Thursday, 18 December 2014

A to Z of World Road Marathons - A Comparison (2014 Update)

Big Sur Marathon start, before it gets scenic

Back in 2011 I wrote my first comparison of the road marathons I've run around the world since I thought it could be useful for people when deciding which ones to choose. Each year I've updated this with new races I've run so here's my 2014 version. The three additions this year are:

- One additional marathon (CIM)
- I state the last time I ran each of the races since some may have changed slightly since I ran them
- Strava data for race courses, where I have it (only from the past three years)

There're a lot of fantastic races out there and many in locations that make for a great trip - a perfect way to see various unique cities. Overall it covers Europe and the west coast of the US in more detail but I'll keep searching out road marathons around the world since there's something about them that appeals just as strongly as other forms of running.

Bear in mind the list isn't exhaustive but includes well over 50 different marathons across the world, including a good portion of the most well-known ones, so there's some decent variety.

After each description I show my estimate of how many minutes to add on to your perfect time due to the course/conditions for a three hour marathoner to give a comparison, so add on more of less minutes in proportion for your pace.

Amsterdam Marathon (2007 - this date refers to the last time I attended the event), The Netherlands (October) - Very fast course with typically perfect weather. Helps to be at near the front but not too big a race. Pancake flat and not necessarily very scenic but it does finish in the 1928 Olympic stadium so you can pretend you're finishing an Olympic marathon around the Great Depression, which isn't that far off the truth. Highly recommended, especially as it's a good excuse to visit the legal(ish) version of Sin City. ADD 0 MINUTES

Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Marathon (2011), Arizona, USA (January) - If you want to have no off season then this is a great one to focus on for pure speed with comfortable temperatures and a slightly dull, but flat course around the Phoenix megapolis. They bill all the Rock 'n' Roll series races as a party but it's probably the most corporate running experience you could ever have (pay extra for VIP toilets at the start!) with less music along the course than many big city marathons. But the point of this one is really to have an easy course that's fast and to get away from winter snow. ADD 0 MINUTES

Athens Marathon (2006), Greece (November) - Not particularly pretty but it does cover the original route from Marathon to Athens which is 24 miles, so it includes a loop to reach the adjusted distance of 26.2 miles. Flat first half then gently up before the last quarter is all downhill, finishing in the 2004 Olympic stadium. Kind of has to be done at some point just because of the history, but no need to do it a second time. ADD 2 MINUTES

Barcelona Marathon (2008), Spain (March) - A great city to run around and a fast course too. Beautiful views of the sea and less overcrowding than at some of the larger city races. ADD 0 MINUTES

Beaujolais Nouveau Marathon (2008), France (November) - a large percentage of people run in costumes and the race is similar to other wine country marathons like Medoc in that it's a way to celebrate the new season's wines. Wine, bread and cheese at every aid station, including pre-race so it's not exactly a fast marathon for most people. The highlight was running down steps into a wine cellar, past huge barrels of wine and an aid station, before running out the other end of the cellar and continuing on the course. ADD 5 MINUTES

Belfast Marathon (2009), Northern Ireland (May) - Often windy, rainy and with a few hills to slow people down, yet strangely enjoyable even with sections along a motorway out to the airport. But running through republican Falls Road and loyalist Shankill Road with their sectarian murals is an interesting experience (especially if you're English). ADD 3 MINUTES

Berlin Marathon (2007), Germany (September) - Fastest marathon course I've seen and the multiple world records broken there (the last four men's records were set there...excluding the disallowed Boston 2011 time). It starts on a wide road so the masses get moving faster than at similar-sized marathons. That allows more of the field to have a fast start, although many people still inevitably have to go very slow in the initial miles. Beer at the finish too. ADD 0 MINUTES

Big Sur International Marathon (2014), California, USA (April/May) - Adding the word 'International' shows the aim of having people travel from all over the world and it fills very quickly but has a reasonable-sized field of 4,500 runners. Incredibly scenic along a beautiful stretch of California coastline but this is generally one to enjoy the views rather than go for a time. There's also a Boston 2 Big Sur challenge for people who run both, usually about a week apart. ADD 4 MINUTES STRAVA DATA

Boston Marathon (2014), Massachusetts, USA (April) - In the US this is the big one everyone wants to get to thanks to the need to qualify, the history and the fact the locals get into it more than for any other marathon I can think of. I love it and it does feel special but it's not the fastest course normally due to cross-winds and those famous Newton Hills. Highlight is definitely the Wellesley girls whose screaming you can hear a mile before you get there at halfway. 2011 had a tailwind for much of the course but the 2:03:02 by Geoffrey Mutai may not have been an official world record due to the net downhill and point-to-point course, but I have no doubt it was the best run ever. This course can be fast, but on average ADD 2 MINUTES STRAVA DATA

Brussels Marathon (2006), Belgium (October) - Pretty parks along the course and you get to see a good selection of the Brussels scenery including parts of the EU bureaucracy. Warning - your time may be worsened if you sleep through your alarm on race day like I did. ADD 1 MINUTE

California International Marathon (2014), California (December) - Billed as a fast, net downhill course and it attracts top level US runners. The rollers in the first half are certainly significant so I found these more than make up for the 300ft net drop. It's faster than most Bay Area marathons, but only because they are generally very hilly. If you want a perfect course for a PR, this isn't it, but it's close to it. ADD 1 MINUTE STRAVA DATA

Carlsbad Marathon (2013), California (January) - Want to get away from the winter cold? This is certainly a good option in South California and is well organized with a pretty course along the beach-front for most of the race. The half marathon attracts a world class field and the marathon is reasonably competitive too, but this isn't the place to come for a fast time due to the rolling hills (especially the big one at mile 9) and 900ft of ascent. ADD 4-5 MINUTES STRAVA DATA

Copenhagen Marathon (2006), Denmark (May) - Much of the course is run twice with overlapping loops, but I wasn't very inspired by the course which was fairly average, without too many memorable sights. ADD 1 MINUTE

Crater Lake Marathon (2012), Oregon (August) - There aren't many road races in National Parks and this one circumnavigates the hilly road around the Crater with views of the lake most of the time. Plenty of big hills plus the elevation is mainly between 7,000ft and 8,000ft so it's not fast. It also finishes with a nasty steep two mile climb up on a fire road then straight back down the same way to trash the legs. ADD 16-20 MINUTES

Dublin Marathon (2007), Ireland (October) - Not a very scenic course, with wind and some small inclines to make it slower. But it gives an excuse to drink Guinness where it comes from and hang out with the Irish. ADD 3 MINUTES

