so money will not be the ultimate reason to run most of the "old" races. It will probably be for newer ones willing to quickly gain popularity. Also, the small local races will never have enough traction to reward with important cash prizes, so I think grass roots trail running should not be affected by this.

    Globalization: we all agree this is good for the sport. As fans, we love to see competitors from around the world and for the runners, well, you're not #1 until you haven't outperformed the best in your sport. It doesn't matter if your name is Roes or Heras. International fields like the one on TNF50 will definitely do good to the sport.

    Doping: controls will have to be put in the top races (UTMB already doing it), again, sooner than later. Cheating is part of life and trail running, unfortunately, won't be an exception. As per Heras, well for me this subject is simply closed for two reasons: 1) I was his roommate for the entire week, I was there and I know him 2) I've read and heard Geoff's and Dave's opinion on this. Even if I hadn't been there, that would be good enough for me. Period.


  40. Morgan Williams


    The UK experience is this. We used to have 2 systems in fell running; professional (also known as "guides") and amateur. The pro races were long established and generally organised around village fairs, fetes and the like. As well as prize money there was betting, certainly in the early part of the 20th century. They tended to be short up and down races.

    The amateur races grew up from the late 60s and early 70s and tended to be longer. Slowly the number of amateur races grew, the Fell Runners asssociation was formed and there are now over 500 races on the calendar of all distances and types. Prizes are very rarely cash, usually gear, booze or food.

    The 2 codes didn't really mix.

    The pro races were and are organised by the British Open Fell Running Association. One of the greatest ever guides races, Kenny Stuart, won 32 out of 33 starts in (I think) 1982 and won £1,200. This, I would guess, didn't even cover his gas bills to travel up and down the country racing. (He subsequently was reinstated as an amateur.

    Bizarely, in the mid 1980s we had a crisis. Over the winter, BOFRA always organised (and still do) a series of races to help the pros keep fit over the dark months. No prizes; just results.

    The amateur code was under the wing of the Amateur Athletic Association (now replaced by UK Athletics). The codes were not allowed to mix; amateurs were not allowed to "consort with professionals".

    A few amateurs, needing races between November and February, competed in some of the Winter League races. Within weeks they were banned from all competition for the heinous "crime" of consorting with professionals.

    (It's worth noting that at the time Coe, Ovett and Cram were competing regularly for multiple tens of thousands of pounds which went into their trust funds, but somehow retained their amateur status.)

    People took sides for a period of time. Families were split. Blood was almost spilt.

    Eventually the FRA and BOFRA sat down and sorted the mess out. Now fell running is an "open" sport and anyone can compete in any kind of race without sanction. The BOFRA races still give cash prizes, but the values are small.

    A small core of runners do the BOFRA (pro) races now. The vast bulk do the FRA (amateur) races (of which there are a much greater number) and that includes all our ultra events.

    Basically, our ethos here is that we don't race for money. Prizes are gearally modest. Fields are big and getting bigger. I don't see that changing any time soon.

    So, I'm not best placed to comment on whether or not £££s in ultras is a good or a bad thing. Most fell runners in the UK run the fells because they love it. They don't make any money doing it, and probably spend a fair sum each year pursuing their passion.

    Because of our ethos, if there was ever significant prize money over here, I suspect quite a few would walk away from the sport, or more likely would try and recreate the amateur code to which we are so wedded.


  41. Gloria

    Hello, first of all, I´m sorry about my English, but I´ll try to make me understand. I´m Miguel Heras´s wife. Friends of us told us we shouldn´t read comments written on chats because we may read things that could hurt us… And they were right… Pierre, I don´t know why are you saying that kind of things. First of all, you don´t konw Miguel, I do. He has achieved all his goals just working hard. He´s not a profesional, he needs to work as you and I to earn money, sometimes 12 hours a day, and then needs to train to win races. Don´t forget that he made antidopping at many other races, it´s not his fault if here they didn´t do it. He would have prefered to do it, so that people like you couldn´t say this nonsenses. And Pierre, please… next time think what you´re talking about, you can hurt a whole familiy with your comments.

      1. ser13gio

        Don't waste your time on this; read 90% of the opinions, what his main rival -Geoff Roes- wrote in his blog, etc., they are much more serious than Andrew S. or Positive. Try to forget it, you have much more important things in life.


