2016 Ultra Runners of the Year - Photos and Data - Myke Hermsmeyer Photography

I hope to do a personal 2016 recap soon but in honor of Ultrarunning Magazine's countdown of the Top 10 "Ultra Runners of the Year" (UROY) I thought it would be fun to dig into my 2016 archives to pull out some photos and stories that I may never have had the opportunity to share.

I will be posting photos daily after Ultrarunning's announcement on Instagram @mykehphoto and later uploading to this page. For more information about each competitor you can also visit www.ultrarunning.com for a writeup about each competitor and see their daily posts on Facebook and Instagram. 

As the rankings were announced I filled out a spreadsheet with some data on each runner and their schedules (before I started taking photos I was an analyst/risk manager at a non-profit bank and then worked as an sponsorship coordinator in the outdoor industry) and put together some charts and graphs at the bottom of this page.

Personal Honorable Mentions

I don't vote in Ultra Running Magazine's annual poll of the top ultra runners but as a photographer that follows the lead runners at a lot of ultras very closely (I shot 18 ultras in 2016 across the US) and previously worked as a sponsorship coordinator at an ultra-endurance focused company I feel like I have a decent understanding of who had some great performances this year (without being an ultrarunner myself). Some runners I might have not seen race as much like Hillary Allen (who I only saw get 3rd on the flattened Rut 50k course) and Hayden Hawks (who I only saw once at TNF50 while shooting without cell service on Muir Beach) are deserving of mention if I had more time but below are four picks and one future wildcard prediction of runners that shouldn't necessarily make the Top 10 in this year's UROY voting but deserve some acknowledgement based on my own personal observations of their season.  

Sarah Keyes (30 - Lake Placid, New York)

My first of four personal 2016 @ultrarunningmag #UROY honorable mention picks goes to US Skyrunning champion @runadksk from New York. I don’t vote for UROY but if I did I think Sarah would have made my list with her US Skyrunning Series win (including 1st at the @brokenarrowskyrace where she’s pictured climbing Squaw Peak and 2nd at Flagstaff), a win at the Runamuck 50k, and showed some range taking 4th at the Cascade Crest 100 and 12th at the North Face 50. 50k ultras are the fastest growing and most attended ultra distance races (according to Ultrarunning.com) with some of the fastest and youngest up-and-coming runners and I personally think the US Skyrunning Series could do more to promote it’s athletes to help give them and the distance some more legitimacy (US Skyrunning mens winner @moetrails also had a good year with two Skyrunning wins and a 2nd place to UROY @walmsley but I don’t think should be considered for a top-10 UROY because he never raced above the 50k). Sarah got a sponsor entry to Western States next year (50% of all 2015 and 2016 UROY awardees raced Western States) so I expect she might shift her training focus and head back to Squaw for a 100 miler next summer and be on the UROY radar for 2017. #ultraphotosoftheyear #seeyouinsquaw #ws100 #brokenarrowskyrace #ultrarunning #skyrunning #UROY

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David Laney (28 - Ashland, Oregon)

Just like in racing with fashion it always helps to be first. My second of four personal 2016 @ultrarunningmay #UROY honorable mention picks goes to last year’s male UROY @davidlaney12. David only raced three ultras in 2016 and didn’t have any wins but they were all 50+ mile events with an incredibly high level of competition (Western States 100, UTMB 105 and the North Face 50). David finished 3rd at #tnf50 behind #3 UROY Zach Miller and Hayden Hawks, 4th overall at the international #UTMB and second American behind #7 UROY Tim Tollefson (David was 3rd in 2015), and faded at #ws100 along with many other fast runners that tried to keep up with #1 UROY @walmsley172's course record pace. Had David held on for a better finish at Western States he could have also been considered 2016’s ultra fashion trendsetter. Jim was very adamant about me not posting photos of his cut up crop top before the race out of fear that someone might copy the idea and when I saw Laney who had the same idea topping out on Escarpment well before Jim I knew that whoever finished ahead of the other would be credited for the ultra cooling style. For more photos and stats on this year's UROY visit the link in my profile. #trailsandtarmac #croptopwar #ultraphotosoftheyear #ws100 #seeyouinsquaw #UROY

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Maggie Guterl (36 - West Chester, Pennsylvania)

