2010 UROY Mirrors WS

Ultrarunning Magazine announced the 2010 Ultrarunners of the Year today (see results).  Hard not to notice that both the top two men, Geoff Roes and Anton Krupicka, and the top two women, Tracy Garneau and Meghan Arbogast also finished top two, respectively, at Western States 100 last June.  Can we conclude that WS was indeed the 2010 de facto national championship ultra?  While there was money through the Montrail Ultra Cup, WS offers no prize money, it has never had the USATF championship designation, and doesn’t waive the entry fee or offer any other compensation for elite athletes.  While the other “championship” races have to offer prize money, entry fees, lodging, travel, etc, WS does not need to do that to attract the best athletes.  How can that be?


  1. WS does draw a ton of top althetes, but it’s popularity also overwhelms the UROY voting. I know the Ultrarunning Mag voting panel is secret, but I bet there’s a high proportion with strong ties to or overly strong reverence for Western States. With all due respect to Tracy and Meghan, I wouldn’t have had either in the top three for runner of the year. No doubt that Geoff and Anton were 1-2 for the men.

    • @Bryon Powell, Are you suggesting this because the owner of the magazine is on the WS board? Maybe Ellie will win WS in 2011 and then she’ll get the needed votes to win. Not sure if that will help prove your point though.

      Meghan ran all the biggest races, including WS, TNF, and the World 100K, won the MUC, a couple of national championships on the road and trails, and won a couple of smaller races. Even ignoring her 2:45 and 2:46 marathons, she arguably exhibited the widest range. But, to your point, I think, the top women didn’t run historically fast at WS this year. But then again, Nikki was third at WS and didn’t make the top ten UROY.

      I think the voters are more discerning than you’re giving them credit.

      • @Craig, Craig, I make the suggestion as an alternative theory for the correlation. I overstated my position in the moment and I apologize for that. It’s more that latter point in that I think more credit may sometimes be given to winning Western States than it deserves. As you point out, “the top women didn’t run historically fast at WS this year.”

        No doubt Meghan had a great season. I’d say it was much harder to judge the women’s runner of the year this year than the men’s as there was much less overlap. Ellie had next to overlap with anyone except for Chuckanut and the IAU 100k and Jamie Donaldson had no overlap. Still, they put up incredible performances that can’t be ignored. Kami and Tracy had very small resumes, which again, had minimal overlap. Meghan put up a remarkably consistent set of performances but despite great performances she was considerably off the winners at Chuckanut, IAU 100k, and TNF. I believe that Ultrarunning voters use head-to-head matchups as a factor, which is why I couldn’t put Meghan ahead of Ellie. As for your point about Nikki, I don’t believe she ran another competitive ultra last year otherwise I’m guessing she would have gotten more votes. Just my two cents.

        BTW, I think that the Ultrarunning voting panel does a fantastic job. An anonymous friend passed me the information used by the panel and I made my own picks. The panel and I were in near total agreement for the Top 10 men’s UROY, were close on the performances for the year, and both the panel and myself picked exactly the same five men’s age group performances in the same exact order. So, in general, the panel and I see eye to eye.

          • @Craig, good to know, Craig. It would be wonderful if the ballot included extenuating circumstances, DNFs, etc. The ultra story is human, both good and ugly.

            Even if it’s hard to find such info on one’s own. It’d be pretty easy to harness the collective intelligence of the voting panel by opening up a Google doc or other collaborative tool for a week or so before voting. Imperfect data leads to imperfect decisions.

  2. Craig – I think you are making the case that WS is so “wonderful” that it does not need to waive the entry fee, offer any other compensation, including entry fees, lodging, travel, etc. Right?

    I guess as long as it continues to draw the top runners that is a fair statement. I think however as soon as a 100 mile race does offer these things at a significant level WITH a solid course as well – then the so called defacto championships will move there.

    • @George Zack, keep in mind I am the director of a race that has been a USATF national championship, is in the MUC, has offered comp entries, prize money, and other stuff to elites. We’ve gotten good fields, but nothing like WS. And seldom do the top athletes make Waldo their goal race of the year. WS doesn’t have to do any of this and it consistently gets the best athletes who take the race seriously. Prize money and other benefits for the elites is obviously not the required ingredient to become the de facto national championship. Will TNF ever replace WS because it offers $30,000 in prize money? Guess we’ll see.

      • @Craig, While I’m not sure about the comping of elite entries (it’s an insignificant portion of cost if coming from US anyway), the prize money-less UTMB is similarly a continental/world championship level draw. That’s some good supporting evidence that it’s not all about the money.