        1. Gloria

          Thanks, ser13gio, you´re right, but…it hurts, anyway. Which it´s true is that thinking about this comments it´s not worth it, but when you are so proud about a person, because you know he deserves it, and you read all this shit… En fin, muchas gracias

          1. Ian Sharman

            Almost everyone was just very impressed by all the front runners and it didn't even cross our thoughts that there could be any doubt about the integrity of the runners. Congratulations to Miguel for a great race.

          2. Livan

            Gloria, soy aficionado a los ultramaratones y carreras por montaña, respeto y admiro a Miguel, no solo como corredor sino por su espiritu de lucha y sacrificio sacando tiempo de donde puede para entrenar. El sabado ganó el mejor, como tantas veces ha pasado este año, en las islas en los Pirineos y en Italia, pero esta vez parece que se han molestado porque ganara un "extraño". Haz saber a Miguel que tiene el apoyo de cientos de seguidores españoles. Un abrazo.


    1. Bryon Powell


      This is Bryon Powell, the publisher of iRunFar. While I intend to write you and your husband, I wanted to publicly apologize to you and Miguel for any hurt that commentors on this website may have caused you two. I very much enjoyed meeting and spending time with Miguel this past week. Although we couldn't speak much, he was very warm and welcoming. He is also a great athlete who I hope to see at many future events. I will be honored to start the UTMB along with him next summer.



      1. Gloria

        Thanks, Bryon. This is not your fault, it´s a great thing having websites like this, where people can freely express themselves. It´s only that I needed to say what I think about my husband. He´s a hard-working and honest person, and I can´t understand how it´s possible to say such horrible things, if they even know Miguel! Maybe you all were surprised about his victory, not here in Europe. We knew it was going to be difficult, but we also know he could do it. I´m proud of him, no matter what other people may think.

        Thanks, again, Bryon. Best wishes from Miguel

  42. Andy Mason


    Sorry for jumping into this discussion so late, but in defense of the JFK (my all-time favorite race, which also happens to be in my backyard) I would not call this year’s JFK a second-class event.

    If you were a top finisher, you should be proud of your performance.

    In the long and storied history of the JFK, this year’s event set its record for most sub-7-hour finishers (27) and equaled its record with three sub-6 men and two sub-7 women.

    As far as “big ultra names” go: Dave Mackey won the JFK in 2003 in 5:55:30, which would have been a third-place time this year.

    Hal Koerner has run the JFK three times with a best time of 6:05:02, which would have been a fourth-place time this year.

    Superstar Scott Jurek’s 6:31:12 got him 11th place last year. That time would have been 12th this year.

    Do I think rookie Brian Dumm, this year’s JFK champ (5:52:02), would have won the North Face championship last weekend? No, I don’t.

    But I’m also not entirely convinced that either Heras or Roes or any of the other top guys from last weekend would have definitely won this year’s JFK.

    They’re different races.

    I also slightly disagree with Byron in that prize money was invaluable in making the JFK a premier event.

    The JFK is a premier event because it’s the oldest and largest ultra in the country.

    People want to win it for the same reasons they want to win Western States (no one has ever won both JFK and Western States, by the way).

    The prize money at JFK ($600, 400, 250, 150, 100) is just a nice bonus.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Sorry… I made a mistake, too! I meant the money made the TNF race a premier event. (I've now corrected it.) JFK is such a top notch because it's the oldest and largest ultra in the US.

      Don't get me wrong, I love JFK, hope to run it again, and think it's one of the top 3 50 mile races in the country. No question. It might even be number two between TNF and American River. I do, however, feel pretty strongly that the TNF field was much stronger at the very front (lots of strong guys went for it and faded unlike a typical JFK) if you take relative strengths (road vs trail) into account. Even without relative comparison, I have little doubt that if you'd have thrown the TNF field onto the JFK course there would have been a course record. There was such a diversity of talents and such depth of super elites that someone would have nailed it. Again, JFK awesome; TNF just a bit strong. That's all I mean. :-)

      1. Andy Mason

        The TNF elite field definitely was stronger than JFK's, on paper. No argument here.

        But I wouldn't be so quick to assume a course record would've been broken.

        Eric Clifton's 5:46:22 from 1994 has to be considered one of the most hallowed marks in U.S. ultrarunning. Forty-eight years and no one else has come within a thousand meters of it. I actually thought it was going to get broken this year, and I was wrong.

  43. Mark

    Winning means you're willing to go longer, work harder, and give more than anyone else- Vince Lombardi

    Is this not the essence of ultrarunning? Men will continue to toe the line and give all they have. Lets support their accomplishments. This is their finest hour. We would expect the same.

