|Stats & Records||Contact AUA||American Ultrarunning
Hall of Fame
|Ted Corbitt (2004)||Sandra Kiddy (2004)||Marcy Schwam (2005)||Sue Ellen Trapp (2006)|
|Bernd Heinrich (2007)||Stu Mittleman (2008)||Allan Kirik (2009)||Barney Klecker (2010)|
|Rae Clark (2011)||Park Barner (2012)||Frank Bozanich (2013)||Donna Hudson (2014)|
|Tom Johnson (2015)||Roy Pirrung (2016)|
Click on an Inductee to jump to his/her Bio
To be considered for the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, candidates must be either retired from competition for 10 years, or have reached the age of 60.
Corbitt and Kiddy Inaugural Inductees
The American Ultrarunning Association (AUA) is pleased to announce the formation of The American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame. AUA president Kevin Setnes made the announcement April 20th, noting "A national ultrarunning Hall of Fame is long overdue. The legends of our sport will now have a place to be honored for posterity."
Athough ultrarunning as a competitive sport has a rich and colorful history in America (going back into the mid-19th century and pre-dating organized Track & Field), its practice was scattered and not uniformly coordinated throughout the country until the late 1950’s. Hence, the pool of Hall of Fame candidates will be restricted to what is know as the “modern era” of the sport, which we date from the first know American ultramarathon organized since World War II, the New York Road Runners Club 30 Mile race held on March 8, 1958.
The AUA Hall of Fame will reflect excellence at racing beyond the standard marathon distance, or other exceptional contributions to American ultrarunning. The inaugural class of inductees will include one man and one woman. Thereafter, only a single inductee per year will be selected. Athlete candidates for the Ultra Hall must be either retired from serious competition for at least 10 years prior to their induction, or have reached the age of 60.
Achieving the distinction of being the first man and woman inducted into American Ultrarunning's Hall of Fame are Ted Corbitt and Sandra Kiddy.;
Generally regarded as “the father of American Ultrarunning,” Ted Corbitt was born in 1920. He was a sub-49 second quarter-miler at the University of Cincinnati, and began training for marathons in 1950. He had almost instant success. He won both the U.S. and Canadian national championship marathons, and was selected to the 1952 U.S. Olympic marathon team. He missed the 1956 Olympic team by one place.
At the same time, he became involved in the organization and administration of long distance running on a national scale. He was a co-founder of the Road Runners Club of America and the New York Road Runners Club, and was elected the latter organization's first president in 1958. An African-American, as both athlete and administrator he faced and conquered many challenges posed by racial discrimination in the pre-civil rights era.
In 1958 Corbitt won the inaugural modern era American ultra, the NYRRC 30-miler, in 3:04:13. The sport grew quickly, and over the next two years he won 10 ultramarathons.
In 1960 he was elected president of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). Corbitt’s lobbying efforts for accurate road course measurement led to the formation of the AAU’s National Standards Committee, the precursor of the Road Running Technical Council. He was personally, “hands-on” responsible for the introduction of road course certification in America.
At that time the generally recognized de facto “World Championship” of ultrarunning was the 54-mile London-to-Brighton road race in England. In 1962 Corbitt made his first of four trips to the event. After leading for the first half of the race, he finished fourth in a performance that international ultra historian Andy Milroy claims “signaled the rebirth of North American ultrarunning.”
During the 60's Corbitt, a full-time physical therapist with a wife and small child, became legendary for his prodigious training mileage, including long individual training runs over 60 miles and training weeks of 300 miles or more. In 1969 British track star Bruce Tulloh made international headlines by running across the United States averaging 44 miles per day with a 2-vehicle, 4-person support crew. One astute New York journalist later commented that at the very same time, Ted Corbitt came close to averaging that in training for an entire summer while maintaining a family and a full-time job!
Corbitt would finish second twice more at Brighton. One of them, his nip-and-tuck, one-minute loss to world-ranked #1 ultrarunner Bernard Gomersall, is regarded as one of the epic, classic duels in the history of the sport.
The successful promotion of a national ultrarunning program by the RRCA, following Corbitt's leadership, resulted in the establishment in 1966 of the inaugural U.S. National 50 Mile Championship in Staten Island, New York. Corbitt finished second to Jim McDonagh in that race, but came back to win the National 50 Mile in 1968 in 5:39:45.
Corbitt finished out his world-class career with a series of track races in London, all of them when he was over the age of 50. In these races he set long-standing American track records for 50 miles, 100 miles, and 24 hours.
Although a series of injuries forced him to give up running and switch to walking in his 60’s, he never gave up being an active participant in the sport. In recent years, in his 80’s, he has covered over 68 miles in a 24-hour race and over 300 miles in a 6-day race.
Sandra Kiddy was born in 1936. She ran her first ultramarathon in 1979 at the age of 42, opening her career with a bang by notching a world best 3:36:56 for 50km. And she never looked back.
Unbeknownst to her or two of her particular countrywomen at the time, she, Marcy Schwam, and Sue Ellen Trapp formed an American trio who would lead women’s ultrarunning into global prominence for the first time in history. Among the three of them, they would bring women's performance levels from 50km through 24 hours to staggering new heights, and awaken the rest of the world to the opportunity for women to achieve athletic recognition in ultramarathons on a par with men. Among them, Kiddy was the most senior in age and the most consistent.
In 1981 Kiddy ran her first 50 miler, in 6:24:19, putting her at #4 on the all-time world list with a performance that would still rank at the top of the American women’s performance charts today. In subsequent years she would drop her 50 mile best to 6:15:47, then 6:09:09, the latter at age 47, behind only Schwam on the all-time U.S. list.
In 1982 Kiddy won the Chicago Lakefront 100km, the premier American road ultra, in 7:59:59, becoming only the second woman in history (again, behind Schwam) to break 8 hours, the first on American soil.
The following year she continued her progression upward in distance and in stature, running the first of her many successful European ultras. After a tight battle with German 100km recordholder Monika Kuno, Kiddy pulled away to win a special women’s invitational “World Cup 100 Mile” in Waldniel, Germany in 15:40:50. In doing so she finally emerged from Schwam’s shadow, beating the younger American’s existing absolute world best by over 3 minutes. Later that year she lowered her 50km best to 3:32:34, taking 3rd spot on the all-time U.S. list.
Another year, another landmark: In 1984 Kiddy came within 2 minutes of Schwam’s absolute 100km World Best, running 7:49:16 to win the Edmund Fitzgerald 100km outright, catching and passing men’s winner Harry Sloan in the last 100 meters. In 1984 she also broadened her European horizons, winning the historic Two Bridges 36 miler in Scotland in course record time.
Her 100 mile World Best had lasted only a few months, and fellow American Donna Hudson now topped the century charts with her 15:31:57. This gave the 48-year old Kiddy impetus for her 1985 shining star, a 15:12:54 new World Best in Florida that would have to wait for Ann Trason, the star of a new generation, to be challenged.
