2016 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Men’s Preview

2016 The North Face Endurance ChallengeAnother December, another visit to where it all began! It was here, at the 2009 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships, that iRunFar’s live race coverage was born. Now, seven years and eight-straight editions of this race later, and we’re back at one of North America’s most competitive 50-mile races.

At last year’s race, the world watched Zach Miller (pre-race interview) certifiably crush it. Well, Zach’s back, and also racing are the couple dudes in our sport who can actually give this kid chase right now… Update 11/30: Jim Walmsley has decided not to race. –including that guy called Jim Walmsley. This is the match-up that many of us have been waiting for: two young guns who both run from the heart and alone off the front, both fully able to run themselves into the ground for the sake of the lead and a win. It would be unwise to overlook previous TNF 50 champ, Sage Canaday (pre-race interview), who also has similarly aggressive racing tendencies and who should be fully capable of the win also. Just yesterday, two-time TNF 50 champ Miguel Heras added his name to the fray, and sure as heck he’ll go for it from the gun, as well. The fun and games will definitely not end with the podium race, as I think there are several men–including guys with budding resumes and on-the-cusp capabilities as well some dudes who’ve been around the block a few times–poised to create fascinating storylines in the rest of the men’s top-10 positions.

The North FaceAll of these men will be in search of the $10,000 winner’s prize and the coveted title of winning one of the most competitive ultramarathons in North America. The race takes place on Saturday, December 3 starting at 5:00 a.m. Pacific Time in the U.S. (That’s Saturday, December 3 at 2:00 p.m. CET in Europe.)

We are expecting additions and subtractions to the elite entrants list between now and race day, which could very well change the nature of the men’s race. We’ll update this preview if this happens, so check back.

Be sure to watch our men’s and women’s pre-race interview shows, read our in-depth women’s race preview, and follow our race-day live coverage.

Many thanks to The North Face for making our coverage of this race possible.

The Force is With These Guys

These guys are the real deal, the ones we can count on to heavily influence the race for the men’s podium. The force is definitely strong in these dudes.

2015 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships - Zach Miller

Zach Miller

As of this publishing, Zach Miller (pre-race interview) isn’t yet confirmed on the entrants list, but he’s told us he plans to race. The TNF 50 defending champ brings an incredible talent to our sport. He made his first big dent on the scene in winning the 2013 JFK 50 Mile in a fashion he questionably had no business running–off the front in a distance with which he had not an inkling of experience. In the spring of 2014, he took on the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile’s competition in an even-more-aggressive manner, taking away a huge win and cementing himself as a mover and shaker in trail ultrarunning. Since then, he’s gone on to win the 2015 CCC and the 2016 Madeira Island Ultra Trail. He didn’t nail his first attempt at racing 100 miles with his gutsy racing style, however. After leading the 2016 UTMB for almost two thirds of the race, Zach blew up, put things back together somewhat, and suffered big to finish a totally respectable sixthUpdate 11/30: Zach is officially on the entrants list now.

Update 11/30: Jim Walmsley has decided to sit TNF 50 out, saying he’s not ready to race again yet after his course-record run at the JFK 50 Mile two weekends ago. He also says he still plans to be at TNF 50 to watch and cheer, however. Back in the summer of 2014, then-brand-marketer, now-photographer Myke Hermsmeyer told us to watch out for a young man named Jim Walmsley. Since then, Jim’s gone on to win the JFK 50 Mile three times, including a ridiculous course-record victory this past weekend. His other performances this year have been nothing short of sport-progressing: a win in a blazing just over six hours at this year’s Lake Sonoma 50 Mile and his two FKTs in the Grand Canyon. He’s got one blemish on his 2016 radar, a hugely aggressive run at the Western States course record that went pear shaped over a simultaneous massive slow down in his pace and wrong turn, which took him out of contention for the record and the win. And he does all this with a no-holds-barred approach that makes for great spectating. Indeed, Jim’s a guy to watch and watch out for. Jim and Zach Miller are on similar trajectories: in their previous performances, their off-the-front racing styles, and their running results including JFK and Lake Sonoma wins and blow-up finishes at their first 100 milers. This is sure to be a fascinating match-up.

Sage Canaday

Sage Canaday

Sage Canaday’s (pre-race interview) almost five years deep into his trail-ultra career and he’s built quite a resume at a number of distances in trail ultrarunning, but I’d argue that his sweet spot is around 50 miles. Cases in point, three third places at Transvulcania (2014 and 2016 interviews), a win at the 2013 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and win at the 2014 TNF 50. I’m interested to see what racing style Sage uses here. On one hand, he’s got several more years of experience than Zach Miller and Jim Walmsley, so if there’s anyone in his trio who might go off a little more conservatively, I’d wager it would be Sage. On the other hand, at these faster and shorter ultramarathons, recent years are proving that if you want to win a race, you have to stay in relative contact with the lead. How will Sage race if Zach Miller and Jim Walmsley blast off the line and into outer space? We shall soon see. This is going to be such a fun race to spectate.

