1) This isn't the first time a non-North American might be considered deserving of the Ultrarunner of the Year Award...and yet is ineligible. First off, understand that UROY goes to the top North American male and female ultrarunners and is awarded by Ultrarunning Magazine, which has been around since the days of the mimeograph, bicycle messenger and C.C. Pyle. I'm not even kidding. A panel of 18 race organizers from all regions of North America submit ballots. Which is to say the award is specifically for North American athletes (read: US and Canada).
The takeaway is this: We love to think all things here and now are bigger and better (and sometimes worse, as in the current Great Recession) than anything that's ever happened before. That's often not true. If it happened today, it probably happened before. There's a precedent for almost everything. You just have to find it. Exhibit A: Kilian Jornet as today's Yiannis Kouros--only with freakish trail skills (and not quite the pure speed The Great One had). Let's not go overboard in dissecting UROY and just enjoy the award for what it is...a great honor for deserving North American ultrarunners.
2) Even though I'm still figuring out the 100-mile race, I believe success in 100s comes down to consistency with training over a long period. Show me the guy/gal who consistently runs back-to-back 20s, along with a steady diet of daily mileage and quality (along with some recovery), and I'll show you someone who will, nine times out of ten, beat the weekend warrior who runs 30 or 40 on Saturday, takes Sunday off or super easy and then sleeps in too much during the week.
3) It's not the elite guys and gals who make ultrarunning interesting and inspiring. It's the guy you meet at a race or in your local club who used to smoke three packs a day and/or drink himself under the table and then one day a light went off and he decided to go for a run. These guys--you know, the ones with leathery skin, endless war stories to tell, ankle gaiters and a closet full of buckles--are truly the toughest among us, grinding out 28- or 29-hour 100s because they love it. We all know one or two of these guys. I do.
4) Contrary to prevailing wisdom, success in the last 40 miles of a 100 isn't all mental. Don't get me wrong; mental toughness is a huge part of those final 40 miles. But what really counts is whether or not you did the right kind of training. Physical strength feeds a strong mind.
5) Ultrarunning is never going to be mainstream, but it will continue to grow. Running 50 miles, 100 kilometers or even 100 miles is never going to be a mainstream endeavor. Most people think marathons are insane. Though ultrarunning is a huge part of our own lives, the bottom line is that the overwhelming majority of Americans have never heard of the sport or even Dean Karnazes.
6) It's a shame ultrarunning is now about trails and not also about the road. Ultrarunning's roots go back to time-based events on tracks as well as transcontinental runs. Not too long ago events like the Edmund Fitzgerald 100K, GNC Ultras and Olander Park 24-Hour--all road races--were among the premier races in the nation. They're all gone now (note: The North Coast 24 in Cleveland has kind of replaced the old Olander Park races, which were near Toledo, while the Lt. JC Stone 50K has kind of replaced the GNC Ultras and is actually run on the same course, though it doesn't offer a 100K option). Bucking the shift toward the trail, the Badwater Ultramarathon continues to thrive but is still pretty niche.
7) I worry about crap that is a waste of time for me to worry about. Why should I care that USATF national championship races fall short in attracting the best in the sport? Why should I care about Salomon Running, Ultrarunner of the Year, the death of the Ed Fitz, etc., etc.? My only concern as far as ultrarunning goes should be the next training run because that's living The Gift.
8) Spartathlon is, to me, more enticing than Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. Spartathlon is a nearly 153-mile race between Athens and Sparta that is run on road and trail. Scott Jurek won Spartathlon three times. It's on my bucket list big time--way ahead of UTMB. So is Comrades. At the end of the day, I'm a road warrior.
9) The marathon is hard to figure out...at least for me. It's easy to run 20 miles hard. What's not easy is figuring out the right pace that is sustainable for 26.2 miles and gets you to the finish line with a new PR and nothing left in the tank. My current marathon PR is 2:58. Honestly, I should be down in the mid 2:40s.
10) Running a 100-mile race in 29 hours is harder than running it in 15 hours. When you see the sun rise for a second time (which I've never seen, thank God), you've been out there grinding away for a long, long time.