2018 IAU 100k World Championships Women’s Preview

An in-depth preview of the women’s race at the 2018 IAU 100k World Championships.

By on September 3, 2018 | Comments

IAU logoThe 2018 IAU 100k World Championships take place this weekend in northern Croatia, in the village of Sveti Martin na Muri.

The 100-kilometer course begins with one 2.5km out-and-back, and then launches into 13 repetitions of a 7.5km out-and-back route to compose those 100kms. The course has some hills, is entirely asphalt pavement, and travels in and out of the small tourist and agricultural village of Sveti Martin and through both a forested area as well as open farmlands. Each out-and-back has one 180-degree turn and something like ten 90-degree turns. September climate in northern Croatia sees average highs around 22 degrees Celsius/70 Fahrenheit, and lows around 10C/50F. Humidity ranges in the moderate to very high, depending on local weather systems.

Squirrel's Nut Butter - logoThe International Association of Ultrarunners has converted their 100k World Championships to an every-two-years event, so the most recent edition was held in November of 2016 in Los Alcazares, Spain. The championships have both individual and team races. The top-three finishers’ combined time scores the team race. In this preview, we’ll break down the competition by what looks like the deepest teams and their star power first, and, then, the fastest individuals who aren’t part of complete teams or teams that don’t appear to be in potential team-medaling territory.

In the individual women’s race, we see strength in both returning runners from the previous several IAU 100k World Championships (100km WCs), top performers at previous IAU 50km World Championships (50km WCs), as well as some ‘up-and-comers’ who have less international road-ultrarunning experience but loads of leg speed. The top returning runner is from the ‘home team,’ Nikolina Šustić of Croatia, who took second in 2016. Also returning, though, is Sweden’s Kasja Berg, who was second in 2015 and who holds the fastest 100km PR in the field. The women’s team race looks like it could go in a number of directions, though Team Japan, the 2016 gold-medal team, returns two of its three scoring members from that team. And Team Croatia, who took silver in 2016, returns all three scoring members. In total, 115 women from 32 countries have qualified to compete in and are on the entrants list of this year’s 100km WCs.

Yes, we’re covering the 2018 IAU 100km World Championships live! They start on Saturday, September 8 at 7 a.m. CEST, which corresponds to Friday, September 7 at 11 p.m. MDT in the United States.

Thanks to Squirrel’s Nut Butter for jumping in at the last minute to sponsor our coverage of the IAU 100k World Championships!

Check out our men’s preview for more on the race and follow our live race-day coverage.

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Team Japan

Team Japan is the reigning team 100k world champion, having filled spots five through eight in the 2016 individual race. Three of those four runners return, and Team Japan has four total members this year. Consistency and experience seem to be good descriptors for these women.

Mai Fujisawa, who took eighth at the 2016 100km WCs, is the most experienced of the four women, and I believe she now has the fastest 100km PR among the team. That mark is 7:37 that she set in winning the 2018 Lake Saroma 100km. She has competed for Team Japan in at least eight 100km WCs and three 50km WCs.

Mikiko Ota finished fifth at the 2016 100km WCs with a 7:47. She was 13th at the 2015 edition. She ran 7:44 at the 2018 Lake Saroma 100km.

Aiko Kanematsu finished 6th at the 2016 100km WCs, just three seconds behind teammate Ota. She ran a 7:49 at the 2018 Lake Saroma 100km.

Yuko Kusunose is the fourth member of Team Japan, and she took fifth in 7:55 at the 2018 Lake Saroma 100km. Interestingly, she’s been on the road-ultra scene for at least a half decade, and she’s bettered her road 100km times from the high nine hours to getting under eight hours for the first time at Lake Saroma this past June.

Team Croatia

The ‘home team,’ second in 2016, has great potential! They return all three members of that silver-medal team.

Team Croatia is led by Nikolina Šustić (pre-race interview) who took second at the 2016 100km WCs with a 7:36 finish, a PR for her at the time. It looks like she’s bettered it by a couple minutes, to 7:34, in the intervening time. She may have also set 50km and marathon PRs since the last 100km WCs, running 3:31 and 2:42, respectively.

Veronika Jurišić has competed for Croatia in at least three 100km WCs. In 2016 she was ninth in 7:51, in 2015 she was 11th in 7:44, and in 2014 she was seventh in 7:51. That 7:44 from 2015 appears to be her 100km PR. She’s a pro at international competitions, though, also competing in a number of IAU 24-Hour World Championships, where she hasn’t run as well as she has for 100km.

Marija Vrajic - 2015 IAU 100k World Championships

Marija Vrajić

Marija Vrajić has the fastest 100km PR on Team Croatia, the 7:27 she ran to take third at the 2015 100km WCs. For 50km, it looks like her fastest has been 3:28 which she ran in taking second at the 2015 50km WCs a couple months later. Her running in the intervening years since has not been nearly as fast.

