Thoughts on “Ultramarathoner of the Year” voting

January 26, 2010

UltraRunning magazine announced its 2009 Runners of the Year a couple of weeks ago.

As in previous years, I thought the anonymous panelists did a pretty good job with the rankings. I agree wholeheartedly with the choices of Geoff Roes and Kami Semick as ultrarunners of the year; likewise, it’s hard to quarrel with the selections of Roes’ Wasatch 100 (where he broke Kyle Skaggs’ course record by over an hour) and Semick’s World Cup 100K (where she bested a very deep international field) as performances of the year.

Of course, I didn’t simply digest the voting results as a fan of the sport — I wanted to know what the panelists thought of ME.

My JFK race was rated #8 in the “Performance of the Year” category. Should it have been higher than that? Probably not. I could argue that, for example, me running the second-fastest time in the history of JFK was more impressive than Karl Meltzer running the second-fastest time in the history of Hardrock, which hasn’t hosted as many great runners over the years. On the other hand, Josh Cox set an American record in the 50K — not just a COURSE record, but a NATIONAL record — and his achievement garnered fewer points than mine! So I guess I can’t complain.

In the “Runner of the Year” category, I was surprised that I didn’t get even a single 10th-place vote, since my win at JFK came after solid finishes in tough fields at the Chuckanut 50K (2nd), North Face 50 (3rd), and White River 50 (3rd). Doesn’t beating fifth-ranked Hal Koerner three times in three attempts count for something? On the other hand, Sal Bautista destroyed me at the Bellingham North Face 50 and also won the Wisconsin North Face 50, and he didn’t get any points either.

In the end, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that doing well at these races is its own reward. Sure, we can have some fun arguing about whose season was better, but, years from now, Hal will look back on his Western States victory with justifiable pride, and I’ll do the same for JFK, and our most vivid memories will be of the races themselves, not our point totals in UltraRunning magazine.


  1. Hey, I didn't get a single tenth place vote either! (hahaha).Do you think there is 100 mile (plus) favoritism in the voting?

  2. Pam:I think there may be a bit of a bias toward the longer distances. That would help explain why Josh Cox's 50K didn't get more points. (Well, that and the fact that it was an odd race set up solely for him — but that wasn't really his fault.) Likewise, Todd Braje won five 50K/50-mile ultras — some on trails and some on roads, some hilly and some flat — and finished 9th in the Runner of the Year voting, whereas Karl Meltzer won five mountainous trail 100-milers (of roughly comparable prestige to Braje's races, I'd say) and finished 2nd.Tia Bodington, editor of the magazine, wrote in the last issue that she likes to see good performances at a range of distances from 50K through 100 miles, which seems reasonable to me. If someone like Karl can be ranked as highly as 2nd for specializing in 100-mile trail races, though, it seems as though shorter-distance specialists like Todd should also be rated highly.

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