2016 Ultrarunner Of The Year Balloting: Men’s Edition

AJW writes about his classification process for the men’s UltraRunning magazine 2016 Ultrarunner of the Year vote.

By on December 16, 2016 | Comments

AJW's TaproomLast Friday, I devoted this column to an analysis of the female UltraRunning magazine Ultrarunner of the Year candidates, an award for runners residing in North America, and attempted to establish some objective criteria to assist in my decision making. This week, I am going to delve into the male side of the ballot.

As a reminder, here are the criteria I have established:

To meet the standard…

  1. A runner must have completed at least four ultras in 2016 of at least two different distances.
  2. A runner must have finished first place (in their gender) in at least two races in 2016.
  3. A runner must have had at least one top finish* in a ‘major’** ultra in 2016.

*A top finish is defined as a finish in the top 20% of the overall field.

**For the purpose of this exercise here are seven ‘majors:’

  1. The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships
  2. Lake Sonoma 50 Mile
  3. UTMB
  4. Western States
  5. Comrades Marathon
  6. IAU 100k World Championships
  7. IAU 50k World Championships

Here is an alphabetical listing of the 12 North American men who meet the criteria and the events in which they competed:

Zach Bitter
Wins: Desert Solstice 100 Mile, Mendocino Coast 50k, Javelina Jundred
Majors: Comrades Marathon (32nd), Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (10th), IAU 100k (20th)
Other Races: Overlook 50k (2nd)

Jeff Browning
Wins: HURT 100 Mile, Free State 100k, Frozen Trail Runfest 50k
Majors: Western States (3rd)
Other Races: Hardrock (4th), Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile (4th)

Chris DeNucci
Wins: American River 50 Mile, Quicksilver 50k
Majors: Western States (9th)
Other Races: Bandera 100k (2nd), Way Too Cool 50k (9th), Squamish 50 Mile (2nd)

Jesse Haynes
Wins: Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile, Leona Divide 50 Mile, Valencia 50k
Majors: Western States (10th), Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (19th)
Other Races: Sean O’Brien 100k (2nd)

Pete Kostelnick
Wins: Desert Solstice 24 Hour, Badwater 135
Majors: Western States (29th)
Other Races: Desert Solstice 100 Mile (2nd)

Paddy O’Leary
Wins: The Canyons 100k, Mt. Tam Trail Run 50k
Majors: TNF 50 (9th)
Other Races: Way Too Cool 50k (4th)

Chikara Omine
Wins: Jed Smith 50k, Ruth Anderson 50 Mile, Headlands 100 Mile
Majors: IAU 100k (18th)
Other Races: Miwok 100k (2nd)

Cody Reed
Wins: Miwok 100k, Tamalpa Headlands 50k, UROC 100k
Majors: TNF 50 (16th)

David Riddle
Wins: Georgia Jewel 50 Mile, Stone Steps 50k, Pinhoti 100 Mile, Thunderbunny 50k
Majors: TNF 50 (24th)
Other Races: Mohican 50 Mile

Ian Sharman
Wins: Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile, Gorge Waterfalls 50k, Leadville 100 Mile
Majors: Western States (6th), Comrades Marathon (68th)
Other Races: American River 50 Mile (3rd)

Tim Tollefson
Wins: The Canyons 50k, Silver State 50k
Majors: UTMB (3rd)
Other Races: Broken Arrow 50k (2nd), Transgrancanaria (92nd)

Jim Walmsley
Wins: Bandera 100k, Moab Red Hot 55k, Mesquite Canyon 50k, Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, Franklin Mountains 50k, Flagstaff to Grand Canyon 55k, JFK 50 Mile
Majors: Western States (20th), Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (1st)

Now, after reviewing this list and also comparing it to other runners who did not meet my criteria, I decided to add several others to my pool of candidates as it appeared to me that the four-race/two-win minimum as well as the ‘majors’ qualification was disqualifying several deserving athletes. As it turned out, even my attempt at some kind of objective assessment proved too limiting! I guess rules really are meant to be broken. So, in addition to the 12 men listed above, the following 10 runners were added to my pool:

Dylan Bowman (one win)
Win: Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji (shortened edition)
Majors: Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (4th)
Other Races: Way Too Cool 50k (3rd), Cayuga 50 Mile (4th), Tamalpa Headlands 50k (3rd), Les Templiers (9th)

Sage Canaday (one win)
Win: Black Canyon 100k
Majors: Western States (11th), TNF 50 (6th)
Other Races: Transvulcania (3rd), Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile (DNF)

Hayden Hawks (three races)
Wins: Speedgoat 50k, Capstone 50k
Majors: TNF 50 (2nd)

David Laney (three races/no wins)
Majors: Western States (33rd), UTMB (4th), TNF 50 (3rd)

Andrew Miller (two races)
Wins: Georgia Death Race, Western States
Majors: Western States

Zach Miller (three races)
Wins: Madera Island Ultra Trail, TNF 50
Majors: UTMB (6th)

Chris Mocko (no wins)
Majors: Western States (7th)
Other Races: Gorge Waterfalls 100k (2nd), Way Too Cool 50k (8th), Run the Rut 50k (19th), Black Canyon 100k (3rd)

Alex Nichols (one win)
Wins: Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile
Majors: TNF 50 (5th)
Other Races: Speedgoat 50k (2nd), Broken Arrow 50k (4th)

Patrick Reagan (three races/no wins)
Majors:  IAU 100k (3rd)
Other Races: Ultravasan (3rd), Mad City 100k (2nd)

Brian Rusiecki
Wins: Bull Run 50 Mile, Massanutten 100 Mile, Vermont 100 Mile, Vermont 50 Mile, Hellgate 100k
Majors: UTMB (235th)
Other Races:  Georgia Death Race (11th), TNF 50 – New York (2nd), Mountain Masochist 50 Mile (2nd), Pisgah 50k (2nd), Manitou Ridge 54 Mile (2nd)
[Added 12/16, 8 a.m. Mountain Time]

Jason Schlarb (one win/no major)
Wins: Hardrock
Other Races: Tarawera 100k (6th), Marathon de Sables (11th), Dirty Thirty 50k (3rd), UTMB (DNF), The Bear 100 Mile (DNF)

So, with that, I have 22 runners to choose from and there is only space on the ballot for 10. Additionally, as we saw in my women’s analysis, it is likely that I missed at least one or two other deserving runners if not more. Please feel free to drop a comment into the comment section with your feedback.

And, until next week’s Taproom Annual Awards…

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Goose Island Beer Company Bourbon County Brand Coffee StoutThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Goose Island Beer Company in Chicago, Illinois. Their annual release of the Bourbon County Brand Imperial Stout is always well received and this year’s Coffee Stout is particularly good, although not for the faint of heart. Weighing in at a robust 13.4% ABV, this is truly a sipper’s beer. But, an extraordinarily balanced and flavorful one!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • How would you rank the men AJW has listed?
  • How would you tweak AJW’s selection criteria to better select for UROY?
  • If you were to create your own UROY selection criteria, what would they be?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.