And then there’s Spain’s Miguel Heras, whose name just showed up on the entrants list. I’m not surprised, though. After his win at Ultra Pirineu this September, he said he’d aim for another shot at TNF 50 since he was just coming into good fitness again after an injury. Miguel is a two-time TNF 50 champ, having won in 2010 and 2012. He has years of success, including a win at Transgrancanaria (2010), Transvulcania (2011), multiple wins of Ultra Pirineu, and a win last month at Les Templiers. Miguel races with quiet ferocity right from the gun and, at 41 years of age, he will definitely put on a show in racing men one-and-a-half decades his junior.

Hold the phone, we’ve got David Laney racing TNF 50. I feel like I’ve been all over the world to see this guy race, but I can’t recall him ever starting or finishing this event. Am I wrong? David’s got great international street cred, including a third and fourth, respectively, at the 2015 and 2016 UTMBs. He’s been 12th at the 2015 IAU Trail World Championships and eighth at the 2015 Western States.

Alex Nichols - 2015 Les Templiers

Alex Nichols

Alex Nichols (pre-race interview) has one finish of TNF 50, a fifth place four years ago. Since then, he’s had a helluva run with this sport. He’s twice won the Pikes Peak Marathon. He’s three times been on the Speedgoat 50k podium. He’s been third and fifth, respectively, at the 2014 and 2015 Les Templiers. He was sixth at the 2015 IAU Trail World Championships. He won the 2015 Mont Blanc 80k. And he won his 100-mile debut at the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile this fall.

As of this publishing, France’s Benoît Cori is not yet on the entrants list, but we hear he’s in the process of registering. Many U.S. readers may not be familiar with Benoît and his running accolades, which include two wins of the prestigious Les Templiers (2015 interview) and a fourth place last month at the IAU Trail World Championships in Portugal. Benoît is at home on fast-ish, flat-ish terrain. In Portugal in October, Benoît ran aggressively near or at the front early in the race, much to the surprise of his French fans and followers, who said his typical style is a bit of a slower start. Update, November 30: Benoît is officially on the entrants list now.

Known and Dangerous Quantities

These are the men who have at least one dangerous-to-the-rest-of-the competition tick mark on their trail running resume, and in most cases, several. One or two may challenge for the podium, and certainly most will be in play for the top 10.

Jorge Maravilla

Jorge Maravilla

Is it safe to say that Jorge Maravilla (pre-race interview) is a near shoo-in for the top 10? He was fourth here last year in what was a perfectly executed race, and he’s been seventh at TNF 50 two times before that. His running in 2016 has been strong, including a second place at the Way Too Cool 50k and 10th at the Tamalpa Headlands 50k, which served as the USATF 50k Trail National Championships. He’s been racing roads, too, with his best finish at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia in 2:21, which was a PR by almost five minutes, if I recall correctly.

Update 11/23: Ryan Smith isn’t racing due to injury. 2015 was a great year for Ryan Smith, who finished fifth here last year in addition to winning the 2015 Sean O’Brien 100k and taking eighth at the 2015 UTMB. His races this year haven’t been quite as strong–though taking 20th at UTMB is nothing to sneeze at these days–but top 10 is doable for him here, we now know.

Look up ‘up-and-comer’ in the dictionary and there’s Cody Reed’s (pre-race interview) name. The former Northern Arizona University runner has had a helluva’ 2016 including wins at the Miwok 100k, the Tamalpa Headlands 50k, and the UROC 100k. His Tamalpa win, which made him the 2016 USATF 50k Trail National Champion, is particularly noteworthy as the field was stacked.

Dan Kraft

Dan Kraft

Dan Kraft has three TNF 50 finishes to his name, a fourth in 2013–which was most certainly a breakout for him–17th in 2014, and seventh last year. So far in 2016, he’s been fourth at the Chuckanut 50k and second at the Flagstaff Skyrace 55k.

 Tim Freriks announced his intentions in the world of trail-ultrarunning last April when he finished second to Jim Walmsley at the 2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in the eighth-fastest time on that course. He followed that up with an eighth at the Tamalpa Headlands 50k, the USATF 50k Trail National Championships. Update, November 30: We’d heard two days ago that Tim was sitting TNF50 out due to schooling and not training enough, but we just heard that he plans to race despite feeling not as ready as he would like to be.

If memory serves me, Greece’s Dimitris Theodorakakos has intended to race TNF 50 before, in 2014, but ultimately didn’t make it to the start line. His top international performances include sixth at the 2015 Transvulcania and second at the 2016 Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira.

Added 11/29: Mike Wolfe is a late entrant! The 2011 TNF50 champ and four-time TNF 50 finisher last completed this race in 2013, finishing sixth. He claims to be running ‘off-the-couch’ and for fun, though, but we’ll see what that actually means.

