Western States 2014 – Race Preview

Western_States_Endurance_Run_patch

An incredible weekend of trail and mountain running will unfold on the 27th – 29th of June. In Europe, the Skyrunning World Championships will take place on the trails of the endurance capital of the world, Chamonix.

Across the pond in Squaw Valley, the super bowl of trail will take place. The best male and female trail runners will arrive to do battle over the 100-mile distance in what is arguably, the most iconic ultra race in the world, Western States.

One could say that WSER has come a long way since the 70’s when Gordy Ainsleigh blazed a trail, but in reality, little has changed. WSER is still a relatively low key 100-miler that gains worldwide attention due to the history and the quality of the competition.

2014 will not have previous winner and course record holder, Ellie Greenwood on the start line. Equally, we will not have 2-time winner, Timothy Olson. So, does that mean it’s wide open?

Unlike me, I am going to make a prediction from the off!

Men’s champion 2014 – Rob Krar

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Ladies champion 2014 – Nathalie Mauclair

Nathalie Mauclair ©iancorless.com

 

The Ladies

I can hear the gasp! Nathalie who?

You may be right, I am sticking my neck out here and although Nathalie Mauclair hasn’t run Western States before, I am going to go on my gut feelings, the love of a dark horse prediction and basically put it all on the line and say, Nathalie can do it! Nathalie was a relatively unknown last year and a quality run at Transvulcania La Palma placed her on the map. Winning the World Trail Running championships proved it was no fluke and then to top it all, Nathalie only went on to win Raid de la Reunion, arguably one of the toughest 100-miles races on the calendar. Those three results alone show fast running over technical terrain, just good old fast trail running and the ability to endure, hike and last on a trail for a long time. Nathalie may well turn heads at WSER and although UTMF didn’t go to plan earlier this year, if Nathalie has good form and she has no injuries I am going to stick to my guns and say, Nathalie for the win!

Last years winner, Pam Smith has experienced both ends of the WSER spectrum and understands what it is like to be on top of the podium and way down the field struggling just to finish. Post WSER in 2013, Pam went on a blitz with a 14:11:26 at Desert Solstice for 100-miles, a win at ORRC Autumn Leaves 50m and 5th at Run Rabbit Run. A relatively quiet start to 2014 can only mean one thing, Pam has been in hiding and training; training hard!

©iancorless.com.IMG_2710MDS2014

Nikki Kimball cannot be ruled out in any race, especially WSER. Nikki knows how to run the race, loves the heat and although she may not be the fastest lady, (on paper) experience counts for so much. This came to fruition last year with 2nd place. I remember Nikki crying at the finish of Transvulcania, she said, ‘I am back!’ Injury issues put to one side, Nikki now races less but when she races, she makes it count. Great proof of this is her win at the 2014 edition of Marathon des Sables. Nikki will be in the mix.

Stephanie Howe if the early 2014 performances are anything to go by,  is on a roll. A 2nd place 7:33:24 at Lake Sonoma 50m and a win at Mesquite Canyon 50km  must have the female competition looking over and thinking, ‘we gotta keep an eye on her!’ They do. I think Stephanie will move up and almost certainly break top-5 and to be honest, any podium place is for the taking if it all comes together on the day. A 2nd behind Emelie Forsberg at UROC and a win at Speedgoat 50k just proves the potential.

Kaci Lickteig is not a runner I know a great deal about. But what I do know is that she ran 6-races in 2013 and won every one! In 2014, Kaci placed 2nd at Rocky Raccoon 100-mile, 3rd at Sonoma just 10-min behind Steph Howe’s first place and recently won Ice Age Trail 50m in May. That is a lot of racing and will either mean that Kaci will be in the form of her life in Squaw or just a little jaded. If it’s the former, I see top-5!

Emily Harrison placed 7th last year in 20:28 but on recent form at Lake Sonoma 50m (7:26:15 for the win) and Casumett 50k (3:15:01), one has to think that Emily will break top-5 and stir things up. One year on with more experience, Emily will potentially have a break through performance.

Meghan Arbogast like Nikki Kimball knows WSER like the back of her hand and to put this in perspective she placed 4th last year and 2014 will be Meghan’s 8th WSER. A recent 5th place at Tarawera in New Zealand shows good form but in reality, it may well mean nothing. Meghan now lives on the WSER course and in 2014 we may well see her in the best form ever. Can she get the coveted sub 18:30 time she so desires? It may not be politically correct but you have to take your hat off to this lady, not many 50+ runners can kick the butt of runners considerably younger.

Rounding out the top-10 or maybe sneaking top-5

Liza Howard in 2014 was 1st at Umstead 100-mile and 2nd at Bandera but I don’t think will race?

Denise Bourassa has finished WSER twice and placed 8th in 2013

Leila Degrave placed 9th in 2013

Beth Cardelli arrives from the Southern Hemisphere where she is a consistent top performer. Beth run WSER in 2011 and placed 12th with 22:16:28. If she has a good day, top-10 is within her potential for sure.

Shaheen Sattar took her WSER slot with 3rd at Rocky Raccoon and backs up her place with 2nd at Leadville in 2013.

Ones to watch:

Larisa Dannis in 2014: 3rd Ice Age Trail 50m, 1st Land Between The Lakes 50m and 4th at Rocky Raccoon

Tera Dube in 2014: 4th at Miwok 100k, 9th Lake Sonoma 50m. 4th Ray Miller 50m

Sally McRae in 2014: 6th at Lake Sonoma and 2nd at Ray Miller 50

Silke Koester in 2014: 2nd Zane Grey 50m. and 4th at Bandera 100k

 

 

The Men

Rob Krar was on fire in 2013. Relatively unknown until that incredible win at Leona Divide and then the FKT in the Grand Canyon. I remember interviewing him post that incredible rim-to-rim-to-rim and he spoke about WSER and how the 100-mile distance was a complete mystery to him and how he would give it the utmost respect. Well, the respect worked and he took out 2nd place. Following that up with a stomping UROC win ahead of Dakota Jones and then TNF50 victory gave Rob the award of Ultra Runner of the Year and rightly so! With no Timothy Olson in the race, Rob along with Ryan Sandes will have huge targets on their backs. Rob can handle that pressure and for me is the hot favourite.

©iancorless.com.IMG_1766

Ryan Sandes missed WSER last year after getting injured and what followed was a year to forget for Ryan. However, he has more than put that annus horribilis behind him with an incredible start to 2014 with a win at Transgrancanaria, a FKT on The Drakensberg Traverse and quality run at UTMF behind Francois d’Haene. Ryan knows how to run WSER and his 15:03:36 behind Olson’s 14:46:44 in 2012 shows he has all the potential to top the podium, providing he isn’t too tired. Krar ran 15:22 last year against Olson’s 15:17 so a battle royal is predicted.

©copyright .iancorless.com._1080370

If in form, Miguel Heras could very well upset the apple cart. Miguel has had a real rollercoaster with injury and just earlier this year had to miss Marathon des Sables with injury. Word is, that Miguel is in great shape and ready, if that is true, watch out! Looking back to 2011, Miguel had 6-victories that included Transvulcania La Palma, Ronda dels Cims and Cavalls del Vent, that is some result sheet. Add to that his incredible 5:33:13 at San Fran 50 in 2012 and 2nd at UTMB in 2013 and Miguel can win WSER, no doubt!

Ian Sharman has been very quiet, sacrificed a quality run at Comrades and for one reason only, to have the best run possible at WSER. Ian has a great record at WSER and has continually moved up through the ranks, 5th in 2012 and 4th in 2013. Pulling off 4th whilst continuing on for ‘Grand Slam’ victory and a new Grand Slam record was nothing short of miraculous. Ian will have his work cut out in 2014 against a top quality field.

Nick Clark

Tough guy, Nick Clark needs no introduction. He’s pushed and pushed at WSER and last year pushed Ian Sharman for the Grand Slam and actually held the combined CR, albeit for just 30-min or so before Ian took it over! Clarky is focused on WSER once again and so desperately wants that top slot. He has placed 3rd twice and run under 16-hours a couple of times. Now a vet, statistics would say that in this field he would be hard pushed to podium but you can NEVER rule him out. He would be a popular winner!

Along with Nick Clark and Ian Sharman, British hope will rest in Jez Bragg. I had actually forgot what great results Jez had had at WSER. In 2009 he placed 3rd in a time of 16:54:35 and 4th in 2011 going 1-hour quicker in 15:55:08. Placing 15th male in 2012 was a blip and of course since then, Jez had a little ‘jolly’ in New Zealand. The Te Araroa expedition needed considerable rest and recovery. Placing 10th male at UTMB in 2013 shows us that Jez is on his way back. However, WSER has moved on in the last couple of years and Jez is going to need to be in great shape to contest the top-5.

Dylan Bowman

Dylan Bowman has changed his training and outlook since the 2013 UTMB, a race he was forced to miss with a last minute injury. Getting back in shape and improving fitness gave D’Bo 5th at San Fran 50 in December 2013. Following this up with a great 9th place at Transgrancanaria, Dylan was truly devastated with the effort that Canarian race took. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone so affected by a race. Jump ahead and for sure, we can expect a prepared and ready D’Bo for WSER. His recent win at Ray Miller 50 in 6:23:17 means a great deal and his WSER record of 5th in 2013, 7th in 2012 shows that a break through performance is due. 2014 may well be the year?

Excitement will circulate around the 100-mile debut performance of Max King. Max is super talented with incredible depth and ability over a variety of distances. A WMRA world Champion, a fast marathon runner and consistently performant over the 50k and 50m distances, Max potentially could be an unstoppable force over the WSER route. However, I don’t think it will be this year! Records show that as the race gets longer, Max starts to slow a little and more importantly has terrible trouble with his stomach. I think Max is going to need a consistent WSER run just to find his feet. The difficulty will be if Max can hold back the reigns in the first half of the race. If he does, we may well see him in the top-10. If not… it may be a struggle to finish. In 2014, Max has already had to great results with a win at Ice Age Trail 50m in 5:41:07, 7th Lake Sonoma 50m in 6:37:20 and a win at Chuckanut 50k in 3:35:42. I wonder, could he hold that pace for 100-miles?

Rounding out my potential top-10: Thomas Lorblanchet, Brendan Davis and Jorge Maravilla.

Thomas Lorblanchet seemed to disappear after his victory at Leadville. He left Salomon and joined Asics and then just recently the click started to happen. Thomas won Course des Templiers, arguably one of the biggest trail races in France at the end of 2013. His recent 6th at Trail Du Ventoux 46km in March provides little information on his current form. But I often assume, no news is good news and he has the potential to be a surprise package.

Brendan Davies is so focused on WSER. I posted a recent photo of him training on a treadmill, fully dressed with a face maravillamask on and heaters blowing on him. Pure dedication! Maybe too dedicated? He races a lot and races fast. Already this year he has toed the line Narrabeen all nighter 12-hour, MSIG Sai Kung 50, Tarawera, UTMF and TNF100 in Australia. Brendan likes to run and prefers trail if it’s not too technical. So, WSER will play into his hands.

Finally, Mr. Smiler, Jorge Maravilla will be looking to improve on his 8th at WSER from 2012. Jorge had a blip in 2013 placing 23rd but his recent win at Bandera 100km and US Trail Championship title must go a long way in boosting his confidence.

To be honest, WSER has so much depth that a winner and certainly a top-10 finisher could come from anywhere, so, although the following names don’t make my top-10 prediction, anyone of them could!

Chris Price may well be the big surprise after 4th at Hardrock and 2nd at Zane Grey.

Karl Meltzer is preparing for the AT and lacks the speed of many of the other guys but he can run 100-miles with his eyes closed, knows how to pace the perfect race and loves to sweep up as everyone crumbles.

David Laney has already raced a great deal in 2014 – 2nd at Chuckanut 50k and Bandera 100k. This will be his 1st 100-miler.

Matt Laye won Rocky Raccoon 100 in February… should he be in the top-10 prediction?

Vajin Armstrong has been a dominant force in the Southern Hemisphere running for some time and in 2013 he ventured to Europe and placed 2nd at Swiss Alpine Marathon and Zugspitz. A win at Bedrock 50 in 2014 is backed up with 3rd at Tarawera, 4th at Hong Kong 100 and 13th at Transvulcania.

Yassine Diboun placed 9th at WSER in 18:44.

Dominic Grossman winner of Angeles Crest 100 in 2013.

Ones to watch:

Paul Terranova

David Eadie

AJW

And a notable mention for Steve Spiers.

 

Who have I missed and what do you think?

