As a year comes to a close, I always like to look back and consider the highlights of the year, not only personal highlights but global highlights of the running world.
It is a daunting task at times.
The running year is now so full that it can be difficult to remember what happened just weeks ago, never mind months ago. So, with this in mind, please consider that this article is my thoughts and not a definitive highlight of 2017.
Having said that, I am going to make some huge mistakes and I am going to miss some key people, races and performances.
I welcome you, the reader, reminding me of what they are – please, just be nice!
So, let us look at 2017.
I was considering going through chronologically and in all honesty, it may have been the better solution to the task at hand, however, I have just gone on impulse!
Western States was won by Ryan Sandes and I have to say, it was a sweet victory for the South African who over the years I have considered a great friend. Ryan was my first ever interview on Talk Ultra podcast and I love his story. The non-runner who became a runner who eventually won Western States. It’s a dream story. While on the subject of Western, we also need to mention the ladies champ, Cat Bradley. While all the top contenders faded, Cat ran a sound and solid race to take the biggest win of her life. It was no one-off, something she has proven recently by setting a FKT in the Grand Canyon – Rim – to – Rim – to – Rim fastest known time in 7:52:20
Francois D’Haene is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world – end of the story. The dude has been nailing it for years and when Rob Krar won 3 100’s in one year, so did Francois. The Frenchman has consistently dominated the distance and when the trail has vertical, he is almost unbeatable. In 2017, he elevated himself to a new level firstly beating the ‘unbeatable’ Kilian Jornet at UTMB and then setting (obliterating) the FKT for the John Muir Trail. He also ripped MIUT (Madeira Island Ultra Trail) apart, and the previous CR set by Zach Miller. Without doubt, Francois is the male ultra-runner of the year in my eyes. We just need to see him at Hardrock 100 now!
Andrea Huser blows my mind constantly. She is the most impressive and consistent runner in the ultra-world and I often ask the question, if she raced less, would she win more? She has a string of top results but often has missed the big win. But when you race as much as she does, you can’t help but just nod in respect.
Caroline Chaverot was unbeatable in 2016 and 2017 started with some issues, issues that she has battled with throughout 2017. Despite this, she won Hardrock 100. It was a great victory and not one without controversy… she left her bleeding pacer on the trail for others to help. Just recently she rounded out her year with a win at Saint E Lyon in France – the classic November night race.
Ida Nilsson and Tim Freriks kicked off their seasons with victory at Transvulcania. Ida’s win was to be expected, but Tim’s win was a revelation. The ‘cowboy’ then went on to set a FKT in the Grand Canyon. Ida continued her great running throughout 2017 and then the duo turned up at San Francisco 50 and both won again – they topped and tailed the year and we can expect big things in 2018!
Jim Walmsley and the PR machine in many ways signified a new era in the sport of ultra-running and not all for the better in my opinion. The hype around the 2017 Western States before the race pretty much had Jim with his buckle, the Cougar and a new CR. The reality was very different. Jim then went to UTMB and showed signs of learning the craft. He watched Francois and Kilian and paced his day. It eventually went wrong but he rallied and closed out strong. A definitive moment for Jim and I was well aware that this would be a turning point for his 100-mile future. He then confirmed he would run on Reunion Island at Raid de la Reunion! While I can admire the decision, for me, it was always going to be a questionable decision in regard to his ‘professional’ development. But I am being judgmental and I hope not in a negative way. I ‘get’ that Jim wanted to run on the island but the step-up from UTMB was huge and despite leading the race, he eventually dropped around the 100km mark. It has been a huge learning year for the fast man and I still hold true that up to 100km, the guy is pretty much un-matched. I am looking forward to seeing him nail 100-miles in 2018 (maybe 2019) and when he does, watch out, it will almost certainly be super-fast and mind blowing.
Kilian Jornet pretty much was missing from the mountain, ultra and trail calendar for the past 18-months and rightly so. He had set targets on the final summit of his Summits of my Life – Everest. A failed attempt in previous year and then Nepal earthquakes had put things on hold. No bad thing. Kilian learned, progressed and then finally summited Everest twice in one week which blew the minds of the whole world. Of course, anything so amazing has questions raised over it and rightly so. Just recently an article appeared and Kilian responded. Read HERE. More will come to light in regard to Everest and ultimately one has to assume the Everest film will answer all questions. Post Everest, Kilian started running again and won a super-fast Sierre Zinal, he won Hardrock 100 with a dislocated shoulder, placed 2nd behind Francois at UTMB and won Glen Coe Skyline. In the winter, he has had operations on his shoulders and now is in recovery and waiting to get back into the SkiMo season. Kilian has nothing to prove in my eyes. What does 2018 hold? Who knows really, ultimately, Kilian is at the top of his game and he will go where his heart takes him… expect a Zegama appearance, a Hardrock appearance, maybe the Bob Graham will be on the cards and maybe he will be back in Scotland for Glen Coe. Who knows? Whatever the path, he will inspire.
