“The depth and strength of women in mountain/ultra/trail is improving vastly at the moment! Some of the strongest regarded performances are being broken. I expect more of the top records to be broken in the next 5 years, as several of the mentioned women are in the prime of their careers.”Camille Herron 24 hour/100-mile Record Holder, 100km World Champion, and Comrades Champion.
Disclaimer: These lists are our opinions of course! We took into consideration that there is such a wide range of mountain-ultra-trail events across the world that sometimes comparing these performances really is like comparing “apples to oranges.” From shorter, sub ultra mountain races to 24hr+ events on a flat road or track, the diversity within the realm of “MUT Running” is vast! Also taken into consideration of these rankings is the duration of a race’s history, field size, and overall competitive depth. Let us know your thoughts on our MessageBoard thread! What performances did we miss that you think deserve to be on this list?!
Ladies first! Here are our Top 10 most “unbreakable” MUT RUNNING records:
1. Gerda Steyn “Up Run” at Comrades (5:58)
In 2019, Gerda smashed the CR in this historic race and became the first woman to crack 6 hours at Comrades Up Run. Comrades is the ultimate prize purse, history, and competitive depth in international ultramarathon running, which makes this record quite prestigious. The event has a 100-year-old history and a field size that recently totals around 20,000 runners. The roughly 55-mile “Up Run” route has about 6500’ of climbing and is a rolling, net uphill. Gerda has also shown her world-class abilities at the regular marathon distance by earning the South African national record (2:25) and placing 11th at the New York City Marathon with a 2:27. However, it is her Comrades record that really shines!
2. Tomoe Abe 100km World Record (6:33)
Many want to put an asterisk next to this time; not only “impossibly fast,” but many claim that the Lake Saroma course used in Japan for this record run (which is also the same course that holds the Men’s World Record mark) has too much separation between the Start and Finish*. That is, a significant “tail wind boost” could have been contributed because the course is more of a point-to-point race in nature with running in one prevailing direction. Some individuals and organizations have been against counting this as the official world record because of this Start and Finish line separation – However, under current IAAF official rules it fit the criteria to be an World Record as the distance between the Start-Finish was 50% in separation of the total race distance. Still, we admit that it is apparent Abe may have significantly benefited from a tailwind at times for this record run (and for this reason alone we don’t rank it as #1 on our list!) due to the unique course layout. Abe was also an amazing marathon runner who won a Bronze medal at the World Championships and ran a 2:26 personal best in the marathon.
*IAAF rules require that a course, to be eligible for World Records, must start and finish within 50% of the total race distance; for example, a marathon that is point-to-point would not be eligible because the finish must be within 13.1 miles of the start line in a 26.2 mile race.
3. Rory Bosio UTMB (22:37)
A lot of people seem to forget that Americans have actually won UTMB! Rory did just that in 2013 and 2014, but of particular note is her 22-hour finish and CR in 2013. This was an amazingly fast time on a course that climbs over 33,000’ (10,000m) across 106 miles (171km)! Granted, some years, the classic UTMB has been shortened or slightly re-routed due to weather or other conditions, but Rory ran the “standard course” and absolutely demolished the field! History will remember it as a blistering fast performance… and many other Women’s Champions have not come within 2 hours of it!
4. Camille Herron 24 hour World Record (167.8 miles/270km)
No stranger to winning some grueling ultras, Camille Herron’s World Championship win at the IAU 24-hour event in France 2019 was one for the record books! She covered 167.8 miles/270km in 24 hours on a 1500m loop to win this event by a landslide. In the process, she also led the USA to victory. Camille holds 100-mile and 12-hour World Records, as well as a Comrades victory (to name just a few records and titles!). Several of her other stellar World Bests and Records were also in consideration for this top 5 ranking, but we decided to go with this one!
