We asked American ultra-athlete and multi-day specialist, JOE FEJES to put together a “Who in the World to Watch” Review for the 2017 World Championships in Belfast.
A few facts to start:
- The average winning distance over the past 12 World Championships for men is 269.56 kilometers.
- There has only been ONE multiple winner: Ryoichi Sekiya from Japan who won the gold 4 times.
- Despite the data we will share below, a Cinderella story is absolutely possible at an IAU 24 Championship. In the 2013 World Championship, American John Dennis from the USA ran 262.734 (km) 163.25 miles to win the Silver medal even though his prior best was only 224.36 (km) / 139.416 miles. John ran almost 40 kilometers more than his previous best performance. The best example of this is Ireland’s own Eoin KEITH. While his best 24 hour is 241km, according to Joe, “Eoin is one of the best multi-day adventure athletes on the planet, and he may well set a PR on his home course. We were roommates at the 6 Day EMU race in Hungary and I have mad respect for him as a friend and competitor.”
- Below is complete list of individual podium winners since 2001:
As we review some of the names in European ultra running, below is a news article published regarding the recent 2016 European Championship featuring three athletes who should be in the mix in Belfast:
“In the men’s race, Aleksandr SORKIN of Lithuania put in a very gutsy performance for the first 21 hours leading the charge, at one time leading by as much as 18 kilometers over the rest of the field. Good form, cool temperatures and a fast course contributed to the fast pace. That pace however caught up to SOROKIN in the last three hours and he eventually faded to sixth.
Employing a different strategy, British athlete, Dan LAWSON paced himself through the early afternoon hours and late evening to move into the top five, and at 7am made his move, taking the lead which he did not relinquish.
Czech Ondrej VELICKA had the same game plan in mind moving up the field in the second half of the race, and in particular making a move during the early morning hours to finish with a distance of 258.661km to take second.
Stephan RUEL of France was the only podium finisher who was consistently featuring in the top five from the early stages of the event. With a strong last four hours, RUEL finished in the bronze medal spot on his home ground running a distance of 257.296 km”.
Below is a breakdown of some of the top international athletes. The listings below do not in anyway reflect Joe’s prediction of how a runner will perform in Belfast but rather for informational purpose based on each runner’s best-ever 24 hour performance. Runners listed below have exceeded 250KM (155.343 miles) at some point in their career and ranked accordingly.
REUS Florian 263.899 (km), Germany, age 33, is the defending 24 hour World Champion who is looking to break the German 24 hour record of 276.209 km held by legendary runner Wolfgang Schwerk, Florian is one of the most disciplined runner in the world today, often running the 24 hour event with a perfect even split pacing strategy. Although it seems like he has been running forever (actually since 2003) he is still only 33 years old and in his prime. His 2017 racing consisted of two 50k races likely in preparation for a higher intensity performance in Belfast. Florian already is a World Champion, now he is racing for history. In 2017 he has been focusing on shorter distance ultras likely to acclimate to a faster pace needed for Belfast. He ran a 3:28:30 50km tune-up earlier this year which is only 18 seconds off his personal best.
ISHIKAWA YOSHIHIKO 263.127 (km), age 29, Yoshihiko has a 100 (km) best of 6:52 almost as fast as Sorokin having finished 8th at the prestigious Lake Saroma 100km. In his 24 hour debut he won the 2016 Jingu Gaien National Championship with 263.127 (km). He also finished 3rd at the super competitive Gobi 100km in front of shorter distance studs such as Giorgia Calcaterra and Zach Bitter. Yoshihiko is a 2:24 marathoner to boot.
LAWSON Dan 261.843 (km), age 44, Great Britain. Watch out for Danny Boy–he is on fire. Last month Dan won the prestigious Ultrabalaton 218 km in 18:30. Two months ago he won the Steenbergen 12 hour race with 152 km besting France’s highly regarded Stephane Ruel by more than 5 km. Last October he won the European 24 hour Championship in Albi France with 261.84 km. At age 44 he is in his prime and his recent performances suggest he can run significantly further than his current personal best.
SZYNAL Paweł, 261.181 (km), age 43, Poland. In addition to winning the silver medal at the 2015 WC with a PR of 261.181 km, Pawel ran 253.567 km in 2014. Pawel has been quiet on the ultrarunning racing circuit having run only two races over the past two years. Normally inactivity would be a red flag on achieving a big number.
BRITTON Robbie 261.140 (km), age 30, Joe’s good buddy from across the pond is fully recovered from the knee injury suffered earlier last year and should be primed for a solid showing in Belfast. Joe was fortunate enough to meet and compete against Robbie and several of his other Team GBR runners (Steve Holyoak & Paddy Robbins) in the 2012 and 2013 World Championships. Robbie has been supplementing his road training with plenty of vertical training in the Mountains. Although he lacks the raw leg speed of both Sorokin and Ishikawa he is a super smart runner who will get the optimal miles his body can muster. He is the type that will top of his petrol tank with every last drop of fuel even after the petrol pump has shut off. He took the bronze at Turin 24 WC and will only be satisfied with an even stronger performance. Congrats on Mr. Britton for his recent admittance into a master’s program.
SOROKIN, Aleksandr, 260.491 (km), age 35, Lithuania. Aleksandr is the Lithuanian national record holder for both the 100km and 24 hour. Wildcard of the race. Sorokin put up 153.7km at the 12 hour mark at the European 24 hour championship before suffering a violent and painful implosion and ending up with only 251km. His 100 mile split at Albi was approximately a mind blowing 12:40. He also split 153km at 12 hours in his 24 hour debut in Greece in 2015 when he ended up with 260km. Aleksandr has wicked leg speed as evidenced by his 6:50 100km performance at the 100km World Championship where he finished 10th. Will Aleksandr deviate from his prior pacing strategy or go all out yet once again? He definitely has the potential to put up a huge number. (Choice of photo – this was Sorokin’s profile photo for the Spartathon page and was literally the only one we could find!)
NARAKI Toshiro 258.687 (km), age 40. Toshiro is plenty fast having run 7:11 in the 2012 Lake Saroma 100km. Toshiro has run 250+km on at least 4 occasions with his last one at Japan’s 2014 Jingu Gaien National Championship. Toshiro had a disappointing 215 km performance at the 2015 World Championship in Turin so Belfast will offer an opportunity for redemption.
VELICKA Ondřej 258.661 (km), age 34, Czech Republic. Ondrej ran a solid 147km 12 hour race earlier this year as a tune-up to Belfast. He also ran a very respectable 7:23 100km at the 2016 World Championship showcasing his leg speed. He definitely has the talent to run 265+ at Belfast and challenge for the “W”. Runner up to Dan Lawson at last year’s European 24 hour Championship with 258.228km, Ondrej is ready, willing and able to perform.
MACAJ, Ivan 258.333, 4/15/70, age 47, Slovakia. Ivan finished just outside the podium in 4th place in the 2015 World Championship. Last May, I spent 6 days running short loops with Ivan at the EMU 6 day race in Hungary. He impressed the hell out of me with his determination in his multiday debut. Ivan is tall, lanky with perfect form and is certainly capable of running 265+. His form reminds me of Oliver LeBlond in many respects. Unfortunately I’m pretty sure he is or at least has been dealing with foot injury the past few months. If healthy I would have him in my top 10.
RADZIKOWSKI, Andrzej, 258.228, age 36, Poland. Andrzej ran 256+km in a 24 hour race two months ago. Radzikowski also won the prestigious Spartathlon last year with an impressive time of 23:02. All signs point to peaking for Belfast. Look for low 260’s.
STEWART, James, 258.11 (km), age 41, Great Britain. James ran a superb 13:39 at the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile trail run earlier this year. Belfast will be his debut at an IAU World Championship. Look for a breakout performance.
DILMI, Ludovic 257.819 (km), age 52, France. Ludovic was the Bronze medalist at 2012 World Championship. Ludovic has solid leg speed having run 7:03 100km in 2012 World Championship at Seregno where he finished 17th approximately 15 minutes behind John Olsen. Ludovic’s only issue is father time – he is 52 years old which makes a 260 km performance daunting.
RUEL, Stephan 257.296 (km), age 51, France. Last month Stephan ran 147.481 km in 12 hours at Steenbergen which indicates he still has the ability to improve on his bronze medal 257.296 km performance at last year’s European Championship. Stephan is also a serious mountain runner having competed at UTMB and other brutal trail ultras.
PROCTOR David 257.093 km, age 36, Canada. Dave Proctor has an above average motor having run 7:37 100km at the 2014 IAU 100km World Championship. Dave also broke the Guinness Book of World Records by running 260.4 km in 24 hours on a treadmill. Dave definitely has the ability and drive to challenge the 270 (km) mark at Belfast if the stars align.
ODANI, Shuhei, 256.861, age 28, Japan. At only 28 years old Shuhei has already run ten 24 hour races including his personal best of 256.861 km in 2012. More recently in December 2016 he ran 248.404 at the Jingu Gaien 24. He also finished 8th at the 2013 World Championship at Steenbergen with 250.327. Joe vividly remembers ping ponging back and forth with Shuhei only to be dropped by him in the final hours. He is certainly capable of cracking the top ten.
ROBBINS, Pat 256.801 (km), age 45, Great Britain. Pat began running 24 hour races in 2009 and has steadily progressed as follows: (2009) 215.81 km; (2010) 231.08; (2011) 231.163; (2012) 246.07; (2015) 256.801 where he finished 7th in the World Championship. He also finished 13th at the 2012 World Championship.
CONSANI, Marco 256.531 (km), age 42, Great Britain
RUDOLF, Tamas, 255.250, age 37, Hungary
ECKFORD, Matthew, 255.000 (km) Matthew, age 36, Australia
LATTARICO, Piero 253.631 (km), age 47, France. 4th place finish at last year’s European 24 hour Championshp at Albi.
HOLYOAK, Steve 252.836 (km), age 52, GBR
RUIZ, Patrick 252.364 (km), age 47, France
THOMS, Stefan 251.99, age 50 GER. Stefan has improved on his 24 performance substantially over the years raising the bar from 233km at 2013 WC to 241km in 2014 to his personal best of 251.599 at the 2016 European Championship finishing in 7th.
LAROCHE, Guillame 250.240 (km), age 41, France. Like some of his teammates Guillaume is a avid trail runner having competed in tough mountain adventure runs such as the Grad Raid des Pyrenee.
There you have it! Thanks, Joe Fejes for the information and data. There are many team and individual story lines to follow over starting tomorrow at 12:00 (in Belfast). 7:00am EST/6:00am CST/4:00am PST