Camille Herron won Comrades, wow, it is the holy grail of road ultra-running. She then followed with a DNF at Western States and Leadville and I, and others, was left wondering what had happened. Oh, my word has she put the record straight. In recent weeks Camille has set a 100-mile world record 12:42:39, a 100km USA track record 7:36:39 at Desert Solstice and then went on to run for 12-hours and set a 12hr All-Surface World Record 92.708 miles. She is the new Ann Trason and arguably, she will be in for a shout as ultra-runner of the year.
Courtney Dewaulter can push Camille close. This lady won Run Rabbit Run (again) this time losing her vision in the final 10km. She then went on to win Moab 200 (actually 238-miles) outright and then recently ran 250.079km / 155.391 miles in 24-hours setting an American record. Wow!
Nuria Picas came out of the wilderness of 2016 and quite rightly, finally won UTMB. Nuria was unstoppable for many years but the big loop around Chamonix had eluded her, I firmly believe she can consider her career complete with this win!
The UK’s Dan Lawson flew around the Gobi Desert to win with a new CR at the 400km Ultra Gobi. Dan is the UK’s hottest prospect at the long game, particularly when you consider past runs on the Grand Union Canal and 2nd at the iconic Spartathlon.
Marco De Gasperi pioneered the way for Skyrunning on Monte Rosa in the early 90’s and has had incredible journey as one of the most respected mountain runners in the world. Finally, in 2017, Marco became the Skyrunner World Series (SWS) champion after an incredible season of consistent running and podium places – a true inspiration.
Maite Maiora moved up several notches in 2017 and was a dominant force on the Skyrunning circuit with a string of victories and podium places. 2017 was her year in the sky! But let us not forget Ragna Debats, she had an amazing full season and triumphed over multiple distances in addition to a great run at the IAU World Trail Champs. Also, Sheila Aviles came of age… a name to watch in future years! For the guys, keep an eye on Jan Maragarit.
UTMB had arguably the greatest male line-up of elite runners ever and it turned out to be great show down and we saw the confirmation that US runners are getting UTMB. Tim Tollefson was again flying the flag with a 3rd place. It is only a matter of time until we see an American win the big dance around France, Italy and Switzerland – will it be 2018? It could well be if Francois d’Haene and Kilian Jornet don’t run.
Hillary Allen has represented the USA in Europe for a couple of years now and once again she was doing so in 2017. However, it all fell apart, before my eyes, at Tromso SkyRace in Norway. She fell many meters, bounced on the rocks below and came away with some serious injuries. Thankfully, the recovery process has gone well and I wish Hillary well for 2018.
Ruth Croft has been in the mix for some time and I think it is fair to say that her victory at ‘Templiers’ in France recently has elevated to the New Zealander to a new level for the coming year… what does 2018 hold for this lady?
2017 most certainly has been a FKT year – Iker Karrera, Darcy Piceu, Francois d’Haene, Tim Freriks, Cat Bradley, Alicia Vargo, Rickey Gates and so many more have all taken the Fastest Known Time discipline to new heights but I wonder if ‘Stringbean’s’ FKT on the Appalachian Trail is the one that should have had more press and coverage? He soloed the AT quicker than Karl Meltzer and Scott Jurek and without help, but, relatively slipped under most radars. Read here.
Jeff Browning crushed the 100-mile distance in 2016 and did so again in 2017, he is a great ambassador for the sport.
Luis Alberto Hernando is for me, arguably one of the most talented runners in the world. But he is a quiet guy who in many ways, keeps himself to himself. He races hard and crushes the competition. In 2017, he once again became IAU World Trail Champion on a course that he, and many others said, didn’t suit him. The guy is pure class!
The UK’s Damian Hall came to running late in life (not that he is old) but he has slowly and surely chipped his way through the ultra-ranks and this year just missed the top-10 at UTMB – an incredible result.
Tom Evans broke on the scene by placing 3rd at MDS Morocco and in the process set a new benchmark for UK based runners to aim for. He followed this up with some other solid results in 2017 and I, like many others, wonder what 2018 holds in store.
Rickey Gates ran across America. Nuff said! Read here.
Ueli Steck, the Swiss Machine, died on the mountains and left the mountain world devastated by his passing. Here.
Alex Honold free soloed El Cap in arguably one of the most awe-inspiring and risky climbs in the history of the sport. It is quite literally, off the scale and beyond comprehension. I know it’s not running but it is without doubt worth a mention! Here.
