TRAPP INDUCTED INTO AMERICAN ULTRA HALL OF FAME (Dec. 18, 2006)
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.