  44. LMyles

    PCTR puts on the Headlands 100M, which is in the Marin area. But I don't think that race is anything as competitive as other 100M events.

  45. Bryon Powell


    Even some who are undoubtedly out there for the love of the trails and competing contemplated the money aspect. The following is a comment Anton Krupicka left on George Zack's blog last week:

    Excellent comment, Nick [Clark]. You've voiced exactly what almost all of the current top dudes think about the sport. I think/know we all "get it" wrt the grassroots nature of ultras and the inherent value in that sort of experience–and I think all of us still love running for running's sake–but it's just a little bit absurd when a race like WS enjoys the hype and astronomical entry fees that come with every fast dude in the country/world wanting to be in the race and doesn't reward the resultant performances in any way. Especially when the folks making that decision (about prize money) are taking home a not insubstantial paycheck.

    Two other things in a similar vein:

    1) Why the hell hasn't TNF ponied up serious prize money at UTMB yet? All this talk about a need for a 100 mile championship…well, UTMB seems like the perfect already-existing event. It's at a moderate altitude, the course is classic, the competition is there and the organization and hype is off the charts.

    2) I would very much like to see TNF (or anyone who awards a bunch of prize money) pay the extra money to require drug-testing for the top three finishers. I'm not accusing anyone, because I honestly believe the top-3 finishers on Saturday were clean, but $10K is a lot of money and someone will always be tempted at some point in the future.

  46. Bryon Powell

    Pablo, I hate to burst your bubble, but Tony, Geoff, and Nick certainly consider the money in addition to honour and glory. Tony and Nick spoke out about the lack of prize money just last week http://georgezack.blogspot.com/2010/12/monday-120610.html and I'm fairly certain that Geoff has considered the money in entering the TNF Championships the past three years and in racing two TNF regional races this year.

    I hope you get a chance to race against a top international ultra trail field in the near future.

    While I think doping controls may be necessary at some point, it'd be a close call right now with the quite limited yearly potential winnings. I don't think doping controls are needed at an ultra offering a $1,000 purse. Unless local runners want to dope for $1,000, I can imagine folks would travel very fair and race 50-100 miles for a couple $100 after travel expenses.

    Many thanks for your kind words, Pablo. I am doing my best to promote the sport… and to do so globally. I want to see the top runners from Boulder, USA; Mardid, Spain; Tokyo, Japan; or wherever squaring off against one another.

  47. Ben Nephew


    I agree with the comment on the race strategy and prize money, but you are selling JFK short. While it can be hard to compare times from year to year at many races, everyone knows that sub 6 at JFK is fast, no matter who is there. It's obviously ideal if you can also beat a strong field, but the history at JFK allows for fast times to receive considerable recognition.

    The argument for fast marathoners effectively transitioning to fast ultras is more likely to hold for road events than trails. There are dozens of stories of fast marathoners getting beat at trail ultras by guys they would destroy on the roads.

    Back in the 70's and 80's, fast road guys ran ultras much more frequently, and those ultra times were much faster than the times being run today (with the exception of 50k's which weren't really popular back then). The few fast marathoners that have gotten into trail ultras haven't run as fast as I would have guessed. I don't know if faster times will come from road marathoners moving to trails as a result of more prize money.

  48. Bryon Powell


    Thanks for offering up a parallel example with triathlons. I have no perspective there, but I've certainly seen prize money create interest in the trail community. Prize money has consolidated competition, which creates marquee events for the public and the media to focus on. If it weren't for the competition, I wouldn't be writing a story about the race for Trail Runner Mag for the second year in a row.

    Glad you are liking the site and my work. I'll be doing more of the same in 2011. … Oh, and returning to racing, too. Thanks for the well wishes! :-)

  49. Bryon Powell

    Mayayo, I'm unfamiliar with the Leadville 100 info. I've never heard of folks taking salt, anti-inflammatories, or maybe caffeine, but only on the scale of a cup of coffee or two, which is well inside international competition criteria. The caffeine folks are just trying to stay awake, not boost their endurance capabilities.

    I'm not sure WS100 will "learn" anything from UTMB. The race has an entirely different ethos. Having such a small race field and the desire to let the common man have his or her chance to run, they simply don't and won't let all the top talents, foreign or domestic, into the race.