In 1985 and 1986 Kiddy set Europe ablaze, winning London-to-Brighton and the Winschoten and Torhout 100kms, each of the latter two in just over 8 hours. She was right on the cutting edge of the high-profile European 100km phenomenon which would bring media attention, prize money, and national team competition to these events. Continental Europe led the way in this breakthrough, and this American woman in her late 40’s was their queen. At the end of 1986, just a week shy of her 50th birthday, she ran 7:56:21 to win the Philadelphia-to-Atlantic City 100km.
During the late 80’s Kiddy also made a token foray into the exploding new phenomenon of American trail racing, winning the Ice Age 50 Miler in Wisconsin, one of the largest and most competitive of the trail events.
Of the half-dozen 100km races Kiddy ran in her prime, all of them were major events, she was undefeated, and her average time was under 8 hours.
In 1987 Kiddy was named to the newly-formed Ultrarunning Subcommittee of TAC/USA (which later became USA Track & Field). She was instrumental in setting policies and standards for the selection of USA national championships and teams for the next 10 years.
Once into her 50’s, Kiddy became hampered by a persistent hamstring injury and seriously curtailed her racing. But she re-emerged with a 6:34:28 50 miler in 1991, which qualified her for the USA National team to the 1992 World 100km in Palamos, Spain. She became, at age 55, the most senior athlete ever named to an open USA national team, and was leading the American contingent until the last few miles in the World title race. She finished as second American scorer on the 4th placing American women’s team, running 8:42:36, a world age-group record.
Sandra Kiddy, now in her late 60's and in retirement, still runs recreationally for an hour a day.
In 2004 the American Ultrarunning Association created the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame. Last year's inaugural inductees were Ted Corbitt and Sandy Kiddy. From 2005 on, one new inductee per year will be selected. In order to qualify for selection to the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, candidates must either have been retired from competition for 10 years, or have reached the age of 60.
Joining Corbitt and Kiddy is our 2005 inductee, Marcy Schwam. Schwam's ultra career lasted less than a decade, from the late 1970’s through the mid 1980’s. She was one of the pioneers not only of American, but of global women's ultrarunning. When Marcy Schwam entered her first ultra, barely a handful of women around the world had attempted the sport. Within a few years a trio of Americans (Kiddy, Schwam, and Sue Ellen Trapp) took the lead in bringing the distaff dimension of global ultrarunning from fledgling to legitimate world class. Kiddy and Trapp were in their 30’s and exhibited a measured, consistent, elegant approach to the sport. Schwam was a decade younger and, in contrast, displayed a bold, brazen, get-out-of-my-way attitude and racing style. In its year 2000 summary report on Ultrarunners of the 20th Century, Ultramarathon World contrasted Kiddy and Schwam as follows: Kiddy’s great competitive performances were like Mozart symphonies, but Schwam was pure Rock & Roll.
Marcy Schwam was originally a tennis player, and competed briefly in the Virginia Slims professional circuit in the 1970's. She became a runner at the height of the mid-70’s running boom, moved quickly to marathons, and just as quickly into the brand new realm of ultrarunning. She achieved instant success. After a few short-range ultras to test the waters, she became the first woman to complete the 72-mile race around Lake Tahoe in 1978. The following year, at a time when just finding an ultramarathon was a challenge, she broke the American 100km record in Yakima, Washington by nearly 20 minutes, only to discover afterwards that on the same day, a few hours earlier, Trapp had run 8 minutes faster in a 100km race in Connecticut. Later that year Schwam ran in two 48-hour races, establishing an American and World Record of 113.0 miles for 24 hours en route in the second one.
The next two years saw Trapp and Schwam trade World 100km and 24 hours records back and forth three times (lowering the 100km by almost an hour), while never meeting head-to-head. In the midst of the frenzy, Schwam set a world 100 mile track record of 15:44:27. She also lowered her marathon best to 2:47. In September, 1981, Marcy Schwam finally put Trapp and all other challengers behind her with what Ultrarunning magazine has described as a landmark “performance for the ages,” finishing 3rd among men in one of the world's premier ultras, the Santander 100km in Spain. Her 7:47:28 obliterated Trapp’s 8:05:26 world record and put her in a class by herself. The following year she became the first woman in history to run under 6 hours for 50 miles, winning the AMJA 50 Miler in Chicago in 5:59:26. Also in 1981 she became the first woman in the modern era to complete a 6-day race, setting a world record 384.00 miles while finishing second to Park Barner in the Weston 6-Day Race in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Schwam’s last serious ultra effort was an American Record 187.79 miles for 48 Hours on an indoor track in Haverford, PA in January, 1985.
Sue Ellen Trapp of Fort Myers, Florida is the 2006 inductee into the American Ultrarunning Association's Hall of Fame. Trapp joins 2004 inaugural inductees Ted Corbitt and Sandra Kiddy, and 2005 addition Marcy Schwam in the pantheon of American ultrarunning legends so honored. Only one inductee per year is admitted, and an athlete must have reached the age of 60 or been retired for 10 years to qualify. Trapp, whose ultra career began in 1979, turned 60 this year. She is still competing.
In 1979 Trapp, a wife, mother, and full-time dentist until her recent professional retirement, began her ultra career by breaking the American women's 100km record by an hour and a half, only to finish behind Lydi Pallares, who broke it 2 minutes in front of her. So, three months later she lowered Pallares’ short-lived mark by nearly a half hour, garnering her first of many national records with an 8:43:14 at Lake Waramaug in Connecticut. It’s good she ran that fast because on the same day, on the other side of the country, Schwam ran 8:51:09, believing the record was hers until she arrived back home on the east coast.
Trapp would continue to spend the next two years trading American and World records at 50 miles, 100km, and 24 hours with fellow American Schwam. By 1981 Trapp owned the World 100km mark of 8:05:16 and the World 24 hour standard of 123 miles, 593 yards. She then went into an 8-year semi-retirement, concentrating on racing distances from 5km through the marathon. That was a pivotal year in the sport, as Schwam's performances and influence began to diminish as soon as Trapp took to the sidelines. Yet at exactly this time Sandra Kiddy came into her own, picking up right where her predecessor duo had left off and continuing to have an American at the vanguard of women's global ultrarunning.
In the half-decade span from 1979 to 1984, this historic trio of American women had brought the feminine dimension of the sport from the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment. Ironically, they never met in head-to-head competition while at their best (Trapp and Kiddy raced each other for the first time as fellow U.S. team members at the 1991 World 100km in Spain, when they were both well past their prime at that distance). This fact was most likely not by design or intent, but just a serendipitous outcome of the low-key and decentralized nature of the emerging national and global organization of the sport at the time. In the history of ultrarunning right up to the present, among American men only Corbitt can claim to have even approached the same level of global impact on the sport on the male side as these three legendary women had on the female side. Thus the apparent imbalance of three women and only one man in the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame only two years after its inception is actually quite appropriate.