Update 11/26: Mario Mendoza isn’t racing due to a calf issue. Mario Mendoza has intended to race TNF 50 a couple times, but I can’t remember if he decided each time not to start or if he didn’t make it to the finish. Last year, Mario was fourth at the stacked Tamalpa Headlands 50k, the 2015 USATF 50k Trail National Championships, and he won the Moab Trail Marathon, which was the 2015 USATF Trail Marathon National Championships. This year, he’s taken second at the Chuckanut 50k and third at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. TNF 50’s terrain should suit Mario perfectly, so I’d expect him to factor in the men’s top five if he’s ready for the race. Problematically, he’s only a bit more than a month out from a rough go of the IAU Trail World Championships in Portugal–he finished but was struggling.

Top-10 Sleepers

Sneaky, sneaky, I think these guys have the potential to sneak into the top 10.

Update 11/23: Chris Mocko is not racing in order to focus on 2017 races. A guy who has had a helluva’ 2016 is Chris Mocko. I gotta’ ask, did this guy even race ultras before this year? I can’t remember seeing his name around before 2016, but now he’s racing everywhere. He’s been third at the 2016 Black Canyon 100k, eighth at the 2016 Way Too Cool 50k, second at the 2016 Gorge Waterfalls 100k, seventh at the 2016 Western States, and then 11th at the 2016 Lake Padden Trail Half Marathon, this year’s USATF Trail Half Marathon National Championships. Phew.

2012 UROC 100k - David Riddle

David Riddle

David Riddle is back! If you’re pretty new to trail-ultrarunning, you might not know who this guy is, as he had to sit out almost two years of racing due to a severe injury. He’s been slowly rebuilding his racing fitness with 2016 results including a win at the Georgia Jewel 50 Mile and the Pinhoti 100 Mile. The latter event will have taken place just a month before TNF 50, so I wonder if he will be recovered in time?

Update 11/28: Eric Senseman has decided not to race as he recovers from the IAU 50k World Championships a few weekends ago. What Eric Senseman is good at is not necessarily what he always races. The dude can roll on the flat and fast, but I think he likes to play in the mountains. In 2014 he was third at the JFK 50 Mile, five minutes behind the winner, some dude called Jim Walmsley. He’s also gone 3:06 for 50k at Caumsett in 2015. This November, just three weeks before TNF 50 race day, he took 16th at the IAU 50k World Champs in 3:21. Earlier this year he was ninth at the stacked 2016 Tamalpa Headlands 50k, the 2016 USATF 50k Trail National Championships, on the roll-y terrain upon which this race is run.

Update 11/23: Tyler Sigl is not racing as he recovers from the IAU Trail World Championships in Portugal last month. We last saw a broken Tyler Sigl at the IAU Trail World Championships at the end of October, where he dropped due to physical issues. He was also here at the 2015 TNF 50 and in the lead pack early before dropping. The dude has stellar results, including a 5:32 50-mile at the 2014 Door County 50 Mile and, I believe, three wins of TNF 50 – Wisconsin. One of these days he’s going to nail one of these hillier, highly competitive events.

Update 12/2: Chris Vizcaino is out with an injury. Chris Vizcaino put his name on the trail-ultra map in 2015 with a eighth at the Tamalpa Headlands 50k, the 2015 USATF 50k Trail National Championships, and 11th at the TNF 50. So far this year, he’s taken 13th at the Way Too Cool 50k.

It’s a similar story for Paddy O’Leary. Last year, Paddy ran to ninth at the Tamalpa Headlands 50k, the 2015 USATF 50k Trail National Championships, and followed that up with a 13th place here. His best performance in 2016 has been a fourth at the Way Too Cool 50k.

Brett Hales, from Utah and a former Weber State University runner, will be interesting to watch. He’s gone 1:04:31 for the half marathon, he won the 2014 XTERRA Trail Run National Championships, he was second at the 2016 U.S. Mountain Running Championships, and he took seventh at the 2016 World Mountain Running Championships. But does he have any ultra experience? I can’t find any results.

Good things come from Utah? Hayden Hawks (pre-race interview) will add some color to the men’s race. The recent Southern Utah University grad has had quite the 2016 of trail racing: he’s taken fourth at the 2016 U.S. Mountain Running Championships, he won the 2016 Speedgoat 50k, and he was fourth 2016 World Mountain Running Championships. I don’t think he’s raced longer than 50k, though.

Last year, Mark Hammond snuck inside the top 20 here, taking 19th. And what a year he’s had since then. He won the 2016 Squaw Peak 50 Mile, took second at the 2016 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile, and won at the 2016 Rio Del Lago 100 Mile… but that final race was just a month ago.