One thing is for sure; it’s going to be quite a race.

Ultra Trail Mount Fuji 2014 Preview #UTMF2014

logo

 The UTWT rolls on and Japan will host what will arguably be one of the most competitive 100-mile races we will see this year… certainly over a tough course (Hardrock excluded). I say a 100-miles but actually the course is 105 with approximately 10,000 meters of altitude gain. The fifth race in the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) in reality, UTMF is a follow on race from Transgrancanaria as many of the big hitters will re-assemble in Japan, to do battle once again for key ranking points. Nuria Picas was always going to race on the clockwise loop around Mount Fuji, by contrast, Ryan Sandes after his success in the Canaries has shifted focus from Australia and placed his emphasis and efforts on this tough and challenging race.

utmf_map

Without doubt, at the stroke of 3pm (local time) on Friday 25th April a battle royal will unfold both in the ladies and men’s respective races. Dropout rates are usually around 30% to give an indication of how tough this race is.

utmf_elevation

Race statement:

The ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI is an unparalleled event that challenges the human spirit through the outdoor sport of trail running. By connecting mountain trails, local footpaths and forest roads around the foothills of Mt. Fuji, this 168km course allows participants to enjoy majestic 360 degree views of Mt. Fuji while experiencing the stunning natural beauty and culture of this region.’

LADIES

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas; would you want to bet against her? Nuria has transformed herself in the last 24-months into one of the most competitive and focused female mountain, trail and ultra runners in the world. Her skill, dedication and focused attitude has seen the Catalan excel over every distance and terrain. Her only nemesis has been her good friend, Emelie Forsberg. In 2013, Nuria raced TNFUTMB, her first 100-mile race and placed 2nd behind an unstoppable Rory Bosio. Earlier this year at Transgrancanaria we once again had a master class in how to prepare for, run and win a race! Without doubt, Nuria is a hot favourite for UTMF.

Francesca Canepa Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa excels at tough, long and hilly races when the terrain is not too technical. To be honest; the longer, the better. A 100-km race is very much a warm up for Francesca as her impressive victories at Ronda dels Cims and Tor des Geants confirm in 2013. However, Francesca is no one trick pony. She has placed highly at shorter and faster races such as Speedgoat 50k and UROC. UTMF will without doubt suit Francesca’s running style and after her win at HK100 and second at Transgrancanaria earlier this year, Francesca will without doubt be looking for a consistently strong repeat performance and important UTWT points.

Nathalie Mauclair Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Nathalie Mauclair Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Nathalie Mauclair burst onto the scene in 2013 with a stunning top placing at Transvulcania La Palma. A relative unknown, Nathalie went on to impress her female competitors (especially Emelie Forsberg) and not only did she become IAU World Trail Champion that required pace, she also was crowned Raid de le Reunion (Diagonale des Fous) champion. Her diversity of pace, endurance and technical ability earmarks Nathalie as ‘one-to-watch’ at UTMF.

Shona Stepenson, Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Shona Stepenson, Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Shona Stephenson placed 2nd at UTMF last year but had a very mixed 2013. Shona dropped from TNFUTMB and Ice Trail Tarentaise and just recently placed 6th at Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon (also a UTWT race) where I expected her to place top-3, so, the jury is out. She will be in the game early on pushing at the front, let’s hope she can hold on and keep the momentum going.

Fernanda Maciel Everest Trail Race ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel Everest Trail Race ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel after a 3rd place at Transgrancanaria is looking for more UTWT points to boost her overall rankings. Her Everest Trail Race win in late November 2013 would appear to have boosted Fernanda’s running after a troubled 2013 season. Certainly Fernanda’s 7th at TNFUTMB and Transgrancanaria win in 2012 shows that she has all the required armory to compete with the best-of-the-best; she will just need a little luck!

Nerea Martinez Ronda dels Cims ©ianccorless.com

Nerea Martinez Ronda dels Cims ©ianccorless.com

Nerea Martinez like Francesca Canepa like races that are long and tough. Winner of the inaugural UTMF, Nerea won’t repeat that performance in 2014. She has all the required abilities but lacks the pace required that Picas, Mauclair and Canepa have in abundance. However, if it comes down to survival and pushing on through to the line, Nerea will be around and ready to mop up the places. Her 2nd place at the 2012 Tor des Geants proves that she cannot be ruled out in any race.