  3. WS is clearly a good race but with the entry process they have in place there is no way it should ever be considered as a Natioanl Championship de facto or not.
    As far as UROY voting goes its nice to know they have guidelines in thier selection , it seems that more weight might be given to running multiple 100 milers throughout the year? And it seems a bit odd to me that you can break the AR at 24hrs and thats NOT the performance of the year…wow.

    • @John Ticer, With the elites gaining entry through the Montrail Ultra Cup, the number of elites in the race has increased substantially, wouldn’t you agree? An elite runner can go to one of the MUC races and race their way into WS. How many more do they need to let in? The masters runners are definitely at a disadvantage in terms of gaining entry, though.

      As for Jurek’s 24 hour American Record, 4 out of the 18 voters agreed with you. I know you now have a new interest in running 24 hours after you went round and round on a < 1 mile loop last year, but not too many american ultrarunners have run one, much less seen one. And just because of the fact that you are psychotic enough to want to go back and do another 24 hour, the soundness of your mind is in question and your opinion must be weighted accordingly. Seriously though, without looking, can you tell us who's record Jurek broke and when the previous record was set? How about the record before that one? I bet you could go back several WS course records off the top of your head.

  4. That would be Mark Goodall 162+ miles,he had it for awhile and your right I don`t know who had it before that.
    The reason I can come up with the WS list is because THATS ALL YOU TALK ABOUT anybody who has been on at least a five mile run with you knows the entire history of WS…..psychotic,perhaps thats why we get along so well.
    I do like the fact that you can race your way into WS,but your still missing out on alot of good runners that just might have a great day,everybody at the top had a break through performance at some point.For a National Championship race it would be nice to expand the field.

  5. Western States, although it is competitive, is NOT the “championship”. If they don’t let in all the runners that have a chance to be at least top 10, then they’re coming up short. And it’s unfair to say that these great 100 mile runners should go run a smooth 50 mile run in 1st and 2nd to get in. 100s are different and there should be a way to let top 100 mile specialists in the track meet. The MUC is in now way a great “series” of races, it’s just a way for Montrail to have a little control over who gets in the track meet, and for them to think they have a hold on Ultrarunning. They don’t. WS should have prize money and allow an “elite field” that should be handpicked before the actual lottery…..in my opinion. We’ll all just go over the pond and race there, although there’s no prize money (which I think is weak too), at least faster runners get in and are given a shot at it.

    Western is an old race, not a great one, that’s why it’s popular.

    • @Speedgoat Karl, While I imagine you are just trying to stir the pot, to dis a company that has contributed probably more money to our sport than any other company in the last decade, and at the same time suggest that races should have prize money and more elites should be let into WS, well, that seems silly to me. The MUC provides an opportunity for 18 men and 18 women to race their way into WS. The races in the series are given shwag and $ by Montrail. The MUC winners earn $. I agree it could be improved by including a couple 100 milers like Hardrock and/or Wasatch. Folks from WS and Montrail have improved the MUC the last few years. Remember when 50Ks were qualifiers for WS? Not anymore. Unclaimed spots didn’t roll down and now they do. I am confident that both WS and Montrail will continue to tweak the MUC to make it better. Almost every suggestion that I have given has been implemented. They are listening.

      As for WS being the de facto championship, hard to ignore the fact that 1,2,4 in the men’s UROY finished 1,2,4 at WS. And 1,2 women’s UROY finished 1,2 at WS. If you go down past 10 in UROY you find many of them finished WS. I don’t have any idea about the DNFs but I bet there a few more in there. What race was our [100 mile] championship? Burning River? Hardrock?

  6. Gotta agree 100% with the Speedgoat on this one. And this is coming from someone who has done way more walking than running after the river in 3 goes at States so I ain’t gonna be gettin’ “handpicked.”
    Okay, maybe 99% agreement…States is an old race AND a great race :)), whether it ever changes it’s entry policies or not.

  7. if western states doesn’t make some changes something will replace western states soon as the “national championship” race. there’s way too much of a demand for this for it to not happen. it hasn’t quite happened yet because all that have tried have had at least one major factor holding them back (distance, location, type of course, lack of funds, etc). at some point soon someone is going to put together a race that contains all of these things that people would want in a championship race AND they are also going to make sure that all top runners who want to run the race have the option to do so. UTMB (and quite likely NF) has really already begun to replace WS as the championship race. the field of American runners planning to run UTMB this year is deeper and more talented than any that has ever run WS. And the field at NF last year was without question deeper in talent than WS. NF still has a lot of work to do as far as getting some excitement injected into their event on race day, but the excitement and energy at UTMB makes WS feel like a Turkey Trot (at best). That is to say it feels like a true championship race. If WS is not alarmed by all of this and doesn’t do some things to keep up with this they’ll be a fairly ignored event (in terms of front runner interest) within in a few years.

