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by Andy Milroy

Results are still coming in from 1997, in some cases from races that took place some time ago. In this summary, I will attempt to tie up some loose ends.

166 Miles or 166 Km?

Recently there was a very interesting report on David Blaikie's Ultramarathon World Web Site regarding a Peruvian ultra trail race held last June. The report stated that a 21 year old Peruvian, Daniel Sanchez had run 166 miles in under 16:30 on June 11 at Yungay, Peru.

My usual response to such reports is to try to check whether or not the report is genuine. The first priority is to establish whether the race even took place or not. Also I try to determine whether the facts have been garbled from being translated from Spanish into English.

There are further questions regarding the measurement and monitoring of the course. It is common for mountainous courses to be overestimated in length.

Running 166 miles (267 km) in just under 16:30 would be an incredible feat—particularly considering that it was apparently achieved on a steep mountainous course. Yiannis Kouros in his recent 24-hour run, where he went under 12 hours for the 100 miles, had only covered 137.2 miles in the first 17 hours.

The other reputed times were also remarkable. The first 24 runners all presumably covered 166 miles/267km inside of 21 hours, a feat that only ten men in history have been able to do in 24 hours.

This is taking the report at face value. If it is correct I would be very interested to see what Daniel Sanchez could do in a race over a course that is better known, or even a standard event.

However, I suspect that the race may well have been over a 166-km course, not 166 miles. Bearing in mind the pre-occupation with the 100-mile trail event in the States, and the fact that the Tarahumara Indians have competed in the Western States, has likely prompted Lourdes Foroda Valberde, the Peruvian race organizer, to put on a race of that length. In the course of translation and of being passed from one person to another, the distance of the race may have been transposed from kilometers into miles. A time of 16:30 for 166 km (which quite likely is an overestimation of the distance anyway—it is unavoidable because of the nature of the terrain) is still a considerable achievement. It would also make the times of the 25 runners who achieved the distance in under 21 hours much more probable. One superman is unlikely, 25 supermen very, very unlikely.

Yanenko No Flash In The Pan

The surprise of 1997 was undoubtedly the World Challenge win by Sergei Yanenko. His win in 6:25 in the second fastest time of the year, in the cauldron of white hot international competition, in what was his first ever completed 100-km raised many questions. The primary question was: could he repeat the performance? The history of ultrarunning is littered with one shot performances by top class marathon runners, who after producing one fine performance then decide that they prefer to run marathons after all.

Yanenko's first chance to reinforce his ultra credentials came in the Kalisz 100-km in Poland on October 18. This race consistently produces good performance and is accessible to the top runners of Eastern Europe. Moreover, the Poles have the strength in depth to challenge any foreign competitor.

The field was a strong one, including Jaroslav Janicki, Andrzej Magier, Maciej Cieplak and Ryszard Plochoki of Poland, Alexander Motorin and Dmitri Radyuchenko of Russia, as well as Yanenko. I do not have details of how the race was run, but the winner was Yanenko in 6:32:42, the fourth best time of the year. The win also gave him the IAU Inter-Continental Cup title with 995 points. This is a remarkable feat for someone who had been completely unknown internationally five weeks previously!

Second in the race was Magier in 6:34:44. His decision to race less often and to incorporate speed work in his training seems to be paying off; it has transformed him into one of the top 100-km performers in the world. Motorin took third with 6:48:51, from Plochoki's 6:52:18, with Alexander Osinow of the Ukraine in fourth, 6:53:07. Osinow is a new face and perhaps we will see the Ukraine now beginning to emerge as a force to challenge the Russian team. Radyuchenko was the sixth man to break seven hours with 6:55:34.

The first woman was Nina Kowal of Belorus with 8:10:52, from Irina Reutovich, the European 24 Hour champion, with 8:14:15. In third was Marial Ostrovska of the Ukraine in 6:29:48.

World Challenge preview in Japan and other 100-km results

On October 26, the River Shimanto 100 Km race was held. (The venue will be the host for the 1998 World 100 Km Challenge.) An international team of Scott St. John (USA), Roland Vuillemenot (FRA), Rae Bisschoff (RSA), Michael Sommer (GER), and Jan Vandendriessche (BEL) was invited to see the course and facilities and to report back to their national teams. They were also there to provide advice to the race organizers in preparation for next year.

Kiminari Kondo, who set a remarkable course record of 6:41:12 on this demanding course last year, set out to win the race again, with Atuya Murayama and Mituyuki Siota in second and third. By the 87-km point, Murayama had overtaken Kondo who was suffering, with Siota in third and Vandendriessche fourth. By 77-km Siota had taken the lead, but he and Murayama were locked in a close battle.

Vandendriessche was to be the beneficiary of this struggle, coming through at 83-km to take the lead. He then proceeded to pull away, despite being forced to walk up the last hill. He won with 7:11:45, from Murayama in 7:13:13, with Patrick Macke, winner in 1995 and 96, third in 7:18:03.

