This year saw plenty of noteworthy and awe-inspiring running performances, from course records and podiums to fastest-known times. Some were big news; others flew under the radar.
These seven performances are the ones we feel are the most significant. Our criteria are simple: we look for events that push forward the sport of trail running, establish new challenges, set new benchmarks or prove something new about the limits of human endurance.
Editor’s note: these events are listed in no particular order.
1. Camille Heron sets two world records and two national records.
On November 11, Camille Herron ran the Tunnel Hill 100 in 12 hours 42 minutes 39 seconds, setting the 100-Mile World Record by more than an hour. One month later, at Arizona’s Desert Solstice Track Invitational, she broke three more records: the U.S. 50-Mile and 100K records, and the 12-Hour World Record (just under 93 miles).
The records came after a turbulent summer, which saw Herron win South Africa’s Comrades Marathon and then DNF from both Western States and Leadville 100s due to accident and injury. During the Tunnel Hill 100, Herron averaged 7:20 to 7:30 pace.
2. Courtney Dauwalter wins the Moab 240 outright … by 10 hours.
Courtney Dauwalter got less than 20 minutes of sleep during the 57 hours she spent on the looped course through the Utah desert. The Moab 240 win came just over a month after Dauwalter won the elite women’s race at Steamboat, Colorado’s Run Rabbit Run 100, where she mysteriously went blind in the course’s final miles.
3. Joseph McConaughy smashes the Appalachian Trail speed record running self-supported.
On August 31, Joe McConaughy reached the summit of Mount Katahdin after an Appalachian-Trail journey that had lasted 45 days 12 hours 15 minutes. The 26-year-old Boston native was traveling self-supported (without outside assistance), but his time was more than 10 hours faster than the supported record set last year, by Karl Meltzer.
4. Cat Bradley sets the R2R2R FKT five months after winning Western States.
Prior to this year, Cat Bradley was a virtual unknown in the trail-running world. That all changed on June 24, when she won the Western States 100. But Western States was never Bradley’s primary goal. Her real aim: to set an FKT for the Grand-Canyon double crossing (R2R2R).
Bradley first came to the Grand Canyon in 2014, as a new, inexperienced trail runner. That first, 16-hour day left her totally inspired, and she decided immediately that she wanted to pursue a record, “Without any reason to think I could do it.”
She got shut down twice over the next two years, but, on November 15, she returned and cut 23 minutes off the previous record.
5. U.S. Mountain Running Team takes home five medals at the World Mountain Running Championships.
At this summer’s World Mountain Running Championships, held in Premana, Italy, the U.S. Mountain Running Team took home medals in all three divisions of competition: men, women and juniors. The men’s team earned bronze, the women’s team earned gold, the juniors’ team earned silver, and two junior racers—Talon Hull and Lauren Gregory—earned individual bronze medals. Collectively, it was the largest medal haul in U.S. Mountain Running Team history.
A week later, U.S. women’s teammember Kasie Enman took home the individual silver at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. Men’s team member Tayte Pollman earned bronze.
6. Andrew Hamilton tacks on an extra peak to Nolan’s 14 … and runs Nolan’s proper in under 54 hours.
The name Andrew Hamilton has become synonymous with wacky, insanely difficult challenges involving Colorado 14ers. The Denver-based runner has thrice held the speed record for summitting all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, and, in 2015, set the FKT for the infamous peak-bagging challenge Nolan’s 14.
This summer, Hamilton once again tackled Nolan’s, adding on an extra summit—Mount of the Holy Cross. He dubbed the new, 15-peak linkup “Holy Nolan’s.”
In the process of establishing an only-known time on “Holy Nolan’s” Hamilton also set a supported FKT for the north-south direction of Nolan’s: 53 hours 42 minutes.
7. Francois D’Haene obliterates the John Muir Trail FKT two months after winning UTMB.
Two months after claiming victory over one of the most stacked fields in Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) history, French runner Francois D’Haene flew to the U.S. to tackle California’s iconic John Muir Trail. D’Haene ran fully supported, with a crew of eight pacing him and following along in a camper van. His finish time, 2 days 19 hours 26 seconds, was a full 12 hours under the previous record, set by California native Leor Pantilat in 2016.
Pantilat told Trail Runner he thinks D’Haene’s FKT has set a new precedent for future supported FKT attempts on the JMT. “He is one of the best ultrarunners in the world … [and] I think it’s fair to say that it was the best crewed JMT effort ever,” says Pantilat. “… The next person to try to set a new supported FKT … will need a lot of resources and sponsorship backing [and] a tight a crew of people who can mule and move with the person.”