The 2019 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships will bring together one of the deepest women’s fields of any ultra in North America this year, after last year’s race was canceled due to wildfire smoke. These women will have the chance to race one another for 50.7 miles from Sausalito to San Francisco, California with most of the miles run in the beautiful Marin Headlands. Over those miles, they’ll climb 10,600 vertical feet and descend a similar amount through the area’s rolling, mostly runnable hills.
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.) Follow our live race coverage come race day.
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 women’s race. We’ll update this preview if this happens, so check back.
Be sure to read our in-depth men’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.
A Crowd of Crushers at the Front
I tell you what, it’s a whole lot of fun when I’m penning a race preview and can make a legitimate case for any of ten or more women taking home the win, and that’s outside of the usual breakout-performance and anything-can-happen caveats.
So, I’m a big fan of previous success on a course and/or on similar terrain in predicting future success. That’s one reason I’ve got Clare Gallagher (pre-race interview) at the top of this list, as she was fifth here in 2016 before improving to second in 2017, the last time this race was run. Uh, then there’s the fact that she’s also won the Way Too Cool 50k and Western States 100 this year. Another factor in her favor is that unlike many of her competitors, I don’t believe Clare’s raced since June, so she should be quite fresh.
Illness will be keeping Ruth Croft from running this year’s TNF 50. [Nov 7 Update]
I’m really excited to see Ruth Croft finally take on the TNF 50, again. After a few years mostly crushing the Skyrunner World Series, she’s focused on the Golden Trail Series the past two years, which included a win at the Mont-Blanc Marathon, a second place at the Dolomyths Skyrace (22k), a fourth place at Sierre-Zinal (30k), and a ninth place at the Annapurna Trail Marathon so far this year. In 2019, Croft’s also taken second at the Trail World Championships (44k) and won the OCC (56k). Going back a few years, she took fourth at the TNF 50 in 2015 and third in 2016. Croft’s most recent 50-ish mile race was Les Templiers in 2017, which she won.
So, just in case you didn’t know, Anna Mae Flynn (pre-race interview) is fast. Like winning the Speedgoat 50k in 2017 and 2019 and this year’s Lake Sonoma 50 Mile fast. In the past two years, she’s also been second at the 2017 Pikes Peak Ascent and sixth at the 2018 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. Still, it’s that win at Sonoma back in April that most suggests she has the potential to win here.
In 2014 and early in her ultrarunning career, YiOu Wang (pre-race interview) made an unsuccessful attempt at the TNF 50, before injuries kept her from starting in 2015 and 2016. Ah, but she’s since seen great success elsewhere at the 50-mile distance. She won the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in both 2016 and 2017 before taking second this year. Earlier this year, she was second at the Black Canyon 100k before stumbles with a DNF at Western States and a 53rd at Sierre-Zinal. It’d be fun to see this local runner nail the TNF 50.
Lake Sonoma is a pretty good analog to the TNF 50, and Taylor Nowlin has a second– and a seventh-place finish at the past two Lake Sonoma’s. Since this year’s Sonoma, she’s also been fourth at the Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k and second at the Speedgoat 50k before winning both the Imogene Pass Run (17 miles) and the Flagstaff Sky Peaks 50k in the past two months. I believe this will be Nowlin’s first run at the TNF 50.
Following a very successful 2018, it’s been a quiet year for Keely Henninger (pre-race interview) due to a bone stress injury and a patient recovery from it. Looking back at last year, she crushed her faster races, winning the Chuckanut 50k, Lake Sonoma, and the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile, the latter of which was the USATF 50 Mile Road National Championships. Last year, she was also fifth at both the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and Ultra-Trail Cape Town. Going further back, Henninger has twice run that TNF 50, taking seventh in 2015 and eighth in 2016.
Brittany Peterson is calling it a season and won’t be starting the TNF 50. [Nov 15 update]
Brittany Peterson has put up some great results in the past two years. Starting with her fifth place at the most recent TNF 50 in 2017, she was also second at the Way Too Cool 50k and fourth at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon in 2018. This year, Peterson has won the Bandera 100k and taken second at Western States. She did have a rough race at this year’s CCC, where she finished 19th.
Yngvild Kaspersen won’t be running the TNF 50 this year. [Nov 8 update]
In interviewing Yngvild Kaspersen before her second-place finish at this year’s Pikes Peak Marathon, I learned the Norwegian prefers less technical, more runnable terrain. She did win the rugged Zegama Marathon in her breakout race in 2016, but her other best results include that second at this year’s Pikes Peak and her second at Les Templiers in 2016. I believe that 2016 Les Templiers (48 miles) finish may be her only race longer than the marathon, so we’ll see how she fares at the 50-mile distance after a few years away.
If last year was the year that Addie Bracy (pre-race interview) went all in on ultrarunning, then this is the year she doubled down. Her busy schedule has included placing fifth at the Bandera 100k, second at the Way Too Cool 50k, third at Lake Sonoma, first at the Quad Rock 50 Mile, and ninth at Western States. Since then, she’s limited herself to a half marathon and marathon (where she broke her own course record at the Blue Sky Trail Marathon a few weeks ago) and should be well rested for the TNF 50.
Add Devon Yanko to the ranks of those not racing. [Nov 10 update]
Just a few weekends ago, Devon Yanko won the USATF 50 Mile Road National Championships in a course-record time at the Tussey Mountainback, which frequently hosts these national championships. In recent years, she’s raced the Comrades Marathon twice, taking 10th in 2017 and seventh in 2018, won the Leadville Trail 100 Mile and been second at the Caumsett 50k in 2017, and taken 22nd at this year’s IAU 50k World Championships. Although a long time Bay Area resident, I think this might be Yanko’s first go at the TNF 50.