Duchy Marathon (2009), England (March) - One of the oldest marathons in the UK which used to be extremely competitive for a small event, attracting the top British marathoners back when if you ran a three hour marathon you were last. Surprisingly tough course with a beautiful exposed coastal stretch that can be blustery and has to be run past twice. ADD 4 MINUTES

Edinburgh Marathon (2008), Scotland (May) - Net downhill but not a fast course thanks to the majority being along the Scottish coastline, famous for howling winds and rain. Only the first four miles are really in Edinburgh then it heads out along the coast into a prevailing headwind which turns into a tailwind on the return last eight miles, still finishing way out of the city. The out-and-back is lonely in terms of supporters but then has the entire field supporting each other as they run past both ways. ADD 3 MINUTES

Eugene Marathon (2011), Oregon (May) - Fast and flat, as befits 'Track Town USA' and the home of so many Olympians. There's something special about finishing around the historic Hayward Field track and the weather will probably help your speed, even though it'll probably be wet. ADD 0 MINUTES

Florence Marathon (2006), Italy (November) - The first few miles are downhill so it's easy to go off too fast, then dead flat along the river for most of the rest of the way. One of the best city marathons for scenery as well as being incredibly fast if you don't overdo those first miles. It includes virtually all the main tourist sights in one of Italy's most beautiful (and romantic) cities. ADD 0 MINUTES

Fukuoka Marathon (2009), Japan (December) - If you get a chance, you're male and you're reasonably fast then you have to do this race at some point. Before there was a marathon world championship, this was the effective race where the best male marathoners came to duke it out. There's two qualification times: sub-2:27 for the A standard and sub-2:40 for the B standard with each having a separate start. You line up in rows in the exact order of your qualification times and can't drop below a 2:45 marathon pace or you get pulled from the course. It's a unique experience with a lot of crowd and TV support from the marathon-crazy Japanese. So if qualifying for Boston is too easy for you, give this a go. Highly recommended. ADD 0 MINUTES

Louis Persoons Memorial Genk Marathon (2009), Belgium (October) - Not many marathons to choose from in January, especially in Europe, and this one has since moved to October. This is a very small, cosy race with a multi-loop course using bike paths and small sections of easy trail. It's a shame they moved it to the middle of the Autumn marathon season instead of the sparse winter marathon famine. It was a novelty to run this in the snow but that's unlikely any more. ADD 2 MINUTES or 5 MINUTES if under snow

Halstead and Essex Marathon (2009), England (May) - A two-lap course with rolling hills in the Essex countryside. Full of people who didn't get a spot in the London Marathon and plenty who did it too. ADD 3 MINUTES

Hastings Marathon (2008), England (December) - I'll include this even though the race was a one-off in 2008 to commemorate 100 years since the London 1908 Olympics where the marathon distance was defined. It may come back at some point and it'd be great if it does. A rolling course including some beach running near the finish and a generally fun, low-key event. ADD 3 MINUTES

Helsinki Marathon (2008), Finland (August) - I did this to complete the set of Scandinavian capital city marathons and it rained. Surprisingly interesting course with some waterfront running and random city streets. But it finishes in the Olympic stadium built for the 1940 Olympics but used in the 1952 Olympics, which is a plus. ADD 2 MINUTES

Honolulu Marathon (2010), Hawaii, USA (December) - The definition of a destination marathon but some gentle climbs and guaranteed humidity and heat mean you'll be slowed. You probably won't mind since it just means more time to enjoy running in Hawaii. And you'll be doing it with a lot of other people since this is one of the largest marathons in the US, plus the out-and-back course lets runners cheer each other on (and lets you see a lot of costumes). ADD 8 MINUTES

Lake Tahoe Marathon (2010) - Emerald Bay Marathon, California/Nevada, USA (September) - Day one of the triple marathon around Lake Tahoe, and each is one of the most spectacular road marathons out there. Not the fastest course thanks to the big climbs and 6,000ft altitude plus most people will be doing the marathons over the next two days too. Fit this in if you get a chance since it's a perfect excuse to go to Tahoe and do so outside of the main tourist seasons, yet often with great weather. ADD 4 MINUTES

Lake Tahoe Marathon (2010) - Cal-Neva Marathon, Nevada/California, USA (September) - Day two of the triple or a stand alone race and the fastest of the three days with smaller climbs and a net downhill from the highest point of the three days (7,000ft) back to the lake level. Easy to hammer those downhill miles too fast and ruin the legs, but if you're doing all three days it's easier to be sensible. ADD 2 MINUTES

Lake Tahoe Marathon (2010) - Main Marathon, California, USA (September) - This is the biggest race of the three days and the one that has a lot of single day runners. It's also probably the hardest with some nasty climbs up to Emerald Bay and the best road views in Tahoe (where the first days starts). After the crest of the hill its downhill then flat for the last six miles then a barbecue on the sandy beach. ADD 5 MINUTES

London Marathon (2009), England (April) - In the UK this is THE marathon and most people don't even realize there are other ones out there. Most people run for a charity with a huge number doing so in costume and there's a lottery for non-charity entries, although foreigners can just buy an over-priced package to get in. If you want to run a fast time (and you definitely can on this course), then you'll need to qualify with a 'Good For Age' or Championship time to get near the front or you'll be stuck walking with the masses, being deafened by the crowds, especially near the end. ADD 0 MINUTES (more if not at the front of the start-lines)

London Marathon through Canary Wharf

London Marathon - 1908 Olympic Route (2008), England (July) - This course from Windsor Castle to BBC Headquarters may never be used again, but was recreated (without road closures) for a centennial commemoration of 1908 in 2008 by the 100 Marathon Club. Not a great route, including some dodgy areas of town but it has the same appeal as doing the Athens marathon and maps of the course can be found online if you want to try it solo. ADD 3 MINUTES or more if you allow for traffic and map navigation

Luton Marathon (2006), England (November) - A three-lap course with joys such as scary council estates where you may get mugged mid-race, nasty headwinds that somehow follow you around the loop and the chance of cancellation due to icy roads. But it does have a good challenge for a small race, in that there's a three-man relay to race against. ADD 4 MINUTES

Luxembourg Night Marathon (2007), Luxembourg (May) - An interesting twist in this race is that it starts soon before sunset, heading through the bridges and old buildings of the city. As it then gets dark part-way through the race, the final mile has candles lining the route and then finishing in an indoor stadium with techno music and disco lighting. Not a fast course due to the continuous rolling hills but pretty and unique. ADD 4 MINUTES

