This Week In Running: April 1, 2019

This Week in Running Justin Mock TWIRVariety is the spice of ‘This Week In Running.’ I mean, we’ve got races as diverse as the Barkley Marathons, the Georgia Death Race, ski mountaineering’s Grand Traverse, and the Marathon des Sables of Morocco in this week’s column! It’s Monday morning, and we’re talking about it.

Georgia Death Race – Blairsville, Georgia

Thanks to UltrAspire for sponsoring this week’s edition of TWIR!

The Run Bum Tours Georgia Death Race runs 74 miles with over 4,000 meters of elevation gain, all on a wild point-to-point course that connects Vogel State Park and Amicalola Falls State Park. The race was again a Golden Ticket contest with the top-two men and women earning automatic entry to this year’s Western States 100.


It was a two-man race for some 40 miles, with only minutes between them. Morgan Elliott finally grabbed the lead from longtime front man Shaun Pope with 11 miles to go and throttled to the finish in 12:34. Pope lost ground late and finished second in 12:44. Both Elliott and Pope accepted their Golden Tickets.

Robert Irr was a distant third in 13:35.

Expected contenders William AnsickJeremy HumphreyTravis Zipfel, and Aaron Saft were all drops, and defending champion Andrew Miller did not start the race.

Morgan Elliott (second from left), 2019 Georgia Death Race men’s champion. Photo: Run Bum Tours


The women’s race ran even closer, and after a day-long battle and lead switcheroo throughout the race, only six seconds separated Luzia Buehler (Switzerland) and Liz Canty. Buehler reportedly took over the lead for the final time in the race’s last half mile, winning in 13:42 and Canty officially followed in 13:43. Just like the men’s first two, both of these women also accepted their prized Golden Ticket.

Teresa Kaiser was third in 14:01.

4/2/19 Edit – On April 1, race director Sean Blanton appeared on UltrarunnerPodcast to discuss an unfortunate course situation that may have affected some 40% of the field. Trail construction early in the race impacted the route that many took, resulting in a shorter – perhaps half mile – route, though one with significantly less climbing.  Posted results currently do not reflect any change, but Blanton planned to add a one hour penalty to the impacted runners.  This would increase the finish time of each of the women’s top three, but not alter their places.  For the men though, fourth-place Shawn Webber would leapfrog Robert Irr, and should one of the top two men decline their Golden Ticket, potentially give Webber that prized entry to Western States.

Full results.

The next Golden Ticket race is the April 13 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in California.

Luzia Buehler (right) and Liz Canty after finishing first and second at the 2019 Georgia Death Race. Photo: Run Bum Tours

Barkley Marathons – Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee

The Barkley Marathons are notoriously difficult, and because of it, wildly popular. For this year’s race, we’re again best to just point to Keith Dunn‘s excellent–particularly if you like cats–coverage via Twitter.

The field is traditionally limited to 40 starters, and this year’s exclusive group was increasingly international. Race temperatures were said to be in the 50s Fahrenheit early, increasing to the 80s with sun, and then dropping to 10 degrees Fahrenheit overnight with snow on course high points.

Twenty-eight runners finished the race’s first loop (of five) within the time limit, and of that group it is believed that only 22 started the second loop. Some of the runners finishing the first loop included:

Guillaume CalmettesStephanie Case (Canada), Jamil CouryJames ElsonMaggie GuterlGreig Hamilton (New Zealand), Dale HoldawayTomokazu IharaRémy Jegard (France), John Kelly, Karel Sabbe (Belgium), Nicky Spinks (U.K.), Johan Steene (Sweden), Ed Thomas, and Hisayuki Tateno.

Three-time finisher Jared Campbell was forced to abandon the race with a badly sprained ankle early on the race’s first loop.

Pre-race favorite John Kelly was the first to finish two loops, doing so in 21:02. He then surprisingly dropped.

Guillaume Calmettes finished two loops in 21:11, and Greig Hamilton did his double in just over 22 hours.

Karel Sabbe finished two loops in 22:57, and Johan Steene, Jamil Coury, and Tomokazu Ihara finished two loops in 24:20, 24:21, and 24:25, respectively.

Sabbe and Hamilton finished three loops in 35:40 and 35:41, and then returned to the course to start lap four with two minutes to spare. Hamilton dropped early in that fourth loop and Sabbe later on.

Calmettes finished his third loop 36:03, outside of the allotted time to allow him to begin lap four.

Ihara, Steene, and Coury finished their third lap together and all earned a ‘Fun Run’ finish.

The 2019 Barkley Marthons came to its close in the early morning hours of Monday, April 1.

Keith Dunn Twitter.

Grand Traverse – Crested Butte, Colorado

The Grand Traverse is a midnight-start, 40-mile ski-mountaineering race from Crested Butte to Aspen. It’s 22 years old, and in part because of that history and the unique midnight start, it’s become a must-do for Colorado (and beyond) endurance athletes–trail runners and ultrarunners included.