Julia Boettger, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Julia Boettger, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Julia Boettger had a solid start to 2013 placing 2nd behind Jo Meek at the tough multi day race, The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. However, she was DNS at Transgrancanaria due a potential niggling injury. Recently she has been working on and providing instruction on several training camps. If in form, UTMF will suit Julia’s skill set and we can expect a top-10 performance and if she has ‘one of those days’ we may well see her top-5.

Nora Senn placed 3rd at UTMF in 2012 behind Nerea Martinez. Taking into consideration that result and the ladies previously mentioned, Nora can hope for top-10.

Hitomi Ogawa along with Kumiko Amikura and Akemi Ban may well have the hopes of Japan in their legs, placing 3rd, 4th and 6th respectively in 2013; they all have the knowledge and understanding of what UTMF requires from a race and survival aspect. Top-10 is possible for all-3 and top-5 with this quality of field would be an incredible result.

MEN

Yoshikazu Hara gets the nod first as last years UTMF champ. One could arguably say it was a lucky day… but hold on a minute, you don’t beat Julien Chorier and Seb Chaigneau on luck alone! Had Hara excelled at the 2013 TNFUTMB I would be hailing him as a potential 2014 champ as he does seem able to use some seriously fast 100km speed (6:33) on long courses. However, Hara dropped from Tarawera with injury and this leaves some huge question marks in this quality of field.

Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes is on a roll… having spent a great deal of time with him on Gran Canaria and getting a great understanding of the man, his training and his thought processes, I’d find it difficult to bet against Ryan at UTMF. As we are all aware, his 2013 season was one to forget but his 2012 season had moments of brilliance and his 2014 victory at Transgrancanaria and then subsequent FKT on the Drakensberg Traverse with Rhyno Griesel will either mean ‘Sandman’ will be in the form of his life or a little jaded. What do you think?

Seb Chaigneau Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Seb Chaigneau Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Seb Chaigneau placed 3rd at UTMF in 2013 so knows the course. A tough competitor with a unique and endearing view of our sport, he is a true champion. His win at Hardrock 100 and CR in 2013 was a popular result and without doubt he would be a popular champion in Japan. His recent drop from Transgrancanaria leaves a couple of question marks but I don’t have the answers… you see, dropping from a race whilst in the lead leaves the door wide open. I think we will see Seb pushing top-3.

Iker Karrera ©iancorless.com

Iker Karrera ©iancorless.com

Iker Karrera is understated and arguably one of the best ultra distance runners out there. His quiet, modest, no nonsense approach of arriving, winning and leaving a race often leaves a void in this media savvy world. However, you would have to have been in an ultra void not to notice his impressive victory at Grand Raid des Pyrenees in 2013 and then his follow on victory at Tor des Geants. Potential winner!

Francois D'Haene ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene has a vineyard and that has taken a priority. His run season now evolves around seasons, grape picking and bottling, however, it hasn’t affected Francois’s performances. When Francois races, he races in top form. His 2nd at Ice Trail Tarentaise where he raced side-by-side with fellow teammate, Kilian Jornet shows he has all the skill and speed required to win any race. He proved this with a great victory at the tough and technical Raid de la Reunion (Diagonale des Fous). This race amongst all his experiences, even his victory over a shortened UTMB course, will put him in a great place for success at UTMF.

Nick Clark The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.com

Nick Clark The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.com

Nick Clark; enough said really! Tough as nails, really competitive and one of the best 100-mile runners out there; his consistent performance over the ‘Grand Slam’ in 2013 was a joy to behold. Nick kicked off 2014 with a tough outing at his first multi day race at The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, a race that provided Nick with a new perspective on how tough running back-to-back, day-after-day can be. With some solid training behind him and experience on tough courses such as Hardrock 100, one has to give a nod to Nick and put him on the ‘hot’ list for this race.

Mike Foote TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Mike Foote TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Mike Foote has been super consistent at TNFUTMB with 3rd place at the shortened race when Francois D’Haene won and 5th place in 2013. Don’t expect to see him up front in the early stages… Mike has a canny knack of almost being out of the race and then in the latter third applying the afterburners and moving up through the field. In addition to great climbing ability, he also has speed. This natural speed will be extremely useful on the faster section of the UTMF course.