In the women's race, last year's winner, Yuki Matubara, set off a good pace, determined to stamp her authority on the race. She was faced by the vastly experienced Eleanor Robinson, who is no slouch at fast starts herself. Matsubara excelled, breaking the course record by ten minutes and improving her best performance on the course by more than twenty minutes. However, the 49-year-old Briton showed she is still a force to be reckoned with over the 100-km, running 8:21:20 to win.

In the associated 60-km race, which uses part of the 100-km course, but does not interfere with that race, Kouichi Imacyo won in 3:54:21, from Michael Sommer 3:58:17. The women's race was won by the irrepressible Bisschoff in 4:40:45, well clear of Kayo Nisikawa in second.

There were 952 finishers in the 100-km race and 291 in the 60-km race. The international runners found the River Shimanto course to be tough, but also agreed that it was the most beautiful 100-km course they had ever seen.

On November 23, the inaugural Ultramarathon De 100 Km De Cubatao was held at Cubatao, San Paulo, Brazil. The race attracted international runners and Konstantina Santalov and Andrzej Magier were there. It was they who were to finish in first and second. Santalov ran 6:51:59 to win comfortably, with Magier running 7:12:24. Luis Carlos De Matos was third in 7:24:30.

Finally on December 21, the Kawasaki 80 Km and 100 Km races were held at San Pedro Garcia, Mexico. Only brief details are available thus far (see separate results and story in this issue) but the inevitable Santalov won in 6:51 apparently. The surprise was the winner of the women's race was Daniele Cherniak in 8:11, which is confirmed, is I believe the second fastest time by an American in 1997.

More Over 150 in 24 hours

Norway has emerged on to the international scene in recent years, and now regularly fields a team in the World 100 Km Challenge. One of the 100-km team members, Jorgan Lien, decided to tackle the national 24-hour best, held by Torleif Rekkebo. Lien had twice tried to break the record earlier in the year but had been forced to quit on both occasions. At Sanderfjord on October 18 and 19, a race was arranged to give him a third chance. He reached 100 miles in 15:10:53 and 200-km in 19:22:41, both national bests. He managed to add just over a kilometer to the old best with 241.801km/150.2 miles. Considering that Lien is still a youngster in ultra terms at only 28, he could develop into a very accomplished ultra performer.

Following his first place in the 24 Hour at Courcon in September, Seigi Arita proved positive for caffeine following a drug test. The race was the French national championships. Following changes in the IAAF rules brought in August, Arita received an official warning for the offense, instead of a three month suspension. He was disqualified from the race. However, he was eligible to compete in the Niort 24 Hour race held on November 8 and 9.

Niort is the oldest 24-hour road race in the world, with November's race being its nineteenth year. It was won by newcomer, Alain Prual with 246.940km/153.4 miles from Arita who recorded 236.920km/147.2 miles, with Gilbert Gindre in third 223.940km/139.1 miles. The first woman was the active Helga Backhaus with 191.070km/118.7 miles. There were 45 runners over 150km/93.2 miles.

Around The Horn

On June 28, an 80-km race (468 meters short of 50 miles) was held at Karlsruhe, Germany. The race was won by Rainer Muller, the German 100-km international and national 50-km record holder. His time was 5:38:47. The first woman was Constanze Wagner with 6:28:01 from German international Anke Drescher in 6:35:01.

An earlier mark in Germany was the 12-hour at Bruhl on July 29. The race was won by Wolfgang Schwerk with 143.140km/88.9 miles, which perhaps shows that the 42-year-old German is gradually returning to the form that placed him second on the world all time 24-hour road list with 171 miles. The first woman was Rosinska Tanina with 121.390km/75.4 miles.

On September 7, the John Tarrant Memorial 50 Mile race was held at Hereford in Britain. John Tarrant set a number of world ultra best performances in the 1960s, but was unable to compete internationally because as a youth he fought in a couple of professional boxing bouts. Initially he joined in with road races unofficially and thus became known as the "Ghost Runner." Although subsequently able to compete in domestic races, he was never able to run abroad officially. He died of cancer in 1975.

This year's race was won by Walter Hill in 5:54:20. Celia Hargrave, who is making a return to ultrarunning after a break of some years, won the women's race in 7:45:10.

On October 19, the Vienna to Budapest Five Day stage race began. Janos Bogar from Hungary is a former winner of the race and started as favorite. He had serious competition from Konstantin Santalov in the early stages. (Santalov had won the Santa De Bezana 100-km in 6:41 a fortnight earlier.) However on the fourth stage, Santalov was forced to retire with a knee injury. Bogar went on to win in 23:43:57 from Mihaly Milnar in 24:43:38, having won each stage. The women's race was won by a Hungarian runner making her ultra debut. Edith Berses won the first three stages, despite the presence of Valentina Lyachova. The pressure from the World Challenge winner disappeared when Lyachova had stomach problems on the third day. Anke Drescher then entered the fray, but Berces had done enough to win. Her cumulative finish time was 31:02:32 from Dresher's 32:38:03, with Lyachova third on 35:30:18.