5. Maude Mathys CR at Sierre-Zinal (2:49:20)
Sierre-Zinal is a classic mountain race of “Five 400m Peaks” in Switzerland, which runs point-to-point with a net uphill, has a 47-year-old history and attracts thousands of runners each year. In 2019, Maude smashed the course record by over 5-minutes by running 2:49:20 (the previous record was 2:54:26 by Anna Pichrtova, an Olympic marathoner). This record is certainly one of those “outlier performances.” Two weeks later, she shattered the course record at the Pikes Peak Marathon in 4:02. It is worth noting that Maude tripped 2 positive PED tests under WADA protocol for clomiphene in 2015.
6. Frith van der Merwe CR at Two Oceans (3:30:36)
Many consider Two Oceans to be the second most competitive ultramarathon in the world, behind Comrades. This 56km race around Cape Town, South Africa, has a 51-year-old history and features a net-uphill course. In 1989, Frith set this mark that has withstood the test of time (even from greats such as Gerda Steyn). Her margin of victory on this day was over 33 minutes. The 2:27 marathoner also holds the legendary “Down Run” Record at Comrades.
7. Kim Dobson Pikes Peak Ascent (2:24)
No stranger to net-uphill mountain climbs, Kim Dobson had already established herself with multiple wins and fast times on courses like Mt. Washington and Jungfrau (to name a few), as well as making several US Mountain Running Teams. However, it was at the 2012 Pikes Peak Ascent (a race with an 85-year-old history in Colorado), where Dobson shattered the existing Pikes Peak Ascent mark held by Lynn Bjorklund in 1981 by over 8.5 minutes. Her margin of victory was over 13 minutes on a 13.1-mile course that climbs over 7,000’ to over 14,000’ in elevation. No other woman has run within 8-minutes of this time in the long history of the race.
8. Camille Herron 100-mile World Best on road/trail (12:42)
This one probably could’ve been ranked higher. However, Camille already has a stellar record up further on the list. As mentioned in our disclaimer, it has become a comparison of “apples to oranges” in trying to rank relative trail-ultra performances with shorter mountain races AND road/track events! In this race at Tunnel Hill, which is technically a “trail race,” (although it runs more like a road/towpath in most places) she shattered the existing 100-mile all-surface bests with a 12:42. With historic marks like this getting lowered by significant margins over the past few years, it appears that MUT Runners like Camille are leading the way in furthering the sport for Elite Women.
Editor’s note: We’d also like to thank Camille for her input and insight into this article and for highlighting some top performances by her fellow competitors for our analysis!
9. Des Linden 50km World Record (2:59:54)
We probably would’ve ranked this performance higher had it not been for so many strong race performances on the trails and mountains in races that have more history to them! Although the Women’s Road 50km has been an international IAU event, not quite as many have been “time-trialed” with male pacers in ideal weather and course conditions. In this make-shift event, two-time Olympic Marathoner and Boston Marathon Champ, Desiree Linden took 7 minutes off the former 50km World Best with a 2:59:54 run on a bike path in Oregon. With her 2:22 marathon best speed, Des made her debut into ultra running look like a natural transition!
10. Ruth Croft CR at Les Templiers (7:27)
This classic trail-ultra in southern France runs 76km with 3000m of climbing and has a long history of attracting the best MUT Runners in the sport! It features a faster and less-technical first half, but then throws in a mix of mountains, technical trails, and a lot of climbing before the finish. The race has a 26-year-old history and attracts thousands of runners, in part because of the “Festival” of events each year. In 2017, Kiwi runner Ruth Croft set this CR in a very competitive field that included Emelie Forsberg, Ida Nilsson, Camille Heron, Adeline Roche, and Mimmi Kotka. Showing her diversity and range with a blend of speed and strength, Ruth has established herself as one of the best MUT Runners in the history of the sport with this performance and several others.
Well, this list could be very long! Just a few performances we thought about as well (thanks to Sandi Nypaver for the input!):
Ann Trason Leadville 100 CR
Dina Finkel Hardrock 100 CR
Ellie Greenwood Western States 100 CR