After an 8-year hiatus, Trapp returned to ultras spectacularly in 1989. Now in her mid-40's, she added 14+ miles to her best 24 hour distance to finish runnerup to Ann Trason in the U.S. 24 Hour championship in Queens, New York, as both women shattered the American record. For the next decade Trapp owned American distaff 24 hour racing like few top-tier athletes have possessed their signature event. During that span she won an unprecedented seven national 24-hour run titles (most of the time finishing among the top 5 men in the race) and took two silvers. She also returned to the 100km event, qualifying for the U.S. National 100km team three times, highlighted by a clutch performance of 8:17 as third scorer on the U.S. team in the 1993 World 100km which put the American women on the team medals podium for the first time ever. During her decade of 24 hour run dominance in the 90's, Trapp took ownership of both the track and road versions of the American Women's 24-hour open record. The highlight was her 1993 recapturing (with 145 miles, 503 yards) of the national road and absolute 24-hour mark from Trason, who is universally regarded as the greatest American ultrarunner, male or female, in history. In the past two decades, no other American woman has been able to come close to a Trason-held absolute American Record. Approaching the end of the decade, Trapp extended her expertise into the multi-day realm, putting the women's national 48-hour road and track marks out of reach of all other American women, and capping her career with an absolute World Record 234 miles, 1425 yards to win the Surgeres 48-hour in France in 1997. She had set world records 17 years apart, an accomplishment which makes her unique in all of Athletics. Her 48 hour mark stood for almost a decade and resisted targeted attempts by virtually all the world's top female 24 hour runners until Japan's Sumie Inagaki finally broke it earlier this year by less than 3 miles.
In recent years Sue Ellen Trapp has been hampered by a torn knee ligament brought on by a non-running freak accident. She has been gradually returning to ultra competition, and she recently participated in the Ultracentric National 24-Hour Run Championship in November, 2006.
Bernd Heinrich becomes the second man, following the recently deceased Ted Corbitt, and the female trio of Sandy Kiddy, Marcy Schwam, and Sue Ellen Trapp, to be selected to the American Ultrarunning Association's Hall of Fame. Heinrich has perhaps the most fascinating and colorful history of all of the members of the Hall. He didn't start out as an American. He was born in 1940 in Poland. At age 10 his family migrated to the U.S., and he eventually became a citizen.
Bernd Heinrich has achieved global notoriety for his professional career as a Physiological Ecologist and Entomologist. Recently retired as a professor of Zoology at the University of Vermont, he is generally considered the world's leading authority on topics as diverse as the physiology of bumblebees and the sociology of ravens. Heinrich holds a Ph.D. in Zoology, has been both a Guggenheim Fellow and a Harvard Fellow, and has been awarded two honorary doctorates. He has published over 100 scholarly papers, over 50 professional book reviews, over 35 book chapters, over 70 articles for magazines and newspapers as diverse as Outside, Runners World, and the New York Times, and has authored over 15 books on various aspects of the natural world. Some of his popular writings in recent years have explored the physiological propensity of humans toward long distance running.
But none of that is why he is only the second
American man, behind the legendary Ted Corbitt, to enter the
Ultrarunning Hall of Fame. His world-class ultra career was short, but
it left a sweeping impact on the sport. Heinrich didn't get serious
about competitive running until his late 30's. After winning the
of the Boston Marathon in 1980 just after turning 40, he decided to move up in distance and immediately achieved success, setting an American Masters record 3:03:56 for 50k in his first ultra. The following year, in only his second ultra, he ran what many observers consider the race of his life, becoming an instant national legend. The preeminent road ultra in the country was the AMJA combined 50 Mile/100k in Chicago. Barney Klecker, who had set the World 50 Mile record of 4:51:25 the previous year, was back and all eyes were on him. He won again, in 5:05:04, but now the gaze of all eyes switched to the unknown who was hot on his tail, 41-year old Bernd Heinrich. Heinrich broke the World Masters Record with a second-place 5:10:12, and then shocked everyone by deciding at the last minute to continue on for the full 100k distance. His final time of 6:38:20 established both a new World Masters Record and a new absolute Open American Record. The latter would stand for 14 years.
Two years later, running uncontested in a small 24-hour track race in 90-degree daytime heat, Bernd Heinrich set a new American Record of 156 miles, 1388 yards. This one would hold up for 7 years. For the next two years he continued his racing policy of one serious ultra per year. Next after the 24-hour came the track 100 mile, where he ran 12:27:01 for a new absolute American Record by almost a half hour. Though subsequently surpassed by Rae Clark on the roads, it still stands today, over 23 years later, as the American Track Record. The last of his national marks came the following year, as he ran 7:00:12 for 100k on the track to become and first and only man to hold both the track and road versions of the same ultra distance record. That one currently remains intact as well.
After less than a half-decade, Bernd Heinrich ended his competitive ultra career, focusing more on his professional one. He returned to ultras many years later, at the age of 61, to set a U.S. Masters 60-64 age-group Record of 6:39:55 for 50 miles.
Note on AUA Hall of Fame Policy: to be considered for the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, candidates must be either retired from serious competition for 10 years, or have reached the age of 60.
Stu Mittleman began his ultra career inauspiciously in 1978, running a modest 6:11 for 50 miles in the Metropolitan 50 Mile in Central Park, New York City. Within two years he had notched his first national-class ultra performance, running 3:52 for 60k. A few months later he stunned a stellar field by winning the New York Road Runners Club's 100 mile with the second fastest time ever by an American, 13:04:09.
In 1981 he won the Lake Waramaug 50 Mile in 5:14:05, becoming #5 on the all-time U.S. list. Then, only a month later, he returned to successfully defend his title at the NYRR 100 mile (now designated as the U.S. National Championship), lowering his time to 13:00:11 in oppressively hot and humid conditions. In 1982 he again successfully defended at both venues, this time taking the longer distance option at Lake Waramaug, winning the 100k there in 6:57:49 (again, the #5 all-time U.S. performance at that distance) and dropping his winning National 100 Mile time by another 4 minutes with a 12:56:34. The story of that race has been written and revisited more than almost any other American ultra. It was a classic 2-man duel in a driving rainstorm, with 1/4 of the 1-mile course a gooey, muddy bog, that never let up until Mittleman broke the finish tape. He had started at what observers considered a reckless pace, clocking 5:45 for the first 50 miles. Through the second half Lion Caldwell closed steadily on the now-fading leader. Every lap of Mittleman’s second 50 miles was slower than the preceding one, but he clung tenaciously to the lead. For the final hour his arms and head drooped, and it seemed there was no way he could finish, that Caldwell would win his first national title. Mittleman somehow remained upright long enough to cross the finish line, but would never again return to that race, that distance, or anything shorter.