Marrakech Marathon (2008), Morocco (January) - Maybe not the most effective organization but it's a great city to visit and weather will tend to be at least comfortable, but possibly hot. The course is mainly outside the old town with the souks and windy little side-streets so has some desert-like views but it's all on flat roads so is very fast if the heat stays low. ADD 2 MINUTES

Malibu Marathon (2013), California, USA (November) - Want an excuse to visit the home of the stars and maybe even LA too? This course tends to have good weather, sometimes a little on the hot side and starts inland before running along the Pacific Coast Highway with some gentle hills, especially nearer the end. ADD 2 MINUTES STRAVA DATA

Napa Valley Marathon (2014), California, USA (March) - Scenic point-to-point run through the Napa wine region with your weight in wine as a prize if you win (they're smart - the winner is unlikely to be big). The course rolls slightly but is quick in general with comfortable, if potentially wet, conditions. ADD 1 MINUTE STRAVA DATA

New Forest Marathon (2008), England (September) - A scenic run through this forest in the south of England on roads with very small trail sections. Some gentle rolling paths and wind can slow the pace slightly but generally a relaxed and enjoyable smaller race. ADD 3 MINUTES

New York City Marathon (2007), New York, USA (November) - The world's biggest marathon with multiple start areas and routes that stay separate until several miles into the course. This one has to be on every marathoner's to do list despite the fact it's fairly tough due to the bridges acting as nasty hills. If you want to run fast here then you need to qualify to be at the front but the times required are tightening from 2012 due to the popularity of the race (for a senior man it will be 2:45, with times dropping for masters' age groups). It's a fun race with a chance to see plenty of NYC, much of which you might not need to really see, so this is really about the experience and it isn't cheap (I can't think of a more expensive entry fee for a road marathon). Don't expect to be running in those early miles or where the starts merge later on unless you're very near the front. ADD 3 MINUTES (much more if not in the front corrals)

The New York Marathon start line

Newport Marathon (2010), Oregon, USA (June) - An ideal race to go for a time plus some scenic views of the sea, a large bridge and along a river in the beautiful Oregon coast. Small enough that everyone can run immediately but fast and flat enough to let people nail the race, especially since the weather tends to be ideal for running. Only remotely difficult bit is a tiny hill in the first few miles, unless you decide to do the oyster challenge and eat as many oysters as you can as you go past the oyster farm on the way out and heading back (current record 80 oyster shooters).  ADD 0.5 MINUTES

Night of Flanders Marathon (2008), Belgium (June) - The marathon isn't the main event here as it's more focused on the 100k which has previously been the 100k World Cup race. But the courses are the same and the 100k just includes more loops through the countryside and small Flemish villages. The novelty here is that it starts in the evening and so some of the marathon is in the dark while most of the 100k is. Flat, slightly windy and with each lap going past weekend revelers in bars (who seem to be oblivious to the race). ADD 2 MINUTES

Oakland Marathon (2014), California, USA (March) - Oakland doesn't have a great reputation and has very high crime rates, even though it's just across the Bay from San Francisco and near much less dangerous places. The marathon starts with a gradual then steeper climb up to Piedmont, which is the rich part of town and takes an effort. Then after 10 miles there's downhill into Oakland proper and flat, speedy roads. The front-runners spread out so if you go significantly under 3h pace then you'll run though much of the dodgy part of Oakland solo. So each time you see a cop blocking a road for the race, you'll be happy. This shouldn't be an issue for most people but I felt unsafe running along (having run through ghettos in Africa and several third world countries). ADD 3 MINUTES

Oslo Marathon (2006), Norway (September) - A course that mainly goes along the bay in one of the richest and most expensive countries in the world. A chance to see Viking ships but if you want to do a Scandinavian marathon then Stockholm is prettier and more fun, not that this is a bad race at all. ADD 1 MINUTE

Oslo Marathon

Paris Marathon (2009), France (April) - Starting along the Champs-Elysees by the Arc de Triomphe so that it's a very wide start allowing the field to spread out on the very gentle downhill. Then you get the chance to see most of Paris' sights, two very French parks and a finish back at the Arc de Triomphe. Fast course, beautiful course and it includes a trip to Paris - highly recommended. ADD 1 MINUTE

Portland Marathon (2011), Oregon, USA (October) - Although Portland is a very green city in every way, this course shows less pretty parts of town and has a big bridge crossing around 16 miles. A relaxed atmosphere and not too large a field, plus a focus on making the race good for beginners and be female-friendly means this is a chilled race. People aren't fighting for position at the start like at many races. It'll probably rain and could be cold and windy so this isn't a super-fast course but is good as a first race or if you want to avoid the over-competitiveness you get at many races (particularly near the front). ADD 3 MINUTES

Prague Marathon (2005), Czech Republic (May) - As my first marathon, this feels particularly special to me and Prague is always a great city to visit, particularly the ancient old town where the race starts and finishes. The course has been improved slightly since I ran it but still involves some running on boring roads away from the center. Fast, although some people may not like the flat cobbles near the start and finish. ADD 1 MINUTE

Prague Marathon start/finish area

Quebec City Marathon (2009), Canada (August) - Not many marathons in August but this is a fun one that includes a chance to see a large part of the city along the water then finish at the bottom of the old town. Easy first half including some bike paths then there's a steep climb up to a big bridge halfway through and a prevailing headwind to the finish which can really slow everyone down. ADD 4 MINUTES

Reykjavik Marathon (2009), Iceland (August) - Iceland is an interesting place to visit and the race coincides with their summer festival so the locals do the two things they're famed for - drinking heavily and being promiscuous (the latter is just what I've heard). The course is mainly along the Atlantic coastline and typically is windy, plus even August is generally cold. So even though this course isn't fast, it's the road marathon I've done the most and somehow led to four PBs in a row. But beware that if you run faster than 3h pace you'll be on your own for most of the time. ADD 2 MINUTES

Robin Hood Marathon (2007), England (September) - This race in Robin Hood's locality in Nottingham follows the half marathon route, which is quite hilly, then heads off around man-made rowing lakes where there can be headwinds. A medium-sized marathon where a Brit is almost guaranteed to bump into a runner he or she knows. ADD 2 MINUTES