  • Antonija Orlić — 3rd scoring member of Team Croatia at the 2016 100km WCs with a 24th place in 8:20
  • Paula Vrdoljak — 5th 2017 Spartathlon
  • Adrijana Šimić

Team USA

Team USA was the third-place team at the 2016 100km WCs, but they’ve turned over every team member but one, the indefatigable Meghan Laws.

2016 Western States 100 - Meghan Arbogast

Meghan Laws

Meghan Laws (formerly Arbogast) has competed for Team USA at the 100km WCs at least eight previous times. I believe she might have set her 100km PR at the 2012 edition with a 7:41, which got her fourth place. Most recently at the 2016 100km WCs, she was 13th with a 7:58.

Devon Yanko (pre-race interview) probably has the most international running experience among Team USA. Prior to 2009, Yanko represented the U.S. in at least three 100km WCs, but I believe it’s been a long break until now for her to return to them. It looks like her 100km PR is 7:46 from back in 2011, and her unofficial 50km PR is 3:24, the latter of which she ran on her way to taking third at the 2012 Two Oceans Marathon. Yanko is a three-time top-10 Comrades Marathon finisher, including seventh this year.

Emily Torrence’s (previously Harrison) 50km PR is an absolutely blazing 3:15 which she achieved in winning the 2014 Caumsett 50km. I believe Torrence and one other runner in the field, Great Britain’s Susan Harrison, share 3:15 as the field’s fastest 50km PRs. Also in 2014, she won the 50km WCs with a 3:32. Torrence is a two-time JFK 50 Mile winner including in 2017 with a 6:27 finish.

Remember when Caroline Boller ran 5:48 for 50 miles on trail at the 2016 Brazos Bend 50 Mile?! She ran 3:22 for her 50km PR at the 2016 Caumsett 50km. That same year she represented the U.S. at the IAU 50km WCs and took 16th in 3:52. She won the 2017 Mad City 100km in 7:51.

We’re not sure how she was missed in the initial writing of this article, but Gina Slaby is also on the US team. She’s got an amazingly diverse set of experience… but we’re not sure if she’s ever raced a road 100k. She’s run strong this season taking third at the Chuckanut 50k, fourth at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and third at the Leadville 100 Mile just a few weeks ago. Internationally, Gina took fourth at last year’s IAU 24-Hour World Championships in covering 248.3km/154+ miles in that span. [Added 9/5]

  • Liza Howard — Multi-time Leadville Trail 100 Mile champion; ran 15:07 for 100 miles at the 2014 Umstead 100 Mile; 1st 2018 Mad City 100km with an 8:07
  • Katalin Nagy — Team USA’s alternate [9/5 Update: Katalin is the alternate, but she’s not traveling to Croatia.]

Team Sweden

Sweden brings just three women, meaning that all three have to have ‘on’ days in order for the team to score well. But if there are any women with the chance of doing that, it’s these three.

Kajsa Berg - 2015 IAU 100k World Championships

Kajsa Berg

Kajsa Berg comes into this race with, I believe, the fastest 100km PR in the field, a blazing 7:20 which she set on her way to taking second at the 2015 100km WCs. Berg has been running road ultras at a high level for a good six-plus years. As early as 2012 she was running 7:35 for 100kms. It appears her 50km PR could be 3:21 from 2015. In 2016, she took third at the Comrades Marathon. Berg doesn’t seem to have anything in the way of international race results since 2016, though, so can anyone let us know how she’s doing?

It looks like Sophia Sundberg has four Comrades Marathon finishes, 2018 her fastest in sixth place. Her 100km PR might be 7:50 from 2017. She was 17th at the 2016 100k WCs, where she ran 8:10.

Frida Södermark has competed for Team Sweden in the last three 100km WCs. In 2016, she took 10th place and ran 7:51, perhaps her 100km PR. She was 12th at the 2015 edition. Södermark has three Comrades Marathon finishes, her top being eighth place in 2014.

Team South Africa

In large part, these women have great road ultrarunning experience, but almost exclusively in their home countries. How will they perform internationally?

Salome Cooper has been in the top 20 of the Comrades Marathon for the last eight years; this year she took 11th. For the last two years, she’s finished 12th at the Two Oceans Marathon. Perhaps her fastest 50km is a 3:32 from earlier this year? She is the one member of Team South Africa for whom I could find an international result; at the 2011 100km WCs, she finished in 28th place in 8:51.

Fikile Mbuthuma looks to have 11 Comrades Marathon finishes, including 12th this year, 13th in 2017, and eighth in 2016.

  • Lisa Collett — 14th at both the 2018 and 2017 Comrades Marathon
  • Deanne Horne — 15th 2018 Comrades Marathon; 17th 2018 Two Oceans Marathon

Team Great Britain

We’re heavy on the three-women-only teams right now. Team Great Britain has just three women, but they are fast enough to do some damage as individuals and as a team.

