This Week In Running: November 21, 2016

This Week in Running Justin Mock TWIRThe JFK 50 Mile was a big one this weekend, and the IAU 100k World Championships is a big one next weekend. Both are among the highlights of this week’s column.

JFK 50 MILE – BOONSBORO, MARYLAND

Men

It’s been over a day since Jim Walmsley finished and I’m still trying to think of how best to describe his race. Wow, just wow.

It was another record breaker, by a huge margin. Ignoring what could have been at the Western States Endurance Run, this was probably Walmsley’s best race in what has been the best year of ultra racing in recent memory.

Already a two-time winner at the JFK 50 Mile, Walmsley, formerly of the Air Force, had nothing to chase this year but the presidential record books. He ran alone at the front and smashed Max King’s 2012 course record. Walmsley’s 5:21:29 cut a whopping 13 minutes from King’s former best of 5:34:59–a record that was already highly regarded. Keep in mind that until 2011, no one had run better than 5:46 on this course. And in that year, David Riddle’s 5:40 course record was awarded Ultra Performance of the Year honors. Walmsley was 19 minutes better than the 2011 Ultra Performance of the Year. Walmsley averaged 6:25 per mile on the part-trail, part-road course.

Afterwards, race director Mike Spinnler told Andy Mason of the local Herald-Mail Media, “All the previous JFK record holders, including me–we are all just boys in comparison to what Jim Walmsley just did.”

Walmsley’s year now included nine wins in 10 starts, six course records, and two giant FKTs in the Grand Canyon.

He’s got one race left though and it’s a big one. The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships is in two weeks in San Francisco, and it will pay $10,000 to its winner. Walmsley will face a more competitive field than he has all year, and he’ll do it on short rest.

Overshadowed by Walmsley’s run, the next three men also ran under six hours for the storied course, now in its 54th year. Anthony Kunkel atoned for a drop at the recent Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile with a second-place 5:52. If not for recent illness, Kunkel told the Herald-Mail that he likely would have tried to match Walmsley for as long as he could.

Mike Owen was third in 5:56, and Iron Mike Wardian was fourth in 5:58. Though known for his frequent racing, Wardian’s recent streak of the Marine Corps Marathon, the New York Marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon, and now JFK is exceptional. He’s been on point in each race, and included a Grand Canyon double crossing somewhere in there too.

2016 JFK 50 Mile champion. Photo: Andy Mason/Herald-Mail Media

Jim Walmsley, 2016 JFK 50 Mile champion. Photo: Colleen McGrath/Herald-Mail Media

Women

As with much of the rest of the men’s race, the women’s race too was largely overshadowed by Walmsley. Though it wasn’t a course record, women’s winner Leah Frost was outstanding. Her 6:23 finish time was the race’s third fastest ever, trailing only marks by Ellie Greenwood and Emily Harrison. A 2:42 marathoner, Frost was making her 50-mile debut. She led throughout.

Caroline Boller, doubling back from a 16th-place finish at last week’s IAU 50k World Championships on the other side of the world, was second in 6:32. It was a new master’s course record, bettering Meghan Arbogast’s 2011 result, 6:35:16.

Third-place Megan DiGregorio ran 7:02.

Leah Frost - 2016 JFK 50 Mile champion

Leah Frost, 2016 JFK 50 Mile champion. Photo: Andy Mason/Herald-Mail Media

Ian Torrence’s 200th Ultra

Though not on the podium, Ian Torrence’s 200th ultra finish was another noteworthy storyline. Having grown up nearby, Torrence said that JFK will always be his home course. He has finished JFK 22 times in 23 starts. Included in that run are two runner-up finishes and this year’s 7:17 result.

It was no coincidence that he earmarked JFK for his 200th finish–it was also his first ultra finish way back in 1994. Torrence’s high-water year was 2000 when he finished 17 ultras, winning nine. In 1999 he ran 16 ultras, winning 12.

He shrugs off the notion of another 100 finishes, “I doubt I can quit ultras, but I think I will be very selective in my choices from here on out. They are not getting easier.”

Torrence was also quick to point to Rob Apple. Believed to be the record holder for most ultra finishes, Apple’s Ultrasignup page presently lists results from 514 races.

Full results.

OTHER RACES AND RUNS

With nearly 7,600 entrants, Iowa’s Living History Farms Off-Road Race is the country’s largest cross-country race. The roughly seven-mile race includes creek crossings, hay bales, and farm animals. Men’s winner Charlie Paul ran 40:39, and women’s winner Kaci Lickteig was over two minutes in front at 48:36. Full results.

Timothy Olson won the Thailand Ultramarathon, a 100k race through the jungle. Full results (when available).

On his way to San Francisco, Miguel Heras won the K42 Adventure Marathon in Argentina, finishing in 3:26. Veronica Ramirez won the women’s race in 4:24. Full results.

The Dead Horse Ultra in Moab, Utah had 50 mile, 50k, and 30k race distances. In the long course, Jeason Murphy and Melissa Beaury were victors in 6:58 and 8:16, respectively. Gordon Gianniny and Rachel Downey won the 50k in 3:35 and 4:11. And in the short course, it was Toby Lefere and Shawnie Mulligan on top in 1:57 and 2:13. Full results.

