Fourth Annual AJW’s Taproom Year In Ultrarunning Rankings: 2014

AJWs TaproomFor the past three years (end of 2011end of 2012, end of 2013), I have posted some year-end ultrarunning awards. Now, I would like to introduce the Fourth Annual AJW’s Taproom Year in Ultrarunning Rankings.

These are not scientific in any way and the criteria was made up entirely by me. They represent a selection of North American racers competing in events in the U.S. and abroad. It, in no way, represents an exhaustive study nor does it pretend to be fully representative of all that occurred in 2014, so, take it or leave it.

Female Ultrarunner of the Year

  1. Ellie Greenwood
  2. Rory Bosio
  3. Stephanie Howe
  4. Meghan Arbogast

 Male Ultrarunner of the Year

  1. Rob Krar
  2. Max King
  3. Sage Canaday
  4. Jeff Browning

Female Race of the Year

  1. Ellie Greenwood at the Comrades Marathon (race report)
  2. Rory Bosio at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (post-race interview)
  3. Pam Smith at the Angeles Crest 100

Male Race of the Year

  1. Max King at the IAU 100k World Championships (post-race interview, race report)
  2. Zach Miller at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (post-race interview)
  3. Rob Krar at the Western States 100 (post-race interview)

Female Surprise of the Year

Male Surprise of the Year

Female Rookie of the Year

Male Rookie of the Year

And, I thought a couple of new categories would be appropriate this year:

Best Trail Running Film of the Year

Best AJW’s Taproom Column of the Year

People’s Choice iRunFar Video Interview Award

Vote for your favorite video interview that appeared on iRunFar. Votes cast for the interviews Bryon Powell and I did before and after Western States don’t count! We’re talking external interviewees here. Leave a comment to let us know your favorite iRunFar video interview of 2014 and why.

Until next week,

Bottoms up!

Stone Brewing Company Enjoy By 12:26:14 DIPAAJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from a Taproom favorite, Stone Brewing Company in San Diego, California. They released a great DIPA a couple weeks ago from their “Enjoy By” series and this one is a keeper. Their Enjoy By 12/26/14 IPA is smooth, easy drinking, and delicately hopped. In the midst of these days of heavy hopping, this is a refreshing change.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • What would be your picks in each of AJW’s categories and why?
  • What was your favorite iRunFar interview of 2014 and why?

There are 53 comments

  1. adamiata

    I think you got those top two female performances backwards.

    And I think Kilian's record belongs as the top men's performance, given how he utterly crushed a course record (with grace and sportsmanship) that had been on a pedestal for so long.

        1. @Baristing

          I don't disagree one bit. But tough or not, it's going to be ignored by the UR Magazine awards also. Same rules. Again, I think omitting the sport's biggest star is silly at best, but it is what it is. Thankfully, races give the only awards that matter when you win them.

          1. steeltownrunner

            If they were to acknowledge KJ, I should sincerely hope they would acknowledge the 829mi Sri Chinmoy 10day performance or the 3100mi winner who ran I believe a historically top 5 time (I believe 43 days)

    1. Ben_Nephew

      For the female performances, UTMB has only been around for about a decade, and North American women have won half of the complete races. Comrades has been more difficult for North American women.

      Even if Kilian was being considered, how many times have they run Hardrock in that direction since the old CR? How is the elite field created each year? Lottery? Max beat a time that even elite runners that don't live at elevation or have the time and money to hang out at elevation for weeks have had many opportunities to best for the past 20 years. Those opportunities included 18 IAU championships, where the elite fields are selected by national governing bodies and/or selection races. In past 20 years, only Dan Held, a 2:13 marathoner, got within 10 minutes of Tom Johnson's North American 100k record.

      1. steeltownrunner

        …..and if we are including international runners on US soil, Johan Steene finishing (crewless and pacerless) in top 10 I believe at Tahoe 200, new self supported CR at Vol State, and tied for top DNF after 49 hrs at the Big Backyard Ultra should get some kind of honorable mention.

        Any year there is a Barkley finisher, there has to be some mention – especially as the course gets harder each year.

      2. adamiata

        I'll admit my position is biased towards my preferences, but so is yours, Ben. Every year at this time you push against 100 milers in one way or another.

        Rory came in the top-10 overall, with a very strong men's field, on a great course, which I would argue does matter. There's not much to be inspired about on a contrived loop course and eking out small improvements. It's been done and doesn't really break much new ground. National governing bodies don't do much for me either given the USATF's wide range of issues.

