The race will be run on a 5k loop course through the Aspire Zone, a sports complex in Doha, and will feature a variety of paved and tiled surfaces, a total of 19 meters of climb per lap, and a number of turns including several that are close to 180 degrees. While the race will take place after dark to minimize the heat as much as possible, it’ll still be hot and humid enough to slow the pace. Right now, Friday night’s forecast is predicting between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 23 degrees Celsius) with the humidity around 60 to 70%.
As a result of the International Association of Ultrarunners’s organizational issues, the last 100k world championships took place in the spring of 2012. Italy’s Giorgio Calcaterra won that race without challenge in 6:23:20 (post-race interview), Sweden’s Jonas Buud set a Swedish national record in 6:28:57 to finish second (post-race interview), and Alberico Di Cecco of Italy nabbed third in 6:40:30. Boosted by the performances of Calcaterra and Di Cecco, Team Italy took team gold. The top-three men of 2012, along with fourth place, Spain’s Asier Cuevas, are all returning this year. The USA’s David Riddle took fifth in 2012, but he is not racing this year due to injury.
In the team competition, it looks like we’ll see a strong battle between USA, Japan, and Italy, along with the possibility of an influencing team performance from Russia. In the individual competition, there are five men with recent PRs under 6:30, with two of those under 6:20. There are also a couple guys from the U.S. who I think have sub-6:30 potential, but who’ve not raced a road 100k before. Regardless, the race for individual gold will be fierce.
The 100k road world record is 6:13:33, set in 1998 by Japan’s Takahiro Sunada.
A special thanks to Hoka One One for making our coverage of these world championships possible!
The Guys with the Sub-6:30 (Modern) PRs
Russia’s Vasiliy Larkin will start this race with the fastest 100k PR at 6:18:26, which is just under five minutes off the world record. More remarkable perhaps, he set his PR in 2013 at a 100k in Russia while running completely unchallenged in what we believe was his first 100k. In doing so, he also set the Russian 100k national record. This past spring he ran to a strong 11th place at the Comrades Marathon, not close to the potential he revealed in that 100k, however. Vasiliy is just 23 years old, a whole world of running ahead of him. Though this week’s course and weather are not shaping up to allow for world-record performances, he’s a huge threat for the win.
I am really excited to see the U.K.’s Steve Way (pre-race interview) race. At 40 years old, Steve has seen some serious press in his home country for reshaping his life in his early 30s from an overweight, chain smoking non-runner to the British 100k record holder. He’ll hold the second-fastest PR of the field come race day, at 6:19:20, which he set also totally unchallenged in May during a 100k in the U.K. He has a 2:15:26 marathon PR and a 2:53:41 50k PR. In August, he competed in the UltraVasan 90k in Sweden, losing by 10 minutes to Jonas Buud.
As the two-time defending IAU 100k world champion, Italy’s Giorgio Calcaterra (pre-race interview) and his 6:23:20 PR will surely come out running strong on Friday evening. Giorgio’s performance in 2012 was measured: he chilled just behind the leaders early before assuming the lead mid-race and building a five-minute buffer over everyone else in the final 15 miles or so. The last time he raced for the world championship, however, it wasn’t against dudes with PRs four and five minutes faster than him. I wonder if this will influence his racing tactics. It’s hard to get a read on where his fitness is now. He ran a 100k in Italy in 7:05 in May, a race he’s run many times and has gone as fast as 6:25 at. But last month he won a 60k in Italy in his fastest time over the four times he’s run and won that race. His marathon PR is 2:13:14, set in 2000.
In taking second place at the 2012 100k world championships, Sweden’s Jonas Buud set his PR at 6:28:57. Jonas is a diverse runner and, since that second place, he’s gone on to take second at the 2012 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc on trails and second at the 2013 Comrades Marathon on roads. This year, he finished seventh at the Comrades Marathon, beating 11th place Vasily Larkin by about 2.5 minutes. He also won the UltraVasan 90k solidly over second place Steve Way. Most recently, he finished a more lackluster 10th at Les Templiers. Jonas is notoriously conservative early, so watch for him to run outside the top 10 for the first 20k or so before he starts moving into a more aggressive racing position.