Returning to the Southern Hemisphere, on September 8 to 12, the South Burnett Five Day stage race on a 327.2km/203.3 mile circuit took place starting from Nanango in Queensland, Australia. The race was dominated by a struggle between Graeme Watts and Geoff Williams, with Watts winning three of the stages and Williams the other two. The only person to split these two was Carolynn Tassie from New Zealand, the winner of the women's race. The cumulative time for Watts was 31:25:50, for Williams' 32:28:24, with Tassie in third 34:09:06. Carolynn Tassie is aiming to return to Nanango in March to compete in the International 1000 Mile Championships. Based on her form in the five-day race, she could be a factor to be reckoned with in the race.

The Royal National Park Ultra over 50-km in New South Wales, Australia, attracted 90 starters on September 13. The race was won by Greg Love with 3:41:09 from Peter Goonpan, with Michael Burton in third. The female winner was Helen Stanger, who resisted a strong challenge from Louise O'Brien to finish in 4:32:11.

A very late result from 1997 is the Dead Sea Ultra Run, a 50-km race from the Jordanian Capital of Amman to the Dead Sea. The race took place in April; it claims to be the only annual ultra held in the Middle East. The course has a fairly steep downhill profile from 10-km onwards. The winner was Percy Dunn from South Africa in 3:00:50, from the Jordanian Mohammad Suhaity 3:00:57. Suhaity was leading at the marathon point by three and a half minutes. Third was another Jordanian Khalid Sheikh in 3:23:42. The race attracted an international field, with runners from South Africa, Britain, Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland and Belgium. The race is organized by Amman Road Runners, Pascal Hoyez, P.O. Box 940 121, Amman 11194 Jordan. Tel/Fax + 962 6 679 435.

Courageous Brit

Although ultrarunning is about great performances and an almost infinite number of varying courses it is also about people. One of the most remarkable stories of 1997 concerns the British 100-km International William Sichel. Sichel was third scorer for the British team (7:44:59) at the European 100 Km in Faenza.

Shortly afterwards he discovered that one of his testicles felt hard and pumped up. Testicular cancer was diagnosed. Sichel went public with this information and received much support from the British ultra community when he speedily went in for surgery and then further therapy. He continued to train through the latter and re-assured the selectors that he would be fit for the World Challenge in September. Sichel ran 7:27:56 at Winschoten, the fourth British finisher, but stood on the rostrum with the rest of the British team to receive their silver medals.

Following continued radiotherapy, on November 19, he ran a solo 100-km in 7:08:21 on the track as part of studies into how the body reacts in an ultra race. He has been told by his doctors that testicular cancer is one of the easiest cancers to deal with, provided it is caught early. His experience has shown that such an obstacle need not mean the end of a running career.

With results from twelve countries this ultra update has covered a lot of territory and five continents. Keeping track of the new countries and new faces to the sport is becoming ever more difficult but as a very obvious symptom of the growth and vitality of ultrarunning, I will not complain!

International Publications

Occasionally I provide details of an ultrarunning publication, but I am sure there are a number of people who would like information about the mass of ultra publications that are produced regularly. Here is a brief digest.

International Association of Ultra Runners Newsletter Published four times a year: March, June, September and December. Cost: £12.50 in sterling. Contact: Malcolm Campbell, 16 Dudley Road, Grantham, Lincs NG31 9AA, United Kingdom.

ULTRAMAG Australian Ultra Runners Association (A.U.R.A. Newsletter) Published four times a year: April, June, September and December. Cost: 41 AUS dollars Airmail to USA. Contact: Dot Browne, AURA Inc., 4 Victory Street, Mitcham 3132, Victoria, Australia.

Ultra Marathon - Deutschen Ultramarathon-Vereinigung (DUV) (German Ultrarunning Association Newsletter) In German Published four times a year. Cost: unknown. Contact: Udo Lohrengel and Birgit Lennartz, Freiheit 17, D-53721 Siegburg, Germany.

DUV-Statistik-Jahrbuch Annual statistic book of the DUV. Cost: 1996/1997 $10.00 US. Contact: Harry Arndt, Sudring 5, D-63517 Rodenbach/Hanau, Germany. (This book is packed with international statistics and results and requires no knowledge of German).

Finnish Ultra Newsletter Cost: unknown. Contact: Tero Toyryla, Jarrumiehenkatu 3A 10, FIN 20100 Turku, Finland.

Ultra (in French) Published four times a year. Cost: 300 Belgian Francs. Contact: Jos Cleemput, Terlinden 52, B 1785 Merchtem, Belgium, Mainly statistical.

Comrades Newspaper Three editions prior to the Comrades. Contact: Comrades Marathon, P.O. Box 100621, Scottsville 3209, South Africa.