Rome Marathon (2009), Italy (March) - This is one of the best road marathons out there and even has a quick course. Undoubtedly the most impressive city marathon course given you run past so many world famous sights (unlike, say, London which avoids most tourist areas). Starting and finishing at the Colosseum then including the Vatican, Roman Forum and everything else you'd want to include on a trip there. Some cobbles but they're flattened and shouldn't be an issue for 99% of people. Do this race and fit in a longer trip to Italy if you can. ADD 1 MINUTE

Rome marathon start (that's me dressed as a gladiator)

Salt Lake City Marathon (2010), Utah, USA (April) - A net downhill, but starting at almost 5,000ft which takes a tiny toll on sea-level dwellers. The start is around dawn with the views of the mountains surrounding the city just starting to be lit with purples and blues, so that distracts you at first before some rolling hills. The half starts at the same point then splits off a few miles in before joining back up near the end. Some freeway running but generally a decent course for views. ADD 3 MINUTES

San Francisco Marathon (2014), California, USA (July) - Even though its at sea-level with mild weather, this is probably the hardest city marathon course I've seen given the significant hills (ok, trail runners, it's flat in mountain terms). Starting pre-dawn means cold and probably misty conditions but the main draw is the chance to run over the Golden Gate Bridge on an out and back. I loved the course despite the fact it slowed me down a lot. Great excuse to visit a cool city too. ADD 4 MINUTES STRAVA DATA

Santa Barbara Marathon (2013), California, USA (November) - A fast and generally flat or gently rolling course with a nasty hill at mile 23 that could put you off your target pace. Great atmosphere with a theme of supporting war veterans and the timing is around Remembrance Day/Veteran's Day. ADD 1 MINUTE STRAVA DATA

Santa Rosa Marathon (2010), California, USA (August) - This small town race in wine country is very fast. Previously a two-lap course along a river, this is now a single lap with a small field and so an ideal course to go for a PB if you don't mind potentially running alone. ADD 1 MINUTE

Seattle Marathon (2012), Washington, USA (November) - One of my favorite marathons and a good reason to go to Seattle just after Thanksgiving. Not a fast course but lots of running by the water before coming back inland to the finish, which includes some sharp hills. Another race run concurrently with the half marathon, but the half takes a short-cut so marathoners pop out into the back of the pack half runners, which can be really motivating given the mutual support runners provide to each other. ADD 3 MINUTES

Shakespeare Marathon (2008), England (April) - A marathon in Shakespeare's base of Stratford-Upon-Avon which rolls through country lanes for two laps. Usually very close to the London marathon so it tends to include people unable to get a spot there. An ideal way to run through some gentle English countryside without doing a trail race. ADD 3 MINUTES

Silicon Valley Marathon (2010), California, USA (October) - Out and back from San Jose to Los Gatos along a canal for most of the course, which is now defunct. The first half is gradually uphill then the return leg is fairly easy and the parks and greenery is better than you usually see in the area (I used to live there). No longer exists. ADD 2 MINUTES

Stockholm Marathon (2008), Sweden (May/June) - Another of my favorites, this involves two slightly different laps across the islands of Stockholm with the only hard part being the double crossing of the long bridge back to the main city. It's scenic, involves visiting a great (if expensive) city, and usually has really pleasant weather although has been too hot a few times.  ADD 2 MINUTES

Sunriver Marathon (2014), Oregon (September) - Fast and flat around the golf course of beautiful Sunriver Resort, just south of Bend, OR. Mountain views of the Cascades mean there's always something to keep you occupied and the 4,000ft elevation will barely have an effect. ADD 1-2 MINUTES STRAVA DATA

Tri Cities Marathon (2012), Washington, USA (October) - A small race through all three of the cities that make up the Tri Cities, along the Colombia River. Completely flat except the four river crossings but these hardly affect your speed, although it can be windy so that's the only risk. Great for a PB attempt, but this may involve running alone given the small field. ADD 0.5 MINUTES STRAVA DATA

Tucson Marathon (2013), Arizona, USA (December) - A net downhill course starting at around 4,800ft and finishing at 3,000ft, this looks super fast on paper. In practice there are a couple of reasons it's maybe not quicker than other marathons in this list. Firstly, there's a prevailing headwind for much of the race which negates much of that downhill. Secondly, around 10 miles are flat, rolling or uphill and that wears the body down when mixed with the headwind. Finally, those downhills can wipe out your legs with the additional pounding and impact. Even as a trail runner focusing on huge amounts of downhill training, I found my legs were struggling near the end, purely due to the hard surface and leg damage. ADD 1 MINUTE (MORE IF YOU'RE NOT A STRONG DOWNHILL RUNNER) STRAVA DATA

Tucson marathon course profile

Valencia Marathon (2007), Spain (November) - This race used to be in February and filled a gap in the calendar nicely but has since moved to November. A surprisingly good-looking city with some interesting modern architecture which you see along the route. It's also a well-designed course that is completely flat and easy. ADD 0 MINUTES 

Vilnius Marathon (2008), Lithuania (September) - One of the things I love about running is that way it takes me places I wouldn't ever think of going otherwise. Lithuania is one of those places and it's a beautiful small city with plenty of Gothic architecture, windy little streets and, I found, rain. The course varies from old city streets to bike paths through woods plus it's not got any obvious difficulties. ADD 1 MINUTE

Warsaw Marathon (2007), Poland (September) - As with Vilnius, I probably wouldn't have visited this historic city if it hadn't been for the marathon. It's a larger race but not as interesting since it includes some Eastern Bloc-style views of concrete faceless buildings and boring main roads as well as some of the old town. ADD 2 MINUTES

Zurich Marathon (2008), Switzerland (April) - I usually prefer to run in the mountains when in Switzerland, for obvious reasons, but this marathon is executed with typical Swiss efficiency. Plus it has great views the whole way since most of it is out and back along Lake Zurich with the mountains adding a perfect backdrop. The course does have some gentle rolling sections but is still fast. If you miss out on London, this is a more than adequate alternative. ADD 2 MINUTES

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Team Scoring At The US Skyrunner Series

Recently there's been some online and in-person discussion about team scoring surrounding the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler in Marin, including some great thoughts from Ryan Ghelfi (his latest blog post). It got me thinking along lines I'd previously considered before being involved in the US Skyrunner Series as the Series Director - namely that sports need teams for people to support.

Now that I'm in a position to create a system of scoring for teams at a national level, I decided to relate my thoughts in a blog to get comments before putting it into practice, so please let me know what you think. Bear in mind a couple of constraints - there's no budget for offering prize money for this in 2015 and there's no time to create a budget...but this may kick start that side of things for 2016.

As an additional feature, I'm currently working on a way to include live, real-time scoring during each race for teams but details are not ready to be released yet.

