Some Early Thoughts on Male Ultrarunner of the Year

While there are still a few months left in the year, it’s a reasonable time to begin thinking about Ultrarunner of the Year.* And, I have to say that this year seems to be one of the toughest to pick in the last decade. Of course, it’s always difficult parsing out the various results and comparing courses, distances, and head-to-head matches but this year, for me, it really is a toss-up between four guys (and yes, I am stealing a page out of Karl Meltzer’s book and throwing down some odds).

Sage Canaday

This guy has had a wonderfully consistent season on a variety of different courses. His racing has been varied and his performances have proven both his versatility and persistence.

The Big “But”: Sage has not yet made the jump to the 100-mile distance and that could sway some few voters.

Odds of winning: 8-1

Ian Sharman

What to say about Ian? The guy blasted through the Grand Slam in an 11-week competition with Nick Clark and ran with focus and grace. His win at Leadville and second place at Wasatch propelled him to new heights and it’s hard to argue with the grit and determination it takes to gut out a Grand Slam like Ian did.

The Big “But”: In head-to-head races with the other UROY contenders, Ian lags a bit behind.

Odds of winning: 6-1

Timothy Olson

Tim won Western States with a scorching time on a truly scorching day. Were it not for his course record run in benign conditions last year, his 2013 WS alone might have, in the past, propelled him to being a shoo-in for UROY. But alas, it is likely to be much tighter this year even with his “second season” of racing in which he traveled around, beating a variety of different fields on a wide range of courses.

The Big “But”: Even with his incredible run at WS, Tim’s resume lacks that big “wow” race that often sways voters.

Odds of winning: 4-1

Rob Krar

Rob started the year innocently enough, winning at Moab Red Hot and quietly beating Dakota Jones there. Then, he traveled to Leona Divide, an old and established race on the SoCal circuit, and blistered the course record. Two weeks later, he made history in the Grand Canyon by throwing down a new Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim FKT there by over 20 minutes. He decided to jump into Western States having earned a spot in Leona and ran the fastest second place ever and the fastest debut Western States 100 ever. Then, after taking it easy in the second half of the summer and winning TransRockies, he won the UROC 100k over a talented international field. Amazing!

The Big “But”: Rob did not win Western States. While that may seem nitpicky given the resume listed above, it will matter to some voters as head-to-head comparisons are important.

Odds of winning: 3-1

Wrap Up

Indeed, there are still a few months left and I know some of these guys may still have some racing left in their legs. But, in my opinion, it’s not too early to begin speculating, so, let’s have at it! Who’s gonna take it?

Bottoms up!

PS. I will have a similar look at the Female Ultrarunner of the Year contenders in my October 18th column.

* Editor’s Note: AJW is discussing ultrarunner of the year candidates who reside in North America. Obviously, other runners would warrant consideration if the geographic scope of consideration where larger.

AJW’s Beer of the Week

The week’s Beer of the Week comes from Rob Krar’s home in Flagstaff, Arizona. Flagstaff Brewing Company’s Three Pin Pale Ale is a unique spin on that classic style. It’s got a hoppy start and a malty finish that I like. It’s certainly not a “big” beer, but it’s one of those that seems like it’s gone before you even get started. In other words, it’s fast, like all these guys above.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • Which of the guys above do you think has the current edge for the North American ultrarunner of the year title? Who’ll get it in the end?
  • If you were to add a fifth (and sixth?) runner for serious consideration, who would it be and why?
  • If we expand the scope of consideration to the rest of the world, Kilian Jornet is obviously a strong contender. However, who else outside of North America would be in the running for global men’s ultrarunner of the year?
Andy Jones-Wilkins: finished in the top 10 men at the Western States 100 7-straight times. He's sponsored by Patagonia and Drymax socks and is iRunFar's editorialist.

View Comments (266)

  • Until UROC I would have said Sharman was a lock for UROY. But now I'd give the nod to Rob Krar.

    1. Krar

    2. Sharman

    3. Sage

    4. OIson

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  • What about Jon Olson? Gold at the World 24 Hour Champs, and recently setting the North American 100 mile record? Think it's worth a few votes...

