9/11/2003: BACKGROUND HISTORY OF THE USA 100 MILE CHAMPIONSHIP
-by Dan Brannen, Executive Director, American Ultrarunning Association
The first USA Championship longer than 50 miles was the 1983 100 Mile Championship. The event was hosted by the New York Road Runners Club and was conducted on a 1-mile loop in and around Shea Stadium in Queens, New York. The inaugural USA 100 Mile Champion was Ray Scannell, with a winning time of 13:16:02. The USA 100 Mile Championship continued to be held annually at the same venue through 1987. The subsequent USA champions were:
1984 - Lion Caldwell, 13:56:26
1985 - Don Jewell, 14:39:46
1986 - Lion Caldwell, 13:53:16
1987 - Roy Pirrung, 15:00:08
During this era the USA Track & Field rulebook made no provisions for USA Women's Championships beyond 50 Miles. In 1987 the rulebook was rewritten to provide for equal USA championship opportunities for men and women at all ultradistances.
The years 1987 and 1988 were transition years for the USA Ultramarathon Championship program. In 1987 the USA 100km (62.127 miles) Championship was instituted, and in 1988 the inaugural USA 24-Hour Run Championship was held. In 1988 there was no USA 100 Mile Championship.
In 1989 the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team hosted the USA 100 Mile Championship on a 1-mile road loop in Flushing Meadow Park, Queens, New York. The inaugural (and so far only) USA Women's Champion was Christine Gibbons, who ran the distance in 16:41:26. Ahead of Gibbons, 1988 USA 100km Champion Rae Clark extended his talents and won the Men's 100 Mile national title with one of the landmark performances in U.S. ultra history, a sterling American and World Road Record 12:12:19, averaging under 7:20 per mile and beating runnerup Roy Pirrung by over an hour.
The following year Clark ran through 100 miles in 13:05 en route to winning the 1990 USA 24-Hour Run Track Championship in Portland, Oregon with a still-standing, absolute American Record 165.24 miles. That same year the USA hosted, for the first and only time, the World 100km Championship in Duluth, Minnesota. The national championship emaphasis turned away from the 100 mile distance and focused on the emerging international standard events of 100km and 24 Hours.
During these transition years of the late 80's the 100 mile trail run grew drmatically in popularity and quickly became the signature event of American ultrarunning. In the early 80's there were four such events. By the late 90's the count was up to two dozen and still growing. Ironically, the 100 mile road venue fell out of favor and became an orphan child of American ultrarunning.
The 2003 USA 100 Mile Championship will be co-hosted by the Toledo Road Runners and the American Ultrarunning Association on a 1.09 mile loop in Olander Park, Sylvania, Ohio. The venue has hosted the last 10 consecutive USA 24-Hour Run championships. It is now offering the 100 mile title event as a change of pace, and as an oppotunity for American ultrarunners to resurrect a great, but almost forgotten, chapter of championship history.
Rae Clark's 12:12:19 remains the American 100 mile Road Record (the American Track mark is 12:27:01, held by Bernd Heinrich). Ann Trason holds both the Road (13:47:42) and Track (14:29:44) American Records. Trason's Road 100 mile mark is also the World Record. The Men's World 100 Mile Road Record is now held by Canadian Andy Jones (12:05:43, which he ran a few years ago at Olander Park during the 24-hour race.)
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