Scoring principles:

Here are the key elements I'd like to incorporate in team scoring:

1. Allow both elites and the entire field to effect the scoring.
2. Incorporate both women and men into a combined score for both elites and the entire field.
3. Create teams that people will genuinely care about.
4. Only include it if it adds something to a given race and/or the entire Series.

To achieve these aims I'm considering scoring for both the top runners and the entire field, but with the top runners still scoring for the masses as well. To get people behind teams, I believe the most effective common denominator is geography as this is what works in basically every sport globally. Then I hope the combination of these factors makes it of interest and gets people psyched to run for and support their team.

The geographical scoring makes most sense if based on US States plus international countries, given all the races are in the US. Every State will score in every race even if they have no runners - see the scoring described below. Only countries with finishers will be included, but once they have a single finisher in a single race they will be scored in every race, even if they have no runners.

Elite team scoring:

Cross-country scoring is tried and tested, so I propose that the top two men and one woman from a team have they gender positions added up. For example, a team with men in 2nd and 3rd plus the 1st woman would score 6 points (2+3+1). If there are not enough finishers for a team to complete their three finishers then each missing runner scores 25 points, so the previously mentioned team score without a female finisher would score 30 points (2+3+25). The most a team can score is 75 and if a team's runner is lower than 25th place then they still score 25 points at worst.

Full team scoring:

Every runner counts for the State or Country they enter under originally (even if they move before race day), including elites. The average position of the runners in their gender is the number that counts for scoring, with a bonus for the more runners they have. The State or country with the most runners in a race gets a 5 point deduction from their score, second largest gets 4 points off, third largest gets 3 points off, fourth largest gets 2 points off and the 5th largest gets a single point off their score. The lowest score possible is 1 point above the worst scoring team that has finishers.

For example, if Colorado has the most runners in a race and the average finisher's position in their gender is 22.567th then we round to one decimal place then deduct the 5 point bonus to give a score of 17.6.

Single race v entire Series:

I aim to include scoring for every distance at every event to give a result for the individual race plus a league table over the season. I guess I'll get comments about how all the scoring favors the States that hold more races since it's easier to get locals to turn up, but the bonus points' system only gives a slight advantage to big numbers. Regarding the elite races, 2015 should see some high-level competition across the entire Series, meaning that the States with the best mountain runners should do better in the elite rankings and they aren't punished too much if they can't get a full scoring team out given it only requires two men and one woman and there's only so many points that can be added as a penalty.

Overall thoughts:

There's a degree of trial and error with this approach since it's something new and relies on the races being reasonably geographically diverse and competitive. Both of these elements should increase over time and this is just the first step. Depending on how it goes it could morph into a number of things in 2016, especially with discussions with sponsors to get top athlete's sponsors on board.

Let me know what you think. Is this an exciting addition to the sport of trail running? Does it add something to the US Skyrunner Series? What would you change to my proposal (be realistic as well as ideas for where to aim for the in the longer term)?

Monday, 8 December 2014

Lessons From Returning From Injury

When injured, it's easy to lose motivation and suffer from some degree of depression or at least feel sorry for yourself. I generally try to accept things I can't change and look for positives, so the 2.5 months I missed due to my right foot's stress fracture weren't all that bad and I've had a month of getting back into running which has got my juices flowing.

Once I realized I was injured, I focused 100% on doing everything I could to fix it, including fun stuff like spending over a week on crutches and committing to not running until it was completely ready. It took a while to accept the stress fracture at first, but at least it was during my off-season so I wasn't planning on running in the early stages anyway.

I got back to running after a week of walking to test the foot after ditching the crutches. Like any injured athlete I tried to learn everything I could about the injury, likely recovery times etc and none of it sounded as optimistic as I hoped. Again, this is the all-too-familiar route back from injury for athletes of all types, but I hoped that I could use my experience as a personal trainer, coach and common sense to get some kind of edge.

Luckily the fracture seems to have been at the less serious end of the spectrum and the lack of running in off-season helped stop it getting worse from running when I shouldn't. In addition I worked on my lower body and core fitness even before I could walk again, using cycling and weights. Then I used a simple philosophy as soon as I could put weight on the foot again - start off easy with plenty of walking (including with a weight vest after a week or so), backing off at the first hint of anything negative around the stress fracture.

My training plan was as flexible as possible once I tried running again. I didn't even write it down, just going out the door each time to start walking then slow jogging before deciding on how far to go and how hard to push, mainly based on how it felt. Occasionally I pushed a little too much then took the next day off completely, except for a small amount of biking and weights.

Things progressed well and I had five weeks of gradual improvements, including some fast running that surprised me. I also had to take some risks after about three weeks since I have Rocky Raccoon 100 at the end of January and only want to race it it I feel fit and fast. To gauge that I felt I needed to be capable of a marathon at the start of December, eight weeks prior to the 100. So I had that at the back of my mind for the weeks leading up to the California International Marathon, which was yesterday on Dec 7th.

Even on the morning of the marathon I had big doubts and I was completely willing to stop if my foot deteriorated. I had a soreness near my right tibia, so my first thought was that the past month of running might have caused a new stress fracture in a different area. I imagined running 100ft down the road then turning back and trying to get a lift to the finish, going back to square one again with a new injury. However, this time I was willing to back right off and accept the injury immediately, despite not being happy at the prospect. Again, flexibility was the key and denying an injury doesn't make it go away.

Luck was on my side again (I don't count on it, but I'll take it when I can) and at the end of the first mile neither my foot or shin felt anything other than normal. It even looked like I might be able to run a fast marathon. Oh, and I should probably add in one extra detail - I decided to wear my old Spiderman costume to take some of the pressure of running fast and remind me that the main priority was finishing with no injury. No attempts at Guinness World Records this time, but I've found it a very effective way to spice up a marathon and make it more relaxing. Not the best pacing or highest level of fitness at this one so I slowed down a fair bit, but a finish without injury woes is a big win. My Strava data from the race.

CIM. Photo credit: Sacramento Bee

So what did I learn from all this, now my foot felt fine through a marathon and the injury problems are virtually over?

1. Mainly it reinforced the fact that there's no one-size-fits-all path back from injury, something I already knew, but this put it in clearer context. Everyone heals differently based on fitness, age, severity of an injury and a whole host of other factors.

2. It's also vital to discover the cause of the injury to avoid incurring it again. In my case that's less of a problem since it occurred over two days of running at Mt Whitney and Death Valley on sharp rocks with roads shoes and I felt it happen, not like a standard stress fracture occurring over time from overuse.