Alberico Di Cecco of Italy finished third at the 2012 100k world championships. His 100k PR is 6:28:47, set at a 100k in Italy in 2011. He’ll have the fastest marathon PR of Friday’s starters, a fiery 2:08:02, set at the Rome Marathon in 2005. Unfortunately, Di Cecco received a two-year ban from sport in 2008 after testing positive for EPO at an in-competition test. His most recent 100k result was a 6:47 in early 2014.
It’s hard to get a read on Team USA since few U.S. runners regularly run 100k road races, and three of the six team members never have. In terms of absolute potential on the team, we give the nod to Max King (pre-race interview). His 2:14:36 marathon PR plus his demonstrated ability to succeed in just about everything he tries, from steeplechasing, to short-distance XTERRA trail racing, to ultramarathoning, to, more recently, obstacle-course racing. So far this year, he’s set a course record at the Chuckanut 50k (post-race interview), reset by 12 minutes a more-than-quarter-century-old course record at the Ice Age Trail 50 Mile, taken fourth at the Western States 100 Mile, and won the Warrior Dash World Championship obstacle-course race. In 2012, Max set the revered JFK 50 Mile course record (race report) by running almost three minutes faster than any other guy ever has on the course. While this race is indicative of his ability to perform in road ultras, I believe the longest Max has raced on pavement so far is a marathon. He likes to go for it in everything he does, so I expect him to be in the mix straight away.
Michael Wardian’s (pre-race interview) 100k PR is 6:42:49, which he ran in 2011 when he finished runner up at the 100k world championships to Giorgio Calcaterra. In 2012, he finished eighth in 6:48, rallying late after not feeling well early on. Mike’s marathon PR is 2:17:49, set in 2011, and his 50k PR is 2:54:57, set in 2010. While Mike will race anywhere, any time, any distance, and on any kind of surface, his strengths are suited to road ultramarathons like this one. He just finished sixth at the 2014 IAU 50k World Trophy in 3:18:10, on the same course for the 100k world championships in Doha, where he said he suffered with the heat. He’s been heat training like a mad man since then.
When I think of Zach Bitter, I think of the dude who just keeps hauling around a track at a solid clip, forever. That’s because, during an approximately three-month span of late 2013 and early 2014, Zach set a 100-mile track world record (race report) and a 200k American record (post-race interview). It’s easy to forget that he has leg speed for faster outings, too. Zach’s relevant PRs: 3:03:10 for 50k (2012), 5:12:36 for 50 miles (2013), and 6:44:04 for 100k (2014). That 6:44 100k was set this year at the Mad City 100k, which also served as the 2014 USATF 100k Road National Championships. His 5:12 50 miler is an incredible performance, and it suggests that a 6:44 100k PR is not yet near Zach’s potential.
Zach Miller (pre-race interview) is going to be a real wild card for Team USA. He’s a relatively new ultrarunner, with I think only five ultras under his belt. He exploded onto the scene about this time last year when he won the 2013 JFK 50 Mile in 5:38 (post-race interview), the third-fastest time in the historic American race. That winning time was just under four minutes off Max King’s course record, and Zach beat second place Matt Flaherty by almost six minutes and third place Mike Wardian by 18 minutes. Next, he set a course record at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (post-race interview) and, in the process, picked apart a field composed of many of the U.S.’s top trail ultrarunners. Just last month, he broke from the lead runners mid-race at Les Templiers, and then ran out of gas with only a couple kilometers to go, got passed by four guys, and skidded to fifth place, 15 minutes off the lead. I get the feeling that this guy only knows how to race flat out, so that’s probably how we’ll see him run on Friday. If he can keep his shit together tape to tape, I think he can go top five.
With his 2:21:20 marathon PR, 3:16:55 50k PR, and 5:28:11 50-mile PR, but no previous road 100k to gauge on, I think Matt Flaherty has potential to run sub-6:45. Last fall, he had a stellar showing at the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile, where he set that 5:28 PR and beat Zach Bitter by about four minutes. He also finished second at the 2013 JFK 50 Mile, behind Zach Miller. Earlier this year, he took second to Max King at the Ice Age Trail 50 Mile, also finishing below the 26-year-old previous course record that Max reset. Last month, he had a rough go of Les Templiers, citing too much vertical and technicality for a guy who trains in Indiana. Road ultrarunning is right up his alley, however, so I expect a strong performance from Matt.