The infamous Barkley once again served up another serving of spine tingling history with John Kelly finishing and Canada’s Gary Robbins left wiped out on the floor in tears. You can’t make stories like this up.
Gary Cantrell (Lazarus Lake of Barkley fame) organised a race that went through his garden, The Big Backyard Ultra. Every 60-minutes, runners set off on a loop. During the night, the loop changed. The principal was simple, you keep going till one man or woman is left Standing. Well, Guiiiaume Calmettes was that man in 2017 running 245.835 pipping Harvey Lewis.
Rachid Elmorabity once again won Marathon des Sables in Morocco proving that he is the greatest multi-day desert runner in the world at the moment. Elisabet Barnes, 2015 MDS champion once again returned to the sand pit after missing victory in 2016 and was unstoppable with a dominant and impressive force of sand running.
MDS Peru followed on the 32-year traditions of its Moroccan big brother with the first edition in Peru’s Ica Desert. This was the first time any event was allowed permission to take place in this amazing National Park. It was great first event with Morocco’s Rachid Elmorabity and France’s Nathalie Mauclair taking the top honours.
Michael Wardian did what he always does, run and run and run throughout 2017. But he kicked off the year with a world record running 7-marathons on 7-continents in 7-days. The guy just continues to impress.
Best shoes of 2017? Well, this is well and truly a can of worms and I can only answer from a personal perspective. The Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 here blew my socks off and is now my favourite day-to-day trail running shoe. For when it gets technical, gnarly, muddy and I need an aggressive shoe, the VJ Sport iRock2 here has set a new benchmark for me in regard to grip.
Best clothing? inov-8 have continued to impress me with not only excellent run shoes but appeared to match. They now have a really specific line of products (including packs) that make them an excellent one-stop shop for anything that you would need for a messy and muddy 5km fell run to the tough and challenging 100+ mile UTMB.
Best moment of 2017? That is a serious toughie but maybe Ryan Sandes finally taking that WSER top slot. I know how much he wanted it and he didn’t have an easy journey obtaining it. Huge respect! But hey, I have been inspired by so many in 2017.
On a personal note to conclude:
For me, I started travelling in January and I stopped in December. Yes, I have been on the road for 12-months and I consider myself to be truly blessed for the opportunities I have had to follow my dreams and make a living from it. I never take it for granted! While I could go into the details of each trip, I won’t. Every race is documented in words and images on this website and my social channels and you can find out about them should you so wish.
Don’t forget Talk Ultra Podcast which has documented this sport HERE
BUT, and this is a huge BUT. My passion, and my work calendar comes at a price. I have a son, a family and an amazing partner, Niandi. They have all been neglected in 2017 with my travel and race coverage. It’s a dilemma and one that keeps me awake. I struggle for answers but I want to say THANK YOU for the support to all those people who mean the world to me, you know who you are.
I recently caught up with South Africa’s Ryan Sandes after his impressive victory at the 2017 Western States. You can listen to a full and in-depth interview HERE on Talk Ultra podcast.
Ryan’s story is one that inspires and it just shows what is possible.
“An impulsive decision one Sunday afternoon completely changed my life back in 2008. Could I run 250km, self-supported through a Desert? Without another thought, I maxed out my credit card and entered a race I knew almost nothing about. The lead up to the Gobi Desert Race consumed me but most importantly it enabled me to dream.”
You can read the full article on IRUN4ULTRA HERE
Talk Ultra needs your help!We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create!Many thanks to our Patrons who have helped via PATREON
Jammu and Kashmir
Papua New Guinea
City of Bristol
East Riding of Yorkshire
With 18.000ft of climb and 22.000ft of downhill, the race has in the past been full of incredible stories – Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Nikki Kimball, Ellie Greenwood and Timothy Olson to name just a few names from an incredible 40+ years of history.
Over the years, the course is often discussed around the heat that the canyons bring and if it will be a snow or no snow year.
Let’s be clear, the 2017 WSER is going to be a snow year but it is melting.
Read the full preview on IRUN4ULTRA HERE
Countdown to the 2017 #Transgrancanaria and everyone is registered and prepared to toe the start line at 2300 hours local time.
It’s going to be a very competitive race both for the ladies’ and the men – Didrik Hermansen and Caroline Chaverot are here to defend their 2016 titles.
Strong competition will come in the ladies’ race from Andrea Huser, Gemma Arenas and so many more…
In the men’s race, Didrik will have his hands full fighting off Diego Pazos, Yeray Duran, Pau Capell and Andy Symonds amongst others. Julian Chorier will not run due to a broken rib.
You can read a full preview of the 125km race HERE
The results for the 2017 UTMB were announced on January 12th 2017 at 10.00 (Paris time) and what a draw! The list of persons registered and runners files can be viewed at http://www.ultratrailmb.com, all those entered will be confirmed by email.