        1. Ben_Nephew

          It's not that I'm against 100 milers, it is that I am for data based rankings of performance and an appreciation for history of ultrarunning. Winning mountainous 100 milers will always be impressive, but to rank races where the competitive field is selected by lottery and only pertains to a relatively small subset of competitors over races that have standard elite fields attract a broader selection of racers, it doesn't make sense to me. I've raced over 5x as many trail ultras as road ultras, and I've had much more success on the trails. I mostly hate road ultras, and now do more FKT's than trail ultras, but I respect road and track performances, as well as trail performances.

          The only other North American to win Comrades was Ann Trason. Ellie ran 56 miles in 6:18. People say that the Comrades course is great, but I've never run it myself.

          For the male rankings, even AJW, the biggest supporter of WS I can think of, ranks a boring 100k loop course performance by Max ahead of an impressive win by Rob at WS. The fact that governing bodies are involved in the IAU 100k is not the key aspect to the race, it's the end result of creating the most competitive 100k, and sometimes ultra, in the world. I can't say it is more competitive than Comrades, but I would guess that they are quite close, especially this year.

          For Hardrock, Kyle Skaggs ran two 100's and retired at age 23. His competitive record doesn't come close to matching the records of the guys that Max surpassed. If Kyle had kept racing, I would have expected him to take an hour off his CR. I have read about Kyle's impressive preparation for his Hardrock CR. Max bested the times of runners who had spent many more years preparing for their 100k PR.

  2. BrettSC

    I love this sport – so many crazy results to pour through.

    Kilian's Hardrock CR.
    Max King broke a 26 year old record at Ice Age 50.
    Max King's 50 mile split at the AR 100k was around 5:12.
    Brandon Stapanowich's 22 Manitou Incline repeats in 24 hours.
    Zach Bitter's new American Record in the 200k.
    Alyson Venti's 2nd fastest female 100 mile road ever (14:42) and won the Keys 100 outright.
    Katalin Nagy I believe just set the 2nd highest female 24 hr miles ever at 151.5 – missing the AR by 0.5 miles.

    1. SlowAaron

      Brandon Stapanowich had a CRAZY year. 4 laps on Pikes Peak, 24 hours of the Incline AND Nolan's. He may not be the Ultra-racer of the year, but he's gotta get some recognition. So here it is I guess, in the comments of iRunFar! Yay Brandon!

      1. MexiFast

        NO DOUBT! There has got to be some sort of AJW award! What BStap accomplished is simply insane on every account. How about the "limitless" award? Or "just for fun" award. Not that BStap cares about any award, but I think it would be kinda cool to recognize the behind the scenes guys and gals.

    2. BrettSC

      And I forgot about:
      Joe Fejes AR in the 6 day this summer: 580.3 miles.
      Andrew Snopes' 24 hour barefoot world record: 136.98 miles.
      Traci Falbo's 48 hour female AR: 242.35 miles.

      1. steeltownrunner

        Falbo's run was also a WR for the track, and 2nd most for world women on any surface. She also ran the 4th fastest womens 100 in US history, set a record for the fastest womens trail 100. She gets little love on these boards

    3. steeltownrunner

      We can include Bradon's Nolan's 14, but he did it with a friend or two, so they should get equal mention. His Manitou incline is great and all but that is essentially including a crazy training session in the rankings, and I don't think that the list generally includes or acknowledges crazy training sessions with the possible debatable exception of FKTs.

  3. Scott

    So much good stuff in this column, AJW! First, I'm pretty stoked to see you included Jeff Browning in the UROY category–he's had an amazing season (as a master no less) and doesn't get as much attention as he deserves, considering that he crushed Zion and Grindstone and hung with the best of them at Hardrock and RRR.
    Second, as for the performances of the year, I would personally take your third slot in both male and female and move it up to first–but maybe that is just a western 100s bias talking? I'd also be curious to hear your thoughts on Krar's performance at WS versus his run at Leadville.Yes, he ran close to Olson's CR on a hotter day and made mincemeat of Cal St., but is that necessarily more impressive than running the second-fastest time ever, on a course that he'd never run before, during his second 100 of the summer?
    Terrific choice, too, on the Enjoy By. Stone was the first brewery to get me into DIPAs, but some of their recent offerings (Unapologetic, cough cough) have gone over the line into excess-lupulin territory. Enjoy By hits the nail on the head, though–fruity, light, but plenty of hop flavor.
    Finally, Meghan, your criteria for video-interview-of-the-year is totally unfair. Everyone knows that AJW's post-WS interview was by far the best. Can't deny the man's mastery of the spoken word, the India Pale Ale, and every last goshdarn split on the way from Squaw to Auburn. Here's to you, AJW–I'll be drinking my next Enjoy By in your honor!

    1. MatthewCBryant

      I signed on just to say the video-interview-of-the-year IS the Bryon/AJW post-WS interview. Why must it be "external" to irunfar? AJW did, in fact, run WS and was interviewed. He's been very important to WS and peoples understanding of it. I have no doubt many people have run WS who were introduced to it by AJW. His enthusiasm for it is that infectious. Tis a silly rule.

      Best video of the year: AJW's post Western States Interview.

      1. Meghan Hicks


        Ha, funny! We put that qualifier on there much like contest holders exempt their employees from entering/winning a contest. This is just a fun game, though, right? Silly rules aside, I’m glad you voted!

  4. AT_TB

    I can't pick one interview, but will share something I love about them. More so in years past it was always so funny to me (probably not Bryon!) that there was always some loud car, truck, dog, people talking, kids laughing, or one time (Max King interview maybe) even a frieking helicopter flying overhead. For a while it never failed something loud would roll through off camera during an interview. I love those post race interviews near the finish. This was the first and only place to find those for a long time. Can't wait for the pre and post Hardrock 2015 interviews!!!!!!

  5. Oluf_RaddGnar

    Quintessential AJW, creates award for best AJW column. I'm surprised he didn't pick that meta masterpiece where he blogged about blogging about himself running Western States.

    1. ajoneswilkins

      For what it's worth @Oluf_RaddGnar the best AJWs Taproom column was based on reader feedback and analytics from the website not on my personal opinion.

      1. Oluf_RaddGnar

        For what it's worth, I think Oluf meant to make a joke, hoped you'd see some humor in it. But Oluf can be a bit of a jackass. Cheers.

  6. @LArunr

    Really appreciate the shout out about our little film AJW. "Western Time" was my love letter to this little but great sport of ours, the people in it and of course, Western States. Humbled and honored.

  7. robindoeseverything

    My vote for best video has to go to Mike Foote's post-UTMF DNF. I watch it all the time and it still makes me laugh. Non-ultrarunners don't get it – I learned that when I showed it to all my friends because it was so hilarious. Mike Foote is such a great sport, and even when he DNFs an interview, it's fun to watch.

    1. ajoneswilkins

      I'd be interested in that, too. But someone smarter than me would need to do it. I am afraid North America is allI can handle.

  8. sharmanian

    No Magda in the top 4 women? What does she need to do to impress you, AJW? :)

    Admittedly she did come 2nd in one race…but it was to Megan Roche – have you seen her Strava splits on Mt Diablo? Almost as fast as her husband, David.

  9. TrailTan

    As another poster mentioned, 2014 was a breakout year for Alyson Venti, where she won Badwater (8th overall), and had outright wins at the Keys 100, the Long Haul 100, and a 24 hour race in Ft. Lauderdale. I'm hoping she can race more outside of Florida in 2015 so that the Ultra running community and pundits can better appreciate her talent.

  10. @heartsierra52

    Too many video interviews to choose from. Here's my top list:

    1. Rory Bosio, UTMB champion (she's just so fun and quirky)
    2. Ellie Greenwood, IAU 100k (because Ellie is amazing and I like her blog posts)
    3. Steve Way, Pre-IAU 100k. Haven't heard of him before but he has an interesting background.
    4. Larisa Dannis and Seth Swanson, post-WS. Pretty cool to hear about their breakthrough performance at WS.
    5. Kaci Lickteig, another very likable top female runner. I also like that she is from Omaha, very different geographical location than many of the other top runners.

  11. another_william

    Female Ultrarunner of the Year: Rory Bosio singing her little Green Frog song during the UTMB. That stuff was totally unexpected and hilarious.

  12. Ben_Nephew

    For races of the year, I'm not sure how you can put Zach's run ahead of Max's race at Ice Age. How long has Sonoma been around? How long has Ice Age been around? Andy Jones, whose CR record Max destroyed, was the best ultrarunner of his day, and many outstanding runners have run Ice Age over the past 26 years. There are no current male runners in North America as accomplished as Andy, and that does not take into consideration how his records have stood the test of time. In addition to the new CR, he won the most competitive Ice Age to date, with 4 guys under 6 hours.

    For those who would like to learn more about Andy Jones:

    If Max's run is better than Zach's, he would have the top two performances in AJW's list. Not sure how you can rank Rob ahead of Max considering that. I just don't see Rob's other races compensating for that deficit.