I don’t know much about Nick Accardo except that he was chosen for the team based upon his 7:11:34 third place at the 2014 Mad City 100k where he finished about 27 minutes behind winner Zach Bitter. Nick also ran Mad City in 2013, and he was 24 minutes slower than this year. This big improvement indicates he likely hasn’t neared his potential in the 100k distance.
Other Top Entrants from Around the World
Hideo Nojo of Japan has been a 100k road runner for at least 13 years. His 6:35:52 PR comes from a 2012 100k race in Japan. He’s run at least 15 100k races on the roads, and a huge chunk of those performances have fallen in the 6:35 to 6:45 range. His most recent 100k was this June in Japan where he finished in 6:40.
Spain’s Asier Cuevas finished fourth at the 2012 100k world championships in 6:44:54. His 6:38:56 PR comes from a 2011 100k in his home country. He was the 2013 IAU 100k European champion, where he ran 6:53. Asier’s marathon PR is 2:14:23 from 2009.
I can’t tell you too much about Koji Hayasaka of Japan. He’s got two 100k’s on record: a 6:58:04 in 2013 and his 6:45:28 PR from 2014, both in Japan. He went 2:27:08 for 18th place at the notoriously hot 2012 Boston Marathon. I can’t find a definitive marathon PR for him, but he’s gone at least 2:21:45.
While there are a number of entrants who race mostly on roads, I think Marco Boffo’s 10-year ultra history is exclusively so. The Italian has finished four 100k world championships, placing as high as fourth in 2009, when he set his 6:45:39 PR and finished four minutes back from second place Jonas Buud and 3.5 minutes back from third place Giorgio Calcaterra. At the 2012 100k world championships, he finished way off the mark in 25th place. This past September, he went 88k in a six-hour race. 2:27:28 appears to be his marathon PR from 2010.
André Collet of Germany was the sixth-place finisher at the 2012 IAU 100k World Championships where he ran his PR of 6:45:49. He’s finished the last four 100k world championships. This includes a pair of sixth-place finishes. It looks like his marathon PR is 2:25:24 from 2008.
France’s Michaël Boch has a strong 100k PR of 6:46:25, which he set last year. He finished second at the 2013 IAU 100k European Championships where he finished about 3.5 minutes back from winner Asier Cuevas.
Pieter Vermeesch’s 6:47:01 PR was set in 2011 when the Belgian finished fourth at the 100k world championships, 20 minutes back of winner Giorgio Calcaterra and 15 minutes back of second place Michael Wardian. He was fourth at the 2013 IAU 100k European Championships.
There is scant recent information about the Ukraine’s Oleksandr Holovnytskyy. He’s got a 6:37:09 100k PR, set 10 years ago, and a 2:19:10 marathon PR, set seven years ago. More recently in 2012, he ran 6:48:22 for 100k, and I’m guessing that this is closer to his current potential. Oleksandr has finished the Comrades Marathon several times, but it looks like he’s never managed to crack that nut and run his best race there.
Still More Guys with PRs under 6:50
Holy smokes, this field is deep with leg speed and 100k experience:
Vsevolod Khudyakov (Russia) — 6:47:13 PR[Update 11/17: Vsevolod Khudyakov will not be starting, per the IAU.]
- Jérôme Bellanca (France) — 6:47:41 PR
- Régis Raymond (France) — 6:49:22 PR
- Eyvgenii Glyva (Ukraine) — 6:49:53 PR
- Yoshiki Takada (Japan) — 6:49:53 PR
- Yu Yasuda (Japan) — 6:49:56 PR
- Jarosław Janicki (Poland) — He has an insane 100k PR of 6:22:33, but it’s an oldie from 1995. He ran a 3:06 50k in 2011. His more recent 100k results are a 6:40 from 2008 and a 6:53 from 2009.
Call for Comments
- Share your take on the men’s field!
- Who among these men do you know is particularly primed for this race? Are there any men who you think we should have included on our list of top contenders?
- How about the team competition? How do you see it shaking out?