The revival of multi-day racing in the early 1980’s breathed a second competitive life into Stu Mittleman. He entered the inaugural New York 6-Day race in 1983 and finished second to multi-day legend Siefried Bauer of New Zealand, racking up 488 miles to Bauer’s 511 and becoming the top American at this newly revived event. The following year he exploded onto the world-class multi-day scene, finishing second to 24-Hour World Record hold Jean-Gilles Boussiquet of France in the LaRochelle 6-Day Race in Boussiquet’s home country. Mittleman had immersed himself in the esoterica of multi-day racing, including nutritional research, racewalking technique, and sleep-deprivation. It all paid off with daily mileage totals of 105, 90, 95, 86, 103, & 92 for a 6-day total of 571 miles, 1164 yards. It was a U.S. 6-day best by over 16 miles. The following year he covered 577 miles, 1320 yards in a 6-day race in Boulder, Colorado. For that, Mittleman won the “performance of the year” designation by Ultrarunning Magazine for the second time (the first had been for his 12:56 100 Mile win).
But his crowning achievement was yet to come the following year: a head-to-head match with Bauer at the Sri Chinmoy 1,000 Mile Race in Queens, New York to attack Bauer’s World Record of 12 days, 12 hours. Bauer took control of the race early and established a substantial lead by halfway. And then Mittleman’s training and meticulous race planning kicked in. He actually surged in both pace and time in motion more than halfway through the race. He wound up putting together back-to-back 6-day splits of 500+ miles each, the second faster than the first. It was a virtually flawless footracing fortnight tour de force. He decisively defeated Bauer and crushed the Kiwi’s world record by 16 hours, setting a new world mark of 11 days, 20 hours, 36 minutes, 50 seconds. It would take none other than Yiannis Kouros to break it many years later.
Stu Mittleman appeared to have retired shortly after that race, but after an 8-year absence from serious racing he re-emerged in 1994 to win the LaRochelle 6-day with 536.26 miles. In year 2000 he completed a charity fundraising run across the USA, averaging 52 miles per day.
No other American ultrarunner, male for female, has exhibited national class excellence at such a wide range of racing distances. None other than Ted Corbitt, inaugural Ultra Hall of Fame inductee and “The Father of American Ultrarunning,” once offered the opinion that Mittleman was the best-ever all-around American ultrarunner.
Mittleman joins Sandra Kiddy, Marcy Schwam, Sue Ellen Trapp, Ted Corbitt, and Bernd Heinrich as the third man to be inducted into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame.
Allan Kirik of New York City is probably the least well known (and least well appreciated) world-class Ultramarathon runner the USA has ever produced. A classic "mystery man," he lingers incognito in the annals of American ultrarunning. His ultra career was barely a blip on the global radar screen. It lasted only 5 years. He ran only a handful of ultramarathons in his life. In a sport in which "camaraderie" and "sharing the road/trail" are considered essential ingredients, he ran almost all of his ultra training and racing miles utterly alone. And his legacy of world-class credentials was marred by minor technical glitches in three of his finest races.
After getting his ultra feet wet with a few small 50k races in New York City in the mid-70's, the first of these anomalies occurred at the 1977 AAU National 50k Championship in New York City, in which he ran 3:02:56 but lost to his Central Park Track Club teammate Fritz Mueller. Only in recent years has the record been corrected to reflect the fact that Mueller was not an American citizen, and so Allan Kirik was actually one of the first official U.S. National Ultra Champions. In a sense, the rest of his ultra career was just more of exactly the same: simply put, he ran 6-minute per mile pace for three years and then hung up his shoes. A friend once commented on Kirik's staple weekend long training run: he would just go out and run 6-minute pace for as long as he could. This was usually in the 25-35 mile range. In his races, which ranged from 60k to 100k, he would do exactly the same thing. And he usually kept doing it right up to the Finish Line.
In 1978 he won the Metropolitan 50 Mile in New York's Central Park in 5:15:54, probably his worst ultra performance ever, despite being the 4th fastest American 50 mile time ever. The following year, in the spring he traveled to the nation's premier road ultra, Lake Waramaug in Connecticut. Running all alone, he set a world road best of 5:00:30 for 50 miles. That fall, he traveled to England for what was then the de facto World Championship of ultrarunning, the 54.26 mile London-to-Brighton race. There he proceeded to do what the great Ted Corbitt was never able to achieve. He became the first and only American man ever to win this classic event, running 5:32:37.
The following year, 1980, he returned to defend his title at the Brighton, only to find Englishman Ian Thompson on the starting line. In the mid-70's Thompson had been the world's premier marathoner, with a marathon best under 2:10. Kirik's best marathon was 15 minutes slower. So what did the American do? He tried to burn off the fleet Brit early and run away with the race. He hit the 50km mark in under 3 hours, but soon Thompson caught him and went on to win. Kirik hung on for second, despite having run 10 minutes faster than the previous year. If 50 mile split times had been taken, his would have been under 5 hours, with more than 4 miles still to go. Just a few weeks later, fellow American Barney Klecker broke Kirik's world 50-mile best on a flat course at Chicago, so only a month after his London-to-Brighton race Kirik tried to get it back on the hilly Copper Harbor 50 Mile course in Michigan. He missed by 5 minutes, running 4:56:03 in freezing, windy condtions that included a hailstorm. The course was later remeasured and found to be short by almost 2 miles, but the essentially solo performance translates to about a 5:07 for a full 50 miles. And only a month after that, he extended his range at the Metro 100km in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, where he won by an hour and obliterated the American 100km record by over 13 minutes, running 6:37:54.... Or so it seemed. A year later when Bernd Heinrich (AUA Hall of Fame, 2007) set the American 100km record which would stand for 15 years, he ran a minute slower. Kirik's 6:37:54 on a certified course missed record ratification because an early out-&-back section on the course was run slightly short. The Race Director caught the error and scrambled to make up the difference by measuring and having the field run another out-&-back section at the end of the race. But such patchwork courses are ineligible for records. There is little doubt that Kirik ran the full 100km distance, he just could not be credited with the record. Soon after that he encountered injury problems and ended his ultra career. A mere flash in the pan. But what a brilliant one!
Barney Klecker's ultra career spanned the decade of the 1980’s. It’s tempting to tell his ultra story in reverse chronological order, because his greatest ultra performance was his first one. Never before or since has an American come out of the proverbial nowhere to rock the global ultra scene as Barney Klecker did in his inaugural ultra. So spectacular was it that it probably would have gained him induction into this Hall of Fame if he had never run another ultra after it.
It happened in the U.S. National 50 Mile Championship at the Chicago Lakefront Ultra in October 1980, where the Minnesotan took off at an unprecedented race pace right from the starting gun. Until that day, no man had ever broken 5 hours (6 min/mile pace) for a road 50-miler, although American Allan Kirik (2009 AUA Hall of fame inductee) had come within half a minute of the previous year. Only Brits Cavin Woodward and Don Ritchie had done it on the track, and Ritchie’s track World Record from 1978 stood at 4:53:28. Klecker set out all by himself not just to challenge that mark, but to obliterate it. He averaged under 5:40 per mile for the first 30 miles (including a marathon split of 2:27:30), faded slightly approaching 40 miles (which he still clocked in a mind-numbing time of 3:46), then crashed and burned through his last agonizing 10 miles. But the early pace had given him enough cushion to bring him safely home as the new owner of the absolute 50-mile World Record. His final time was 4:51:25.