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    • You'd hope. But if we're giving odds on what is likely to happen - rather than what should - then we have to acknowledge that he's got very little chance. Non-mountain ultras don't get the same attention.

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  • Is there an award for Performance of the Year?

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    • There is. Olsen's 100 mile record, Krar's R2R2R, Dakota's San Juan Solstice... etc. Lots of strong runs.

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      • Yes, performance of the year for both male and female is an additional award in the UR Magazine poll. I'll pen some thoughts about those in the coming months.

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        • surly performance of the year is Olsens 11:59 100 MILE record... nothing else comes close.

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          • Agree. Rorys UTMB is a lock for the women.

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          • For men, between Dakota and Jon Olson and Rob Krar I'll vote for Dakota's SJS record because I value outdoor mountainous terrain so much. SJS beats Krar's R2R2R because the record at SJS was so much stouter.

            For women, Rory at UTMB and nothing else even close.

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  • What do you mean fastest 2nd place ever at WS (Krar)? Didn't Sandes run around 15:05 just last year? Did you mean closest 2nd place time? (Or am I missing something? )

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    • And for that matter, had Ryan Sandes ever run WS prior to last year? Still at least fastest first 100 at WS... And clearly Krar has had a fantastic year thus far!

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      • And Anton in 2010 was faster in second.

        Olson for the win. Great guy, determined and consistently good.

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  • 1 - Tim

    2 - Sharman

    3 - Nick

    4 - Sage

    5 - Krar

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    • Andre,

      I'm not trying to be antagonistic but am curious your reasoning for putting Tim at first. He only won two races this year (granted, one was WS) while both Rob and Sage had more wins. And head-to-head, Sage beat Tim every time (three times by my count) they raced.

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      • He won WS, was 4th at UTMB, ran RRR 100 just a few weeks after UTMB.

        Beyond that, he was consistency in New Zeland and Spain.

        Tks.

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  • I have to go with Krar. He has a long list of wins and a huge second place. He also has the course records and a huge FKT. Tim has a major win and then a long list of races where he placed well but didn't win. Sage could also win (his resume is stacked) but I have to agree that voters will probably go with someone with at least one solid 100 mile performance.

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  • Wow, here we go again. How can you equate all the diverse ultrarunning disciplines and athletes and say one is superior? And if we must, who is this panel of geniuses who makes the call? Isn't AJW a judge? IMO, this is a gimmick for Ultrarunning Mag to sell more subscriptions, one of the reasons I've cancelled mine. If we must, why not let a public vote select the champion? Maybe we are not "genius" enough. OldGoat

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    • Old Goat: Full disclosure. I am one of the voters in the UR Magazine survey and have been for about 10 years. It is a very diverse group (although we don't all know who else is on the committee) and each year we receive very clear and thorough instructions from the magazine publishers. I can also assure you that we all take the voting seriously.

      That said, Bryon and I have, from time to time, discussed something more akin to what you are talking about (kind of a People's Choice Awards type thing) and we just haven't had the time/energy/wherewithall to pull it all together. No, for now, the UR Mag rankings are the recognized leader in this category in large part because they have been conducting the polling since the early '80s

      AJW

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      • Just curious AJW, how would you know that you all take the voting seriously when you admitted that you don't even know who is on the committee? I presume you meant that YOU take the voting seriously and not that WE take the voting seriously.

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        • Ari, good point. I can only speak for myself and the few other members of the committee that I do know. We all take it seriously. The rest is just a hunch I have.

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          • Thanks for the clarification. You are quite thoughtful and I would imagine the others are the same and do the research. And for the record I agree with your analysis (you just don't know if I'm a voting member or not! haha). Just go easy on the bottoms up stuff when you make your final vote.

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  • I'd have to go with Krar. He has burst onto the scene and putting in amazing performances. And if you go with the head to head, Krar did beat Sage at UROC.

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  • 1. Krar, for the versatility

    2. Sage/Sharman (virtual tie)

    3. Timmy

    4. Nick Clark

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  • Tim Olson,solid and regular in very important international races plus WS.

    2nd,Sage Canaday,whith the same reasons

    3th,Rob Krar,awesome irruption in top level ultras,and brighter future.