Those runners lucky in the draw then have a period of 14 days, January 12th to 25th 2017, to definitively finalise their registration by paying, by credit-card, the balance of the registration price and sending in all the required supporting documents.
It’s a big day for many, dreams are made and broken with the opening of an email.
From a global perspective, a look at the elite start list provides an opportunity to whet ones appetite and imagine the race that will unfold for the UTMB and the races that also that happen in and around the main event, the CCC, TDS and OCC.
In 2016, many considered that the line up in the UTMB was the best ever, well, 2017 may have topped it?
The Top Men for 2017
- Francois D’haene – Two time UTMB winner and countless other 100 victories.
- Gediminas Grinius – 2nd at UTMB in 2016.
- Julien Chorier – 8th at UTMB in 2016 but super solid at the distance.
- Miguel Heras – Looking for 2013 form when he placed 2nd.
- Luis Alberto Hernando – Hw wants this! 2nd in 2015.
- Xavier Thevenard – Champ in 2013 and 2015 the winner of ‘all’ UTMB races – CCC, TDS and OCC.
- Tofol Castanyer – 2nd in 2014.
- Pau Capell – TDS winner stepping up to the big dance.
- Yeray Duran – Stepping up but 2nd at TDS in 2016.
- Diego Pazoz – Mont-Blanc 80km winner – an intersting prospect!
- Andy Symonds – Tried in 2016 but pulled out, he has a big race in him.
- Carlos Sa – 8th in 2014 and an ever-present.
- Kim Collison – Arguably the UK’s best hope for a top result.
- Francesc Sole – 7th at UTMB in 2015.
- Didrik Hermansen – 2nd at Western States in 2016 and winner at Transgrancanaria
And then look at the talent that will join from the USA:
- Tim Tollefson – 3rd at UTMB last year
- Andrew Miller – Western States winner 2016
- Sage Canaday – Unfinished business at UTMB
- Jeff Browning – 2016 double with 3rd and 4th at Western States and Hardrock
- Dylan Bowman – 4th at Lake Sonoma in 2016
- David Laney – Placed 3rd and 4th at UTMB
- Jim Walmsley – Unstoppable in 2016, UTMB is going to be a seriously exciting outing for him and us!
But it doesn’t stop there, there other names to consider, the list goes on!
The Top Women for 2017
- Caroline Chaverot – Defending champ and un-stoppable in 2016.
- Nuria Picas – 2nd twice, she wants the top slot.
- Andrea Huser – Relentless, races week-in and week-out, 2nd in 2016.
- Emelie Lecomte – Tor des Geants champ.
- Beth Pascall – Lakeland 100 winner and course record could excel on this big loop.
- Sophie Grant – Has had two top UTMB placings.
- Gemma Arenas – Excelled in the Skyrunning ranks in 2016, Ultra SWS champ.
- Juliette Blanchet – 4th last year.
And then look at the talent that will join from the USA:
- Kaci Lickteig – Western States champ, Bear 100 champ and ultra-runner of the year – exciting!
- Magdalena Boulet – 5th at UTMB last year.
- Stephanie Howe – Western States 2014 champ who looks to be back after 2016 full of injury. Previously 8th at UTMB.
- Sally McRae – 11th at the 2016 Western States.
- Meredith Edwards – 2nd at TDS.
- Aliza Lapierre – Solid performer recently raced MDS in 2015 4th at Western States.
Ones to watch:
Kaori Niwa, Christina Bes, Laia Diez, Joelle Vaught, Alissa St Laurent and many more…
CCC and TDS has always felt like a side show to the UTMB but Zach Miller in many ways changed all that with a show boat victory and we are now seeing the CCC as real stepping stone to UTMB with a highly competitive field.
Notably for 2016, Megan Kimmel, Hilary Allen, Nathalie Mauclair, Maite Maiora and Anna Comet amongst others will go head-to-head in the ladies’ race.
For the men, the prospect of what Hayden Hawks is exciting, especially when one considers Tom Owens and Ryan Sandes will toe the line. Add to the mix Erik Clavery, Ludovic Pommeret, Jorge Maravilla, Ben Duffus, Michael Borst, Marcin Swierc and Aurelien Collet and you have a very exciting race.
TDS will see Rory Bosio head up a quality ladies’ field that includes Lucy Bartholomew and, Dong Li and Lizzie Wraith. For the men, Paul Giblin and Michel Lanne are followed by Samir Tamang, Arnaud Lejeune and many more.
The 2017 UTMB week of races, look set to be a very exciting prospect.
Now, get training!