Susan Harrison has a shiny 100km PR of 7:39 which she set in taking 10th at the 2015 100km WCs. If you take it back to 2010, you’ll find her 50km PR of 3:15, which I believe is also a British national record. Also, I believe 3:15 is the fastest 50km PR in the field, and Harrison shares this PR with USA’s Emily Torrence.

Samantha Amend has run at least 3:30 for 50km and 7:53 for 100km, both in 2018. She took seventh at the 2016 50km WCs in 3:35. She’s also run 16 hours for 100 miles at the 2016 Thames Path 100 Mile, which is the course record there.

  • Carla Molinaro — 9th 2018 Comrades Marathon

Individual Podium Potential

These are the fastest women who aren’t part of complete teams or teams that don’t appear to be in potential team-medaling territory, but who have the potential to podium in the individual race.

I love sports. There is nothing like pulling up the name of a runner you haven’t heard of and seeing that she ran 3:32 for 50km and 7:22 for 100km within the span of a month earlier this year. That’s what we have in the Czech Republic’s Radka Churáňová. That 7:22 means she has the second-fastest 100km PR in the field, behind Sweden’s Kasja Berg. That’s all I can find for road-ultra results for Churáňová, but it looks like she has a long history with shorter-distance road running, including a 2:45 marathon PR from back in 2004.

Again, I just love sports. Germany’s Nele Alder-Baerens (pre-race interview) is such a fast runner whose name I’ve only heard a couple times, yet somehow we are part of the same sport? She’s been running fast road ultras since 2014, competing twice in the 50km WCs, finishing second in 2016 (3:25) and eighth in 2015 (3:38). She’s turned in two zippy 50km times in 2018, a 3:32 in March and a 3:25 in April. It looks like her 50km PR is 3:20, set in 2016. As for her 100km running, it appears her PR is 7:29, also set in 2016. She ran 7:33 earlier this year for 100km.

While it looks like Spain’s Alicia Pérez does not yet have longer road-ultra running experience, she ran 3:20 for 50km earlier this year to set a new Spanish national record. It looks like her marathon PR could be 2:41?

Still More Women to Watch

Here are still more women to keep your eyes on for potential top-20 performances.

  • Natasha ‘Tash’ Fraser (Australia) — 13th and 15th respectively at the 2016 and 2015 50km WCs
  • Catrin Jones (Canada) — 3rd at both the 2015 and 2014 50km WCs in 3:28 and 3:37 respectively
  • Laurence Klein (France) — French 100km national record holder in 7:26, which she ran to take 2nd at the 2007 100km WCs; 30th and 14th respectively at the 2016 and 2015 100km WCs
  • Antje Krause (Germany) — 7th 2017 IAU 24-Hour WCs with 237km/147 miles
  • Neza Mravlje (Slovenia) — Fastest 50km and 100km finishes appear to be from 2014 where she ran 3:30 and 8:11 respectively, the latter of the two leading her to 16th place at the 2014 100km WCs
  • Riita Paasio (Finland) — 11th 2016 100km WCs in 7:53
  • Malgorzata Pazda-Pozorska (Poland) — Ran 240km/149 miles in 24 hours in 2018
  • Natasa Robnik (Slovenia) — 4th 2015 Spartathlon
  • Larissa Tichon (Australia) — 21st 2018 Comrades Marathon
  • Leonie Ton (Netherlands) — 19th 2016 100km WCs
  • Luiza Tobar de Franco (Brazil) — 12th 2017 Comrades Marathon
  • Teresa Zuzánková (Czech Republic) – Ran 3:31 for 50km in 2015 and 8:03 for 100km earlier this year

Call for Comments

  • Who do you see going top five individually in the women’s race?
  • And how do you think the women’s team dynamic will play out? Which team will take gold?
  • We don’t see these women race very often, and don’t have sure access to all their race results. Let us know if we haven’t mentioned someone you think has potential for a top-20 finish and why. Also, let us know if we’ve erred with these runners’ distance PRs.
  • What about women we’ve listed who aren’t racing after all? If you have any updates, leave a comment. We’ll keep updating this preview through race day. Thanks!
Meghan Hicks

Meghan Hicks is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. She’s been running since she was 13 years old, and writing and editing about the sport for around 15 years. She served as iRunFar’s Managing Editor from 2013 through mid-2023, when she stepped into the role of Editor-in-Chief. Aside from iRunFar, Meghan has worked in communications and education in several of America’s national parks, was a contributing editor for Trail Runner magazine, and served as a columnist at Marathon & Beyond. She’s the co-author of Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running with Bryon Powell. She won the 2013 Marathon des Sables, finished on the podium of the Hardrock 100 Mile in 2021, and has previously set fastest known times on the Nolan’s 14 mountain running route in 2016 and 2020. Based part-time in Moab, Utah and Silverton, Colorado, Meghan also enjoys reading, biking, backpacking, and watching sunsets.