Klecker had twice broken 2:17 for the marathon, and for the next three years he focused his attention on breaking the American Record for the shorter 50km distance. In 1981 he set the still-standing American Track 50km record of 2:52:48 in Tucson, which he ran barely a month after defending his 50 mile title at Chicago in 5:05:04. The following year he moved up to try his first 100km, the longest distance he would ever attempt. In October he won The Edmund Fitzgerald 100km in 6:50:43, putting himself in the #2 spot on the all-time U.S. 100km list. Two months later he broke the U.S. 50km road record with a sterling 2:51:53 to win the Tallahassee Ultra 50km. In 1983 he returned to the Tallahassee race and won the 50km in 2:53:45, as his wife Janis ran 3:13:51 to break the women’s world record by almost 8 minutes in the same race.
In October 1984, South African Bruce Fordyce broke Klecker’s 50 mile World Record on the very same Chicago lakefront course on which Barney had set it. The American made a valiant attempt to regain the record in January 1986 in Dallas, but fell short, fading in the last half to a 5:10:47.
In October 1988, Klecker tried something different: back-to-back 50km races on successive weekends. He won the Mid-America 50km in Muncie, IN, with 3:01:48, then despite running 30 seconds faster the following weekend, he lost the Edmund Fitzgerald 50km by less than 2 minutes to Bruce Mortenson. It was the only time he ever lost an ultra that he finished.
Two years later Klecker returned to the Mid-America 50km, which this time hosted the USA Championship. There he closed out his decade-long ultra career by winning his second national ultra title with 3:07:40.
During those 10 years Barney Klecker had run almost a dozen 50km races with an average time under 3 hours, and three 50 mile races with an average time barely over 5 hours. From that perspective, Barney Klecker holds a place in American ultra history that no other man has ever come close to Matching.
Rae Clark becomes the first Ultra Hall of Fame inductee whose ultra career included a significant amount of what is today the signature element of American Ultrarunning: trail racing. Following a youth sports regimen of gymnastics and cycling, Clark's running career began in his mid-20's, when he got caught up in the "Running Boom" of the mid-1970's. Living and working in California's Silicon Valley, he found plenty of company in the Northern California hotbed of distance running. He gravitated quickly to high mileage and hard-paced workouts, tending to train with local runners who were faster than he. After only a few years of running he broke 3 hours in the 1978 San Francisco Marathon, his first attempt at the distance. Many years later, he would eventually run sub-2:30 for that "short" distance.
In 1980 Clark ran his first ultra, completing the Marysville to Sacramento 50 Mile (which would later become the Jed Smith Ultra) in just over 7 hours. That same summer he entered a race that had just emerged as the flagship event of the rapidly blossoming new sport of trail ultrarunning, the Western States 100 Mile. He finished in 6th place. Clark would become a regular frontrunner at Western States as the event grew in size and stature. He would finish it 13 times, with a best time of 17:11 and a best finishing place of 3rd. Through the early 80's he would leave his mark on other noteworthy trail ultras, winning, among others, the Grand Canyon 41-mile Double Traverse, the Timberline Trail 40 Mile, the Quicksilver 50 Mile, and the Pacific Crest Trail 100 Mile. In 1985 he also won the American River 50 Mile, the premier western 50 mile race.
Throughout the 80's Rae Clark divided his best competitive efforts just about evenly between trail and road/track ultras. In 1982 he demolished the course record of the hilly, high-altitude Lake Tahoe 72-Mile road race, running 9:06:14, a time which has still not been approached in the intervening 30 years. The same year as his American River 50 win, he traveled to southern California and ran away with the Southern Pacific TAC 50 Mile Championship in 5:17:38. This performance elevated Clark to a new level. He was now among the top dozen all-time Americans at 50 miles. He soon expanded his horizons. The following year, in Santa Rosa, CA he ran 152.2 Miles for 24 hours on the track, at that time the #2 all-time certified American performance. Later that year he ran 7:15 to finish 16th in an international field at the Torhout 100km in Belgium, and then won the AMJA 100km in Chicago in 7:18. In 1988 he took his first official USA national title, winning the 100km championship at the Edmund Fitzgerald Ultra, breaking 7 hours for the first time. The following year he lost to 3 others in the same championship despite breaking 7 hours again, but made history by being the 4th of 4 American men to break 7 hours in the same race. The group feat has never been duplicated since. In the late 80's/early 90's Clark also represented the U.S. as a member of the National 100km team to the World 100km on three occasions.
By the end of the 1980's Rae Clark's serious competitive ultra career was winding down. But he saved the best for last. In 1989 he traveled to Queens, New York where he won the USA National 100 Mile Road championship by over an hour. His 12:12:19 remains today, over 22 years later, the fastest 100 mile ever run by an American. Then, the following year, his masterpiece: At the USA National 24-Hour Track Championship in Portland, Oregon, he won by over 23 miles with a new absolute (best of both road and track) American Record 165.3 miles, clocking 13:05 for 100 miles en route. It still stands today as the American 24-Hour Track Record. Only last year did Scott Jurek barely eclipse it (in the World Championship on a road loop course), 20 years after Clark set the bar.
Rae Clark was the first American to become a true "Renaissance Man" of the ultradistance sport, excelling at a world-class level at all three race-type venues: Road, Track, and Trail. We welcome him into the American Ultra Hall of Fame.
Park Barner is the first Ultra Hall of Fame inductee who could legitimately be called a "legend in his own time." In the late 1970's he was the first American ultrarunner to become broadly known for his ultra exploits outside the ultrarunning community. In today's age of celebrity ultrarunners who make the rounds on national TV talk and entertainment shows, it is worth noting that Barner received an invitation to appear on The Tonight Show, hosted by the late Johnny Carson, 33 years ago (he turned it down because he preferred to save all of his vacation days for traveling to ultras). And this unique stature--remarkable so early in the sport's history--was certainly not achieved by self-promotion. Barner, from a small Central Pennsylvania town, was shy, disarmingly humble, a man of few words. He was not a talented athlete (his fastest mile was 5:19), and he had an unusual, multi-faceted athletic career. He almost never became an ultrarunner because he almost became a professional bowler. To celebrate his 39th birthday he bowled 39 straight games, averaging 199. Much later, in his 60's, after retirement from serious bowling and serious ultrarunning, he became a serious practitioner of the art of pitching horseshoes. At the age of 63 he pitched 1,000 ringers in 8 hours. One might detect in this introverted, obsessive personality the key ingredients of a successful ultrarunner--and one would be right.
Barner began his ultramarathon career in the early 1970's, when there were barely a dozen ultras in the country (and not a single 100 mile trail race). At 6'2" and 175 pounds, his physique was uncommon among the sport's elite. He ran mostly 50 mile races because that was the longest distance he could find. In 1974 he finished second to Max White in the AAU National 50 Mile Championship. The JFK 50-miler, the oldest ultra in the country, just celebrated its 50th running in 2012. Barner ran the mixed trail/road course when it was only 10 years old and only one man had ever broken 7 hours on it. Barner won it in 6:29 (he would later run 6:23 there). In a span of eight years he broke 6 hours for 50 miles nineteen times, and ran between 6:00 and 6:15 another 12 times. In two of the few 100-mile races known to have been held in the U.S. prior to 1980 (both in New York City), Barner ran 13:41 (#3 on the U.S. all-time list at the time) and 13:57.
By the mid-70's the 100km distance had emerged as the universal global benchmark event. The first certified 100km event in the U.S. was held at Lake Waramaug, CT in 1974. Park Barner won it (beating none other than Ted Corbitt) in 7:37:42, and that time became recognized internationally as the "American Record" for the distance. Over the course of the next 3 years Barner kept possession of that record, lowering it in three times until it came to rest at 7:11:44.
In October 1978, at Glassboro, NJ he entered one of the first 24-hour races held in the U.S. He ran steadily throughout to win with a total of 152 miles, 1599 yards. It was an astounding, world-class performance, over 18 miles further than what was generally regarded as the "American Record," Ted Corbitt's 6-year old mark of 134 miles, 782 yards. Eight months later he entered an invitational 24-Hour Race in Huntington Beach, CA. He improved by almost 10 miles, covering 162 miles, 537 yards and besting Englishman Ron Bentley's World Record by almost a mile. His metronomic, even pacing was unprecedented for this distance range. No one in history had ever run for 24 hours the way he did it. His 50-mile splits were 7:14, 7:15, and 7:21. It took 12 years for an American (Rae Clark, last years' Hall of Fame inductee) to run farther in 24 hours, and still today, 33 years later, Barner's distance has been bettered only by 4 Americans.
Park Barner continued to run ultras through the mid-1980's, then abruptly retired from the sport at the age of 40. In extending his racing range in his final racing years, his highlights included winning the Weston 6-Day race twice, with a best of 445 miles in 1982, and then three months later winning a 500 mile race across the state of Michigan (including a mandatory 8-hour curfew each night) in 6 days, 6 hours.
But it wasn't just his record-breaking performances that made Barner a
"living legend." He had a unique depth of constitutional strength
and resiliency. The stories of his "outside the box" exploits are
nearly as impressive as those of his greatest races, and have
contributed to his almost mythical status in the history of the
sport. He was tolerant of all ranges of weather, but thrived in
extreme cold. He commuted to and from his job by running along
the Susquehanna River, never wearing more than a t-shirt and shorts,
even in single-digit temperatures. His final American 100km
record was run on a windy, bitterly cold day, with snow blowing
sideways across the course and the temperature plummeting through the
day. As the race progressed, most of his competitors added extra
layers of clothing with each passing lap of the 10km course. But
Barner did the opposite. He started with a jacket, hat, and
gloves, but by the end of the race he was wearing nothing but racing
shorts and a mesh singlet. To prepare for one of his 24-hour
races, he did a training run from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh (203 miles),
stopping only briefly in a diner for a piece of pie. In amongst
his frequent ultra races he ran a marathon personal best of 2:37, then
followed it the next day with a 2:39. His landmark 152+ mile
24-hour run in 1978 in New Jersey was a Friday-Saturday event.
From there he took a bus to Baltimore and ran 8:16 to take 6th place
(out of 13) in a 50-mile race on Sunday of the same weekend. In
1974 there was a 3-day, 300km stage race (100km each day) along the
C&O Canal gravel/dirt towpath from Washington, DC to Cumberland,
MD. Barner was the only finisher, with daily splits of 7:52,
8:12, and 7:48. Two years later, seeking a greater challenge, he
asked the race director to include a straight-thru, continuously timed
division. He ran the 300km nonstop (with nighttime temperatures
below freezing) in 36:48. For the size of his physical frame, he
was remarkably light on his feet, with impeccable form and an enviably
graceful, loping stride. He was frequently referred to by his
competitors as a "human metronome."
We proudly welcome Park Barner into the American Ultra Hall of Fame.
Frank Bozanich is one of the most naturally fleet-footed athletes in the history of ultrarunning. He began as a wrestler and sprinter in high school, and later as a member of the track team at Eastern Washington University ran 10.2 for 100 meters and sub-50 seconds for the quarter mile. He would later run sub-30 minutes for 10k and 2:25 for the marathon. Prior to becoming an ultrarunner he served for 12 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, including a tour of duty in the Vietnam war in the late 1960's. Like last year's Hall of Fame inductee Park Barner, Bozanich moved up to ultras in the early 1970's, when there were barely a few dozen races longer than the marathon in this country. His ultra career focused mainly on the short-range ultras (50km and 50 miles), mostly because it was almost impossible to find races any longer in the mid-70's. The 50km and 50 mile distances were the first ultra distances at which official USA National Championships were ever held, and, eager for top competition, Frank gravitated right to them. His first ultra was a barnburner, the USA National 50km Championship in his home state of Washington, where he finished 3rd in 3:02, averaging under 6 minutes per mile. Two years later he entered his first 50 miler and won it in 5:30. Later that same hear he traveled all the way across the country and won the USA 50 Mile National Championship in New York City, running 5:36. Over the course of the next five years we would win two more USA National 50 Mile titles, running multiple 50 mile times in the 5:15-5:20 range, and ultimately notching a 50 mile best of 5:14:36. He also averaged under 6 minutes per mile for 50km three more times. In his definitive history of American Ultrarunning, British ultra historian Andy Milroy picks Bozanich and fellow Hall of Famer Allan Kirik as the two key U.S. male ultrarunners of the second half of the decade of the 70's, when ultrarunning as an organized sport finally went global and mainstream.
In the late 70's and early 80's, Bozanich was one of the first Americans to seek out top international competition by traveling to the big, fast European road ultras as they began to become fixtures of the nascent international aspect of the ultra sport. This gave him a taste of the longer 100km distance, which became his steppingstone to his lifetime signature performance. In January 1979 he traveled to Miami where, in warm conditions, he obliterated a stellar field of fellow Americans as well as Park Barner's three year old American 100km record. He became the first American to break 7 hours for 100km, running 6:51:20 and shattering the old mark by 20 minutes. The solo tour de force put him at #13 on the all-time world 100km list. The following year he left his mark on a newly emerging phenomenon which would soon become the most prominent feature of American ultrarunning: the 100 Mile Trail Race. He ran 15:17:20 to set a long-standing course record in the Old Dominion Trail 100 Miler in Virginia, winning by almost an hour.