In 2016 we saw the rise of @maggatronruns. My third of four personal 2016 @ultrarunningmag #UROY honorable mentions goes to #TeamTROT member Maggie Guterl who had a breakout year in 2016. I first met Maggie at the 2015 @trailracingovertexas Brazos Bend 100 where she won running an impressive 17:21:14 100 miler but just a year later returned to run the third fastest American trail 100 time by a woman in 14:47:02 (while flirting with the overall record). In 2016 she also won the Franklin Mountain 50k Skyrace, was 2nd at the 68 mile Georgia Death Race, and was F8 at the Western States 100. It seems like she’s just warming up and I look forward to seeing her burn some boats in 2017. For more UROY photos and stats check out the link in my profile. #burntheboats #ultraphotosoftheyear #trailracingovertexas #bb100 #ultrarunning #riseofmaggatron #UROY

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Cody Reed and Tim Freriks (25 & 26 - Flagstaff, Arizona)

My fourth and final personal 2016 @ultrarunningmag #UROY honorable mention is a dual award to @coconinocowboys @codyreeeed and Tim Freriks. I personally didn’t see either race well in 2016 (I only saw them at the @thenorthfaceecs #tnf50 where Cody finished 16th and Tim DNF’d after jumping into the race undertrained) but Cody had wins at the Miwok 100k, Tamalpa Headlands 50k, and UROC 100k and Tim was 2nd behind fellow Cowboy @walmsley172 (who set the course record) at the Lake Sonoma 50 while primarily being a student in 2016. Both of these guys are a product of Flagstaff, Arizona which is producing some of the fastest ultra runners right now and they regularly train in the Grand Canyon with Walmsley so it’s easy to imagine big things coming from this crew in 2017. For more UROY photos and stats check out the link in my profile. #bangbang #coconinocowboys #ultraphotosoftheyear #flagstaff #ultrarunning #ecsca #UROY

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Future Wildcard Mention

Tayte Pollman (20 - Salt Lake City, Utah)

One final wildcard #UROY mention goes to 20 year old Tayte Pollman from Utah who is a student at the University of Portland. For some reason I’ve had this feeling since I saw him running with Tim Tollefson and Dakota Jones in the lead up Squaw Peak at Broken Arrow that he’ll soon be winning Skyrunning events. It seems like he’s been in the background in 2016, ultimately coming in 5th at Broken Arrow, 3rd at Speedgoat, 2nd at the Flagstaff 39k Skyrace, and was 3rd at the Moab Trail Marathon at the end of 2015 and was on the 2015 Junior Mountain Running Team. I don’t know much about him but the one time I did meet him briefly he was hanging out with ultra agent @markmastiler who keyed in on some big runners in 2016. With young runners it’s hard to pursue running competitively over the long term without the right results, opportunities and support all aligning (and when I was 20 my motivation changed every other week) and his results are far from UROY consideration but I just felt like throwing him out there as an off the radar younger runner to keep an eye out for in the future. #upandcomer @ultrarunningmag #ultraphotosoftheyear #skyrunning #brokenarrowskyrace #UROY

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#10 UROY - Alex Nichols and Giny Slaby

Alex Nichols (31 - Colorado Springs, Colorado)

While I hope to do a personal 2016 recap once I'm caught up on other work after Christmas @ultrarunningmag is counting down the Top 10 Ultra Runners of the Year (#uroy) and I thought it would be a good time to pull out some unreleased photos from the archive. I never saw #10 womens UROY Gina Slaby (who recently set the women's 100 mile record on the track in 13:45:49) but here's a shot of @axelnichols climbing the Stairway to Heaven at @squawalpine during the @brokenarrowskyrace on his way to 4th place. His other notable accomplishments include 1st at #rrr100, 2nd at the #speedgoat50k and 5th at #tnf50. Stay tuned to what @ultrarunningmag posts tomorrow for #9! #ultrarunneroftheyear #ultrarunning #skyrunning #brokenarrowskyrace

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#9 UROY - Darcy Piceu and Pete Kostelnick

Darcy Piceu (41 - Boulder, Colorado)

3x Hardrock 100 winner and 2015 runner-up @darcypq just missed getting off the waitlist into the 2016 race but her consolation prize was getting to share the Hardrock experience with her daughter Sophia (seen here above Island Lake cheering on men's race leaders Kilian Jornet, Jason Schlarb and Xavier Thévenard running together). Even without a Hardrock appearance she still finished #9 in this year's @ultrarunningmag's #UROY rankings with wins at the Fat Dog 120, Wasatch Front 100, and Jemez Mountain 50 mile. I don't have a photo of #9 male Pete Kostelnick as the only race we were both at was Western States where he finished 29th (I was following Jim Walmsley at the front all day) but he won this year's Badwater 135 and put up a ridiculous 70+ miles a day to set a new Transamerica record running from San Francisco to New York in 42 days, six hours and 30 minutes (for photos of that check out @run_n_shoot's account who had great coverage). Stay tuned tomorrow for #8! #uroy #ultrarunneroftheyear #ultrarunning #hr100 #ultrarunningmagazine

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Pete Kostelnick (28 - Lincoln, Nebraska)

*I discovered this photo of Pete Kostelnick outside of Robinson Flat in my Western States original files after I was finished posting Instagram updates on the 2016 UROY awardees. I don't think I recognized him flipping through photos because I recall him wearing another shirt seeing other peoples photos from the race.  It was never posted on Instagram but I just wanted to add it here to have him represented. 

#8 - Andrew Miller and Pam Smith

Andrew Miller (20 - Flagstaff, Arizona)

20 year old Andrew Miller tops out on Escarpment early in the prestigious Western States 100 before he methodically picked off the field running a smart race to become the youngest winner in the event's history. Today Andrew was ranked #8 Ultra Runner of the Year (#UROY) by @ultrarunningmag after competing in only two races in 2016 - he won his Golden Ticket at the Georgia Death Race but most voters looked at his win at Western States, considered the "Super Bowl of Ultrarunning." A lot of Andrew's thunder winning the race was lost against the story of Jim Walmsley but just like any football player would prefer to win a Super Bowl ring over being named "Player of the Year" I bet Jim and the other eight runners on the list would trade any of their accomplishments this year for his Western States Cougar trophy. #8 for the women is 41 year old mother of two Pam Smith (I did not see her race this year) who was the top US finisher at the IAU World 100k Championships in Spain, second woman at the 153-mille Spartathlon in Greece, and ran 143.66 miles at the Dawn to Dusk to Dawn 24-hour race. Stay tuned for @ultrarunningmags #7 ranking tomorrow! #ultraphotosoftheyear #ws100 #ultrarunning #ultrarunningmagazine #westernlegend #seeyouinsquaw

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#7 - Tim Tollefson and Katalin Naggy

Tim Tollefson (31 - Mammoth Lakes, California) 

@timtollefson dropping rocks trying to pull away from Dakota Jones on the technical ridgeline climb up Squaw Peak while leading the 2016 Broken Arrow Sky Race. I'm still not sure exactly how the rest of the race played out with a lot of course confusion due to last minute reroutes caused by snow/permitting issues but Tim finished 2nd to Dakota at the inaugural race. Tim might have not made big headlines like some of his other Winged Gods of Victory teammates but was just named by @ultrarunningmag as #7 #UROY based on a really well rounded year of impressive results at a variety of distances. Tim finished top American and 3rd overall at the 105 mile UTMB (ahead of teammates David Laney and Zach Miller), won the Canyons 50K and the Silver State 50K and was second to Dakota at Broken Arrow Sky Race. #7 for the women was Katalin Nagy (who I did not see race this year) who ran 14:41:59 for 100 miles at the Desert Solstice Invitational and and won the prestigious Spartathlon 153-mile in Greece. Check @ultrarunningmag tomorrow to see who is ranked #6! #doughnutsanddirt #ultraphotosoftheyear #brokenarrowskyrace #guforit #ultrarunning #seeninsquaw #skyrunning

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#6 - Amy Sproston and Brian Rusiecki

Amy Sproston (42 - Bend, Oregon)

@amysproston flying around mile 32 of the 2016 #ws100 outside of Robinson Flat about a minute ahead of Devon Yanko and 14 minutes back from eventual race winner Kaci Lickteig. The 42 year old from Bend, Oregon would hold on for 2nd finishing about an hour behind Kaci, a result that along with wins at the Canyons 100k and Tillamook Burn 50 mile earned her #6 in this year’s @ultrarunningmag's #UROY voting. #6 for the men was #beastcoast runner Brian Rusiecki (37 from South Deerfield, Massachusetts) who I somehow never saw race despite running 12 ultras in 2016 (totaling 770 miles with only one below 50 miles) winning five of them. Brian has now made @ultrarunningmag’s Top 10 UROY for five consecutive years. Check @ultrarunningmag tomorrow for #5! #ultraphotosoftheyear #uroy #ws100 #seeyouinsquaw #westernstates #westernstates100 #ultrarunning #ultrarunneroftheyear #ultrarunningmagazine

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#5 - Zach Bitter and Devon Yanko

