Trail & Ultrarunners
Wrapping up Round 1 of our Women’s Running Bracket, we turn to the trail and ultrarunners. Whether they’re tackling 50 miles or 3100 miles (that’s not a typo!), these women have amazing perseverance in the face of all kinds of conditions. In the battle of the ultra queens, who will survive to the next round of our bracket?
Ann Trason holds several course records at top ultra races, including the American River 50, Leadville Trail 100 and Comrades. In both 1996 and 1997, Trason won both the Western States 100 just 12 days after winning the Comrades Marathon in South Africa – a race with a misleading name, as it is actually 56 miles! She has won Western States 100 a whopping 14 times, and broken 20 world records during her career.
Jenn Shelton may be most well-known outside ultra circles for her wild partying as depicted in Born to Run, but this former rugby player is the real ultrarunning deal. She is the world record holder for the 100-mile trail run, with a jaw-dropping time of 14 hours and 57 minutes. Shelton doesn’t only like the uber-long; she has run several marathon and qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials in the distance.
At 49, Connie Gardner is a single mother of two girls and the current 24-hour world record holder. She won three national championships in three months (100 mile trail, 24-hour and 50 mile road) and was chosen the 2011 USATF Masters Ultrarunner of the Year.
Ellie Greenwood is a 2:42 marathoner who holds the Western States 100 course record. She was the 2010 100k world-champion and was named the female Ultrarunner of the Year twice by Ultrarunning Magazine.
Krissy Moehl is a veteran ultrarunner with 12 years of competition and 96 races under her belt. Her career includes 46 female wins and 2 outright wins… if you’re not great at math, that means she’s won nearly 50% of her races! (factoring in the two DNF’s). In 2005, she became the youngest female to complete the Grand Slam of ultrarunning, an honor bestowed to those who complete the Western States 100, the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run, and the Leadville Trail 100 – all in one calendar year.
2011 was a big year for Lizzy Hawker, an environmental scientist by trade who fell into ultrarunning. She set the 24-hour world record holder at the 2011 Commonwealth Championships, where she covered a distance of at the 247.07 km (153 miles). Later that same year, she completed a 199-mile run from Everest base camp to Kathmandu, Nepal in 2 days, 23 hours, 25 minutes. That effort bettered her own 2007 record by more than three hours, despite making an eight-hour stop during a storm on the run’s first night. Whew! Makes you tired just typing it.
Amy Palmeiro-Winters was a runner in high school, but lost her left leg below the knee in a motorcycle accident in 1994. A decade later, she entered her first marathon, winning her age group! Palmeiro-Winters turned to ultras in 2009, winning the Arizona Road Racers Run to the Future twenty-four-hour race, marking the first time an amputee had won an ultramarathon. In 2010, she became the first amputee to finish Western States and in 2011, she became the first female amputee to finish Badwater.
Frith van der Merwe holds a 2:35 marathon PR, but her real speciality is much longer. van der Merwe has won the famously tough 65-mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa three times. The race alternates direction between the “up” and “down” routes; she set records for both directions, and her down record from 1989 still stands to this day. van der Merwe’s 1989 record time of 3:30:36 in the 56 km Two Oceans Marathon also still stands.
Kami Semick ran at the collegiate level for the University of Alabama, and is fairly new to ultra distances, running her first 50K in 2003. Kami has won the female division of the Miwok 100K three times, and the Where’s Waldo 100K once. She was the overall winner at the Kettle Moraine 100K in 2005, setting a course record in the process. Kami was the fourth female finisher at the 2006 Western States 100. Demonstrating that she’s still got a flair for the (relatively) short stuff, in 2004, she entered the Seattle Marathon on a whim and ended up winning!
Sue Ellen Trapp managed to balance being a full-time dentist with ultrarunning for much of her running days. The three-time USTAF Masters Ultrarunner of the Year winner specialized in 24-hour and 48-hour events. She began her ultra career in 1979, breaking the American women’s record in the 100K. From 1979-1981, she frequently traded American and world record standards for the 50 miles, 100K and 24 hour events with fellow American Mary Schwam. By 1981, Trapp owned the world 100k record (8:05:16) and the world 24 hour standard (123 miles, 593 yards).After a semi-retirement, Trapp returned to the sport and reclaimed both the national road and absolute 24-hour marks from Ann Trason in 1993. She also set national and world records in the 48-hour event in 1997, with a distance of 234 miles, 1425 yards. Setting world records 17 yeards apart, it may go without saying that Trapp is a member of the American Ultra Hall of Fame.
Meghan Arbogast has been running ultramarathons for over 30 years, and she doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Nicknamed “The Queen”, Arbogast finished fourth at the IAU 100k World Championships in Italy in April 2012, helping the American team secure a victory. At this race, Meghan ran 7:41:52, setting a nine-minute world record for 50+ women. Oh,and the record she broke was her own.
Tomoe Abe straddled the marathon and ultramarathon worlds during her competitive career in the 1990s and early 2000s. Her marathon best was 2:26:09, and she won a bronze medal in the 1993 World Marathon Championship. On the other side of the coin, Abe shocked the ultrarunning world in 2000 by setting a women’s world record in the 100k with a time of 6:33:11 – nearly 30 minutes faster than the previous record!
Anne-Marie Flammersfeld vs. Suprabha Beckjord
Anne-Marie Flammersfeld was the first woman to win all four events in the 4 Deserts ultra race series. The series includes the Gobi March (China), the Atacama Crossing (Chile), the Sahara Race (Egypt) and The Last Desert (Antarctica); all are weeklong stage races that take place over 155 miles of desert.
Talk about ultras! Suprabha Beckjord holds the record for the 3100 mile race, with a time of 49 days, 14 hours, 30 minutes and 54 seconds. She covered this distance yearly in the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race from 1996-2009.