Joe Fejes is one of the top ultra runners in the world. He races marathons and 24 hour races, but specializes in multi-day races. In May 2015, Joe became the first modern-day American to break the 600-mile barrier in six days at the EMU World Trophy races in Hungary.
He has been on the US National 24 hour Team and is a true expert on all things ultra running. I am honored to share his unique perspective as he handicaps the 2016 European Championships in Albi, France. 180 of Europe’s best ultrarunners representing 24 countries will compete.
Below are his overall predictions, analysis of the Top 15 runners, followed by his team predictions.
Joe Fejes’ 2016 24 Hour European Championship Race Preview:
Runner / BirthYr / Country/ 24 PR (km)/(mi)
Aleksandr Sorokin (81) Lithuania 260/161
Robbie Britton (86) GBR 261/162
Marco Bonfiglio (77) Italy debut
Dan Lawson (73) GBR 242/150
Kim Hansen (75) Denmark 257/160
Marco Consani (74) Great Britain 256/159
Bjorn K. Taranger (79) Norway 257/160
Stephane Ruel (66) France 252/157
Pat Robbins (72) GBR 256/159
Steve Holyoak (64) GBR 252/157
Kim Sorensen (84) Denmark 246/153
Henrik Westerlin (75) Denmark debut
Guillaume Laroche (76) France 244/151
Johan Steene (73) Sweden 242/150
Bela Mazur (78) Hungary 247/153
Aleksandr Sorokin (Lithuania)– My prohibitive race favorite based on raw leg speed, age and recent 24 hour performance. Aleksandr has wicked speed for a 24 hour runner having finished 10th in last year’s 100k World Championship in a blistering 6:50 with a 50k split of 3:15. For comparison sake, in the 100km, Aleksandr was more than 8 minutes faster than the first Team USA 100k runner. Joseph Binder, Matt Flaherty, Chikara Omine and Jim Walmsley ran (6:58, 7:01, 7:02 and 7:05) respectively. Aleksandr also had a phenomenal 260k 24 hour race earlier this year in Athens Greece under tough weather conditions with virtually no competition. Can Aleksandr realize his potential in Albi and add his name to the list of legendary runners that have run 275+ kilometers–Kouros, Zhalybin, Morton, Schwerk, Kruglicov, Sekiya, Nunes…Sorokin???
Robbie Britton (Great Britain)– At age 30, Robbie is the third youngest entrant in this year’s championship. Robbie is looking to improve on his spectacular 3rd place finish (261 km) in last year’s 24 hour World Championship in Turin IT. He will no doubt be in the mix for the podium again. Robbie is also a talented writer and outspoken advocate for the sport of ultrarunning. His only character flaw is a weakness for fell running- he is dangerously close to giving up the grandeur of the road and track to the darkside of running up mountains.
Marco Bonfiglio (Italy) —Marco is destined to put up a big number in the 24 hour. He has more than enough leg speed as evidenced by his sub 14 hour 100 milers and 7:02 100k time. Last month he finished 2nd at the Spartathlon with a 23:36. If he is fully recovered, he will be likely be the top horse for Italy with sights on the podium. Look for Marco to go 260+ KM in his 24 hour Euro Championship debut.
Dan Lawson (Great Britain) – Dan finished 3rd in the Badwater 135 earlier this year with a solid sub 24 hour race (23:52). In May 2016 he also ran an impressive 142 km in 12 hours at Steenbergen which suggests he is capable of a 265+km 24 hour performance. He also finished second in last year’s Spartathlon (23:53) one minute in front of Kim Hansen. Albi will definitely be the stage where Dan can excel. In fact, Dan might give even give his young’un stud protégé teammate Robbie Britton a big brother like whuppin.
Kim Hansen (Denmark) – The first of three Danes I selected in my top 15. Kim finished 3rd in last year’s 135 mile Spartathlon only one minute behind Dan Lawson. Look for yet another dog fight within the top 5 between these two tough runners. With relatively cool conditions expected at Albi I project Kim to challenge Marco, Robbie and Dan for a podium spot.
Marco Consani (Great Britain)-Marco knows the recipe to success in the 24 hour event. His wife Debbie Martin Consani is also an elite 24 hour ultrarunner having placed in the top 10 of the European Championship the past several years. Look for Marco to run the race lock step of his for teammates Pat Robbins, Steve Holyoak, Robbie Britton, Marco Lawson and Dan Lawson.
Bjorn Kronen Taranger (Norway) – gotta love the Norwegian Wild man—heavily tattooed and a hard core drummer in the pop punk band “Goldenboy”. He also wears hot pink arm and calf sleeves for his runs. Make no mistake–Bjorn is legit—a 2:39 marathon PR with an eye popping 257.60 kilometer (160 mile) 24 hour PR he ran indoors in Bislett.
Stephane Ruel (France) – 50 years old and the second oldest of my top 15 picks behind only Steve Holyoak. In my 24 hour selections yes I do discriminate based on age (unless of course your surname is Kouros or Kruglicov). Stephane is extremely experienced ultrarunner with more than 58 events and is sure to whip the local French spectators into a frenzy. I had a tough time picking him over Pat Robbins for the 8 spot but really believe home field advantage will pay dividends.
Pat “Paddy” Robbins (Great Britain) – Pat represents at the big show. He had brilliant performances at both Turin (256km/7th) and Katowice (246 km/11th). Flip a coin between Robbins, Larson, Holyoak and Consani—all will be right there at the end.
Steve Holyoak (Great Britain) – Steve is my oldest pick in the competition (age 52). He loves to perform on the World Stage. In fact his two best 24 hour performances were at the World Championships in Turin (252 km/11th) and Steenbergen (246 km/12th). Expect another strong performance from Steve as it is likely to be his grand finale for the IAU Championship with Father Time’s stop watch running.
Kim Sorensen (Denmark)– Kim’s 24 hour PR was set last year. I believe this is his first 24 hour outside of Denmark and will be his debut at the European Championship. Adrenaline alone will give him 5k. Look for a 250km performance.
Henrik Westerlin (Denmark) – Another solid Dane runner who has above average leg speed having run 7:49 at the competitive Lake Sonoma 50 miler. He also had a solid 6th place in the 2015 Spartathlon with a 26:19. A successful debut by Henrik along with the 2 Kim’s (Hansen and Sorensen) gives the Danish team a fighting chance to podium in the team competition.
Guillaume Laroche (France) -Guillaume will benefit from home field advantage in France particularly in light of his prior experience with the venue. He set his PR at Albi last year winning the non-championship event. He will need a new best performance for team France to podium.
Johan Steene (Sweden) -Johan is poised to step up his 24 hour number and has proven himself to be an incredibly tough runner especially in the longer multiday events. In 2014 he put up 384 km in the 48 hour and possesses more than sufficient leg speed to put up a 250+ 24 hour performance. He also won the 500k Vol State screwed division with an almost untouchable performance of 95 hours.
Bela Mazur (Hungary) -Don’t overlook the Hungarian. Bela notched his 24 hour PR earlier this year and is poised to improve at Albi. (Photo credit – Don Razzino)
1. GBR -they have only improved since Turin.
2. France-hometown advantage carries them far.
3. Denmark-success largely depends on Westerlin’s debut
4. German-without their anchor Florian, it will be difficult
5. Italy-without their anchor Ivan, it will be difficult
6. Norway-potential to be best Norweigan team ever
18. Czech Republic
Countries with less than 3 runners: