Scheming and Dreaming Season

A look ahead to popular race plans for 2024 and trends in ultrarunning.

By on November 10, 2023 | Comments

AJW's TaproomAs we transition from fall to winter in the Northern Hemisphere, many runners are thinking and planning their 2024 race schedules.

Of course, at the top of many runners’ lists are the big three events of the Western States 100, Hardrock 100, and UTMB. With these events all having qualifying standards and lotteries, many folks are waiting eagerly to discover their fate sometime in the next month or two.

With that in mind and knowing how difficult it is to get into the “big three,” runners are also making early plans to run the Western States 100, Hardrock 100, or UTMB qualifiers in 2024 as a hedge against not being chosen this year.

In my role as both a running coach and someone who has been in the sport for a long time, I spend quite a bit of time during this part of the year talking with athletes about their plans and helping them strategize for the coming year. This year, I have observed three trends that are worth noting:

1. The 200-Mile Boom Is Real

More and more, I see athletes gravitating toward the 200-plus-mile distance. What was just a few years ago a fringe niche in a fringe sport has now become mainstream.

The growth in interest for the 200-mile distance originated with Italy’s Tor des Géants, which started in 2010 and which remains the globe’s most popular 200 miler. In addition to folks seeking to run one or more of the Destination Trail 200 milers, which brought 200-mile racing in earnest to North America, interest in newer events like the Cocodona 250 Mile in Arizona and the new Southern States 200 Mile in Alabama continues to increase.

Along the way, we are learning more about what works best in these kinds of events, as the experiences of more people teach us about the keys to success, and the paths to failure, in these massive multi-day races.

Franco Collé - 2023 Tor des Géants - men's winner

Franco Collé, the 2023 Tor des Géants champion. Photo: Zzam! Agency/Roberto Roux

2. Runners Want Experiences

As the sport has grown and event options have increased, the choices runners face can be dizzying. Over the past two years especially, I have observed runners moving toward events that not only provide a race environment, but also an experience. From pre- and post-race festivities to unique destinations, the experience factor continues to influence runner choice.

Perhaps the greatest example of this is the Javelina 100 Mile in Arizona. Consisting of three distances spread out over Halloween weekend in late October, Javelina has something for everyone — even for those who don’t run.

Further afield, I have been impressed with the number of everyday runners flocking to the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail and Transvulcania Ultramarathon as these historic events provide opportunities for athletes to interact with unique cultures and landscapes they simply would not experience were it not for these destination events.

I suspect we will see more experience-driven events popping up around the sport in the years to come.

2021 Javelina Jundred Mile atmosphere

The Halloween spirit alive and well at the 2021 Javelina 100 Mile. Photo: Javelina 100 Mile

3. Mom and Pop Events

Along with the incredible popularity of the “big three” and all the events which provide qualifiers for the Western States 100, Hardrock 100, and UTMB — I have noticed a paradoxical trend, as well. More runners I speak with are seeking to run the small, old school mom and pop type races that for so many years have been the backbone of our sport. From small fat ass runs over the holidays to simple events hosted by regional running clubs, I am seeing a resurgence in these kinds of events as runners long for the homegrown experience that brought them to the sport in the first place.

I, for one, am excited and encouraged by these trends and hope that as runners continue to dream and scheme about the 2024 season and beyond, they seek to find ways to stretch their physical and mental limits, find experiences that are engaging and fun, and never lose sight of the roots of the sport that are so important to so many of us.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Deep Ellum Brewing logoThis week’s beer of the week comes from Deep Ellum Brewing Company in Dallas, Texas. Their flagship beer, Dallas Blonde, was first released in 2012 and has become a legendary beer in the Lone Star State. With a citrusy finish and a smooth, almost flowery aroma, Dallas Blonde is one of the best blonde ales I’ve ever tasted.

Call for Comments

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Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.