November means that the high-level racing is not quite done for the year and it’s time for the 2019 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in California! Let’s begin our look into this year’s race by recapping the last couple of years. In 2017, lots of changes were introduced to the TNF 50, with both an earlier race date and updated course. Last year, the race was canceled due to air-quality issues related to northern California’s extreme wildfire season. This year, all of those 2017 updates remain and we all cross our fingers and hope for a safe conclusion to the wildfires that are currently burning around the state.
The race course starts in the town of Sausalito before heading into the Marin Headlands and tying into many miles of the original race course. Then, the race ends with a fast, paved jaunt across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to the historic Crissy Field finish line in San Francisco proper. The course sports 50.7 miles with 10,600 feet of climbing, but much of the course is nontechnical and the miles fly by. In 2017, men’s and women’s winners Tim Freriks and Ida Nilsson established men’s and women’s records on the new course at 6:02:26 and 7:07:56, respectively. The $10,000 payout to the men’s and women’s winners remains the same as in years past, as does the rest of the prize purse.
The race takes place on Saturday, November 16 starting at 5:00 a.m. Pacific Time in the U.S. (That’s Saturday, November 16 at 2:00 p.m. CET in Europe.) Indeed, we’re covering the race live, so stay tuned!
Late additions and subtractions to the elite entrants list are common at this race and they could change how the men’s race plays out. We’ll update this preview if this happens. Check back.
Be sure to read our in-depth women’s TNF 50 preview.
A special thanks to The North Face for making our coverage of this race possible!
Thanks, too, to BUFF for supporting our coverage of the TNF 50.
Contenders for the Win
Jared Hazen is not racing this year’s TNF 50. [Updated November 15]
I wouldn’t blame Jared Hazen if he was simply resting on the laurels of his 2019 accomplishments. His top results this year have been a win of the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in April and a second at the Western States 100 in June, finishing the latter in a still-mind-boggling 14:26. Yeah, that’s enough! But Jared’s running the TNF 50, and I *think* this is his first time lining up at this event. Given his year so far, there’s no reason to think he can’t–and won’t–win this race.
In 2019, France’s Thibaut Garrivier (pre-race interview) has vaulted from being a strong trail ultrarunner with about six years of steadily ascending performances to being an internationally competitive one. His top finishes of the year so far have been winning the Transvulcania Ultramarathon and taking second at the CCC. It looks like this is Thibaut’s first time racing in the USA, a new challenge. Another challenge could be the TNF 50’s more runnable terrain than what’s found on most European trails. That said, he podiumed last year at the fast-moving SainteLyon 81k in France in 6.5 hours.
What a difference a year makes for Matt Daniels (pre-race interview) and his running. Last year, he was on the entrants list, but had only finished one prior ultramarathon, and that was a 50k. I think he’s now officially a trail ultrarunner–and a darn good one. His top races of 2019 have been a win at the Black Canyon 100k and fourth at his debut Western States. With the leg speed he brought with him into ultras plus a year’s worth of experience at this long stuff, I’m pretty sure he’s going to give this race course and everyone on it a run for their money.
Trail-ultrarunning fans might remember France’s Sébastien Spehler taking second at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile earlier this year, a super-strong U.S. debut for a Euro runner on California’s runnable terrain. In his interview with us after Sonoma, Seb said he enjoyed learning about the challenges of traveling so far to race as well as how Cali’s trails feel. I should think that a man with his talent and this earlier learning experience will turn up at the TNF 50 ready to race for the win. As a reminder, Jared Hazen beat Seb to the Sonoma finish line by a good seven minutes, though. Since April, Seb’s run several shorter trail races in France, either winning or taking second in all of them.
Well, well, well, what do we have here? Scotland’s Robbie Simpson (pre-race interview) is on the TNF 50 entrants list. Robbie had planned to race Les Templiers in France a few weeks ago, but it was canceled due to a big storm. It looks like Les Templiers’s loss is the TNF 50’s gain. Robbie is best known for his prowess in shorter-distance trail running and mountain running. As examples, he’s been third at the World Mountain Running Association World Championships, he’s twice finished second at Sierre-Zinal, and he’s a multi-time winner of the Jungfrau Marathon. The only potential hitch to Robbie’s giddy-up is that I don’t think he’s raced longer than a trail marathon/3.5 hours before. This is gonna’ be fun to watch.