  8. to explain further where i’m coming from: virtually none of the runners i have talked to about this (and i have probably talked to half of the top 20 or 30 hundred milers about this at some point in the past year or two) have very much (if any) loyalty to WS. why is this? because WS has little(If any) loyalty to them. and i’m certainly not saying that WS owes anything to these runners, but I am saying that (IMO) if they want to remain the “championship” race that they have mostly been in the past, they do need to make some changes in this area… there are just too many runners wanting a race that has both a killer race and a dedication/determination to bring in as many top runners as possible. i think the MUC is a much better series than most people realize, but i’m talking about the series itself independent of WS. as a system for getting top runners into WS it’s very flawed. as the series has become better and more appealing the races have become more competitive, and in that time the number of runners qualifying from each race has dropped from 3 to 2. Max King, Scott Jurek, Geoff Roes what do they all have in common? they are all runners who would have run one more WS in the past 3 years than they have, if they could have gotten into the race. scott and hal are both running UTMB this year. why? my guess is because they have the option to and because it’s a killer race. WS is also a killer race, but doesn’t offer them the option to. sure, they could both try to qualify through the MUC but this would not be anything near a sure thing for either of them. a “championship” race that doesn’t guarantee spots to runners like scott and hal (who have won 9 of the last 11 WS!) is not destined to remain a “championship” race for long. not with the demand there is out there for one that does. it’s really as simple as supply and demand. there is a demand for a “product” that WS just doesn’t produce. if they don’t start producing it someone else who is trying to will eventually get it right and WS will quickly have a much different customer base.

    • @Geoff, I agree with the past champion exemption. That would be something that wouldn’t cost WS many slots and would show that they respect the past champions. But in all honesty, past champions, unless they did something to harm their relationship with the race, are generally able to get into the race. For example, both Hal and Graham were not picked in the lottery, didn’t win a spot through the MUC, and are on the starting list for 2011. Yeah, it sucks they have to ask for special consideration but they are in the race.

      As for MUC being the conduit for fast folks getting into WS, one concern I’ve always had with it is that it is dependent on the race having a continued relationship with Montrail. If for whatever reason that relationship ends, that method of entry will go away. WS will be without a “transparent” method of getting elites into the race. Does seem prudent to create an elite entry process that the race completely controls. Whether that is designing a new lottery that sets aside a certain number of elite spots to be claimed via qualifying times (say the fastest x 100 milers based on the new BCS-style UROY ranking from the year before 🙂 or to go back to the special consideration method where elites write a letter to the board asking to get into the race. But, until then, it is hard to argue that the MUC has not increased the competitiveness and depth of fields assembled at WS.

  9. Having read alot of the comments on blogs over the past few months, by influential runners, it seems people are pushing changes to the sport and an increasing amount of detail is being put on rankings/formal recognition. Changes that have nothing to do with why the majority of entrants initially take up the challenge of an ultra. I would prefer traditional races to remain as they are. But I acknowledge that my aspirations to compete a few times a year are different to people who have chosen to make a living from the sport. I do, however, believe that an event(s) with which top athletes can compete against eachother is essential. I just hope that it is a new event.

    I fear the necessary impact of sponsors to fund these events will have irreversible impacts. It is great that people can make a living from doing what they love, but these people are not solely the people who inspire me and others to run. The beauty of the average ultrarunner has always been their normality and capability to hold down normal lives (i.e. Joss Naylor). I hope that race participants remain as fascinating as they are today and that my local 50 miler doesn’t become a race exclusively for talented athletes.

    • @Scotsman, changes are definitely occurring whether we like it or not. Your fears are not unique as I’ve had similar, at least with respect to impact and magnitude of our races, and maintaining the mix of elite athletes and the “average joe” with minimal talent persevering through to a finish. But, as some of the “influential” runners have suggested, it doesn’t seem possible that we will ever have 2000 runner ultras in this country unless we do it on private land or in a state that is desperate for money from our permit fees. Our approach to wilderness and other public lands is quite different from the Europeans. If we can’t have huge races, how much money will companies actually throw at our sport? Seems limited to me but then again I could be wrong.

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