Episode 122 of Talk Ultra and we have a 1 hour interview with Pete Kostelnick all about his amazing, record breaking run across the USA. Ryan Sandes talks Raid de la Reunion and Casey Morgan talks about Madeira’s EcoTrail Funchal and the Everest Trail Race. The show is co-hosted by my good buddy from the Twin Cities, Kurt Decker.
RUNNING BEYOND BOOK is now published and available worldwide HERE
CLEANSPORT COLLECTIVE http://cleansport.org
- I pledge to honor myself, competitors, sponsors, sport and society by choosing to stay clean of performance enhancing drugs. Choosing to not play by the rules steals from hard working athletes who choose to do the right thing and challenges the health and integrity of sport. I will be a positive example in the community as an advocate and ambassador for clean sport. I pledge that I have and will always train clean, compete clean and live clean.
- I agree to be an outspoken advocate of clean sport
- I agree to donate $25,000 to CSC charity partner if I ever test positive
*plus other pledges for brands, amateurs etc
Lanes of Change
We are in this together. The more voices that speak in unity, the stronger we are.
It is time to intervene. Through our partners, we will support, aid and equip current drug testing regimes with the best and most updated tools and research.
We are a community with purpose. It is about the ecosystem of sport working together. We want it to be known that we support people over performances, and we celebrate honesty, integrity and transparency above all.
We are human, and we all make mistakes. Together with our partners, we provide a safe place for those who have doped or spoke out against those that have.
IAU TRAIL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
- Luis Alberto Hernando 8:20
- Nicolas Martin 8:30
- Benoit Cori 8:30
- Caroline Chaverot 9:39 – for me, THE ultra runner of the year!
- Azara Garcia 9:44
- Ragna Debats 9:47
- Nadir Maguet 30:17
- Urban Zemmer 30:28
- Marco Moletto 30:28 and Kilian Jornet 30:33
- Christel Dewalle 35:57
- Beatrice Delflorian 38:42
- Serena Vittori 39:04
Miguel Heras (Spain). Now 41 years old, Heras turned back the clock with his second-straight win, adding to September victory at Ultra Pirineu. Here, Heras overtook Jared Hazen (U.S.) with some 6k to go to win in 6:45. Hazen used a mid-race surge to break things open and then held on for second in 6:49. Cedric Fleureton (France) was third in 6:56.
Jasmin Nunige (Switzerland) won Ultravasan for the second time, and went on to run 8:00 here for the win, improving on last year’s finish by four minutes. Yngvild Kaspersen (Norway) stepped up in distance and ran strong for a second-place 8:13. I Núria Picas (Spain), who had seesawed with Kaspersen throughout, was third in 8:22.
IAU 24 HOUR
Dan Lawson from the UK took out the win (Dan has placed 3rd at Badwater and 2nd at Spartathlon) with 162 miles – ouch! Ondrej Velicka 2nd with 160 miles.
Maria Jansson set a new European record 155.74 miles – ouch! Patricia Bereznowska was 2nd with 150 miles.
RAID DE LA REUNION
- Francois d’Haene 23:44 that is 3 victories in 4 years
- Antoine Guillon 24:15
- Javi Dominguez 24:36 – who has had an incredible and consistent year
- Andrea Huser 28:00
- Juliette Blanchet 29:26
- Emma Roca 30:10
00:50:00 INTERVIEW with RYAN SANDES
Zach Bitter 13:30 beating Hal Koerner’s benchmark 13:47
Brett Sanborn 15:15
Ryan Kaiser 16:40
Dana Anderson 21:03
Adela Salt 21:32
Amy Rasor 22:17
Heather Anish Anderson sets new FKT for the 800 mile Arizona Trail – 19 days, 17 hours and 9 minutes
ECOTRAIL FUNCHAL MADEIRA
In the 80km race, Julien Chorier lead from the front and had a stunning day on the trails of Madeira. He arrived in Funchal looking strong. Casey Morgan placed 2nd just 6-minutes behind the Frenchman and Javi Bodas was 3rd, 19-minutes later. For the ladies, Wasmes Wasmes took a conniving victory 14-minutes ahed of Nadia Meroni and Sylvie Benech was 3rd, 1-hour after 2nd place.
01:28:07 INTERVIEW with CASEY MORGAN
DAVE MACKEY – an amazing and inspiring story unfolds
On Monday, October 24, Pete Kostelnick broke the longstanding record for running across the U.S. Kostelnick linked the San Francisco and New York City Halls in 42 days, 6 hours, bettering a 1980 46-day, 8-hour record set by Frank Giannino, Jr. Other than a lone zero-mile day early in the run, Kostelnick knocked out 70-plus miles day after day.