Of all the superstar athletes featured in the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, Frank Bozanich has ultimately turned out to be the most durable. He is the first and only one to have continued to compete seriously, and achieve ongoing competitive success in masters age-group competition, through to the present day. Now in his late 60's, he continues to achieve competitive successes at a national-class level in ultra age-group competition. And he still does pretty well overall, too. In fact, he holds the unique distinction of having won an ultramarathon outright, finishing first overall, in each of four consecutive decades: the 70', 80's, 90's, and 00's.
We welcome Frank Bozanich into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame.
In the late 1970's the pioneering American trio of Sandy Kiddy, Marcy Schwam, and Sue Ellen Trapp dominated global women's ultra distance racing, setting and re-setting all world records from 50km through 48 hours. The first non-American to rise to their level was Leslie Watson of Scotland, and she did it in grand fashion, winning the 1980 London-to-Brighton 54+ mile ultra (the first year women were permitted to run officially in what was then generally regarded as the de facto "world championship" of ultrarunning). But for the first half of that race Watson had to chase down an unheralded American woman. Watson eventually caught the upstart and went on to win, but the American hung on for second place. Her en-route 50 mile split was under 7 hours, making her the 4th fastest American ever for what was then the most popular ultra distance. Her name was Donna Hudson, and despite a spectacular subsequent world-class racing career she would continue to be mostly unknown within the American ultrarunning community. She is still virtually unremembered today in American ultra lore.
Donna Hudson may have been an unknown in the world's premiere road ultramarathon, but she had preceded that run with a win in her first ultra, the Forest Park 40 miler in Queens, NY in June 1980, and then another victory in the U.S. National 50km Championship in Brattleboro, VT in mid-September of the same year, only two weeks before London-to-Brighton. Originally from West Nyack, NY, for the first half of the 80's Hudson limited her ultra career mostly to the New York metropolitan area. She would eventually be undefeated in her 5 appearances at the Forest Park 40 Miler, with a best of 5:09:33. And throughout the decade of the 80's she went undefeated in another dozen ultras in the New York metropolitan area ranging in distance between 50km and 70km. She also extended her range by winning the 1982 Crocheron Park 12 Hour race with 75.6 miles.
But prior to June 1983 none of Hudson's ultra performances gave any indication of what she would accomplish in the U.S. National 100 Mile Championship at Shea Stadium in Queens, NY that year. After completing 100 laps of the 1-mile course that meandered around the field and through the parking lot, unassuming Donna Hudson suddenly (and very unexpectedly: her stated goal was to break 18 hours) found herself the new holder of the 100 mile world record. She had run 15:31:57, breaking Sandy Kiddy's world mark by almost 10 minutes. This performance was ranked #2 for the year by Ultrarunning Magazine, behind only the new 50km world record of Janis Klecker (who would later go on to win the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon).
That 100 mile world record run got Hudson an entry into the 1984 New York 6-Day Race. By this time a new British woman was on her way to becoming world #1. Eleanor Adams took control from the start and set a new world record of 462.1 miles. But dogging her heels for the first two days and setting an American 48-hour record (169 miles) along the way was Donna Hudson. She faltered in the second half but found her niche in the sport. For the next four years, apart from a single 50 mile race (which she won), the shortest ultra distance that Donna Hudson would race was over 300 miles.
In the mid-80's, Australia was now the hotbed of the new rage of multi-day racing, and Eleanor Adams and Donna Hudson waged almost a half-decade of epic battles on the roads and tracks down under. In fact, for the second half of her ultra career, the New York City waitress limited almost all of her ultra efforts to that country half a globe away. Adams, eventually ranked by Ultramarathon World as #1 female Ultrarunner of the 21st Century, never lost to the American. But Hudson kept chasing her, and was the one runner Adams feared most in her multi-day races. In two consecutive years she finished second to Adams, averaging 73 and then 75 miles per day, in the 1,000km Sydney-to-Melbourne road race. Three times she finished second to Adams in the Colac 6-day track race, each time increasing her own American 48-Hour Best en route (eventually up to 189.4 miles). In 1984 at Colac, 4 months after her disappointment at New York, she amassed 481.6 miles to break Lorna Richey's American 6-day Best by 24 miles, garnering Ultrarunning Magazine's #1 ranking for the year. In 1987 she finished her ultra career with another runnerup finish to Adams with another American Record 487.9 miles at Colac. This one was ranked #2 for that year, behind only a newcomer to the American ultra scene, one Ann Trason. Even today, over a quarter century later, it still ranks as the #2 all-time American women's 6-day performance.
We welcome Donna Hudson into the American Ultra Hall of Fame.
Tom Johnson can lay claim to the most unusual athletic background of any elite American ultrarunner--perhaps any American ultrarunner, period. In college at the University of California at Davis, he was a member of the championship polo team. No, not the kind you play in the water. The kind you play astride a horse, wielding a mallet. And his eventual evolution into an ultrarunner came by way of equestrianism. His gateway sport was Ride & Tie, a somewhat esoteric event in which two teammates share one horse while racing, on trails, from point A to point B. But only one rider at a time, so while one teammate rides ahead, the other runs to catch up. Then the humans switch positions on hoof and foot. In the 1980's, Johnson became one of the most successful Ride & Tie athletes in the Northern California hotbed of the sport. Then he heard about and fell under the spell of the Western States 100 Mile, at that time the country's most celebrated ultramarathon. It's aura captured him. Within half a decade, he would capture it.
Tom Johnson's route to the pinnacle of the sport was, to put it mildly, unusual. He didn't bother with track, cross-country, road racing, or marathoning. Once he left his horse behind, he just went straight into ultrarunning. His beginning ultra efforts were impressive for a novice, but gave no indication of what he would eventually achieve. In his first year of racing ultras he finished in 26th place in the 1987 Western States 100, 4 hours behind the winner and a half hour behind the first woman. He spent the next three years mostly training and learning the sport, but staying well below the radar of the sport's top tier. Then, in 1990, the unheralded former horseman exploded into that top tier. After a third place eye-opening finish among a stellar field at the Way Too Cool 50K trail race, followed by a second place at the Quicksilver 50 Mile, he was no longer an unknown. Returning to Western States, he won by almost a half-hour, missing the course record by 14 minutes. The following year he ran the same three races, winning each and setting a new Western States course record by a half-hour. Then, intrigued by the prospect of recently instituted National and World Championship Ultra races, he turned his attention to the roads.
The 1991 World 100Km Championship had been held on the hilly (and notoriously slow) course of the legendary Del Passatore course in Italy. In late 1992 Johnson traveled to the east coast, where he ran and won his first road ultra, a small 100Km in Washington, DC in the modest time of 7:30:49. But it won him an expenses paid trip to Italy to run the 1993 version of the Del Passatore race. He finished 5th there, in 7:11:50, a time which would have put him in the top 10 of that same race two years earlier, when it hosted the World Championship. Only a month later he returned to win Western States for the third time. Now indisputably the king of the California trails, he was determined to make an equal mark on the roads. Conveniently, the 1994 U.S. National 100Km Championship was held in Sacramento CA, his home turf, in February. It would serve as the qualifying race for the 100Km World Championship in Japan, 4 months later. Johnson ran well, notching a personal best of 7:08:10, but there were four Americans in front of him, and he barely qualified for the national team. But he was about to make the same meteoric leap in road racing that he had made 4 years before on the trails.
