2011 USATF Trail and Ultrarunning National Championships

Every year we here at iRunfar repeatedly stuggle to find the schedule of USATF MUT (that’s Mountain/Ultra/Trail) national championship races. That’s why we’re publishing it ourselves this year.

* The Mountain Running Championships are also the National Mountain Running Team selection races. The top 6 men, top 4 women who accept join the team.

Call for Comments
Are you planning on running one of these races? Does the fact that a race is a US National Championship draw you to it? What do you think about there being eight different USATF ultrarunning championships next year?

USATF Administrative Notes
USATF Ultra ChampionshipsThe USATF Mountain Ultra Trail Running Council will accept bids for 2011 at distances not yet awarded until December 31, 2010.

There will be a USATF Trail Series at the sub ultra distance in 2011 to include the 10km, 15km, half marathon, mountain championships. If a marathon or other sub-ultra distance is added in the championship schedule, it will be included in the series scoring.

There are 29 comments

  1. Steve

    Thanks for the list. Kind of funny that none of the Mountain/Trail championships are in any of the "real" mountain ranges in the US (Utah, Colorado, Montana, California). Texas and Cleveland?

    1. Zag

      You still have time to register for Bandera 100k on Jan 8. Not mountains but definitely ultra trail with plenty of elevation change too. Take a look at the times, not an easy run at all.

    1. Craig Thornley

      Thanks for the link. Two things Carpenter forgot that USATF brings to our sport (and which members get for their $29.95): No headphones and no pacers.

  2. ScottD

    I used the USATF schedule for 2010 to structure my season. I was looking for variety in distances and locations, and the USATF seemed to have everything from 10k to 100 miles. I'm a fan of any Series for building a race plan through the year, having previously used Montrail UltraCup, Trail Runner Magazine, Pacific Coast Trails, the Fuel Belt Ultra Series, and others. They are all helpful to me for motivating a full year of running and racing. If it does nothing but provide an excuse to try a new race, then I'm all for it.

    The USATF championship moniker did seem to attract a few more top runners at each race. I think USATF involvement can be particularly helpful to bring a new race to the masses. The White River 50 was super-deep this year, but perhaps it doesn't need to be a USATF race to attract that crowd. Other races probably get more benefit. No offense to the Lithia Loop Marathon, but I highly doubt there would be that many fast runners from all over the US without it being a championship race.

    One thing I find fascinating with the USATF championship titles, ultra distances in particular, is how little they seem to mean to the vocal ultra masses, and how much they mean to those outside of the sport. I recently spoke at a technology conference where they (unknowing to me) introduced me as a USATF masters champion, and the crowd went crazy. Then I had to explain to them that to ultrarunners, it means very little compared to a Top 10 finish at States or finishing the Barkley. They just looked at me like confused puppies.

    Right or wrong, a governing body that declares a "championship" adds a purely external legitimacy to the distances. It seems to serve a need for those outside of the sport which I have difficulty explaining. But to those of us in the sport, we know who the real champions and championship races are. If you want to prove you are the best, you need to go where the best race and beat them.

    I applaud any organization that steps forward to create some competition and excuses for adventure by assembling a Series, putting up some prize money, and targeting folks from the US and beyond.

  3. Chris

    Bandera is a great place for a 100K championship. Having once served in the military I have had the pleasure of running in a lot of different places and not many require the variety of trail running skills Bandera does. It has plenty of steep (but relatively short) rocky technical sections offset with some flat fairly smooth singletrack. It doesn't really favor one type of runner over another. It is also extremely scenic (am I really in Texas) and has great Old West atmosphere (still some abandandoned ranch buildings around).

  4. Speedgoat Karl

    The USATF championship races are weak. Yes, Bandera is cool, that's a good one, but the rest are primarily road races. Burning River may be a "trail", but seriously, a dirt path is not a qualified trail in my book. It doesn't have to be Hardrock of course. :-) What happened to Tahoe Rim? It was better than BR. Also one of the problems is some races don't want to be a championship or provide prize money. That part is weak. If I could have the Speedgoat 50k as a championship race the prize money would be alot bigger, coming right from my pocket as the 2000 bucks I'll give out this year already does. The North Face 50 is the championship 50, no doubt…..and we all know it's because theres 10k at the finish line. Cash brings competition, bottom line.

    USATF "championship races" will never get big if they don't offer real prize money. To win 1000 bucks is about what it costs for one elite athlete to fly somewhere and race, it ain't worth it, and the prestige don't mean shit. Like muy english? :-)

    My two cents….worth a penny.

