2016 Ultrarunner Of The Year Balloting: Women’s Edition

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

By on December 9, 2016 | Comments

AJW's TaproomFor the past eight years I have been honored and privileged to be part of the panel of individuals who vote on UltraRunning magazine’s annual Ultrarunner of the Year awards, an award for runners residing in North America. Each year around this time the 30 or so members of the panel receive a lengthy email from John Medinger, the coordinator of the annual vote, with some instructions on the balloting process and an incredibly detailed spreadsheet summarizing the year’s results. This spreadsheet includes data on over 60 North American ultrarunners as well as a couple dozen age-group runners.

Along with John’s annual letter, each year John also reminds us that the selection process is by no means an exact science and that part of the reason for such a large panel is that the diversity of opinion in the sport is often disparate and occasionally controversial. As such, John reminds us to vote on the criteria we believe to be most important and to also consider such things as head-to-head competition, field strength of certain ultras, and the runner’s full “body of work.”

[Author’s Note: At the time of this writing there are two additional events taking place this weekend which could impact the voting, Hellgate 100k in Virginia and Desert Solstice in Arizona. With ballots being due on December 12th, there will be time for voters to include results from these events in their ballots should that be necessary.]

This year, in compiling my ballot, I have decided to establish some criteria of my own to inform my rankings in an attempt to inject some objectivity into my own personal process. In this column I am going to share that criteria and then provide an alphabetical listing of the female runners meeting that criteria for 2016. I am welcoming reader comments in the comment section with suggestions on how to rank the runners in each group. Then, next Friday, I’ll compile and publish a similar list on the men’s side here in the Taproom.

So, here you go, AJW’s Ultrarunner of the Year Criteria:

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 North American women who meet the criteria and the events in which they competed for 2016:

Caroline Boller
Wins: Mokelumne River 50k, Caumsett 50k
Majors: Western States (12th), IAU 50k (16th)
Other Races: JFK 50 Mile (2nd)

Magdalena Boulet
Wins: Canyons 100k, Overlook 50k
Majors: UTMB (5th), TNF 50 Mile (2nd)
Other Races: Speedgoat 50k (3rd), Western States (DNF)

Traci Falbo
Wins: Mad City 100k, Burning River 100 Mile
Majors: Comrades (18th), IAU 100k (16th)

Kaci Lickeig
Wins: Silver State 50 Mile, The Bear 100 Mile, Western States, GOATz 50k, Bohemian Alps 50k, Psycho Psummer 50k
Majors: Western States 100 (1st), Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (2nd)

Bethany Patterson
Wins: Georgia Death Race 68 Mile, Promise Land 50k
Majors: Western States (7th)
Other Races: Holiday Lake 50k (2nd)

Pam Smith
Wins: Dawn to Dusk 24 Hour/100 Mile, Hagg Mud 50k
Majors: IAU 100k (12th)
Other Races: Spartathlon (2nd)
[Added 12/9, 8 a.m. Mountain Time]

Amy Sproston
Wins: Tillamook Burn 50 Mile, Black Canyon 100k
Majors: Western States (2nd)
Other Races: Zane Grey 50 Mile (4th), UTMB (DNF)

Alissa St Laurent
Wins: Mt Si 50 Mile, Capitol Peak 50 Mile, Bridle Trails 50k
Majors: Western States (5th)
Other Races: Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile (2nd)

YiOu Yang
Wins: Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, Quicksilver 50k
Majors: Western States (13th), Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (1st)
Other Races: Way Too Cool 50k (2nd), IAU Trail World Championships (DNF)

Devon Yanko
Wins: Sean O’Brien 100k, American River 50 Mile, Berkeley Trail Adventure 50k
Majors: Western States (3rd)

Now, it is entirely possible that I missed someone who may meet the criteria and if so please leave a comment and I’ll add them to the list. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from the loyal AJW’s Taproom readers on how you think I should rank the nine speedy women listed above.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Orpheus Brewing Life.Death.Life.TruthThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Orpheus Brewing in Atlanta, Georgia. These guys make a great, simple, single IPA called Life.Death.Life.Truth that I was able to try last month while on vacation in Georgia. It’s a wonderfully fruity IPA without any stickiness or overly hop-forward tones. I think it’s definitely worth a growler fill if you find yourself in Atlanta.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • You heard AJW’s question above, how would you rank the women listed who meet his criteria?
  • 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?
  • Can you think of a scenario or a runner whose annual body of work might be good enough for top-10 UROY but who wouldn’t qualify within AJW’s criteria?
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.