More Fast Dudes to Watch

  • Dan Berteletti — 10th 2015 Speedgoat 50k; 4th 2015 TNF 50k – California; 5th 2016 Red Hot Moab 55k
  • Noah Brautigam — 4th 2016 Power of Four 50k; 11th 2016 The Rut 50k
  • Brian Condon — 7th 2014 Bandera 100k; 3rd 2014 Ice Age 50 Mile in 5:58; 24th 2015 TNF 50
  • Brian Gillis — 3rd 2015 TNF 50k – California; 7th 2016 Tamalpa Headlands 50k
  • Tyler Green — Winner 2016 Waldo 100k; numerous Pacific Northwest podium finishes in past two years
  • Lindsay Hamoudi — 35th and 42nd at TNF 50 in 2013 and 2015, respectively; 11th 2015 Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile in 15:19; 2nd 2016 Pine to Palm 100 Mile
  • Vlad Ixel — 12th 2016 Transvulcania; 3rd 2014 Vibram Hong Kong 100k; 12th 2014 Ice Trail Tarentaise Added 11/30
  • Moises Jimenez — A Chilean who spent the summer racing the U.S. Skyrunning Series in the U.S., 5th 2016 Flagstaff Skyrace 55k; 10th 2016 The Rut 50k
  • Kiril Nikolov — Better known as a high-level Bulgarian orienteering racer; 2nd 2016 The Rut 28k; 3rd 2016 Limone Skyrace; appears he’s run at least one 70k ultra
  • Dylan Peterson — 10th 2016 Way Took Cool 50k
  • Jim Rebenack — 5th 2016 Pikes Peak Marathon; 4th 2016 Flagstaff Skyrace 55k
  • Gustavo Reyes — 12th 2015 Leadville 100 Mile; 1st 2016 La Mision 100 Mile; winner 2016 TNF 50 – Argentina
  • Justin Ricks has decided not to race. Updated 11/29 Justin Ricks — 1st 2016 Run Through Time Marathon; 4th 2016 Flagstaff Skyrace 39k
  • David Ryland — 3-time Buckeye Trail 50k winner; appears to be from Ohio but is post-collegiate after running for the University of North Carolina – Asheville
  • Scott Spillman — 2nd 2016 Moab Red Hot 33k; 8th 2016 Pikes Peak Marathon
  • Benjamin Stern — 1st 2015 Miwok 100k; 7th 2015 Tamalpa Headlands 50k; 4th 2016 Black Canyon 100k; 6th 2016 Gorge Waterfalls 100k; 17th 2016 Tamalpa Headlands 50k
  • Riccardo Tortini — 3rd 2016 Pine to Palm 100 Mile; numerous podium finishes in Pacific Northwest
  • Brendan Trimboli — Winner 2016 Telluride Mountain Run; winner 2016 Squamish 50k
  • Stephen Wassather — 4th 2016 Bandera 100k; winner 2016 Sean O’Brien 100k
  • Coree Woltering — Just ran a blazing 5:30 at the Tunnel Hill 50 Mile a couple weeks ago after running 6:18 there a year ago; I think the guy is on his way up in the sport

On Entrants List, But Not Racing

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Who is going to win The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships this year?
  • Who will make up the men’s podium?
  • Who will surprise with a breakout performance?
  • Anyone you know on these lists who isn’t racing? Let us know!
Meghan Hicks

is the Managing Editor of iRunFar and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

There are 72 comments

  1. Quigley

    Thanks for the preview! Is there a course record, or does the course vary too much year to year? Given Jim’s shape and results this year, I think there is only going to be a race between Jim and the clock. It may be close, but I would wager Jim narrowly beats the clock. Obviously, Zach will try to give him a run for his money, but I think the course is runnable enough that his Colorado mountain legs don’t quite have the speed. It will be awesome to watch as there is no doubt both Jim and Zach go out fast, fast, fast. I can’t wait to watch – or follow on irunfar. I would discount Jim’s chances given the quick turnaround from JFK, but as long as he had a chance to talk to Michael Wardian, he ahould be good. I am a bit bummed Wardian isnt running as I think he would have a chance at the top-10 and may be having the most high quality consistent year ever for a master or anyone?

    1. EZ

      Re Mike Wardian, I think you’re right except Bronco Billy knocked it out of the park with consistency this year. 1st at Hurt 100, 3rd at WS, 4th at HR (WS/HR double record!), 4th at RRR.

  2. Ryan

    This is going to be a fast field. If Jim didn’t race JFK last weekend, it’d almost be impossible to bet against him in this race. But, we’ll see how he’s recovered since then. I’d definitely see Sage on the field. Also, I think Hayden Hawks should be further up in your preview, because I think he’s got one of the better chances of making the podium.

    If the conditions are good on race day, I think it would take a sub-6:05 or 6:00 to win the race.

    1. Meghan Hicks


      We’ve been told by several people to expect the first part of the course to ‘run’ faster because it’s been switched to more runnable fire roads from singletrack. I hope a local expert will comment and speculate exactly how much faster the course will run with the changes, under good conditions. :)

      1. Jeremy


        If you send me an email, I can send you a GPX/KML file of the 2016 route. Bear in mind, I’ve created this GPX based on the 2016 Guide/Map provided by TNF, so if they have changed the course from what is presented in the guide, I will be off. I am not local, so take it all with grain of salt, but I am a pretty big google earth strava nerd so I am pretty sure I have it right according to the guide book. I can also send you GPX from the 2013 and 2015 standard routes that I gleaned from Strava. My 2016 route I created came out exactly the same as the distance advertised in the course guide, within 0.1mi.