Top-10 Men’s Potential
Let’s kick off this section with several men who are proven in their ability to finish in the TNF 50 top 10–more than once. Dylan Bowman (pre-race interview) has a long history with the TNF 50, but it’s been a while since he’s raced this event. He’s been second once, fifth twice, and seventh once, with that second place his most recent finish in 2015. He tried to return in 2018, but the race was canceled due to poor air quality, so he’s giving it another go. While 2018 was a great year for Dbo’s racing–it included winning both the Tarawera 100k and Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji and taking second at the TDS–2019 has been rough with illness and injury. He has managed a couple races this year, however, a fourth place in a shortened-by-weather Zugspitz Ultratrail and a win of the Elk-Kings 50k in his new home state of Oregon.
Illness has taken Jorge Maravilla out of this year’s TNF 50. [Updated November 11]
Jorge Maravilla is also racing the TNF 50 again. Like Dylan Bowman, he has a long history with this event where he’s racked up six finishes. Also like Dylan, it’s been a while, with his last finish a fourth place in 2016. He, too, was on the roster for last year before the event’s cancellation. While Jorge crosses back and forth between the roads and trails as well as sub-ultra distances and ultras with ease and regularity, we should mention he won the 2019 Castle Peak 100k on trails.
With his pedigree at trail ultras in the 50-mile to 100k range, Eric Senseman should finish in the top 10 at the TNF 50. Over recent years, he’s won the JFK 50 Mile (2017), finished fourth at Sonoma (2018), and taken third at the Black Canyon 100k (2019). While I believe this is his first time lining up the TNF 50 championships event in San Francisco, he’s done well at a number of The North Face Endurance Challenge Series races around the country in the past.
If his running of trail races up to the 50k distance is any indicator, Anthony Costales (pre-race interview) has a lot of potential at longer trail ultras. Anthony opened his 2019 with wins at both the Moab Red Hot 33k and Way Too Cool 50k, but after that he went quiet with an injury, not starting a couple races he was signed up for. If he’s healthy and fit again, he’ll be fun to watch. We should also mention that, like Robbie Simpson, it doesn’t look like Anthony’s previously raced longer than 50k/3.5 hours.
This year’s TNF 50 entrants lists is chock full of trail runners who are proven regionally and are primed for a breakout race on the national stage. Drew Holmen is just such a guy. It looks like he’s been racing ultras with success for a couple years, and his standout runs of 2019 so far include fourth at the Way Too Cool 50k, a win of the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile, and a course record at the Blue Sky Trail Marathon.
Benjamin Stout is another guy on what seems like a steep upward climb in the sport. The year 2019 has treated him well racing-wise, as he’s finished fifth at the Way Too Cool 50k, second at the Speedgoat 50k, and he won the iconic La Luz Trail Run.
Plant Tyler Wolfe squarely in this same category. In 2019, he’s been sixth at the Way Too Cool 50k and third at the Canyons 100k. Though Tyler has a number of 50k finishes under his belt, it looks like his Canyons finish earlier this year was his first finish of a longer trail ultra. For perspective, in 2018 Tyler took second and was about 17 minutes back of winner Anthony Costales at the Moab Red Hot 55k.
Michelino Sunseri is another up-and-comer with a lot of potential. While he finished behind all of the last four guys previewed at the 2019 Way Too Cool 50k when he took 13th, he’s had some great races to make up for that since then, including a win of the 2019 Speedgoat 50k and ninth place at the internationally competitive 2019 Pikes Peak Marathon. That Pikes Peak Marathon result should not be glossed over too quickly because of the field he raced against, but I listed him a bit further down the line here as his best results of 2019 are in mountain runs rather than the runnable terrain he’ll see at the TNF 50.
Let’s break with our theme of young guns debuting at the TNF 50 to preview Brian Condon, whose best finish at previous TNF 50’s has been a 10th place in 2016. Earlier in 2019, Brian had a great race in taking second at the Canyons 100k, but his results after that weren’t at his potential with a 17th place at Western States and a 31st at the Pikes Peak Marathon. Brian can run top 10 amongst this field.
We continue our break from the up-and-comers with the already arrived Ryan Kaiser. Ryan has one previous TNF 50 finish, inside the top 10 back in 2015, but plenty of other performances since then to show his top-10 potential here some four years later. Among his 2019 runs, he set a course record at the Silverton Alpine 50k and won the IMTUF 100 Mile. He also took fourth at the 2019 Canyons 100k behind second- and third-places Brian Condon and Tyler Wolfe.
Word is that Bobby Peavey is out with an injury. [Updated November 11]
Bobby Peavey, watch out for him, too! His rise in the sport has been in progress for a couple years, but his 2019 has been real strong, including a win at the Moab Red Hot 55k and sixth place at Sonoma.