    1. Bryon of iRunFar

      I've rephrased the call for comments a bit. We'd love to hear what your picks in some of AJW's categories would be! We all have our own take on these things, so what are your, say, top four men's and top four women's performances of the year? :-)

  13. Ben_Nephew

    Sure thing. While I'm being hypocritical in that I think that ultimately road and trail should be separate in any sort of organized rankings, there is enough overlap now that you can at least make some informal comparisons. If they road and trail results are going to be considered, they should be placed in the proper context. Historical and competitive context seems to be overlooked at times.

    1. Max King IAU 100k
    2. Max King Ice Age 50m
    3. Sage Canaday TNF 50m
    4. Rob Krar WS

    1. Ellie Greenwood Comrades
    2. Traci Falbo North American 48 hours record
    3. Katalin Nagy 24hr
    4. Magdalena Boulet TNF 50m

    1. BBolder

      Definitely: Sage and Magda were sadly missed by AJW; they must be on this list.

      I feel Sage's TNF50 is a very solid #2 to Max's 100k. While I appreciate the long history of an event, a race is a race – times don't matter; it's about beating the other guy – Sage outran one of the fastest UR fields ever by going hard off the front and letting it be known that if anyone wanted to come around him, they had to hurt more than he did – old school stuff.

    2. steeltownrunner

      Not debating – just thinking out loud. I believe Ellie previously ran Comrades faster once in a year she didn't win. Going up against credible world records is the same in my mind as racing hard competition. I think I might flip Traci to #1 on that list. Maybe not.

      Also hard to not see Johnston's ITI 350 on any list as others have said.

      Would like to see an honorable mention for Fejes' 6 day record.

  14. WildmanHanson

    Since we are discussing N.A. Ultra running as a whole for 2014 (which is getting so big, it will likely need to be broken up into the sub-disciplines), and not just Trail or Road Ultra running, this is tough!

    1. Rob Krar – Easy choice, hands down. Wins at WS, Leadville, RRR… all within 3 months? Crazy!
    2. Max King – Dominant, great. Amazing. Unfortunately, none of his wins carry the weight and history of WS or Leadville.
    3. Sage Canaday – Powerful, fast and races a lot! Wins or places almost every time – Most recently at the TNF Champs with the most competitive field ever.

    I think you have the top 3 totally nailed down!

    4. Jeff Browning – Interesting, but I like it!
    Could Zach Miller make this place? Maaaybe…

    I do NOT think this top 3 or 4 is as clear cut as the Mens, and I'll just name a few to consider:

    Aly Venti: Overall winner and new CR at KEYS 100 (and 2nd fastest north american road 100-miler?). 1st place female at Badwater-135. 1st place and 140.88 miles at Icarus Florida UItrafest.

    Katalin Nagy !?
    Traci Falbo !?

    These are just some thoughts.

    Also, who would like to see a very small field on an epic trail course of North America's Best v. Rest of World?
    The trail ultra of ultra's? Like 10 v. 10. The men's would look something like….

    North America
    Krar, King, Canaday, T. Olson, Bowman, Sharman, Dakota Jones, Mike Wardian, Zach Miller, & Adam Campbell


    Rest of World
    Kilian, Francois D'Haene, Ryan Sandes, Rickey Gates, Luis Alberto Hernando, Jez Bragg, Vajin Armstrong, Brendan Davies, Julien Chorier, AND …. Antoine Guillon?

    North America
    Stephanie Howe, Kaci Lickteig, Darcy Piceu/Africa, Alicia Shay, Magda Boulet, Pam Smith, Larisa Dannis, Michele Yates, Kasie Enman, AND Rory Bosio…. So many more, Joelle Vaught, Connie Gardner, Kami Semick,

    Rest of World
    Emelie Forsberg, Nuria Picas, Fernanda Maciel, Nathalie Mauclair, Shona Stephenson, Anna Frost, Ellie Greenwood (the UK?), Francesca Canepa, Lizzy Hawker, AND… Uxue Fraile.


  15. @RudyShepherd

    My favorite Interview is the one Bryon Powell did right after a 100 miler, I can't remember who it was with or what race it was, but it was a hilarious fail. The interviewee completely collapsed about 2 minutes into it and Bryan said "This is why we don't do finish line interviews after 100 milers." Beautiful funny moment! Merry Christmas everyone!

  16. DanZiebarth

    Even though I would put Max as the Male UROY, I definitely feel that we will look back and see Sage as the guy that changed ultras in this time period of the sport. Not that Sage's accomplishments trump anyone else, and there are also different disciplines within ultras that are hard to compare to what Sage does, but I believe Sage was the start to the fast, post-collegiate runners that are piling into the elite fields at the most recognizable ultras nowadays. Kudos to everyone on this list, and also everyone else who didn't make it on within the ultra community, It's amazing to see the level of passion and respect that people have for such an amazing sport!

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