    Western would be a great 100 mile championship, it already attracts the stellar fields, even though the course should be a little tougher in my opinion. I had to laugh last year when Pearl Izumi offered 2000 bucks for a record and the WS committee was bummed. They should have embraced that effort from Pearl Izumi and said thanks….but they didn't. Other sponsors could have jumped on that train, offered more and the combination of a few sponsors could possibly get that prize money to at least 5 grand to win, then maybe some of us would consider trying to qualify to get in.

    And lastly, and off subject….sorry Bryon, is Why doesn't Western States have a few 100 mile qualifiers. It's kind of silly to think that a 50 mile win qualifies to run a 100 miler. Perhaps the next post…..:-)

    Time to go sledding.

    I don't get it.

    1. Wiley

      I understand your point Karl, but your comment "but the rest are primarily road races," is way off base for the 10k Championships in Laurel Spings, NC. This is a VERY technical and hilly course that is worthy of Championship status. Kudos to Jason Bryant, the race director.

  5. Brian

    Great points. ScottD-I agree that it's nice someone is hosting a championship but I'll 2nd Karl with my own twist and that is this:

    They aren't doing it with ultra style. They aren't embracing the same toughness and rules that pioneers like Karl and others built this sport upon. I'm relatively new to ultra running (5 years) and I'm somewhat offended by their arrogance. I don't feel like they are respecting the sport of ultra running.

    There should almost be three divisions- flat, hills, and mountains. The fact that not one of those could be considered a mountain race is disappointing. Just saying….

  6. Ben Nephew

    For informational purposes:


    Although I think there are things that could be improved about the USATF MUT schedule, the MUT council has been doing a lot of great work over the past few years.

    The objective of the mountain championship is to produce the best team for the WMRA championship. Typically, the WMRA race is not at altitude, and USATF has been trying to simulate the WMRA race over the past few years. This formula seems to be working, as both the men's and women's teams have been doing very well. The 2nd place by the men's teams was particularly impressive, given how competitive the WMRA race has become. Although I live on the east coast, I realize that there are many great mountain runners out west, and have been surprised at having only one mountain team qualifier on the east coast. It worked last year, and I'm sure that Paul Kirsch is going to do a great job of attracting a deep field for the selection race this year.

    If you don't know why people run USATF MUT races, ask someone who has gone to a World Championship in mountain running, 100k, or 24hr race. There is much more to gain than just prestige.

    Karl, you have a point. The issue is that races need to submit bids, and most RD's have enough to do. It's a good amount of work to qualify as a USATF MUT race, and many RD's don't to do extra work if their race is already incredibly popular. I'd like to see USATF do more to solicit bids, and require less work of races. Why can't the NF 50 be a USATF race? I also think that both road and trail runners would like to see clear differentiation between the different disciplines. Road races on roads, trail races on trails, not dirt roads. If you are surprised at some of the USATF races, it is probably a result of the few races that organized bids.

    For RD's out there, if you want to improve the USATF MUT schedule, submit bids, and advertise that you are submitting a bid.

    Personally, the USATF trail and road 50k's I have competed in have been very competitive, and fast. A number of runners at the Headlands 50k ran under Carl Anderson's old CR when Headlands was a championship. The USATF road 50k's have resulted in the vast majority of the fastest US 50k times over the past 5 years.

  7. Anonymous

    Where are the mountain races? I'm wondering where the world championship will be held because if it is at altitude it only makes sense to schedule these races in comparable locales.

  8. Anonymous

    The WMRA world championship is usually not at high, or even moderate altitude. They are in Albania this year:

    The Municipality of Tirana lies on the river Ishëm, about 32 kilometers (20 mi) inland and is located at (41.33°N, 19.82°E) in Tirana District, Tirana County. Tirana's average altitude is 110 meters (361 ft) above sea level and its highest point measures 1,828 m (5,997.38 ft) at Mali me Gropa.

    I'm not sure of the elevation of the actual course.

    The Cranmore US mountain champ course info:

    We changed it to help mimic the 2011 World Mountain Running Championship course in Tirana, Albania. The course has had some change to it every year since 2004 but this year, much like 2005 and 2007, is a pretty drastic change. We will not be reaching the summit of the mountain this time.

  9. Kay

    Okay, so it's not an ultra but I'm excited that the 10K will be hosted by Laurel Springs, NC again in 2011. I ran it this year and it was brutal and throughly enjoyable. Even though I am neither a USATF member or even a US citizen and thus ineligible to be listed in the results I would certainly run it again if I could. It was grueling to run, and so much fun to get to watch and race with some real trail beasts. Before I drove up from Charlotte I was trying to imagine how hard a 10k race in seeming nowhere NC could be? It was surprisingly mountainous with a nice amount of varied terrain and technicality for that distance. I hope the 2011 will bring an even better experience and field to the race in its 3rd year at Laurel Springs.

