Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Ultrarunner of the Year

Every year UltraRunning Magazine comes up with a list of ultrarunner of the year (male and female) as well as performances of the year. I don't know who votes for it - probably nobody who reads my blog - but since other ultrarunning bloggers like to come up with their lists, here's my attempt to influence voters to prevent injustices similar to those of the past. So here is my detailed list of 2012's ultrarunner of the year.

1. Mike Morton
2. Everyone else

1. Connie Gardner
2. Everyone else

Performance of the year - male:
1. Mike Morton's 24-hour world championship (American record)
2. Everything else

Performance of the year - female:
1. Connie Gardner's 24-hour world championship (American record)
2. Everything else
(with special mention of Sabrina (Moran) Little's 24-hour North Coast and Amy Sproston's 100K world championship)
Of course, everyone's entitled to their opinion, but if your opinion is not the same as that above, you must have rocks for brains. Not that there aren't a LOT of awesome runners and performances in the "everyone else" category, but none that compare with Mike and Connie. Seriously, if these aren't unanimous choices, there is something very wrong with the system, which we know there is anyway.

Looking back over the last few years, it's becoming more and more clear that the best ultrarunning in the US these days is taking place on the roads, and the track. Since the beginning of 2010, 7 American records have been broken (Josh Cox - 50K, twice; Scott Jurek - 24 Hours, Mike Morton - 24 Hours, Sabrina Moran - 24 Hours, Connie Gardner - 24 Hours, me - 48 Hours) and several other close calls, the recent performances of the US 24-hour and 100K teams, one age-group world record (Jay Aldous - 50+, 100 miles), a dozen male 24-hour performances over 150 miles, and at least 10 women's performances over 135 miles, and we just had two sub-13 hour 100 mile performances. The quality and depth of quality is outstanding. The roads, and track, are where it's at, baby!


  1. Definitely agreed. I would give Max King a solid #2 that would deserve to win most other years, but I agree that Morton blew everyone else away. #3 would have to be Tim Olson, although I don't agree with most people who claim that his run at WS100 should be performance of the year. With weather like they had, it's simply not quite as strong as the top 2 runs from 2010. In fact, I'd put it about on par with Morton's classic win back in the day. For performance of the year, I think Max's JFK50 will get some votes, and it deserves them. Morton's 24 hour run was more impressive, but Max's 50 there was pretty stellar. With that in mind, however, I think his time could be beaten by 5-10 minutes by some of the Africans/Eastern Europeans that tend to win Comrades, although nobody right now can beat Morton at 24 hours. For next year, I would be curious to see Morton run some shorter events (he did what, one low key 50 near the end of the year this year?). I don't think he'd win the biggest trail 50ks or 50 milers at this point, but he'd be pretty sick in a 100k, especially on road.

  2. It would be interesting to see Mike really compete in a big 50 mile or 100K, although I think the longer races are where he really shines. Yes, Max and Tim's races were outstanding, and in any other year could easily make performance of the year. But anyone who seriously thinks either of them is bigger than Mike's run is just not knowledgeable about the sport and/or living in their own little trail world. Mike beat Scott Jurek's record by almost 7 miles, and puts him I believe at #3 on the all-time world list. Close to that at least.

  3. I love this post.

    I have been enjoying telling other ultrarunners while racing trail ultras that I am a Road Runner. It makes people crazy :). I get lectured repeatedly about how trails are the best. But I agree with you, Road Ultras are where it's at and it is where I plan to focus my attention in the new year.

    I truly love to train in the woods. No one will believe me because I love the roads too. Roads are the place where all other variables are eliminated and runners can run as fast as they possibly push themselves for as far as they possible can at speeds they could never reach on trail. We know trails are tough because of the terrain. The reward is the runner gets to experience mother nature in a way that was often never dreamed possible while challenge themselves to navigate through the obstacles and challenges. It is awe inspiring. But road are tough because of the pace. The reward is the runner gets to experience his or her abilities in ways that never seemed possible and that too is awe inspiring.

    Most ultrarunners (as Roes indicated recently in irunfar) consider themselves Trail Runners. Trails are often presented as "harder". (And here is where i will get pelted with stone) but if we are all honest about what happens in the woods, we know that most ultrarunners, with the exception of the front of the packers or some steady paced runners, are hiking the roughest terrain. That doesn't make trails easier, it just makes them a different kind of challenge.

    Roads are often treated like less of an ultra, as if they are too easy and not "real" ultras because they are fast courses. But I believe that once a person actually runs every step of an ultra at race pace (which doesn't happen as often in trail ultras) only then can someone understand how hard road ultras are. When I watched Dave James run his 13:06 100 at NorthCoast and witnessed him run every single step of his race and then go on for almost 20 more miles, I was the most inspired I have ever been at an ultra. (I do recognize that Rocky Raccoon seems to be an exception to the rule and people are all posting phenomenal times there. I would love to get there some day.)

    The reality is that anyone seeking to qualify for any World Championship does it on Roads or Track. Roads and Tracks are where the records are set. I personally hope to see more RD's putting on Road/Track races to encourage fast performances and new records. We need more Road 100k.

    I get frustrated when I get treated like I hate the woods because I enjoy the roads too. We really dont have to choose. I love the woods. I always have. I will run and enjoy my trails just as much pure trail runners. I will race in the woods but I dont expect PR's. However, I will look forward to fast road times this upcoming year too.

    Thank you Phil for a great post.

    1. @Shannon - I wanted to make a comment regarding roads vs. trail vs. treadmill vs. etc. I consider myself a runner. I will run anywhere. I think runners who consider themselves 100% road runners, or trail runners or indoor runners limit their experiences. At the same time I do understand appeal of trail running

      @Phil - I agree with your choices. Mike Morton's performance this year was very solid. Connie Gardner is making case to become runner of decade. Also I was just thinking that "Runner of the year" is not the best suited category for ultra-runners. I think more fitting would be something what NFL has - Probowl where more then one runner gets honors without rankings who is first, second, etc.

      On Canadian side Cave Carver seems like a guy for top honors in my opinion.

  4. Shannon, thanks for your comment - you hit the nail on the head!!! Believe it or not, I love running on trails too. But I recognize that my strength lies on the roads, so that's where I do most of my running, and that's where my heart is. It just pisses me off no end when road runners don't get any respect just because trail running is more popular. But the UR voting is just a joke anyway, it's best just ignored.

    Naturally, Connie got royally screwed this year, no offense to Ellie, but come on! Egils, you're right, Connie is the runner of the decade. There's Ellie and Nikki and Jenn and others, but no one has been so consistently at the top of her game for so long. She's the best runner since Ann Trason.

    And I actually think Mike would have been overlooked if it weren't for his back story and his history at Western States.