  50. Bryon Powell

    I wouldn't hold my breathe looking for the USATF to provide significant championship funding for ultra prize purses. The USATF hasn't even provided the 100k national team with sufficient funds to travel to the world championships. They might be onto Mountain Running, but not ultras. I won't speculate as to the how or why, but I don't see ultras' inclusion in the USATF as a positive at the moment.

  51. Bryon Powell

    KenZ, great comments and perspective. The one thing I'll respond with is that the growth of the sport and the interaction of companies and their elite sponsored athletes will result in some ridiculously light and high performing products in the coming years.

  52. Bryon Powell

    Will, I agree that TNF might have been a watershed event… even having watch WS and UTMB this year. There were four possible winners at WS and more than that at TNF, not to mention a much more international field.

  53. Bryon Powell

    Ed, I agree that WS and UTMB will not have prize money, but think it's more because of the philosophies of the organizers than the lack of a "need" of prize money to draw top runners. The TNF Championships are the best example of your "new race" comment. They wanted an exciting race and built one very quickly with the sport's biggest prize purse, at least in the US.

  54. mayayo

    Bryon, I am surprised you are not familiar with the Leadville 100 annual postrace medical survey and research.

    Happy to fill in: According to the 2009 communication, 40% of the runners reported having taken NSAIDS prior to or during the race. Those pills (mostly ibuprofen) are fully lega, yet…draw your own conclusions on pill taking and ultrarunning.

    Check the full data for 2008, 2009 and 2010 at my blog documents section: http://carrerasdemontana.wordpress.com/informes/

    As for WS100 learning from UTMB: In terms of % of runners abroad the difference is outstanding, and sure has helped to consider the Mont Blanc as the trail running world summit.I mean about popular runners, not elite ones.

    Bright future will no doubt come if both sides of the Atlantic share the best of their traditions. In my experience, both have unique features that add magic to the trails. May the perfect blend come through.

  55. Jim A

    Been following this conversation for the past week or so…my $0.02

    Prize Money:

    I think its good that events have prize money in the sport. A quick caveat, I used to work for the group that helped TNF/create the Endurance Challenge, so there may be a little bias on my end. Initially the goal was to have more of a team challenge/format, however with the current flux of teams at that time cutting their rosters, etc creating an event that would draw the top athletes made more sense both then and for the years to come.

    The best runners deserve a chance to earn some money in respect of their talents. Yes the top prize at the Endurance Challenge draws a quality field and has led to some great battles so far with Matt, Uli, Geoff, Heras et.al. Not sure about today's world, however when I was @ hawkeye TNF sponsored more than 50 events on a grassroots level as well, with prizing (footwear, clothing, etc) to help support a wide variety of people.

    However, I'm not sure to what extent an race has to get the athletes to the event. I'd like to see a set number of entries set aside for other sponsors athletes for top men/women. After that everyone is on their own. There is little to no budget for flying people in, hotel costs, etc in such as race. Remember its part of an overall series and in the end, companies such as TNF, et have a very fixed budget. Even a strong local or regional road race will provide entries but other than that its up to the competitors to pay their way.

    Ultrarunning is also in a spot where its really only the endemics that are supporting the sport on any level, whether it be in-kind or actual cash support. Bryon, when you are talking about the WS100 entry fee, the overall cash for the budget in that event comes from entries. There may be limited cash from current partners, however for many of them its easier to dump that ton of swag because it is a lasting takeway from one of the world's premier ultra events.

    I liken it to one of my other loves, which is rollerhockey. An event I work with has a pro division, however oftentimes the players still have to pay their own way as the sponsors are very similar to those in the ultra world with a limited budget, outside of picking up the cost of a hotel room.

    In 20-30 years ultra/trail may still be in the same point, it could be the equivalent of road racing with larger purses and entrants or perhaps all the trails/forests will be gone and replaced by a SuperTarget. Did we ever think that marathoners would be getting 6 figure appearance fees or that they would be filling up 25,000 + events in a matter of hours.

    One quick note on the drug testing thoughts: Just because you have testing doesn't mean you are either going to 1. discourage cheating or 2. catch them. We only need to look at any pro sport in today's world to see that be the case.

  56. Marisol Perry

    Ed, I agree that WS and UTMB will not have prize money, but think it's more because of the philosophies of the organizers than the lack of a "need" of prize money to draw top runners. The TNF Championships are the best example of your "new race" comment. They wanted an exciting race and built one very quickly with the sport's biggest prize purse, at least in the US.

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