The path back to fitness needs close guidance from experts, including medical professionals for anything remotely serious. But one of the most important things is the ability of a runner to hold themselves back and not rush into doing too much. Starting runs with a walk, then an easy paced jog is a good way to include this flexibility and often it's possible to do more rather than less when approached this way. It's not an easy process and we all tend to try to do too much to regain our previous level of fitness faster than the body can cope with...but the body is a resilient entity.

For example, Mike Wardian was injured for a long period, losing almost an entire season yet he's now back to racing so much and so fast it would break a mere mortal. He ran (hard) at the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler near San Francisco on Saturday then wrapped up the weekend with a 2:33 marathon at CIM. The human body is inspiring, especially in the hands of guys like Mike.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Interview With Ellie Greenwood Post World Championship 100k

Crossing the line in 7:30:30 at the WC100k in Qatar. Photo: irunfar/Bryon Powell

After being named Ultra Running Magazine Ultra Runner of the Year (UROY) in 2011 and 2012 (plus probably winning it this year too), Ellie Greenwood has already had her share of success. However, this year is arguably her best yet due to wins at Comrades in South Africa and the recent 100k World Championship in Qatar. In addition she also won the 2014 Chuckanut 50k and the Squamish 50k.

I've been lucky enough to help Ellie through this year by coaching her, plus she now coaches others through my company too. There are a lot of interview with Ellie right now, but I wanted to ask a bit more about how she's approached races this year and what she's learned about coaching.

No doubt Ellie will continue to dominate global ultra running for years to come, so here's an insight into how she does it:

1. How did you deal with injuries in the last year, given you weren’t able to run much in 2013?

Ellie - Coming back to ultra running in 2014 I have been very careful to avoid getting injured again.  I now work closely with a Sports Med Dr., a physio and a massage therapist to work through any little niggles before they turn into injuries and prevent me from training.  I appreciate their expert advice and am careful to follow it.  In addition, I have focused on building back to high mileage very slowly and instead have done more quality rather than just pure quantity of training this year, so get a bigger bang for my buck in the miles that I do put in.  This year I have had some little niggles but with careful maintenance, foam rolling, stretching and being smart I have been able to work through them and still perform at my key races.

2. What cross-training did you incorporate while injured and what will you continue to do now you’re injury-free?

Ellie - I pool ran, cycled and rowed/ used elliptical in the gym.  I continue to cycle and use pool running when I feel my body needs a break from too much pounding of outdoors running.  I also was more dedicated to basic strength training when injured and continue to do this regularly even now I am 100% healthy as I know this is vital in injury prevention and making me a better runner.

3. How does your training differ for road races compared to trail races?

Ellie - In training for road ultras I tend to spend a similar number of hours each week training as if I was training for the trails but the mileage goes up and the amount of elevation goes down.  I focus on more consistent pace long runs, rather than just time on feet and hiking, when training for a road ultra.  I will always incorporate some tempo runs and speed work into my training, but these sessions become more important when training for a road ultra.  However even when training for a road ultra I'll spend some time of trails but just choose flatter and less technical trails, this gives my body a reprieve from the hard tarmac and also adds variety which is key for motivation.

4. How do you deal with unexpected factors on race day, such as the harder surface (tiles) and large number of 180 degree turns at the WC100k in Qatar?

Ellie - I just accept that all athletes are running the same course so no one has an advantage or disadvantage over another.  My UK team mate Jo Zakrzewski had run the course before so we checked out the course two days prior to the race, even this amount of time meant I was able to be forewarned of the courses challenges ahead of the race so there were no surprises on race day.  With the hard tiles I chose to wear a more cushioned shoe that I might have done otherwise, and with the sharp turns I didn't obsess if these kms were slower than others as I accepted that the turns would slow me down a little.

5. What have you learned from your experiences this year with wins at Comrades and the WC100k that you’ll apply to coaching others?

Ellie - I have learned that volume in training is not the be all and end all, and that fewer miles with quality can achieve just as good results.  I have also learned that really training specifically for a course (terrain, elevation etc) yields the best results and thus targeting one or two 'A' races each year is the way to really perform at one's best, if that is your goal.  I have also learned to take care of what seem like little extra factors e.g. trying to travel pre race a few days before, having a race day nutrition plan, heat training etc.  There is no point in just doing the run training and missing these extra factors which can really make a difference to race day performance.

Running on the tiles in the WC100k. Photo: irunfar/Bryon Powell

Friday, 14 November 2014

Back From Injury Plus Skyrunning

The joy of a stress fracture

It's been a while since I wrote a blog post, mainly because I've been very busy setting up the 2015 US Skyrunner Series and also because I've not been running. Also, I spoke to Ultra Runner Podcast about the same topics a couple of weeks ago.

Firstly, the Skyrunning side of things - I've loved these epic mountain-style races for years and have been involved with the International Skyrunning Federation since 2012 on the Board. It's an honor to be involved and I'm very happy with the range of races brought together in the Series across nine different States in the US. In particular it's very enjoyable to work with Race Directors with a real passion for trails and mountains who live that lifestyle every day. Here are a few shots from the 2014 US Skyrunner Series races I went to in person.

Lone Peak at the Rut in Montana

Runners ascending Lone Peak

Kilian on top the VK podium at the Rut 

Anna Frost coming into an aid station at the Rut 50k

Fellow coach, Ellie Greenwood, with a switch from road dominance at Comrades to the mountains at the Rut

Try getting those prizes home on a plane!
Jeremy Wolf above 11,000ft at the Flagstaff Sky Race in Arizona

Michael Versteeg starting the final descent at Flagstaff
Secondly, I've been traveling around a lot but not running due to a stress fracture in my right foot. I first felt it back in July after running down Mt Whitney after pacing at the Badwater 135, where I hit the same spot multiple times near my second toe with some sharp rocks. I felt like a bruise and I ignored it, including through the Leadville 100 a month later. After that I'd planned to rest a month as an off-season anyway, so I wasn't as aware of the problem til I tried to run again in mid-September.

Overall, I've not been too worried about it since I really needed a rest after the three 100s this year (Rocky Raccoon, Western States and Leadville), at which I already felt fatigued due to the Grand Slam last year. So I took it easy, had a three-week visit from my parents where we went to a few National Parks (Yosemite, Sequoia, King's Canyon and the Grand Canyon) then realized I needed a break from even walking...and a break from taking a break! Below are a couple of photos from those beautiful places, although I do wish I could have run in them properly instead of light walking.