Melissa Beaury - Dead Horse 50 Mile champion

Melissa Beaury, Dead Horse Ultra 50 Mile champion. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

NEXT WEEKEND – IAU 100K WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS – LOS ALCAZARES, SPAIN

Men

Runners from some 32 countries will take part in the men’s race. Not included in that group (for women, as well) is the Russian federation, presumably still blocked from IAAF International Competitions following suspension last year in response to a large-scale doping scandal. Still, seven of last year’s top-10 finishers are expected to return including defending champion Jonas Buud. He led Sweden to team gold a year ago, but the five-man South African entry looks to be an overwhelming favorite. I guess we’ll see if Comrades Marathon success translates to this flat 10 x 10k course and its frequent turns. Keep in mind too that last year’s race might not be the best predictor of success this year–man-of-the-moment Walmsley was just 28th at this race in 2015. Also, Team Japan is looking strong, bringing four runners–three team members score–who have recent 100k PRs at 6:40 and faster. That’s some depth there!

  • Hermann Achmuller (Italy) – 14th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Jerome Andrieu (France) – 20th 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Henri Ansio (Finland) – 15th 2016 IAU Trail World Championships
  • Jerome Bellanca (France) – 8th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Dominique Bordet (France) – 18th 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Radek Brunner (Czech Republic) – 3rd at 2016 Spartathlon
  • Jonas Buud (Sweden) – 1st at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Giorgio Calcaterra (Italy) – 3rd at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Asier Cuevas (Spain) – 2nd at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Brendan Davies (Australia) – 19th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Wouter Decock (Belgium) – 5th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Fritjof Fagerlund (Sweden) – 6th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • David Gatebe (South Africa) – 1st at 2016 Comrades Marathon
  • Didrik Hermansen (Norway) – 6:39 recent 100k PR, 2nd 2016 Western States
  • Oleksandr Holovnytskyy (Ukraine) – 16th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Tatsuyo Itgaki (Japan) – 11th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Gift Kelehe (South Africa) – 1st at 2015 Comrades Marathon
  • Ludwick Mamabalo (South Africa) – 2nd at 2016 Comrades Marathon
  • Bongmusa Mthembu (South Africa) – 3rd at 2016 Comrades Marathon
  • Florian Neuschwander (Germany) – 9th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Rufus Photo (South Africa) – 5th at 2016 Comrades Marathon
  • Andre Rangelind (Sweden) – Ran 6:51 for 100k in 2016
  • Jose Antonio Requejo (Spain) – 3rd 2014 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Jarle Risa (Norway) – 1st 2016 Ultravasan 90k
  • Pavlo Stepanenko (Ukraine) – 15th IAU 100k World Championships
  • Yoshiki Takada (Japan) – 5th 2014 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Kaitarou Toike (Japan) – 4th 2016 Lake Saroma 100k in 6:40
  • Tomasz Walerowicz (Poland) – Ran 6:53 for 100k in 2015
  • Hideaki Yamauchi (Japan) – 2nd 2016 Lake Saroma 100k in 6:39

The top U.S. finisher last year was Joe Binder, and he too is included in this year’s group.

  • Joe Binder (U.S.) – 21st at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Zach Bitter (U.S.) – 1st at 2016 Javelina Jundred
  • Geoff Burns (U.S.) – 1st at 2016 Mad City 100k
  • Matt Flaherty (U.S.) – 24th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Chikara Omine (U.S.) – 26th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Patrick Reagan (U.S.) – 3rd at 2016 UltraVasan 90k

Full entrant list.

Women

A slightly smaller group–26 countries, with generally fewer runners on each team–make up the women’s field. 2015 champ Camille Herron (U.S.) is a late scratch with injury, leaving the women’s race wide open. With Herron absent, the U.S. still returns two members of last year’s gold medal-winning team, and is the team favorite. Team Japan should also contend for gold, as they bring four runners with recent PRs under 7:52. Sweden has a three-woman team who’ve all performed well in at least one of the last two editions of this event. With three team members scoring, however, they need strong performances from each of them to contend as a team.

Contenders from the international group include:

  • Kirstin Bull (Australia) – 8th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Monica Carlin (Italy) – Many-time IAU 100k Wold Championships podium finisher
  • Mai Fujisawa (Japan) – 15th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships in 7:56, just ran 7:42 at the Lake Saroma 100k
  • Veronika Jurisic (Croatia) – 11th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Aiko Kanematsu (Japan) – 7:47 at 2016 Lake Saroma 100k
  • Laurence Klein (France) – 14th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Chiyuki Mochizuki (Japan) – 2nd at 2014 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Mikiko Ota (Japan) – 13th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Frida Södermark (Sweden) – 12th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Sophia Sundberg (Sweden) – 13th at 2014 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Nikolina Sustic (Croatia) – 7:40 100k PR
  • Stina Svensson (Sweden) – 7th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Jo Zakrewski (U.K.) – 5th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships

The U.S. team includes:

  • Meghan Arbogast (U.S.) – 17th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Sarah Bard (U.S.) – 4th at 2015 IAU 100k World Championships
  • Traci Falbo (U.S.) – 1st at 2016 Mad City 100k
  • Pam Smith (U.S.) – 2nd at 2016 Spartathlon

Full entrant list.

CALL FOR COMMENTS

  • Do you agree that Jim Walmsley’s JFK 50 Mile is a better performance than either his Lake Sonoma 50 Mile or his Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim FKT?
  • Am I right in eagerly anticipating the South African men’s race at the IAU 100k World Championships, or will they go the way of the Kenyans at the IAU 50k World Championships (zero finishers)?
  • What other races can be added to this week’s commentary?
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.