On November 19, ultrarunner Eric Clifton became the 19th runner inducted into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame.
Clifton had a dominant running career in the 1990s, just as trail ultramarathons started to grow on the running scene in the United States. At the time, he held the record for the most overall 100-mile trail wins and held the distinction of having more sub-15-hour 100-mile finishes than any other runner at the time. He also set more than 20 course records, many of which still stand today.
Davy Crockett manages the Ultrarunning History website and podcast and inductions into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame. According to Crockett on an episode of the Ultrarunning History podcast, people knew Clifton for his memorable race-day tactics, often blitzing out at a pace that could result in a course record (or a DNF) and his colorful attire.
When asked what among Clifton’s many accomplishments earned him this slot in the Hall of Fame, Crockett pointed to Clifton’s legacy.
“Eric was the fastest and most dominating 100-mile trail ultrarunner during the 1990s as trail ultras became popular in America. His go-for-broke race strategy was legendary, as he demonstrated to the rapidly expanding sport that amazing speed on trails could be achieved. During that era, he had the most overall 100-mile wins in the world and would usually win by wide margins,” Crockett shared.
Even though Clifton never took himself too seriously, he did achieve some seriously impressive results. More than 60 ultra wins stud his list of accomplishments, 17 of which were 100 milers. In 1992, Ultrarunning Magazine named him Ultrarunner of the Year. Especially notable achievements include his wins at the 1994 Iditasport 100 Mile and the 1999 Badwater 135 Ultramarathon. Clifton also ran in multiple Barkley Marathons, in 1990 being the first person to start the fourth loop of the race.
At the time of his induction to the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, the 63-year-old is still running and racing competitively in his age group. According to his Hall of Fame page, he’s so far tallied 141,000 lifetime miles and finished 224 ultras, 99 marathons, and 88 triathlons/duathlons.
The American Ultrarunning Association (AUA) established the Ultrarunning Hall of Fame in 2004. It was an institution made to recognize accomplishments within the ultra community overlooked by the track-and-field-focused USATF Hall of Fame. The AUA oversaw the Hall of Fame until the organization’s dissolution in 2020. Today, under the direction of Crockett, Ultrarunning History manages the Hall of Fame.
To be considered, Hall of Fame candidates must be 60 years of age or retired for at least 10 years from running competitively. Other considerations include:
- Win/loss record among peers over multiple years in highly competitive ultras;
- Winning of numerous major, non-championships ultramarathons against top-level competition;
- Winning of one or more world or national championships;
- Setting of one or more world or American records;
- Setting multiple competitive trail course records;
- Versatility of performance success over a wide range of ultra distances and surfaces;
- Longevity of consistent performances at a world or national-class level; and
- Significant contributions to the history and development of the sport.
Visit the Ultrarunning History website’s American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame page for more information.