Gary Robbins TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Gary Robbins TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Gary Robbins 4th at UTMF in 2013 and recent winner at HURT100 will bring his adventure racing background, the love of the tough and gnarly and some pure old grit back to Japan and armed with knowledge, I can’t help but think that Gary will be a force this year. Of course, one must consider that this field is super stacked and to repeat 4th or move even in higher in 2014 will be a supreme effort, but Gary on his day can do it.

Thomas Lorblanchet looked to be about to break into the big time after winning Leadville 100 and placing highly at Transvulcania whilst running under Salomon colours. However, since moving to a new sponsor, Thomas appears to have been in a running wilderness. Surely a win at the highly competitive ‘Templiers’ was a great result in late 2013 but I have little else to go on… he may well surprise us.

Joe Grant Cavalls del Vent ©iancorless.com

Joe Grant Cavalls del Vent ©iancorless.com

Joe Grant recently won Alaska White Mountains 100 with a new CR; a great result! However, it is extremely difficult to say how this performance will set up Joe for UTMF. Post his impressive Iditarod performance in 2013, Joe struggled to find form (more due to fatigue) and even at his beloved Hardrock 100, he had to drop (whilst in 2nd place) with medical issues. Regularly training with Anton Krupicka, Joe is very much a new breed of ultra runner, inspired by Kilian Jornet, who combines running, climbing and time in the mountains to fulfill his passion. UTMF in principal will suit Joe 100% and if in form, we can expect him to be a main protagonist at the front of the race.

Brendan Davies Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Brendan Davies Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Brendan Davies 5th at UTMF in 2013 has plenty of speed but lacks true mountain experience. He openly said that the 2013 edition of the race was a shock to the system and the time he lost going up, he pulled back on the fast flatter sections. I am sure Brendan will come to UTMF with more vertical training. However, this field is stacked with out-and-out mountain men. It’s going to be a tough race to keep in touch with the top-5 and repeat his 2013 performance.

Antoine Guillon 4th at Reunion and 5th at Transgrancanaria will be hunting UTWT points. I think he will be in the mix but not top-5.

Dave Mackey was one of the first runners to embrace the UTWT and I am sure we will see his presence throughout the series. One of the most respected ultra runners out there, had this been a 100km race he would be a hot favourite. But over the 100-mile distance and on this terrain, I don’t see Dave making top-5 despite his success at Western States. But he is due a big performance…

John Tidd to many will be a complete unknown, I first met him at Transgrancanaria in 2013 when he went on to place 6th running a strong and consistent race. Later in the year he repeated this consistency with 6th at UTMF and then 10th at TNFUTMB. I very much doubt he will make top-5 but top-10 is a distinct possibility.

Emmanuel Gault recently won the Eco Trail de Paris in a quick 5:40, so, he’s in good shape. However, even dating back to 2007, I am not sure he has raced over 100km. So, he may be up front in the early stages but past 80km he may well fade. It’s an unknown? Without doubt, Emmanuel specialises in French races such as Templiers, SainteLyon, CCC and so on, his recent 22bd place at Transvulcania gives us little insight into what may be achieved at the tough UTMF.

Stone Tsang from Hong Kong will potentially be a ‘one-to-watch’ after solid UTMB and HK100 performances, but he will need a great day to break top-5.

Minehiro Yokoyama,

Kenichi Yamamoto,

Koji Yamaya,

Minehiro Yokoyama,

Shougo Mochizuki

And Shinsuke Isomura have all raced UTMF in the past and in reality it is about as much insight as I can provide.

Kenichi Yamamoto Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

Kenichi Yamamoto Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

If I had to pick one runner it would be Kenichi Yamamoto. Kenichi raced against Julien Chorier in 2013 and placed 2nd. A happy and talented guy (expect film crews following him) he has had success with a top-3 at UTMF in 2012 but not against a field of this quality.

The 2014 UTMF will be quite a race. In addition to all the above, several other notable runners are taking part and it almost feels rude not to mention the ever present Christophe Le Saux, Jeremy Ritcey or Timo Meyer. But I have tried to preview who will contend top-5.

UTMF website – http://www.ultratrailmtfuji.com/en/

Runner entry list – http://www.ultratrailmtfuji.com/en/about/entrylist/