Some Early Thoughts on North American Female Ultrarunner of the Year

AJWs TaproomFollowing up on my column two weeks ago on the male Ultrarunner of the Year, now it’s time for the ladies. From my perspective, I think women’s Ultrarunner of the Year* could go to as many as six different women. And, in contrast to the men, I think the final result could ultimately come down to late-season races.

Here, in no particular order, are my top six:

Rory Bosio

Her win, course record, and top-10 finish overall in UTMB is the runaway performance of the year, in my opinion. Adding to that her fifth place at Western States, fourth place at Lake Sonoma, and second place at Way Too Cool clearly makes Rory a solid contender.

The Big “But”: She lost head-to-head to other contenders in Western States, Lake Sonoma, and Way Too Cool.

Odds to win: 7-1

Amy Sproston

Amy’s early season win at Ray Miller and third at Lake Sonoma gave her a solid advantage going into the summer. Then, a tie with Meghan Arbogast at the Shibamata 100k road race in Japan and a third-place finish at Western States made her into a strong contender.

The Big “But”: She DNFed at UTMB.

Odds to win: 8-1

Michele Yates

Michele had an amazing under-the-radar start to her season with wins at Bandera, Nueces, and the Indiana Trail 100. Then, she turned more than a few heads with wins at Run Rabbit Run and a third place at the UROC two weeks apart.

The Big “But”: She has a race resume that lacks some of the competitive chops of the others.

Odds to Win: 7-1

Pam Smith

Her dominating win at Western States is probably the second-best performance of the year and her win at American River combined with her third place at Nueces solidifies Pam as a true contender. What could really tip her over the edge would be another dominating performance at Desert Solstice in Arizona in December.

The Big “But”: She has a rather thin resume compared to the other contenders.

Odds to win: 7-1

Nikki Kimball

Nikki came back with a vengeance in 2013 with three solid second-place finishes at highly competitive races. Her performances at Western States and Run Rabbit Run, in particular, make her a solid contender. (The third was at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile- New York.) If she jumps into any late season races and runs well, she could slide up the standings.

The Big “But”: Fewer races than the other contenders and some head-to-head “losses”.

Odds to win: 10-1

Meghan Arbogast

The Grand Old Dame of Ultrarunning was at it again with impressive races all season long. Her win at Way Too Cool, fifth place at Lake Sonoma, win at Ice Age 50k, tie with Amy Sproston at Shibamata 100k, and fourth place at Western States positioned her solidly in the pack after the first six months of the year. Then, her solid second place at White River only added to her impressive season. As with some of the others in this pool, if Meghan jumps into another race or two this year and does well, this could be the difference maker.

The Big “But”: She’s faced some head-to-head losses with other contenders at Lake Sonoma and Western States.

Odds to win: 7-1

Bottoms up!

* Editor’s Note: AJW is discussing Ultrarunner of the year Candidates who reside in North America. Obviously, other runners would warrant consideration if the geographic scope of consideration were larger.

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Boneyard Beer Girl Beer - BeermosaThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Boneyard Beer in Bend, Oregon. Their Girl Beer is a perfect accompaniment to this week’s column!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Which of these women do you think has the current edge for the North American Ultrarunner of the Year title? Who’ll get it in the end with late-season races?
  • If you were to add anyone else to this list, who would it be and why?
  • If we expand the scope of consideration to the rest of the world, Emelie Forsberg and Núria Picas would be strong contenders. Who else beyond North America would be in the running for global women’s ultrarunner of the year?

There are 39 comments

  1. AJW

    Hey everyone, doing a POY post on Friday for both the boys and girls. Based on feedback I will once again stick to the North American rule and allow races outside NA to be counted. And, I'll include the following:

    1. Trail races

    2. Road races

    3. Track races

    4. FKT attempts (when verified)

    5. Multi-day efforts

    What I am still unsure about is how to count "series" results. Specifically, the Grand Slam. Therefore, I am interested in your opinion, should the GS be considered one "performance"? Or not.


    1. Steve

      That's a tough call, and I don't know the answer. But individual race performances in the context of a series should definitely be considered. For example, in a non Grand-Slam year I wouldn't consider Sharman's win at Leadville a POTY contender – but this year, definitely. That was stunning.

  2. Nefka

    Not sure I will ever associate ultra running with track running. I respect these people's stubbornness for making that many loops and not dying of boredom, but in my mind this event will never get the same position as winning UTBM and placing 7th overall in the most stacked male and female field world wide.

  3. Mark

    We can understand it's a tie but then if one's chooses to tie, don't come complain that you come 2nd on the final results.

    Isn't it what racing is about ?

    Or if you want to tie, go on a training run with your friend….

  4. Aaron Sorensen

    I think Lake Sonoma mens field had the most talent out of any run this year, (U.S. any way).

    Yes, it made it one sided. It's hard with the ladies when the top 10 in some big races are covered in a blanket and top 10 in women's is hour(s).

    That's why when the ladies put a hurt on the field, (and most of the men), we can't help but notice it.

  5. markdorion

    Traditionally, both in the USA and abroad, a SERIES (be it the US Trail Running Grand Slams, the Grand Slams of PGA Golf and Pro Tennis, etc.) is just that– a SERIES. If one starts counting Serieses as ONE PERFORMANCE, then where do you stop? If I won four different trail 50 milers in the southwest all in one calendar year, can that count as a Grand Slam of Southwest 50 mile trail race Series single performance??

    Also, regarding citizenship and eligibility as NORTH AMERICAN performer of the year/ performance of the year: Throughout the history of UR magazine and other rankings organizations, a runner was supposed to at least have resident alien status ("Green Card") in the US or Canada to be considered. Again, otherwise where does one stop? Would Killian Jornet coming over to the USA and winning ONE big race count as USA performance of the year? Of course not. It is not so hard in today's Internet world to track down what runners are or are not legal US residents.

    I would also add that a great 50Km certainly gets consideration from most voters– the problem with Josh Cox's "A.R." 50Km a few years ago was that it was set in a personal race he set up, and that was only open to those he invited. I inquired about the 50Km (which involved running the Phoenix Marathon and then 4.9 more miles around the ASU track and parking lots), and no one ever even responded to me. I am guessing that as a former Phoenix Marathon winner and 3:09:25 50Km runner, I was judged not fast enough to be in the "event"??

    If, say, Mike Wardian or any other runner beat a deep field at the US 50Km Championships in NY in a fast time, that would certainly get considered (and it has plenty of times in the past).

  6. scottrunsalot

    Michele Yates by a 50k margin.

    1 7:21:51 Dec 7, 2013 CA North Face Endurance Challenge – San Francisco – 50M
    1 4:19:50 Nov 9, 2013 NV Bootlegger – 50KM (USATF Championship)
    3 12:46:24 Sep 28, 2013 CO UROC – 100KM
    1 20:16:54 Sep 13, 2013 CO Run Rabbit Run – 100 Mile – Hare
    5 4:56:09 Aug 16, 2013 CO Pikes Peak – 26M
    1 17:35:17 Apr 20, 2013 IN Indiana Trail 100 – 100M
    1 6:53:25 Mar 2, 2013 TX Nueces 50 – 50M (USATF Championship)
    1 30 10:08:48 Jan 12, 2013 TX Bandera – 100KM (USATF Championship)

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