A month before the 1994 100Km World Championship Johnson (now a marquee name by virtue of his successes at Western States) was the subject of a full page feature in Runner's World magazine. He had just won the American River 50 Mile in a course record 5:33:31 (a record which still stands today, over 20 years later). The Runner's World piece detailed his weekly training schedule, which was astonishing in its volume and intensity. One of his U.S. teammates, who had beaten him in the national championship, commented, "Either he's exaggerating those workouts, or he's going to run under 6:45 and finish in the top 10 in the Worlds." A month later Tom Johnson ran 6:41:40 and finished 9th in the World Championship, leading the U.S. men to the team bronze medal. But it wasn't enough for him. He stated his goal of standing on he individual awards podium (top 3 men) at the following year's World title race in The Netherlands. And one year later he did exactly that, improving his time by over 10 minutes, running 6:30:11 to break Bernd Heinrich's 14-year old American Record, and leading the U.S. Men to the team silver medal. In taking the individual World title bronze medal, Johnson passed 24 men in the second half of the race and put on a furious final 400 meter sprint to nip Comrades Marathon champion Shaun Meiklejohn on the finish line.
The following year Johnson set his sights on the largest, oldest, most prestigious, and most competitive ultramarathon in the world, the Comrades "Marathon" in South Africa. He ran 5:41:57 for the 54+ mile point-to-point uphill course to finish 7th, the second best performance ever by a American in the event, bettered only by Alberto Salazar's Comrades victory two years earlier, and only 3 minutes behind Salazar's winning 1994 time. Later in 1996 he won the first-ever USA National Trail Ultra Championship, the Sunmart Texas Trail Run 50 Mile, in course record time. Johnson continued his winning ways in the 1997 Way Too Cool and Skyline 50k races.
After a decade in the sport, Tom Johnson began to curtail his ultra racing in 1998, but still continued to race well, and still notch occasional victories, in the big California trail ultras through the turn of the century. His American 100km record lasted for 19 years, until it was finally broken (by less then 3 minutes) by Max King in 2014..
(Note: In order to become eligible for induction into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, an athlete must have been retired from ultramarathon competition for 10 years or have reached the age of 60)
In 1980, at the age of 32, Roy Pirrung was 60 pounds overweight, smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day, and was a self-described binge drinker. He decided to take up running to help change his lifestyle. Within a year he was 60 pounds lighter, tobacco and alcohol free, and ran his first marathon, in 3:16. Only two years after that his marathon time was down to 2:38. It would seem he was born to run. In 1985 he ran his first ultra, the Ice Age 50 Mile trail race in Wisconsin, finishing 5th in one of the most competitive trail ultras in the country. Only four months later he won the Fond du Lac 24-Hour race with just under 138 miles, and found himself ranked #1 American at that event for the year. Yes, he was born to run.
Ultra racing success continued at a brisk pace for Pirrung. In 1987 he became a national champion for the first time, winning the USA 100 Mile Championship in New York City. A year later he garnered his second national title and his first national record, winning the inaugural USA 24-Hour Championship in Atlanta with a new American Road Record of 145 miles, 1464 yards. The following year, 1989, he returned to New York City for the 100 Mile National Championship, only to suffer the misfortune of going up against multiple national recordholder Rae Clark (2011 American Ultra Hall of Fame inductee), who proceeded to obliterate the American Record by running 12:12. However, Pirrung took the silver medal in 13:15, putting him at #5 on the all-time U.S. list for the distance. It was time to up his game and go international. He went right to the top.
In September 1989 Roy Pirrung traveled to Greece to run the 155-mile Spartathlon, from Athens to Sparta. The 24-Hour World Championship did not yet exist, and the Spartathlon served as the most competitive international ultra for 24-hour specialists. In preparation he increased his training mileage to over 200 miles per week, sometimes hitting 250. In the hot, hilly race Pirrung finished 4th in 27:08:45, the first time an American had broken 30 hours for the course. Four months later he represented the USA in the inaugural IAU International 24-Hour Championship at Milton Keynes, England. Running well at halfway, he then faltered badly and was required to leave the course under a forced medical watch. After a brief rest he rebounded remarkably, running faster than anyone on the course in the closing hours to finish third in a stellar international field and setting a new American Record with 154 miles, 313 yards.
In 1991 Pirrung won his second USA National 24-Hour Run Championship title in Portland, OR with 148 miles, 798 yards, which again ranked him #1 American for the year at that event. In 1992 he returned to the Spartathlon, this time improving to a third place finish. Ultrarunning Magazine ranked it the #2 ultra performance of the year for an American. In 1993 he was bronze medalist at the USA National 24-Hour Championship, and silver medalist the following year. In 1996, heading into his second decade of successful ultra competition at the age of 48, he won the Cornbelt Running Club 24-Hour with 138+ miles, then returned to the Spartathlon for yet another 4th place finish.
In 1997 Roy Pirrung extended his racing range, finishing 2nd in the world's premier 48-Hour race at Surgeres, France, setting a new American Record with 243 miles, 779 yards. En route he covered just under 148 miles at the 24-hour mark. Later than year he once again won the silver medal at the USA 24-Hour Championship. For 1997 he was selected by USA Track & Field as the winner of the Ted Corbitt award, representing the #1 male ultrarunner in the country. The next year, 1998, he again made the podium at the USA 24-Hour National Championship, finishing 3rd overall at the age of 50. The following year he placed 5th in the same national championship and returned to France to finish 3rd in the Surgeres 48 Hour. Two years later he returned again to finish 2nd at Surgeres. And he would continue to place in the top 4 at the USA 24-Hour Championship for an additional five years (finishing as high as 2nd overall in 2007 at age 59), and in the top 3 one additional year at the Surgeres 48-Hour, in his mid-late 50's.
Roy Pirrung's ultra career continued at a world-class level for over two decades, and continues today at a similar level in the Masters age-group categories. He has raced in almost every state in the USA, and in 26 different countries on 5 continents. He has run in almost two dozen USA 24-Hour National Championships, has won two of them, and has placed in the top 5 in 17 of them. In addition to his three open National Championship gold medals and his three open American Records, he has won over 80 Masters age-group National Championship Titles and has broken over 50 Masters age-group National Records. He served as a member of the original National Ultra Subcommittee of USA Track & Field (USATF), and he continues to serve currently on the Mountain/Ultra/Trail Council of USATF. He has also served as the USA representative to the International Association of Ultrarunners General Council, and as the president of the American Ultrarunning Association.
We welcome Roy Pirrung into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame.
(Note: In order to become eligible for induction into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, an athlete must have been retired from ultramarathon competition for 10 years or have reached the age of 60)