02:05:54 INTERVIEW PETE KOSTELNICK
UP & COMING RACES
New South Wales
Territoire de Belfort
Taranaki Steelformers 100 mile Around the mountain Solo | 100 miles | November 04, 2016 | website
Taranaki Steelformers 150 km Around the mountain Running and Walking Relay | 150 kilometers | November 05, 2016 | website
HEADS UP – I will be in Nepal for the next two weeks so, I won’t be putting out a ‘normal’ show. However, I have something special lined up. As many of you will know, Adam Campbell had a near fatal climbing accident just 9 weeks ago. I am pleased to say the recovery and healing process is going well. I caught up with Adam and I discussed the whole process and what lessons we can all learn from this in a 1-hour special. Episode 123 of Talk Ultra will be published automatically on Friday October 18th with a simple introduction and close.
Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss
Website – talkultra.com
I won’t be at UTMB this year, Trofeo Kima is happening the same weekend in Italy and I wouldn’t miss this high octane extreme event for anything, especially when it only happens every other 2 years.
But UTMB has a stellar line up this year. It’s going to be a cracking race.
Just in case you didn’t know, UTMB is a 170km circular journey that starts and finishes in Chamonix passing through France, Italy and Switzerland with 10,000+ meters of vertical gain on non-technical trails. In 2014 Francois D’Haene of France set the men’s course record 20:11:44 and the female course record is held by Rory Bosio (USA) who ran 22:37:26 in 2013. Rory in the process ranked in the top-10 overall that year!
Recently, UTMB has hit the headlines after a top 10 finisher in the 2015 race, Gonzalo Calisto, was tested and found positive for EPO. This came to light in June when the IAAF added Calisto’s suspension to its website. However, UTMB were not notified of this positive test? In recent weeks and months, many investigations have been made and you can read them all on this website HERE. Ultimately, this positive test has raised alarm bells and certain aspects of the testing and notification procedure need to change. I hope UTMB will have testing once again this year and they provide data and information to the media.
Racing for the main starts on Friday August 26th at 1800hrs local time and it looks like a great weekend of weather is in store for spectators, it may be a little hot for the runners. Please also remember that many other events happen in and around the UTMB, the PTL, TDS and CCC.
Luis Alberto Hernando is in a good place! He is a new Dad, has raced less and when he has raced he has been in top form. A repeat win at Transvulcania and dominant performance at the Skyrunning World Championships for a gold medal and world title and suddenly you begin to see everything clicking into place. Luis dropped from the 2014 UTMB and then came back, one year later to place 2nd. Luis does always race from the front and hard, he tempered this in 2015 but it still may well be his achilles heel in 2016? I hope not, Luis would be a popular champion!
David Laney third at UTMB and 8th at Western States in 2015 are two very significant performances and bode well for a great 2016 UTMB. What doesn’t bode well is the most recent 20+ hour finish at Western States. It leaves a huge question mark on David’s current physical and mental ability to take on the big dance in Chamonix.
Andy Symonds for me is the dark horse. It’s his first 100 miler and that is a huge disadvantage. But Andy knows how to race, prepares meticulously and I know he’s fired up for this race. In the past he has often played 2nd fiddle at the big races but a podium at Transgrancanaria, a victory at Lavaredo and 2nd (silver) behind Luis at the Skyrunning World Championships tells me that the time is right for the Brit who lives in France. Listen to the podcast here.
Zach Miller is relatively easy to write about… we will see one of two performances: 1. An all guns blazing early race that potentially will open up a gap that he extends and holds on to take the biggest victory of his life! 2. As 1 but a major blow up that sees him lose the lead and drop substantial places or a resulting DNF. Think Max King at Leadville.
Didrik Hermansen is a potential revelation in Chamonix and I do believe that he can win. I said that at Western States after I saw his run and victory at Transgrancanaria. He didn’t disappoint in the USA and he placed 2nd at WSER. UTMB is a different playground but this guy can run and hike – he is going to need all those skills in France, Italy and Switzerland. Listen to the podcast here.
Jason Schlarb was fourth at UTMB in 2014, won Run Rabbit Run, completed Marathon des Sables. skied the Hardrock 100 course, won the Hardrock 100 with Kilian Jornet and here he is, in Chamonix, looking to do an epic double – you know what, I think he can do it! I’m not sure that he will have those extra percentages for victory, Hardrock may well have but pay to that. But I do see a potential top 5 and even the podium if the stars align. Listen to the podcast with him here.
Gediminas Grinius 5th at UTMB in 2014 and what followed was quite a rise in the sport of ultra-running. Gediminas has an interesting back story of post-traumatic stress and it is running that helped. When you have been to hell, pain in an ultra is nothing. It’s worth remembering that this guy can dig deep. A win at Transgrancanaria, a win at UTMF and a string of top 2nd places certainly elevate GG for a top UTMB place. Listen to the podcast here.
