After several years of location changes, date changes, and cancellations, many of the world’s best road ultrarunners are about to line up for the 2014 IAU 100k World Championships in Doha, Qatar. For this year’s championship, 64 women from 22 countries, who have already qualified in their home country, will compete.
The race will be run on a 5k loop course through the Aspire Zone, a sport complex in Doha, and will feature a variety of paved surfaces, very gentle declines and inclines, and a number of turns including several very tight ones. While the race will take place after dark to minimize the weather’s effect, Qatar’s heat and humidity will likely still play a significant role in the outcome of the race.
As a result of the International Association of Ultrarunners’s organizational issues, the last 100k world championships took place in the spring of 2012. That year, USA’s Amy Sproston took home the world title through a decisive late-race push. Team USA took team gold aided by the strong performances of Meghan Arbogast in fourth and Pam Smith in fifth (post-race interview with champ Amy and the rest of the scoring members of Team USA, Meghan, and Pam). While Amy, Meghan, and Pam are returning, 2012’s second- and third-place finishers are not.
The way things look in the women’s race, we suspect the winner to come from the USA, the U.K., Russia, or Italy. We also expect USA, U.K., and Russia to be in battle for the team win, with USA and Russia being the favorites.
The 100k road world record is 6:33:11, which was set in 2000 by Japan’s Tomoe Abe.
iRunFar will be in Doha to cover the event live. The race begins at 6 p.m. Arabia Standard Time on Friday, November 21, which is 8 a.m. MST on Friday in the U.S. Stay tuned!
Thanks to Hoka One One for making our coverage of these world championships possible!
Amy Sproston (pre-race interview) has been the reigning IAU 100k world champion for two-and-a-half years. Now, she’s seeking to defend her title. She’s had a lot of success come her way in that intervening time. Her strongest results since her 7:34:08 win in 2012 include a third place at the 2013 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, a second place behind Meghan Arbogast in 7:50:32 at the 2013 Toyko Shibamata 100k (they actually finished together with the race timers deciding their one-two fate), third place at the 2013 Western States 100 (post-race interview), and a win at the 2014 Hasetsune Cup. A diverse runner who has success on both roads and trails, I am looking forward to seeing how Amy’s mostly trail focus and fitness of the last couple years translates to this race.
In finishing fourth at the 2012 100k world championships in 7:41:52, Meghan Arbogast (pre-race interview) also set a world age-group record by 10 minutes (beating her own previous age-group record). At 53 years of age, Meghan will again challenge not only age-group statistics, but probably the race podium, too. Since her 2012 performance, she’s notably won the 2013 Way Too Cool 50k (in a final sprint against youngster Rory Bosio), taken second at the 2013 White River 50 Mile, and won the 2013 Bandera 100k. Flat-ish ultrarunning is Meghan’s forte and she loves hot weather, so this type of environment is the place for her to soar.
After placing fifth in 2012 in 7:43:04, Pam Smith (pre-race interview) has been on an upward trajectory. Most notably and perhaps most relevant to this race, she won the 2013 Western States 100 (post-race interview, race report) by schooling the rest of the field in really hot conditions, set a 100-mile track world record at the 2013 Desert Solstice Invitational (race report), and went 7:47:52 at the 2014 Mad City 100k. After finishing fourth at Western States this year, she stubbornly won the Angeles Crest 100 Mile just a few weeks later.
With the way Emily Harrison (pre-race interview) has proven she can run on flat surfaces, she could win the women’s race outright. The only thing is, she hasn’t put together a race longer than 50 miles yet that represents her potential. In fairness, her course-record win at the 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile took 7 hours and 26 minutes (post-race interview), which is about the same amount of time it’ll take to win the 100k world championships this week. Emily crossed over from road to trail running by winning the 2012 JFK 50 Mile in the second-fastest-ever time (post-race interview) (behind Ellie Greenwood’s record), and has gone on to run the second-fastest 50k by a North American at the 2014 Caumsett 50k (post-race interview). She just won the 2014 IAU 50k World Trophy (the de facto world championships) a month ago on the same course in Doha (race report).
Who the heck is Larisa Dannis and where has she been all my life? In all seriousness, Larisa’s been running ultras for several years, but it’s of late that she’s supernova-ing her performances. In particular, she finished second at the 2014 Western States 100 (post-race interview) and, just a month ago, she won the Fall 50 Mile in 5:59:11, the third-fastest time for a North American woman (race report). She ran a 2:44:14 at the Boston Marathon this year, which worked out to be a 10-minute PR. What this all means to me is that we have no idea the upper limits of her potential in a road 100k. I worry a little that she’s already peaked with that incredible 5:59 50-mile run.
Last but certainly not least is Cassie Scallon. Cassie started the 2012 100k world championships, but was forced to drop early due to injury, so my guess is that she’d really like to have a good race here. When fit, she has incredible leg speed on flat to rolling terrain. In the last 18 months or so, she’s won the 2013 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (post-race interview), the 2013 Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile, and the 2014 Sean O’Brien 50 Mile (post-race interview). Less than a month ago, she finished a sub-par-for-her 10th at Les Templiers, after dealing with a broken ankle earlier this year. Given that she’s had another month of training, she could have a near-peak performance in Doha. [Update 11/19: Cassie Scallon won’t be racing.]