        When I messaged TNF EC on facebook asking about details of the course changes a few weeks back I was told “The total elevation gain has increased over previous years by roughly 1,000 feet and the distance of the race has gone down by only .2 or so miles.”

        My analysis only showed about an extra 300-400′ of climbing. Between Tennessee and Muir on the way out, there is now one slightly larger climb, rather than the two smaller climbs in the past. I can’t comment on the singletrack vs. fireroad, but you certainly know the area better than me and can tell from my gpx file.

      2. Gary Gellin

        Expect the Headlands reroute at the beginning and end of the race to ADD 15 minutes in the morning out to Muir Beach and SAVE 10 minutes near the finish between Muir Beach and Tennessee Valley

      3. Varner

        as Gary said, way out to Muir Beach will be slower. More climbing up to radio tower on Miwok, but they’ll be able to bomb down Marincello faster than Old Springs in the dark. No 2nd climb out of Pirates Cove (new route goes around it) but the climb to the radio tower on Miwok will make up for that lost vert and then some.

        the way back from Muir Beach should be definitely faster, as Gary also already said. if your quads are still alive, Fox is a screamer and it cuts off some climbing to the top of Coyote Ridge.

  3. Mic

    I can’t wait for the day when a “Championship” like this has a better way to follow it as a fan. Sure, you guys do a great job with your updates, but I’d love more live video, live tracking, etc.

    1. Matt Noonan

      Live coverage from some drones would be the way to go.

      Just listened to the URP interviews of Cody and Hayden and they have their chances.

      Either way it’s going to be a great race and watching it unfold on Twitter will have to do.

  4. David Roche

    Amazing preview, thank you!

    My completely unfounded prediction: current fitness to run well at World Mountain Champs is what it takes to be at the front of NF50. Hayden Hawkes shocks the ultra world! (also, Brett Hales for a podium spot?).

    /looks at start list, sees Sage, Jim (who beat me by 9 freaking minutes in a 30k), Zach, Cody (who kicked my butt at Headlands) and everyone else
    //grabs popcorn

    I have no idea what will happen, just depends on who has the perfect day. My guess:

    1. Hayden (training amazingly, seems to have that perfect mix of talent and ultra mindset)
    2. Jim (on another planet, if he recovers from the Canyon and JFK, it will be unreal)
    3. Sage (he’s pretty unstoppable at 50 miles, and I will probably regret not picking him even higher)
    4. Zach (putting Zach outside the podium is probably the stupidest prediction ever)
    5. Cody (he knows the trails and could easily win too. What a stacked race.)

    Also, Chris Mocko won’t be racing because his asshole coach wants him focusing on gearing up for a really fun 2017 :)

    IRF rocks!

    1. Charlie Potts

      Oh come on, David! Let Mocko wet the beak a little bit. With him and Gillis, we could see a ‘fine’ representation in the top 10!

    2. Matthew C

      David what are your thoughts on the types of races Hayden has crushed compared to TNF? Is TNF technical enough for him? I am wondering if Cody has the fitness to stay with Zach and presumably Hayden when they time trial the course from the beginning, and if he does it could get really interesting with his local experience. I guess the biggest question mark I am still wondering about is will Sage go with a ‘time trial’ pack from the beginning and make it a race of attrition or will he hang back and make it a lead pack, chase pack situation. Also, I can’t believe there is a race like this where you have all of these conversations without mentioning that David Laney is on the list. David and Sage chase pack following a potentially bonking Zach/ Hayden/ Cody pack?!? I’m definitely ignoring some responsibilities on Saturday.

  5. GRod

    Is Dylan Bowman not racing? Other than Maravilla, you really have to look into some of those Mill Valley guys that train on the course day-in, and day-out… otherwise, the workload Walmsley has been putting in is unmatched. I think he can recover in time, if prudent. So far, looks like he’s controlling himself. Sage has won on this course, as has Zach Miller. I think it’s going to be epic, but if Walmsley is at 80% fitness, there is still no matching his ability right now. He is just not fatiguing on climbs and distance. One caveat: if there is mud, it is anyone’s game.

    1. Meghan Hicks


      I was hoping someone would make your final comment. Big weather (the locals can probably pinpoint the tipping point better, but I think it has to be a couple inches of rain in the day or two lead-up that deeply saturates the first couple inches of the ground underfoot and makes it move around in a thick layer) has proven to equalize the playing field at TNF50, allowing those with a little less leg speed/more technical ability to run as equals to the ‘running’ runners.

      Dylan Bowman is sitting this year out.

      1. Joe Coppom

        The extended forecast looks clear, sunny and cool. But there’s always a lot of variability in the Headlands. I cannot wait to see these guys! Great Preview!
        thanks, Meghan!