    4th Dakota Jones,although He has compited in very few races,his world elite class is intact

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  • If you average out the ultra distances 50k to 100 miles, Krar and Canaday are the best ultra trail runners on the less technical courses, and Jones is the best on the more technical courses.

    It's only if you are WS-centric that Tim Olson is the best ;-) and at that Tim is the best. However I don't believe WS to be the end-all-be-all of trail running anymore.

    Sharman and Clark have blown the top off the grand slam, and win for mental fortitude in the long run, but in head to heads with the other top guys don't usually win.

    If pure fitness and ability in the mountains was the yard stick, I'd have to go with Krupicka, but his race results didn't materialize this year.

    The 100 mile track record is noteworthy, but there isn't the same level of competition in this area, simply because most people aren't interested.

    So I'm going to go with:

    1. Krar

    2. Jones

    3. Canaday

    4. Olsen

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    • +1
      Well said!

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    • I've only raced Sage once (UROC 2012), Rob once (WS 2013), Timmy several times (once in 2013), so my head-to-head against these guys in 2013 boils down WS. Just wanted to point that out.

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      • Dang, caught red-handed. Should have known better than to blather about stuff I know so little about! Thanks, Ian! I know you have crazy flats speed too...

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        • Also, in full disclosure, I am Canadian so I'm biased in favor of Krar ;-), and Dakota's articles crack me up. So.. not actually claiming real objectivity!

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  • If it's a close vote, isn't Krar's beard the tiebreaker?

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  • These dudes are all on a whole 'nother level- it's basically a draw; all four have amazing accomplishments this past calender year.

    It depends on how you weight it- Sage hasn't stepped up to the 100-miler yet, but on any 50-miler or 50k he's the guy to beat. Krar's definitely Rookie of the Year (yeah, I know he's been racing longer than '13, but bear with me here).

    Tim's WS and UTMB performances are super clutchy, a win paired with a "top American" finish, that run in the Alps was gutsy.

    But I think for the 100-mile distance, in the mountains, in a 3 month summer racing window- my vote goes to Ian Sharman. That's just gnarly.

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  • Its a slight tangent, but if you are looking at it from the most exciting/ groundbreaking perspective then one of these two results should walk away with it:

    Hal & Wolfe for the JMT FKT

    Jez Bragg for Te Araroa

    I think there is too much focus on just race results, when this sport originated in pushing the boundaries in the first place.

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    • I like this sort of "out of the box" thinking Tim. We all spend a lot more time training than racing and although races are such a great celebration of community, the focus is purposed rightfully on the fastest at these events. I'm only speaking for myself, but I think what the folks above, Scott Jaime, even TK on Nolan's 14 did this year are worthy and inspiring results from testpeices demanding challenging logistics on top of flawless execution in performance-in between showing up and still racing.

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  • I honestly think it will come down to Krar and Sage.

    Although, Luis Alberto Hernandez has had an amazing year for his first year running ultras. Even though he's had to run at the heels of Kilian, his performances are consistent and impressive.

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  • Sharman - top 4 in all four of Grandslams TM ;) , winning one, second in another, and takes the record under 70 hours.... Krar wins as brightest new star - and maybe 'Guy we suspect is going to be a superstar' - but I'D vote Ian for UROY.

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  • Krar has the edge in my opinion. I think it will come down to TNF50 in December to decide since several of these guys will race head to head one last time in 2013

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    • For performance of the year, Dakota's San Juan Solstice would get my vote, although I may be forgetting other notable performances. Anytime you break a Matt Carpenter record, that speaks for itself

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      • +1

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        • I by no means intend to belittle Dakota's effort. Having been on that course, running sub 8 hours is embarrassingly ridiculous.

          But MattC messed up his fueling twice during that race. At mile 21, he beat the setup of the aid station and so all he could do was grab his own camelback from the drop bag and head out. And he had neglected to realize that when he pre-mixed his broken up energy bars in with water into his camelbak, that it would ferment and foam (and taste) like spoiled milk.