No running shots in the GC, but it's well 'just' taking in the views

"I wish I could run down there right now"
Thanks to the crutches at the top of this post, I then took around nine days of zero impact for my right foot and that was obviously frustrating. However it seems to have paid off in combination with Sarah Lavender-Smith's ultrasound machine (see photo below) since I've been able to get back to walking longer distances. 20 mins a day of this machine seems to have helped, although it's difficult to tell and the science behind it isn't conclusive for this type of situation. I'd be willing t try it again if I get a similar problem, since it's better to have proactive options like this rather than just pure rest. It's also helpful for giving me more insight as a coach - a stress fracture is almost a right of passage for a runner and I've never had one before. So although the use of ultrasound hasn't been conclusively proven to help with healing fractures, it seems to have a neutral effect at worst and it helps pyschologically to be doing something proactive.

Ultrasound for bone stimulation

Amy and I even power-walked the US Half Marathon together in 2h59m at the start of November, which gave me the confidence to restart running. The following week I took a risk in starting the Berkeley Half Marathon and just hoped I could run every step, so was pleasantly surprised to still have some speed and to run a 1h25m with only minor soreness afterwards (except my muscles which really weren't used to it). In the few days after that it feels fine again and I've been able to run pain-free, so I can hopefully progress beyond runs every other day very soon.

So that sums up the past three months. Really busy and that probably helped by stopping me worry about the injury. I'm very optimistic that this long break will pay off in my 2015 season and it's certainly got me excited about running again. Now I have just over three weeks to my next benchmark, the California International Marathon. Originally I'd planned to have a long, solid build-up and to go for a sub 2h30m, but now the main focus is to run every step pain-free as a confirmation that I can train hard again.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Leadville Trail 100 - How Many Second Winds Can One Man Have?

Photo: Caleb Wilson

Leadville was an amazing experience last year as part of the Grand Slam and I had a great trip to Colorado again, especially the two weeks of hiking in the mountains. The race didn't quite go to plan but I felt I got the most out of my legs on the day - both a result of last year's 100-milers. The fatigue has been lingering all year at Rocky Raccoon 100 and Western States 100 thanks to not taking a proper long rest after last season, but the plus side is that I really feel I've learnt how to adjust mid-race and maximize how the day goes, no matter what issues I have to deal with. Luckily it's an easy fix as I just need a little time off and won't be running a step for at least a month (mountain biking and hiking are another story).

Back to the race itself and it turned out to be something I'll remember for many years to come. It started off with a lot of similarities to last year. Firstly I led into Mayqueen aid station at mile 13.5 by a few seconds, just like 2013 (although I spent 45 mins with my headlamp on minimum since the battery went flat well before sunrise despite a full charge). Then I dropped to 9th by the top of Sugarloaf at mile 18. Back into 5th at Outward Bound aid station at mile 24.5 and into 4th just before Twin Lakes at mile 39.5. All identical to last year, plus Mike Aish was 20+ mins ahead in the lead which he did in 2013 too. It was just slower and the legs felt fatigued compared to last year.

There was a stunning sunrise over Turquoise Lake and a sunny day throughout which made for beautiful running conditions. I was behind my 2013 splits the whole way out but had a solid hike up the major climb of the day at Hope Pass, which ascends over 3,000ft to mile 45.5. On the way down to the turnaround at Winfield (mile 50) I squeezed past Zeke Tiernan to get into third, but then the race started to get really crazy.

Mike Aish had a huge 25 min lead over me at the turnaround and picked up my Grand Slam nemesis (and good friend), Nick Clark, as his pacer. Rob Krar took a wrong turn due to what must have been trail sabotage, costing him around six mins so he was perhaps 10 mins back from Mike. I would have gone the wrong way too but saw Rob heading back up the turn I'd have missed. That got re-marked in time for the next competitors but meant that Zeke caught up to me.

A quick turn-around and I picked up my first pacer, Brendan Trimboli, getting out of Winfield in 8:07, about 17 mins slower than last year. We saw Timmy Parr right behind Zeke but were mainly focused on power-hiking the crap out of the steep two-mile, 2,000ft ascent back up to 12,600ft after the rolling few miles from the aid station.

I felt much better by this stage and had accepted that my legs didn't have quite as much pep as 2013, but knew sub 17hrs was on the cards if I kept my head. The climb went well with a steady, fast power-hike that put a small gap between myself and Zeke. Then the descent was just as much fun as last year as I let myself go and caught up some time on both Mike and Rob, plus saw several hundred runners coming the other way who were really gracious and made it very easy for me to move past them. Brendan played a big role here by going 20ft ahead to warn that a runner was coming through (I'd been told in advance this was a key benefit to having a pacer on this section).

Amazingly I caught up to Mike just before Twin Lakes (mile 60.5), seemingly done for the day with swollen knees and quads. Last year I caught him walking at mile 67 to take the lead, so it looked like things continued to play out like 2013, but with the addition of Rob Krar ahead. Despite only half a mile to the aid station, I put five mins on Mike and assumed he'd be lucky to finish. How wrong I was!

Running through a XC section. Such a perfect sunny day. Photo: Brendan Trimboli

The 1,400ft climb out of Twin Lakes is more gradual than Hope Pass but steep enough to force me to hike almost all of it. It was also hot so my second pacer, Aaron Keller, carried some iced water to pour on my neck at regular intervals ('muling' is allowed at Leadville). I assumed the game had switched to a safe second place and maybe first if Rob faltered, but around mile 66, Mike Aish flew past me while I ran close to 8-min/mile pace on a flat section. By the Half Pipe aid station (mile 69) he was three mins ahead. How had he turned things around and could he sustain it for the first time in a race this long?

I kept moving at a very respectable pace but by Outward Bound (mile 75.5) he was over six minutes ahead, despite 'looking bad' according to many reports. I've learned that people can look like death in an ultra (eg. Nick Clark, who's famous for looking spent but continuing to move fast) and still run well, so I didn't pay too much attention to that.

A couple of rolling road miles took me to the bottom of the steep Powerline climb with my third pacer (I was spoiled with such a good crew), local Leadvillian, Dana Kracaw. I still had a solid uphill power-hike available and zoomed up, catching Mike a mile from the summit. This time I was sure he was out of it, but kept pushing the pace (I got the Strava CR for the section over Powerline to Mayqueen, showing I wasn't hanging about). Down the gentle downhill I ran sub 8 min/miles then heard Mike charging behind me. I pushed to go faster and zoomed along the jeep road but he still passed me and put about a minute lead on me by the turn into the single track. How did he keep coming back from the dead like this?