  6. Harry Mattison

    Paddy O’Leary recently won both the Mt Tam 50K and Canyons 100K. He will have a lot of TNF, SF, and November Project friends to impress next weekend when racing on his home turf!

  7. Jessica Sigl

    Tyler Sigl is not racing! Still recovery from C-Diff. Hope to make it out next year! Good Luck to everyone racing, should be an exciting race!

  8. Bethany Patterson

    Hard to be against Jim these days, but it will be interesting to see how he recovers. I’m guessing that JFK wasn’t a stretch for him though; I don’t think he killed himself for that record. No matter what, it will be fun to watch these guys kill each other!

  9. Ryan Smith

    Great run down as usual but unfortunately I’ve picked up an achilles injury in the past few weeks and will almost certainly be spectating this year rather than running!

    Also, my pick for the win is Sage!

  10. Julia

    Great preview! Thanks for putting it together. I’m so, so stoked about the field this year.

    If it’s muddy, I’m going to give an advantage to Sage and Zach. If it’s dry, I think Jim has it, even with his recent JFK run. David Laney and Alex Nichols might be dark horses for the podium. And, I’d put money on Paddy being in the top 10.

    I’d be interested to see a Colorado v. California v. all other states breakdown of the results.

  11. Andy Jones-Wilkins

    Will absolute respect to the entire field and the understanding that “anything can happen” at this point Jim is in a class all his own. I’m guessing he’ll win by 10 mins.

  12. eric

    jim walmsley charges out, dominates for a period and fades from cumulative fatigue (dude has accomplished a LOT recently, and no matter how strong or fit you are, you have to pay the piper).

    hayden hawks lands on the podium to the surprise of some, but not all.

    sage has a great race and comes in 2nd.

    zach miller gives a great, honest and down to earth interview.

  13. denuch

    Amazing preview Meghan! This is gonna be sweet! Picks with some bias.
    1. Jim
    2. Hayden
    3. Zach
    4. Jorge
    5. Sage
    6. Paddy
    7. Laney
    8 Nichols
    9. Stern
    10. Senseman

  14. Will G.

    One addition for ‘more fast dudes to watch’ is Vizcaino’s ITR team mate Erik (Airik) Sorenson, it’s his first 50M, but he’s ready, top-15 imo.

    1. Ben

      Ha. Love it Will. We both saw Erik at Cardiac #3 at Mt Tam and he looked a little dazed. Granted, that was probably because of that tree ;)
      He looked the part but is he mentally ready (as he stated himself)?
      I hope this fires you up Erik!

      1. Airik Sorenson

        Am I ready for a 50M Ben? No, I’ve never done one. I am intimidated but also super excited to be around such a scene. Every race I learn a bit more and gain more confidence. This shit is too fun!

  15. Fernando B

    Wow! What a field! Its so unpredictlable, anything can happen depending on the
    weather. Most of the Americans listed on here can without a doubt win outright. I can see Miller and Ealmsley taking it out aggresive from the start, the real question will be….who can hang on the longest? What about the intermational stud Miguel Heras? No one has mentioned him. When hes on, hes on, muddy or not. If Jim wins this race, it should be an easy unanimous decision who the ultrarunner of the year will be. No wonder this race is dubbed as the most competitive 50 miler out there! Good luck to everyone!

    San Antonio, TX

  16. Jason


    That’s my prediction. Jim’s JFK performance was unbelievable but I’m not sure if he’ll recover fully. Like he said himself TNF is just a cherry on top if he gets it.
    I still think he’s gonna go hard from the gun with Zach, and probably break down around mile 35-40 from the JFK fatigue.

    I don’t think Sage will be able to kick with Miller and Walmsely but he will come back into the field for 2nd when Jim slows down.
    Hayden will probably follow Sage’s strategy and cut into a close 3rd with Jim by passing him in the final 10 miles.

    Hard to say with Laney though, he has had a killer past 2 years internationally. Same with Alex Nichols with his awesome 1st place at RRR this year. Both of them are gonna be wild cards.

    There are too many solid runners coming into this, It’s definitely going to be a good race this year.

  17. Patrick T.

    I think the most interesting story of this race (or 2nd, I suppose, after just the sheer depth of talent) is Walmsley, Freriks, Reed running a race together. All three of these guys are buddies in Flagstaff and are all ridiculously fast. While unlikely, I think that a possible Flagstaff podium sweep is not out of the question. With NAU as your new NCAA champs – well, I don’t think the dominating northern Arizona talent pool of 2016 is showing any signs of drying up.

    My favorites for surprise top-10 are Moises, Coree, and Noah.

    Great preview! Thanks as always!

  18. François

    Watch out for Benoit Cori. Two times Templiers champ and ahead of Sage, Zach, Alex and Miguel… just to name a few ! Quite fresh, didn’t race a lot this year.