Tofol Castanyer won CCC and was 2nd at UTMB in 2014. He has a string of top performances and results but his recent form seems a question mark. On paper, he’s a podium contender but I said that last year and he didn’t finish. We will have to see?
Ryan Sandes had a tough 2015 and has patiently come back in 2016 with a 3rd place in Tararwera and 4th place in Australia at the Ultra Trail. Ryan never likes to race a great deal preferring to train and prepare meticulously for key events. He has done that in the past, Western States for example only to not race at the 11th hour due to injury or illness. Apart from FKT records, Ryan’s career highlights are his win at Transgrancanaria and top results at UTMF and WSER. Ryan has been in Chamonix for some time training and I hope he will arrive at the line fresh. He has all the potential to shake up the podium. Listen to the podcast here.
Fabien Antolinus is an under the radar runner who is known in France and not many other places. A top consistent performer at Templiers and the Ice Trail Tarentaise, Fabien backed this up last year with a 6th place finish at UTMB behind a doping Gonzalo Calisto, so, he finished 5th really. I see a potential repeat performance.
Miguel Heras could win, could finish in the top 10, may not start and if he does start, may not finish. Yes, Miguel is a class act when the stars align but neither he or us can predict when this will happen. A highlight for sure was his UTMB 2nd behind Xavier Thevenard in 2013.
Javier Dominguez just had a great run at the Skyrunning World Championships with 3rd place behind Luis Alberto and Andy Symonds. He also placed 3rd at Lavaredo. Although he will be in the mix he is potentially a top 5-10 finisher.
Julien Chorier has the long game, strength and persistence for a top UTMB performance. I’ve seen him time and time again grind out great results. His victory at Ronda dels Cims a few years back is still one of the most dominant performances of running I have seen. Julien has backed that up at Western States, Hardrock, Diagonale des Fous, UTMF and of course UTMB. His best UTMB was 3rd in 2008 and in 2013 he finished 6th.
Paul Giblin for me is a dark horse. Last year he missed UTMB and compensated with focusing on Western States in 2016, he placed 5th. That’s one of the UK’s best performances at the race. He’s a runner and the 10,000m of vertical may go against his natural abilities but don’t rule him out! Listen to the podcast here.
You have to draw a line somewhere but we also need to consider, Diego Pazoz who has illuminated several races in 2016, most notably victory at the Eiger Ultra Trail and Mont-Blanc 80km.
He could be a huge surprise as could Stephan Hugenschmidt from Germany who has had many notable results.
Zdenek Kris finished 9th at Ultra Perineu in 2015 and recently placed 5th at the Skyrunning World Championships.
Two Frenchmen, Arnaud Lejeune who was 2nd at UTMF in 2015 and Thomas Lorblanchet who has wins at Leadville and 4th at Western States will also mix things up.
Ryan Smith, Pau Bartolo, Jez Bragg, Aurelian Collet, Ludovic Pommeret, Armand Teixeira, Jordi Bes and Bertrand Collomb-Patton all have top 10 and certainly top 20 potential.
Needless to say there is a whole stack of other male talent that have experienced UTMB before somewhere in and around the top 50. Any of these runners who could make a breakthrough performance and venture into the high ranking top 20’s or even top 10. It’s what makes the race so interesting.
Rory Bosio holds the course record at UTMB – nuff said! Any lady that finishes in the top-10 overall rocks. But where has Rory been since her repeat victory in 2014? Well, believe it or not, she was filming a reality TV show… really, Rory is an! In 2015 she won the Atacama Extreme but other than that she has been relatively low key when racing. UTMB performances are backed up by 2nd, 4th and 5th at Western States so Rory needs no other boosting. I do wonder though if she is in the ‘A’ game frame of mind of 2013 and 2014? We will find out…
Caroline Chaverot for me is the lady that will win UTMB 2016. Caroline is a machine who smiles from beginning to end and her performances over the last 18-24 months have blown me away. She does race a great deal and I think that went against her at UTMB in 2015 when she DNF’d. This year though I have noticed a difference… she obliterated the Transgrancanaria course, she obliterated the MUT in Madeira and she became Skyrunning World Champion at the Buff Epic Trail – 2016 is Caroline’s UTMB year!
Nuria Picas has twice finished 2nd and I would normally talk Nuria up as the winner. Last year she dropped early and since has had very mixed performances. I do believe she has the UTWT curse of running and winning too many races in a short period of time which has left her drained. I have seen this in 2016 at Transgrancanaria and most recently at the Buff Epic Trail. Of course, Nuria may well have been savvy and kept her powder dry for Chamonix – I hope so! *August 24th, Nuria will unfortunately not run the 2016 edition due to an injury.
