Monday, November 26, 2012

Top 10 ultrarunners of all time?

Recently stumbled across this article. It's a Runner's World piece that describes an ESPN competition for the "greatest athlete of all time." The athletes are broken down by category, and, perhaps surprisingly, there's a sub-category for ultrarunners.

Who was selected as the greatest ultrarunner of all time, according to ESPN?

Pam Reed.

Here's a link to her page. She's a heck of an accomplished ultrarunner, but she's rarely been the best runner in any given race she's run. She won Badwater overall in 2003. But she's not now and never has been the best ultrarunner in the world.

Nonetheless, that got me thinking. Who are the best ultrarunners of all time? I googled the question. No answer, and not even much speculation. And since I couldn't find a helpful source on the web, I decided to try to make a little list myself.

Please enjoy with the caveat that I am not an authority on this subject. Just a fan with a keyboard.

Top 10 ultrarunners of all time:

1) Yiannis Kouros - 100 miles in 11:46? 186 miles in a day? Yeah. Everyone else is competing for second.
2) Kilian Jornet - Just 25, but he races a ton, and he almost never loses. Would be the favorite in almost any ultra or mountain race on the planet.
3) Ann Trason - 13 wins at Western States; record at Leadville that looks incredibly daunting. Had no competition during her era.
4) Bruce Fordyce - 9-time winner of Comrades
5) Ellie Greenwood - Won Western States and JFK 50 this year with course records, not to mention a second place at Comrades. Here's link to her ultrasignup page. That's a whole lot of first place finishes, without much of anything else.
6) Geoff Roes - Past or present CR holder at: Western States, Wasatch, HURT, Bear, Susitna, RRR 50, etc.
7) Scott Jurek - 7-time Westen States champion? Doubt that will ever be topped.
8) Karl Meltzer - Most 100-mile victories of all time. Depending on the course, can still beat anyone in the world even today.
9) Lizzy Hawker - 24 hr. record holder for women, multiple UTMB titles, 100k World Champ; RRR 100 champ.
10) Julien Chorier - Alternated victories at Diagonale de Fous w/ KJ over the last four years. Came over to the US and owned the competition at Hardrock in 2011. Won UT-Mt. Fuji this year. Likely the second-best Euro today, after KJ.

[Update: As Nomad points out in the comments, Don Ritchie belongs on this list, and probably near the top. Check out this article for his background. Pretty humbling for anyone who thinks that modern runners are superior to those of prior generations.]

Honorable mentions: Tim Twietmeyer, Matt Carpenter, Tony Krupicka, J. Philippe Marie-Louise, Max King, Hal Koerner, Mike Morton, Mike Wardian, Ryan Sandes, Kami Semick, Nikki Kimball, Elena Nurgalieva, Kyle Skaggs [Update: Dave Mackey]

Whom did I forget? Feel free to post your own list in the comments. If I get enough, I'll do a crowdsourced list later.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pinhoti 100 - One year anniversary

I got awfully nostalgic following the Pinhoti 100 on twitter this weekend.  It was my first 100-mile race last year, and man, was it fun. I can't believe it all happened one full year ago.

Even though Leadville was the ultimate goal for my ultrarunning hobby, now that I've done both, I must say that I much preferred Pinhoti to Leadville. It was such a beautiful course. It was so informal and intimate. And while I'm not in a hurry to do any more 100s any time soon, part of me was wishing I was out there this weekend, trudging through the forest and kicking rocks once again. Funny how soon we forget how much these things hurt.  

Neal Gorman won the race in 17:06, an impressive time, but well off Meltzer's course record. It's a tough, tough course. Not Hardrock tough, but harder than Leadville, at least for me. There's no Hope Pass, but there are significant rollers the entire way, and the terrain was a minefield of leaves, rocks, and roots for more than 80 miles. Plus, since the race is in November, you are forced to do a lot more night running than is common for other ultras, especially if you're in the 24-plus hour range. If I were to do it again, the one thing I'd change is to try to go out a lot faster, because once night falls, wandering around that dense forest in the dark is no easy task.

But if you love single track, and you love ultras, I can't recommend the race enough.  Most people don't think of Alabama when they think of great trail running, but ask anyone who's done Pinhoti -- this race qualifies.