First-time teammates Cam Smith and Rory Kelly won the overall race in 7:22. It was a repeat win for Smith. Billy Laird and Jon Brown were second, 10 minutes back. Deeper results included rookie racers Dylan Bowman and Seth Swanson, 11th in 9:06, and Max King was part of the 12th-place team.

Nikki LaRochelle and Kate Zander took the women’s crown in 8:24, almost an hour better than second-place Lyndsay Meyer and Michela Adrian.

Coed teammates Ross Herr and Jill Seager won that division in 7:57 and Dan Loftus and Stevie Kremer were second in 8:41.

Full results.

Cam Smith (left) and Rory Kelly, 2019 Grand Traverse men’s team champions. Photo: Grand Traverse

Other Races and Runs

Reventón Trail Marathon

The Reventón Trail Marathon is one of many competitive races in the Canary Islands, and this one usually serves as a spring proving ground for Spanish athletes. Zaid Ait Malek (Morocco, but living in Spain) won the men’s race in 3:43, 15 seconds better than Antonio Martinez (Spain). Azara Garcia (Spain) won the women’s race in 4:20, and that’s a new course record. She was second here in 2018.

Diego Martin (Spain) and Meg MacKenzie (South Africa) won the 32k ‘Classic’ race and MacKenzie also won the weekend’s Vertical K contest. Full results.

Azara Garcia, 2019 Reventón Trail Marathon champion. Photo: Reventón Trail

Crown King Scramble

Aravaipa Running’s Crown King Scramble is one of the group’s oldest races, dating back to 1987. David Nilsson (Sweden) ran 1:03 at the New York City Half Marathon two weeks ago, and he ran 3:47 to win here. Nilsson was five seconds better than the previous course best. Second-place Tim Freriks finished in 3:50. Ida Nilsson (Sweden), David Nilsson’s sister, won the women’s race in 4:26, and that broke Ann Trason’s 2002 course record. Full results.

Badger Mountain Challenge

Colin Miller and Jordan Wirfs-Brock won the 100-mile Badger Mountain Challenge in Washington state, finishing the run in 16:53 and 20:23. Fifty-mile winners were Bradley Revenis and Riva Muehlbauer in 7:21 and 7:44, and Jesse Lang and Julie Leasure won the 50k in 4:13 and 5:59. Full results.

Red Dragon 55k

Adam Kimble and Hannah Hamm won what looks to be the first Red Dragon 55k in northern California. The two ran 4:24 and 5:28, respectively. Full results.

Prairie Spirit Trail 100 Mile

The Prairie Spririt Trail 100 Mile race is in Kansas, and race winners Rolfe Schmidt and Ashley Truan went for 15:42 and 17:46 runs. Mark Hammond and Marcia Dority-Baker won the accompanying 100k in 8:34 and 11:27. Full results.

Mark Hammond, 2019 Prairie Spirit Trail 100k men’s champion. Photo: Prairie Spirit Trail

Castle to River Run 50k

Snowed out in November 2018, the rescheduled Castle to River Run 50k in upstate New York took place for the first time. Ian Golden and Kehr Davis set the inaugural course standards at 4:27 and 5:01. Full results.

Next Weekend – Marathon des Sables – Sahara Desert, Morocco

The 34th edition of the Marathon des Sables (MDS) is set to start in Morocco’s Sahara Desert this Sunday, April 7th. The race has five competitive stages which span seven days, concluding on Saturday, April 13th, and includes the notable challenges of carrying all your food and camping gear and the Sahara’s environmental conditions.

Also notable this year is that MDS isn’t part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, which seems to have dinged the depth of the international competition. The male Moroccan field looks as deep as ever.


  • Lhoucine Akhdar (Morocco but lives in France) ­– Many-time MDS finisher, most recently 6th in 2013
  • Abdelaziz Baghazza (Morocco) – 4th 2017 MDS
  • Julien Chorier (France) – 9th 2018 TDS
  • Aziz El Akad (Morocco) – Many-time MDS finisher, most recently 9th last year
  • Mohamed El Morabity (Morocco) – Has finished second twice, including last year when he was 25 minutes back of his older brother Rachid
  • Rachid El Morabity (Morocco) – Six-time MDS champion including in 2018
  • Abdelkader El Mouziz (Morocco) – Four-time MDS finisher, including fourth last year
  • Robert Merile (France) – 3rd 2018 MDS, and under an hour behind the win

Don’t bet against Rachid El Morabity. Though, the family lineage seems set up so that at some point Mohamed will take over the reign from his older brother. Look for a challenge, too, from Moroccan up-and-comer Baghazza who has a 1:03 half-marathon PR and one MDS worth of experience under his belt.


  • Ragna Debats (Netherlands but lives in Spain) ­­– Reigning trail world champion
  • Gemma Game (U.K.) ­– Two-time finisher including third place in 2018
  • Meghan Hicks ­(USA) – Five-time finisher including a win in 2013
  • Laurence Klein (France) – Three-time champion most recently in 2012
  • Aziza Raji (Morocco) – Multi-time TransAtlas Marathon champion

Debats is the heavy favorite, but Game ran for a strong third place in a crowded women’s competition last year.