A few minutes into the technical single track I'd dropped my pacer, Dana, and caught up to Mike as he looked like he was bent over retching (I found out after the race he was taking his shoes off due to a blister!). Within the next two miles down to Mayqueen (mile 86.5) I gapped Mike by five mins and was pushing along the road section, not stopping at Mayqueen at all. Dana arrived a minute after me but I'd teamed up with Brendan again for the final section.

Last year I ran 1:57 for the Mayqueen to the finish split, basically the same as Matt Carpenter's CR split. I'd pushed myself to the brink because of a charging Nick Clark, although he had blown up right after the aid station and slowed considerably. This time I thought I'd secured second and had a tiny chance of catching the 30 min gap to Rob Krar if things went south for him.

I ran virtually every step along Turquoise Lake, pushing myself up the little rollers and certainly going faster than 2013. Then the short, sharp drop back on to the road and just 5.5 miles to go. The only problem was that Dana and Aaron were there with news that Mike was only a minute behind! He'd turned on the after-burners one last time and was flying at an unbelievable speed (or maybe not when you consider he's a 27-min 10k runner). I sped up as his crew plus mine cheered along the last flat section before the turn back on to the unrelenting uphill to the finish. He'd said on Powerline that his uphill legs were blown so I hoped I could remain ahead if I got to the climb and the last 3.5 miles first.

It was a full-on race with us both running close to 7-min miles and he caught me right at the turn uphill onto the steep first 400m uphill. We both settled into the fastest power-hike I've ever seen, neck-and-neck. As the gradient dropped to around 10% I started running, maybe 5 feet ahead of him. My watch showed 8-min mile pace and it felt hard, but he drew level and accelerated. I tried to match him but couldn't and had to drop to a more sustainable 9-10 min/mile pace, hoping he'd blow one last time. Afterwards he told me his split for that mile was just over seven mins!

As dusk turned to dark we approached the turn into Leadville and the switch back from a gravel road to asphalt, but Mike was around two minutes ahead. I couldn't see a way to close that within under a mile, especially since he was running, not walking. So I settled down into a slower pace to avoid the minor high altitude pulmonary edema issues I had last year (I succeeded) and ended up crossing the line in 16:41:38 (11 mins slower than last year), three minutes behind Mike and 32 mins behind Rob, who won in the second fastest time ever, 16:09. Mike's split from Mayqueen to the finish was 1:49:46, over seven minutes faster than anyone else ever. Considering how many low points he had that's just mind-blowing - Rob and I both ran around 1:58 for that section.

I wanted to end my season giving everything to the race, although I hoped I wouldn't feel so tired. Thanks to Mike I can walk (or limp) away with the satisfaction that I pushed to my limit on the day, wrapping up the season with a podium and becoming the first person to break 17 hours at Leadville twice. The podium's times were the 2nd, 6th and 7th fastest in history, so we certainly made a race of it. Zeke came in with his second best time on the course, in 17:35, and Dave Mackey was next after rallying for a negative split 100-miler to finish as the first of the Leadman competitors in the 100, in 19:10.

The women had a close race for first and second too, with Emma Roca running the first five miles in the lead with myself and Zeke before taking a bad fall. Emma and Liza Howard yo-yoed ahead of each other all day with Liza sitting as high as fifth late in the race. They finished with Emma in 8th overall in the third fastest time ever (19:38) and Liza just behind in 20:01. That must have been an epic battle too and I can't wait to hear more about it from Liza.

Full results here. Plus my Strava data here.

Thanks to everyone involved with the race as it was very well organized and seemed to deal with the overcrowding and other race management issues from 2013. It was another memorable, special day and I feel lucky to be a part of this sport.

Off season time:

Post-race with a super-tight jacket courtesy of Dana.


Scott Kinabalu T2 shoes
UltrAspire handhelds
Drymax Maximum Protection Trail socks
Julbo Dust shades
Clif Bar gels (approx 40) plus other Clif products

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Update pre-Leadville

It's a week until my last main race of the year, certainly my last ultra, at Leadville Trail 100. Last year was so much fun with two weeks of Colorado fun, including seeing some of the Hardrock 100 course in the San Juans.

This year I didn't have the Grand Slam to deal with so I was able to fit in the Badwater pacing on the adjusted, non-Death Valley route (see write-up by Eric Spencer here) plus the San Francisco marathon three weeks prior to Leadville race day. That marathon is a race I love, especially with the section running over the Golden Gate Bridge and back. In addition, the local ultra community was out in force with some good banter on the start line with the likes of Alex Varner, Jorge Maravilla and Devon Yanko. A quick summary - I had a head cold but wanted to move my legs a bit faster than any time since Western States, so I ran a 2:43 negative split (1:22/1:21). Much more encouraging than my fitness pre-Leadville last year where I felt worn down with no speed at all. At a guess I'd say I could have run a marathon just under three hours at Leadville last year, so that seems like an improvement.

For the past week I've been staying in Leadville for the period pre-race (10,150ft), compared to Durango (6,700ft). I did get up higher for a few days last time, but this year I've already summited three 14ers at Mt Elbert, Mt Massive and Mt Sherman (see photos below). I also had a few days at 6,200ft at Lake Tahoe before coming to Colorado.

So on paper my preparation is better and I feel stronger and better adapted to altitude already, with another week left. Who know if that'll translate to a better run, but it feels good to be ready. A last minute addition to the field of Rob Krar means the course record is certainly under threat, plus Mike Aish has the potential to run around that time if he can nail a race this long and Zeke Tiernan returns after previously running one of the six sub-17hr times ever run on the course. The field may not be as deep as somewhere like Western States but at least one guy will nail it and run a very fast time.

Some photos from the past few weeks:

Tahoe sunset

Sunrise over Emerald Bay, Tahoe

Tahoe sunrise at Emerald Bay

View from Mt Tallac looking away from Tahoe

Echo Lakes, Tahoe

First day in Colorado, near Leadville at 12,000ft

Mt Elbert (tallest mt in Colorado) with Dana Kracaw and Alberto Rossi

Mt Massive from Mt Elbert

Twin Lakes on the Leadville course

Looking down at Leadville from Mt Sherman

On the way up to Mt Massive

Selfie on top of Mt Massive

View from Mt Massive

Telluride Valley from above

Bridal Veil Falls, Telluride

We're in an ultra boom right now. Even the construction industry knows it.