Anne-Marie Madden of Canada is a runner from whom you expect a strong finish at the TNF 50. She took fourth here in 2014 and sixth in 2016. She’s had a solid 2019 so far, taking third at the Way Too Cool 50k, eighth at Lake Sonoma, and sixth at the Broken Arrow Skyrace 26k.
Ladia Albertson-Junkans is not racing as she recovers from a broken arm. [Nov 10 update]
Ladia Albertson-Junkans has gradually worked up in racing distance over the past few years. She had her best result over 50k in taking second at the Bandera 100k back in January before an emotional 31st place running her first 100 miler at Western States in honor of Gabe Grunewald, her close friend who’d just passed away. Albertson-Junkans has plenty of speed to crush a course like this one, having won the Chuckanut 50k in 2017 and Way Too Cool 50k in 2018.
Amanda Basham will not be running the TNF 50, as she’ll be race Ultra-Trail Cape Town in a few weeks. [Nov 9 update]
Amanda Basham has been a strong trail ultrarunner since she hit the scene about five years ago, but in the last couple of years she’s performed well in national- and international-level competitions. Over the past year and change, as examples, she’s taken fourth at last year’s Western States and been second at this year’s CCC. Basham has run at the TNF ECS-California event before, taking tenth at the 50 mile in 2015 and winning the marathon in 2016.
Did I Mention This Race is DEEP?
Few runners in the field have the running pedigree of Julia Stamps Mallon, who now has a decent amount of experience in ultras, especially here at the TNF ECS-California event, where she’s been seventh in 2014 and 21st in 2016 at the 50 mile as well as 12th at the 50k in 2017. Stamps Mallon has also twice finished Lake Sonoma, where she was sixth in 2016 and fifth in 2017. She DNFed Lake Sonoma this year, though.
Abby Levene was seen success at the 50k distance, having won the 2017 Golden Gate Dirty 30 Mile and placing fifth at the Way Too Cool 50k in 2018. Levene also won the TNF ECS-California 50k back in 2016, in what I believe was her ultrarunning debut. She’d not raced over 50k until finishing the Divide 100k in August.
Back in 2017, Abby Hall (née Mitchell) was seventh at the TNF 50. Since then, she’s also taken sixth at the 2018 Lake Sonoma, but also run numerous races on big stages that don’t match up with those performances. Fortunately for her, runnable, hilly 50 milers might just be her sweet spot.
While she’s been racing on the trails since at least 2013, France Elise Delannoy has upped her game this year. Most notably, she was seventh this year’s UTMB, while also taking ninth at the Mont-Blanc 90k back in June.
Canada’s Kim Magnus has had a strong year highlighted by second-place finishes at both the Chuckanut 50k and Canyons 100k early in the year. In June, she was 26th at the Trail World Championships (45k) and 18th at Western States before taking third at the Cascade Crest 100 Mile in August. Magnus was 17th when she previously ran the TNF 50 back in 2016.
A potential wildcard up front is Heather Lieberg, who ran a 2:34 marathon in 2014, represented the U.S. at the 2015 Marathon World Championships in 2015 (where she DNFed), and ran 2:40 as recently as 2017. I’m unaware of her trail running experience outside of winning the HURL Elkhorn 23k back in 2013.
Another speedster to watch out for is Canada’s Shelley Doucet, who was ninth at the 2017 WMRA Long Distance World Championships (30k) at Giir di Mont. She sports a marathon personal best of 2:38 set last year and has run plenty of shorter trail races and, recently, a 50k.
Even More Women to Watch
- Sarah Bergeron-Larouche (Canada) – 1st 2019 Whiteface Sky Race 25k; 19th 2019 Mont-Blanc Marathon; 29th 2019 Trail World Championships (43k); 1st and 3rd 2017 and 2016 TNF ECS-California 50k
- Svenja Espenhahn (Germany, lives in Canada) – 4th 2018 Squamish 50 Mile; 2nd 2019 Yakima Skyline 50k
- Nicole Freitag – 1st 2018 Stumptown 50k; 1st 2018 Backcountry Rise 50k
- Heather Gothard – 1st 2019 Brazos Bend 50 Mile; 1st 2019 Possum’s Revenge (69 miles)
- Kristyn Kadala – 9th 2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile; 6th 2019 Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k; 15th & 17th 2015 & 2017 TNF 50
- Felice Kelly – 1st 2019 Siskiyou 100k; 1st 2019 Cougar Mountain 50k; 4th 2018 White River 50 Mile; 13th 2016 TNF 50
Sarah Keyes – 2nd 2018 Cayuga Trails 50 Mile; 8th 2018 Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k; 1st 2017 Ultra-Trail Harricana[Nov 8 update]
- Meghan Laws – 10th 2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile; 5th 2019 Canyons 100k
- Katelyn Steen – 1st 2019 Sun Mountain, Millersylvania, & Baker Lake 50ks
- Elizabeth Tenuto – 1st & 3rd 2018 and 2019 Cuyamaca 100k; 3rd 2019 San Diego 50 Mile
- Lindsey Ulrich – 9th 2019 Black Canyon 100k; 7th 2019 Smith Rock Ascent 50k
- Roxanne Vogel – 7th 2019 Rut 50k; 1st 2019 Bay Bridge 100k
- Jana Willsey – 1st 2019 Tahoe Rim 50 Mile; 2nd 2019 Leadville Trail Marathon; 3rd 2019 Quad Rock 50 Mile
Call for Comments
- Who will win the women’s race? And how do you see the race for the win playing out?
- Who will round out the women’s podium?
- Who will be the surprise breakout performer?
- Is there anyone who is particularly primed for a top performance? Or someone you know not racing? Leave a comment and let us know!