Other Top Entrants from Around the World
The U.K.’s Ellie Greenwood (pre-race interview) is an easy favorite in this race. Her 100k PR is 7:29:05, which she set when she won the 2010 IAU 100k World Championships. The athlete that Ellie has evolved into since is, my opinion, on a whole different level. When the stars align for her, her performances are otherworldly, like her course-record win at the 2012 Western States 100 (post-race interview, race report). When she has just an ‘okay’ day for her, she still wins, such as her 2010 100k world-championship win which involved a stop to be seen by a physio as well as her 2014 Comrades Marathon win where she didn’t feel good for at least half the race (race report). I think, on an out-of-this-world day for Ellie, pushing seven hours could be in the cards. But, given the turns and the weather of the Doha course, I don’t think that kind of time is possible for any woman.
Monica Carlin’s (Italy) 100k PR is 7:29:01, which she set back in 2006 when she dueled to the finish at the 100k world championships and lost by five seconds to Lizzy Hawker. That was one of Monica’s earliest 100k’s, and since then, she’s notched four 100k world-championship finishes ranging from 7:30 to 7:53 and never below fifth place. She finished second to Ellie Greenwood and one minute, 45 seconds back in 2010. After leading or very nearly leading the 2012 100k world championships for more than half the race, she dropped. There aren’t many recent race results for her, and her 7:35:05 qualifier comes from a national-level 100k in Italy in 2012.
Like Monica Carlin, Marina Zhalybina (née Bychkova) (Russia) ran near the lead in the 2012 100k world championships, but only for a short time before dropping out. She has an amazing set of road ultrarunning credentials, including an ultra history that extends to the early 1990s! She’s a five-time 100k world-championships finisher, including a 2011 win. Interestingly, this means that the champions from the past three IAU 100k World Championships are racing in Doha! She’s finished the Comrades Marathon a whopping 12 times, and six of those were podium finishes. In 2012, she finished third at Comrades, but 22 minutes behind Ellie Greenwood’s second place. She has the fastest 100k PR of all the women starting, 7:26:37, but it comes from a decade ago. [Update 11/17: The IAU reports that Marina Zhalybina (née Bychkova) has withdrawn from the competition and will not be starting.]
Japan’s Shiho Katayama has a blazing 100k PR of 7:33:38, which she set in 2012. Earlier this year, however, she ran a significantly slower 8:00:29. She’s finished the 100k world championships twice, including a sixth in 2010, 19 minutes back of winner Ellie Greenwood.
I believe that Croatian Marija Vrajic Trosic’s 100k PR is 7:37:34, which she set in 2011. We last saw her running strong early and dropping later during the 2012 IAU 100k World Championships. Since then, she’s run at least five more road 100k’s with her fastest being 7:47:58 in 2013.
The U.K.’s Jo Zakrzewski just finished second to and less than a minute behind Emily Harrison at the 50k World Trophy in Doha, so she, too, is familiar with the race course. We believe her 7:41:06 runner-up finish to winner Marina Zhalybina at the 2011 100k world championships is her PR. She’s finished the Comrades Marathon three times, having twice finished fourth, including in 2012 when she finished 25 minutes back of second place Ellie Greenwood and three minutes behind third place Marina Zhalybina.
A finisher of five 100k world championships and no further back than seventh place, Irina Antropova’s (Russia) qualifying time was a 7:42:52 from the 2013 IAU 100k European Championships, where she finished second. In the 2011 100k world championships, she was fourth and 18 minutes back of winner Marina Zhalybina and four minutes off second place Jo Zakrzewski. She is also a five-time Comrades Marathon finisher; this year she was fourth and 16 minutes back of winner Ellie Greenwood. She just finished ninth at the IAU 50k World Trophy and 21 minutes back of winner Emily Harrison.
Jo Meek (U.K.) is an up and comer on the ultra scene. She has a marathon PR of 2:46 and her most applicable result to this race so far is a fifth place at her debut Comrades Marathon this year, 29 minutes back from winner Ellie Greenwood and 13 minutes off fourth place Irina Antropova.
It appears that Russian Irina Pankovskaya has two road 100ks under her belt, an 8:02 in 2012 and a 7:49:23 at the 2013 IAU 100k European Championships, which was seven minutes back from her countrymate Irina Antropova.
Sweden’s Sophia Sundberg is likely to make some noise in vying for the women’s top 10. Her 7:53:21 PR earned her fifth place at the 2013 IAU 100k European Championships. She finished 12th at the Comrades Marathon this year.
Chiyuki Mochizuki (Japan) has gone 7:55:09 for 100k and 3:25:43 for 50k. It looks like her marathon PR is 2:39:57 from 2011. In 2013, she ran a 2:40-and-change marathon.
Call for Comments
- What are your thoughts on the women’s field? Who among these runners do you know is particularly primed for this race?
- Are there any women who you think we should have included on our list of top contenders?
- How about the team competition? How do you think will shape up?