  10. Hone

    What is the USATF?

    It is some kind of nerdy triathlon club or something? They must not be very important to mountain running because I ain't never heard of em' or seen them around.

    Do they make you wear short shorts to join? If so I'm out.

  11. Anonymous


    Until you actually win a national championship, I think it is unfair to say they don't mean anything to the winners. Is everything you do all about the money?

  12. olga

    Ben Nephew beat me – for a race to be chosen for USATF (or any other comp) the RD need to submit and advertise the race and provide the money for prizes. Also, it helps to know (follow closely) when the submission deadline is, be a member of committee (sp?) and and be present when the bids are discussed.

    So, as runners, write to RD's of races you want to see as championships. As RD's, if interested, apply. I did hear that conducting a championship is rather involving (besides submitting a bid), so many simply don't care.

  13. Point2point

    Why do people have to knock Ohio? Our trails are beautiful, and no, they are not easy. That's totally uncalled for. It's like saying, "My dad's taller than your dad." Grow up and try winning it before you decide to discredit the race. Hope to see you there this July. And if there was ever any doubt about the passion of the runners and volunteers from the Greater Cleveland area, look at our sports fans. Die hard. Our runners are the same, we are relentless. Our volunteers passionate and dedicated. BR is an awesome race.

  14. Western US Runner

    I don't doubt the races in Ohio are amazing, but according to this map (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell_Hill_(Ohio)), the highest point in Ohio is about 1500 ft elevation. The highest peak in Colorado is over 14000 ft. So my mountains are taller than yours. Neener neener neener. :)

    Cleveland sports fans? When I think of them, I think of beer bottles being thrown on the football field. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/17/sports/nfl-week… Surely that's not how Cleveland's trail runners behave. It just explains my (unjustified) bias against Cleveland sporting events.

    1. Tony Mollica

      Western US Runner should I judge the people in Colorado by the Columbine incident? Coincidentally I was at the Jaguars vs. Browns game that you cited. The call was awful; but that in no way justified the plastic bottle throwing that went on. No I didn't throw any bottles, and wasn't drinking alcohol at the game.

      If you read any of the race reports written about Burning River the runners praised the course and the race management. Am I comparing the course to Western States? No I am not. We don't know if Western States applied to be a championship race or what other races applied. We would really need to have that information before we can judge what races should have been selected as championship races.

      By the way Cleveland area trail runners are a very good bunch of people, and I enjoy running with them. Come give it a try and I think you'll agree.

    2. Joe Jurczyk

      I just want to clarify something in case people misunderstood. The USATF MUT championship races are actually three sets of championship races: Mountain, Ultra and Trail, governed by one entity (the USATF MUT Council). Each set of races offers different challenges.

      So, not all of the championships are meant to be held on mountainous courses, which generally steep ascents and descents, just those that fall into the M(ountain) category. The M(ountain) races may consist or trail and/or road.

      Most of the U(ltra) championships tend to be run on pavement/roads (including the 24 hour national championship, the North Coast 24 Hour Run that takes place on a flat 0.9 mile asphalt loop course at Edgewater Park, along Lake Erie in Cleveland. The U(ltra) courses are generally designed for the purpose of faster performances as opposed to challenging courses.

      The T(rail) championships are held on courses that are predominantly "trail" but NOT necessarily mountainous. The Burning River 100 course, for example, consists of about 75% trail which includes some technical trails (with roots and rocks), some wider bridle trail (mostly dirt) and some crushed gravel trails . The total ascent for the race is approximately 9,000 feet which is considered to be low, compared to other 100 mile races.

      Joe Jurczyk

      Burning River 100 Race Director

  15. Kron

    Height of the mountain means nothing. Its all about the vertical descent ascent. Just because you start at 14,000 feet doesnt mean you descend down to 0.

  16. JW

    I’m guessing you have never run at 14,000 feet. The amount of oxygen does make a difference. The other thing to consider when you get into tall mountains is that it can be hard to avoid a lot of ascent/descent. Having just completed the Kahtoola Bigfoot 50K in Midway, UT I compared the 5k loop on that course to the Cranmore Hill Climb. Cranmore (3 laps): 11.6K 2025ft ascent/descent elev. 500-700ft. Bigfoot (2 laps): 10K 2422ft ascent/descent elev. 5800-6700ft. I’m sure you would know you’ve run a hill after either one, but the higher the elevation the steeper it feels. Don’t knock our mountains until you’ve tried them. I live at 4300ft, but as I look at running some of the local trail runs I’m concerned if I don’t get a fair amount of training at higher elevations. Fortunately I can run out my door 5.2 miles and make it up to 8291ft. I’ll want more than that though if I plan to tackle one of the tougher races around here.

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