Full entrants list.

Other Trail and Ultra News

USA Trail World Championships Team

The Trail Running World Championships will happen June 8 in Portugal on a 44k course, and the U.S. team was just announced last week. The U.S. men won team silver in 2016 and team bronze in 2017. The U.S. women won a team silver in 2018.


  • Anthony Costales 
  • Mario Mendoza 
  • Zach Miller 
  • Alex Nichols
  • Sam Sahli
  • Tim Tollefson


  • Corey Conner
  • Kasie Enman
  • Anna Mae Flynn
  • Dani Moreno
  • Elizabeth Ryan
  • Kelly Wolf

Full release.

Call for Comments

  • I wouldn’t call it March Madness, but that was a pretty good weekend! What caught your eye?
  • What other races took place this weekend? Leave a comment to share more race results.
  • And, were you on site at any of the races we did cover? Leave a comment with your own color commentary. Thanks!
Justin Mock

is a family man, finance man, and former competitive runner. He gave his 20s to running, and ran as fast as 2:29 for the marathon and finished as high as fourth at the Pikes Peak Marathon. His running is now most happy with his two dogs on the trails and peaks near his home west of Denver.

There are 31 comments

  1. Amy McDowell

    Umstead 100 in Raleigh, NC is happening this weekend and looks to have much better weather than last year. I think a CR by Olivier Leblond is possible!

  2. scott simcox

    What’s up with Mark Hammond picking small races? He’s done Booneville, Loup Garou and now Prairie Spirit (off the top of my head). One of the best runners in the country and he’ll go Meltzer some locals.

            1. Brian Haviland

              I’ve yet to race an ultra, but here are three I’ve been wanting to do.
              The Kesugi Ridge Traverse in Denali National Park (I’ve spent time in the area, but never linked up the traverse).
              The Susitna 100 is a great AK winter ultra that I’ve fat biked 3 times.
              The Resurrection Pass 50/100 is a a low key ultra not too far from Anchorage that takes place in August. Beautiful trail.


    1. Speedgoat

      “Meltzer some locals”? :-) with all due respect. I believe I’m entitled to run any race in any state, regardless of competition. Because running the same damn race year in and year out get old. Let me know when you complete 75 100s, a couple of AT’s, a Pony Express and lots of long runs. Mark Hammond is running where he wants too, that’s cool.

      I hope you were kidding…

      1. Jon

        Look on the bright side, Karl…Your name is now a verb! One could argue that you’ve now “made it big” because of this. Gotta be honest though man, not so sure it’s gonna catch on.

  3. Ben

    As much as I wish the US would adopt the metric system (truly) would it be possible to note the distance and vert of races in one system consistently? My conversion brain doesn’t like to work on the Monday morning commute ;)

  4. Robbie O'Grady

    Congrats to the top 2 ladies and men at GDR this weekend. I was able to finish in 22 hours. What an unbelievably beautiful and difficult course. Georgia is gorgeous!

  5. John

    According to Ultrarunner Podcast blog and comment section it looks like the top 3 women at GDR accidentally didn’t run the actual course, possibly skipping a substantial climb. This was pointed out in the 4th place woman’s race report and likely can be verified on Strava. Whether it would have materially affected the finishing order or not, at most big races (see Hardrock last year) this would be an automatic disqualification if the runner didn’t go back to where you went off course. I would fall into this camp in order to remove any grey area. Given the status of this race as a golden ticket race, do you think these results might change?

  6. AJW

    @jon I wish I could tell you where to get the “Gritty AF” shirts but I can’t. I just showed up at GDR on Saturday and a bunch of the volunteers (and Sean) were wearing them. I’ve honestly never been so embarrassed and honored at the same time!

  7. Alfredo

    Great to see both CRs go down at Crown King. Ida’s besting of Ann Trason’s record is huge. And it’s really good to see that [Edited] Vargo’s CR went down to someone who seems pretty cool. Congrats to both.

    [Editor’s Note: We require folks to be above name calling when commenting on iRunFar. Thanks.]

  8. Mike Smith

    From Strava flyby data – it shows that 2nd place male (Shaun Pope) at GDR also went off course.. along with essentially the whole lead pack. What now?

  9. Brandon Baker

    GDR seems quite the messy situation- It will be interesting to see how it shakes out- As an RD myself, its basically a worst nightmare!

    1. Patrick K.

      An error from the above article states “trail construction early in the race”. Rest assured, there was no construction taking place during the race. The trail was there for weeks prior to the race as evident by how smooth and enticing the incorrect trail was.

  10. Anonymous

    The GDR situation deserves a hard look from the WSER board. The penalty was extremely arbitrary and the Strava data tells the real story. Rob Irr is getting a really raw deal. He was even with Webber at 62 and called him by 25 mins to the end. The “wrong way” Trail was .2 longer though with slightly less climbing. Course markings were corrected mid stream after 17 of top 20 or so went the “wrong” way.

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