  19. Ben

    It would be fun to start a prediction contest and score it XC style like WS for this race, no?
    My buddies and I are doing this again for this race so I’m not going to show my cards just yet. However, I will say that it’s the end of the year and a number of these guys are over raced or over trained and hanging on by a thread. Its gonna be a shootout for the podium for sure.

  20. Luke

    There’s just no top 5 listing that doesn’t look foolish because guys left off it have no business being left off anything.

    I’m going to say Jim finally fades and finishes off the podium. Wouldn’t be surprised if he wins by double digits either. And even if he dnfs halfway, there’s no other credible vote for uroy. Come on guys.

    1. Ben

      I love a good sports debate as much as anybody but there should be zero debate that he is already UROY regardless of what happens at TNF. I realize the voting can favor strong hundo performances but I don’t think there is anyone this year who has put together a strong 100 plus enough other races to leapfrog Jim in the voting. Browning and Sharman had great years but it wasn’t enough I think. Same with Schlarb and Miller.

      1. speedgoat Karl

        I’m voting for Jim too! but what if he comes in say 650, around 20th because he is a little tired but decides to just run it and finish. This would mean he came in 20th twice at highly competetive fields, WS counts for 20th, even though we all know he had that one smoked.

        It is true, there really is noone close to Jim’s ability this year….noone even close, and I am rooting for him all the way, but results are what they are, and FKT’s don’t count. His only “competitive win was Sonoma and his Bandera time was sick. Other races were all small, but with stout times. He’s got my vote for UROY, but he doesn’t want to DNF….Just sayin’ Get it Jim! Put Hoka on top once again

        1. SageCanaday

          I’d say Jim’s time at JFK was a lot more of a crazy performance than Bandera. Keep in mind he took down 100km World Champ and American Record holder and 2:14 marathoner Max King’s CR there by 12+min (more impressive of a CR than even say Lake Sonoma, where he ran 9-min faster than Varner and set a 40+min PB for the course…which was also totally insane) because we are talking about a low 5hr, 50-miler compared to a low 6-hr race – and minutes are worth a lot more in the lower time ranges! Plus he was just coming off the Grand Canyon..

          Bandera was obvioulsy very very good, but keep in mind he beat Chris Denucci by only 14-min there (he sat and kicked) and he ran on a dry year (not like the mud we ran in back in ’13 when you and i raced it!). Still a big CR/FKT year that I don’t think anyone can ever come close to matching (and a year that, IMO, nobody has ever had).

          WS was probably his most ridiculous performance though. I threw everything plus the kitchen sink into those climbs in the canyons (even split 6:00 miles with a pack on in the heat..which totally killed me later) and he opened up time on me and Laney et. al. like we were amateur joggers. Just the fact that he got to the river, 35-min faster than anyone in the history of the Western States (cool weather days included) speaks volumes of how fast he was running there. I simply had no business even running 10-min under CR pace and I paid the price dearly for it.

          It’ll be interesting to see how Zach responds…I’ve raced Zach 4 times over the years and he always has the same strategy: Time-trial. That’s how most of these races are run nowadays…not much strategy per se ( although you can say that is his optimal strategy though), and for sure no chit-chat in the opening miles!

          1. Ben

            It will be interesting to see how you respond Sage! ;)
            My guess, you will be hoping to pick up the pieces if Jim and Zach blow each other (and maybe 1-2 others) up!

          2. WeiDe

            I think with the right strategy you combine knowledge and speed, which is better than relying solely on speed and time trialing 50 miles. Goog luck this week-end, and please have someone film too :-) looking forward to the show afterwards on youtube

  21. speedgoat Karl

    As much as we’d all like to see Jim run, he likely has some redemption on his mind at Western. He still has to race into Western, and although we all know he’s highly qualified to do so…..he’s still gotta do it.

    1. Nelson

      Still your pick for UROY?

      Let’s say Laney wins TNF. That and his strong UTMB would be enough to award him UROY over Walmsley? Or if he didn’t win but got on the podium this weekend?

      I’m trying to understand how you guys value the different races and performances over there (I’m from Spain). If, as you said, FKTs don’t count, has Jim done enough this season to be the almost unanimous choice for UROY? UTMB is arguably the most competitive hundred in the world, with the deepest field. What Tollefson and Laney did there this year hasn’t been valued enough by the community, IMO. Both performances were spectacular.

      Is there maybe a bias towards American races? Or maybe just more information and awareness as opposed to international ones?

      1. Ben

        There’s no doubt UTMB is the most competitive 100 miler in the world. Similarly, I would argue Zegama is the most competitive marathon on trails and the IAU world champs the most competitive 50 (ish) mile race on trails. So if you look at those races and say what have Americans done there this year combined with what else have they done? The only names that pop out are Tollefson, Laney, and Miller. And none of these guys won any of those races.