Magdalena Boulet will be there or thereabouts but for me, this course will not allow enough running which is Magda’s strength. No doubt she will be in the mix, her 2nd at CCC proved that but 170k and 10,000m is a big difference to CCC or Western States. Listen to the podcast here.
Uxue Fraille will be out of the mix early on and keep going and produce a solid finish. Uxue’s success is all about pacing and finishing. She lets the other ladies race and fade and then she sweeps them up in the final 1/3rd. Last year she placed 2nd at UTMB and she won UTMF.
Jasmin Paris is one lady who may well win UTMB one day. I’d love to say that 2016 will be the year but I don’t think it will happen. Jasmin runs a great deal and therefore rarely ‘peaks’ for any one race. This is sometimes a good thing but also a bad thing. Although Jasmin can run long, this will be her first big 100+ miler and the Chamonix experience may well overwhelm her. This year she blitzed the Bob Graham Round FKT to a new level and a week after getting married took bronze medal at the Skyrunning World Championships and then won Tromso SkyRace. Personally, I feel Jasmin’s forte and skill set will be best suited to the Skyrunner courses where her fell and mountain running background really shines. She will do well at UTMB but this year will be a learning curve. Don’t get me wrong though, top 5 and certainly top 3 is possible. Listen to the podcast here.
Andrea Huser like Jasmin is a non-stop racer and for me always lacks that extra 5-10% when required due to a constant element of fatigue. Her string of top 2nd and 3rd places for me confirm this. In this 2016 field, Andrea can better her 2014 7th and potentially will make the top 5 and may even challenge the podium but I don’t see a victory.
Fernanda Maciel is a another runner who mixes many sports, races regularly and is always in and around the action. Like Andrea Huser, I see her in the mix but not taking the top slot. If we look at recent results, the consistency is there – 4th at UTMB in 2010, 3rd at MDS, 3rd at Lavaredo 2016 and a string of other podium places at UTWT races. * Fernanda will not run 23rd August. News from her doctors: “They said I was in an advanced stage of injuries to my kidneys caused by my last 2 long races due to dehydration I suffered during the races. Now my blood tests from last friday done here in Chamonix seem normal but not 100% recovered, and of course I am thinking of the UTMB on friday… I’m really sad because they only told me it today!”
Emilie Lecomte has the long game, strength and tenacity for a 170km race but she lacks the speed of many of the other ladies. A top 10 is an almost guaranteed and as other ladies fade, we can expect Emilie to move up.
Francesca Canepa and Emilie Lecomte in many ways are similar runners and Francesca has a strong history with UTMB and Tor des Geants. On her day, she can be up there and in the mix. Recently her form has been questionable.
Amy Sproston has won Hurt 100 and placed 2nd at Western States. For me, Amy is a runner but then again, Hurt has some gnarly terrain on those 20-mile loops, so, is this the year that Amy puts UTMB demons to rest? Her history is not good with the race – three starts and only one finish when she placed 8th.
Aliza Lapierre is potentially the USA’s top contender behind Rory Bosio. Her list of results in all varieties of races bodes well for a solid UTMB. But at really specific races, Transgrancanaria for example the mountainous terrain has caused her to struggle a little. Aliza like to run and although UTMB has plenty of that, it also has plenty of hands-on-knee action.
Larisa Dannis likes a running race and like many of the American ladies the increased vertical causes an issue. On paper though, she has the racing pedigree for a top performance. you don’t get 2nd at Western States by accident.
Ester Alves is a good friend and races too much (sorry Ester). One day, Ester will pick a race and prepare meticulously for it and then excel. I saw this earlier this year when she won and dominated The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. I think what worked there was it was the first race of the season and she could therefore be specific over the winter. What has followed is a string of races in many varied locations with a list of good results but no stand out results! Ester placed 8th at the 2014 UTMB so the potential is there!
Gemma Arenas I know well in the Skyrunning circles but this will be her first 100 and it’s a tough one with strong competition. It will be a learning curve.
Like in the men’s race, curve balls will swing in and we can expect to see these ladies’ mixing it up, Silke Koester, Nicky Spinks, Sally McRae, Sarah Willis, Sophie Grant, Frederica Boifava, Joelle Vaught, Alissa St. Laurent and Manu Vilaseca amongst others.
I caught up with Ryan Sandes for the latest episode of TALK ULTRA podcast (you can listen HERE) episode 107.
We discussed at length Ryan’s career, his difficult 2015 season and of course his book, TRAIL BLAZER (available on Amazon here).
In the interview, Ryan asked a question, ‘what was the second desert race I won?’
To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of the book, please comment below with an answer. All correct answers will be added to a hat and a winner drawn in April.