Ben Koss has plenty of results from over the years which show he has the potential to finish in the top 10 at the TNF 50. He’s gone top 10 at Lake Sonoma three times, including taking ninth this year. I believe he has one previous TNF 50 finish, a 14th back in 2015.
Carlos Ruibal is a runner I don’t know much about but I feel like I should. The guy has two podium finishes at the Pikes Peak Marathon, in 2017 and 2014, for Pete’s sake! Also this year, he won the Silver Rush 50 Mile and was second at the Wasatch Front 100 Mile.
It really doesn’t end with these up-and-comer young men. Here we arrive at 21-year-old Jeshurun Small, who has been making an imprint on the trail running scene of western Colorado and Utah. Among his top results have been fourth place last year and third place just last weekend at the Moab Trail Marathon. Earlier in 2019, he was fourth at the Moab Red Hot 55k, about 12 minutes behind winner Bobby Peavey. We should mention that he’s raced 100 kilometers before, so he has distance experience.
Darren Thomas should be on your list of threats for the top 10. He’s also had two podium finishes at the Pikes Peak Marathon, in 2018 and 2017. Last year, he was the winner of the Hellgate 100k.
Mark Hammond isn’t racing. [Updated November 7]
It’s hard for me to decide where to put Mark Hammond in this line-up. He’s proven ridiculously capable at some races–such as Western States and 100-mile races in general–but he doesn’t run to the same ability in others–perhaps the TNF 50 included. That said, in Mark’s four-finish history with the TNF 50, he’s improved each time, with his most recent finish a 12th place in 2017, the last time this race has held.
Jeff Colt won’t be racing this weekend. [Updated November 11]
Jeff Colt has had a steady upward trajectory with his trail ultarunning over the last couple of years. His best results in 2019 have been a third at the Bandera 100k and a win at the Jemez Mountain 50 Mile.
Over what looks like about four years of racing trail-ultras, Drew Macomber has accrued some great results, including fifth place at last year’s Sonoma and a win of this year’s Waldo 100k. It looks like he had a rough go at Sonoma this year, though, finishing off the mark.
More Men to Watch
- Benjamin Atkins – 2nd 2019 Leona Divide 100k
- Mathieu Blanchard (France, lives in Canada) – 14th 2017 TNF 50, 13th 2018 UTMB
- Patrick Caron – 1st 2019 TNF 50 Mile – New York
- Rod Farvard – 5th 2019 Black Canyon 100k; 4th 2019 Nine Trails 35 Mile
- Dustin Franta – 9th 2019 Chuckanut 50k
- Alex Gold – 1st 2019 Mohican 50 Mile
Guillaume Hansel – 1st 2019 Cuyamaca 100k[Updated November 7]
- Bryan Kerl – 1st 2019 Crested Butte 55k
- Hal Koerner – 8th 2019 Waldo 100k
- Anthony Lee – 2nd 2018 High Lonesome 100 Mile
- Ryan Montgomery – 13th 2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile
- Nathan Moody – 1st 2019 Mogollon Monster 100 Mile
- Loren Newman – 3rd 2019 Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji; 1st 2019 Ruth Anderson 50k
- Hans Paul Pizzinini (Italy, lives in the USA) – 2nd 2019 Ruth Anderson 50k
- Cody Priest – 1st 2019 Kesugi Ridge Traverse 30 Mile
- Adrien Prigent (France, lives in Canada) – 1st 2018 Tarawera 100 Mile
- Zach Rickenbach – 12th 2019 Chuckanut 50k
- Kenneth Ringled – 4th 2018 Javelina Jundred
- Catlow Shipek – 2nd 2019 Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile; 3rd 2019 Crown King Scramble 50k
- Samuel Stow – 12th 2018 Way Too Cool 50k
- Damon Valenzona – 5th 2018 Javelina Jundred
- Paul Weeks – 7th 2019 Chuckanut 50k; 2nd 2019 White River 50 Mile
- Eli White – 2nd 2019 Miwok 100k
On the Entrants List but Not Racing
- Jackson Brill – Recovering from injury
- Tom Evans (England) – Recovering from injury
- Moises Jimenez (Venezuela, lives in France) – Recovering from illness
- Chris Thoburn – Recovering from injury
Call for Comments
- Who will win the men’s race? And who will fill the rest of the podium?
- How do you see the race strategically playing out?
- Who do you think is ready for a breakout race?
- Is there anyone who is particularly fit? Or someone you know not racing? Leave a comment and let us know!