        Now compare the rest of their resume for the year to what Jim did (just to name the ‘bigger’ races Jim raced):

        Bandera 100k: Win and CR
        Sonoma: Win and CR (really amazing CR)
        Western: Crushed all course splits to the river and beyond. Yes, he ‘only’ finished 20th but the voters will remember how well he did for 93 miles and this will likely influence their voting.
        JFK Win and CR (really amazing CR)

        He also won the other 5-6 races he did setting CRs in all but one I believe.

        I just don’t see how you can argue against him.

        Perhaps said differently I think a win at TNF = a win at Sonoma. So let’s say Laney wins TNF. So now it’s 1:1 with Jim. Do you value 4th place in a very competitive race more than two wins in bigger US races with CRs (plus all the other wins and CRs)? I don’t see how you can this year. If Laney had won or placed second perhaps at UTMB and goes on to win TNF it would be a different discussion I feel.

        1. Nelson

          Some very good points. The only one I’d argue would be re:Western. It’s like saying Miller led most of UTMB. He still finished 6th, and Walmsley still finished 20th, impressive as both were. The race distance is what it is, and you need to perform all the way.

          Just to be clear, I think Jim will be a very deserving UROY. A strong performance at TNF, not necessarily a win, would have sealed it for me. With him not racing there, if Laney won he’d make a strong case too. With a strong performance at a very competitive hundred miler, something Walmsley doesn’t have this season (the way I see it as explained above), and a win at an extremely competitive 50, he’d need to be considered seriously.

          Anyway, just my take on things. Walmsley has been undeniably the most impressive American runner of the season. Too bad what happened at Western States, and too bad he’s not racing this weekend. The race will still be thrilling to follow, but it would have been great to measure him against Zach and Sage at this distance. We’ll have to keep waiting.

          1. Ben

            What I think will be very interesting is how to rank Browning versus Laney this year if Laney wins or places second on Saturday. I think the voters love 100 mile performances and Browning’s year was pretty special. Ian Sharman may have something to say about it too.

          2. Guy Cheney

            “It’s like saying Miller led most of UTMB.”

            Normally, I would agree with that assessment (an implosion is an implosion), but Jim’s showing at Western States was not your typical “went out too fast and couldn’t hang.” He ran for 90+ miles at a speed beyond which anyone had seen before on that course. But even discounting that incomplete performance (an incomplete performance that was perhaps the most talked about performance of 2016), there’s all the other stuff he did this season that is just “Killanesque” in the sense that Jim’s a notch or two above the rest of the best right now.

            That being said, if Laney wins TNF, things will be interesting (because they really aren’t interesting now: Jim is the 2016 UROY). However, even a TNF win would only yield second place in the voting for Laney.

            I do wish Jim had sat out JFK and raced TNF….

            1. Meghan Hicks

              For precision’s sake, Jim Walmsley ran an incredible pace for 78 miles at Western this year. His pace slowed quite significantly from mile 78 through when he went off course, wherein he gave back roughly half of his time up on the course record–a few of those minutes can be attributed to his long swim in the river, of course. If he had continued to give up time at that rate, it would have been very close for him arriving to Placer High under record time still. To be 100% objective, 78 miles is a long freaking way to run as well as he did, but so is the final 22 miles of a 100 miler.

            2. SageCanaday

              I’ve raced Jim head to head 3 times..and I’ve raced Killian about half a dozen times.

              I’d actually say what Jim did at Western this year (and most of this season with Lake Sonoma CR and JFK50 CR and R2R2R FKT) was even more than “Killanesque.”

              I mean, when Killian ran WS100 and won, he would’ve been, what, like over 40-minutes behind Jim at the river…maybe 1 hour?. Not even close. What split did Killian hit at the river at WS?

              When I’ve raced Killian on techy downhill mountain ultras (think the Rut or Transvulcania or some other “SkyRace”) he opens up maybe 10-15min on me tops and wins by that fairly “huge” margin. Part of that is because I’m pretty bad at techy downhills..but of course he is like a mountain goat!

              But racing Jim hard at WS for the first 100km to Foresthill when we were both still running well or so (on smooth, runnable downhills) he put like 18-20min on me…when I was 10-min under CR pace at WS on a hot day (suicide pace for me). We worked those canyons really hard…it totally crushed me. It wasn’t even close. I don’t think Killian could do that.

            3. Ben Nephew

              Sage, Kilian couldn’t or wouldn’t do that, or some sort of combination of the two? Meghan’s clarification is interesting, and something that does not seem to be considered when Jim’s run is discussed. Kilian is known for being a smart racer, and comparing splits in the middle of race is akin to giving him credit for taking a half hour off the CR, which was not going to happen even if he had stayed on course. It is also interesting to note the trajectory of careers of those that Kilian raced at WS, and even top runners since then.

  22. Dusty GH

    I am actually glad that Jim Walmsley is not running. The guy is amazing, and in the years coming he could change the look and feel of sport in the US for good. BUT, he raced and FKT’d a lot this year, and I would HATE to see him get burned out, hurt, or fatigued in a way that he cannot recover. I hope he gets into WS100 in 2017 and has a couple other amazing races to garnish it.

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