          At mile 31 he couldn't get his bladder back in after he took it out to fill it (he had brought a 100oz instead of the standard 70oz), so he had to just take off carrying the bladder in his hand. I bet if he were 30 years old he would go back and make another run at the course again.

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      • +1

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  • Wow, this is quite surprising and clearly I don't understand how UROY works. It seems to me the odds for Sage to win should be much higher.

    win and course record at Bandera 100k

    Win and beats Tim Olson at Tarawera.

    Win, course record, beats Tim at Sonoma (stacked field)

    Top US finisher at Transvulcania (ahead of Olson)

    course record and win at Speedgoat (stacked field) Also, beats Tim again, though Tim was recovering from Western....

    some other random less important stuff I'm forgetting....

    Ok, yeah, "bad" day at UROC, still finishes second in Skyrunning points, correct?

    And yes, no beard, ok. (but he does run shirtless)

    I would argue this record warrants a better description than "a wonderfully consistent season on a variety of different courses." Seems like he kicked ass wherever he went with a couple of hiccups at UROC and Sierra Zinal. And he certainly didn't hide from the competition; he ran the big races with the exception of Western and UTMB.

    I'm curious to see why this resume doesn't put him higher in the standings.... I understand that a performance at a 100 miler trumps a performance at a 50 miler, and I suppose if Tim had won UTMB as well I would understand putting him ahead of Sage.

    Any thoughts/explanation would be appreciated. Is there some sort of "rubric" used for the decision? 2 50's = 100? Etc? Thanks!

    I do think we can all agree that in previous years any one of these guys could have won the UROY and the depth of this years field points (again) to the increased competition in ultras.

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    • Agree, except for the part about a 100 trumping a 50. Longer races aren't "better" by default. A win is a win, regardless of distance. Shorter races (still ultras, lets remember) just mean you have to run faster.

      But yeah, I really think Sage should be the favorite here.

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      • Hypothetical: Sage wins TNF in December.

        It's done, right? Sage would be a lock for UROY. No voting necessary: AJW and the other "shrouded ten" could go for a long run and enjoy the afternoon.... And yet, I get the feeling by what I read here that even if Sage were to win TNF, it would still not be enough to win UROY.

        Is it those "roadie" sunglasses....?

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        • Guy C, that's an interesting scenario and one that could happen. That said, history suggests that 100-mile performances have greater significance in some voter's eyes. I am not saying they should but quickly perusing past winners that seems to be the case.

          And, one more thing, there are significantly more than 10 voters.

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          • AJW: Thanks

            Anyone know: Is Mackey the only guy to win UROY without a 100 mile win on his resume for the year?

            Has anyone ever won with no 100 miles finishes?

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          • Yes, and people have even won it without running trail races.

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    • SPOT ON

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    • Agree. I think the Krar produced individually more notable performances (Grand Canyon is iconic and UROC was absurd), but I think it was on a smaller sample size than the number of difference races Sage did. Sage's performances at Sonoma, Speedgoat (what's he doing setting a CR on a crazy vertical ultra?!?), Bandera, Transvulcania, 3rd at Mt. Washington, FKT on Maroon Bells, etc. Lots of stout racing on varied terrain against stacked fields - UROY.

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  • Your odds work out to about 11%, 14%, 20% and 33% respectively. That adds up to about 78%; are you predicting about 22% chance for some unnamed person to take it?

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    • oops,that's 25% for Krar, not 33%. Odds are a terrible measure; they are completely non intuitive.

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  • Blah, blah, blah. Is Ultrarunning magazine really even relevant anymore? They offer nothing that I can't get online, for free, without having to wait two months. UROY is really all they have left and it is void of any real meaning. Why are we supposed to be in awe of some arbitrary award selected by a secret panel, judging on secret criteria (other than AJWs self-admitted obsession with Western States)?

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    • Guilty as charged with the WS obsession. However, I should note that I voted for Morton #1 last year

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      • Fair enough, but that doesn't make it any more relevant. The "votes" aren't based on any measurable criteria. It just seems to be a "good ol' boys" club that needs some sort of mechanism to appear important and UROY is that mechanism. I will celebrate the amazing athletes who accomplish these feats, not the opinion of some secret, self-important clandestine group. Just my 2¢.

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