Zach Bitter (30 - Davis, California

@zachbitter on course record pace midway through his last lap of the #jj100 picks up a headlamp from crew member @walmsley172 after losing his and running in the dark without one. Zach finished the hot Arizona 100 miler in 13:30:28 beating Hal Koerner's 2011 record by ~17 minutes. His Javelina record alongside his 1:40:55 American 100 mile record at Desert Solstace and a solid season of racing at events like Comrades and the IAU 100k World Campionships just earned him #5 in @ultrarunningmag 2016 #UROY rankings alongside Devon Yanko (who also holds the women's course record at Javalina). Stay tuned tomorrow to see who is ranked #4! #uroy #ultraphotosoftheyear #ultracrew #ultrarunning #javalinajundred #jackassjunction #ultrarunningmagazine

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Devon Yanko (34 - San Anselmo, California)

@fastfoodie (Devon Yanko) iced up for the heat running on the heals of 2nd place woman Amy Sproston outside of Robinson Flat during the 2016 #ws100. She held onto her 3rd place position over the course of the next ~70 miles to finish on the podium of the prestigious 100 mile ultra. Devon raced into Western States by winning the Sean O’Brien 100K and also won the American River 50 and Berkeley Trail Adventure 50k in 2016, results which helped earn her the #5 ranking in @ultrarunningmag’s #UROY voting. Check back tomorrow to see who is #4! #ultraphotosoftheyear #uroy #ultrarunningmagazine #seeyouinsquaw #westernstates100 #ultrarunning #ultrarunneroftheyear

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#4 - Caroline Boller and Ian Sharman

Caroline Boller (42 - Solvang, California)

That moment where agony meets ecstasy as Caroline Boller celebrates her 42nd birthday at the finish line of the @trailracingovertexas Brazos Bend 50 after setting the fastest American 50 mile trail time by a women in 5:48:01 (beating Ann Trasons record by over 14 minutes). Her overall win, overall course record and record time capped off her year which included wins at Caumsett, Mokelumne River, a 2nd place finish at JFK 50, and 16th at the IAU 50k Championships in Qatar and earned her the #4 spot in @ultrarunningmag’s #UROY rankings. Not bad for a mother of two who only starting running four years ago… Check back tomorrow to see who is the first on the podium for #ultrarunneroftheyear! #ultraphotosoftheyear #bb100 #brazosbend #ultrarunning #ultrarunningmagazine #burntheboats

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Ian Sharman (36 - Bend, Oregon)

@sharmanian has had this exact same photo taken on Escarpment during Western States by dozens of photographers over seven consecutive years (with seven consecutive Top-10 finishes) and doesn't show any sign of missing the yearly sunrise photoshoot anytime soon. Ian placed 6th at Western States this year but also won the Leadville 100, Rocky Raccoon 100, Gorge Waterfalls 100k, and took 3rd American River 50 miler. His results just earned him the #4 spot in this year's #UROY rankings by @ultrarunningmag. Check back tommorrow to see who is #3! #ultraphotosoftheyear #ws100 #seeyouinsquaw #ultrarunning #ultrarunningmagazine

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#3 - Zach Miller and Courtney Deauawalter

Zach Miller (27 - Cascade, Colorado)

@zachmiller38 in full #beastcoast mode charging up the climb out of Muir Beach with Hayden Hawks trying to hold on behind him in what became the ultra battle of the year at the @thenorthfaceecs #tnf50. Zach didn't have a heavy race schedule in 2016 competing in only three ultras (the only other male or female in the UROY top 10 who raced less than 4 times was Andrew Miller with two ultras) but he was a commanding force at each of them, winning the North Face 50, the Madera Island 115km, and leading UTMB for 70 miles before fading to 6th place. Today his results earned him the #3 ranking in this year's @ultrarunningmag's #UROY voting. In contrast to Zach's short schedule the #3 female #UROY Courtney Deuawalter raced 10 ultras in 2016 winning 8 of them. Her highlights included a win at the Run Rabbit Run 100, 147.49 miles at the Desert Solstace 24, and a overall win/overall course record at the Javalina 100k (where I saw her flying around the desert course but I was volunteering and didn't end up taking her photo). Check back tomorrow to see who is #2! #ultraphotosoftheyear #tnf50 #ecsca #guforit #gucrew #ultrarunning #ultrarunningmagazine #UROY

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#2 - Magda Boulet and Jeff Browning

Magda Boulet (42 - Berkley, California)

@runboulet getting in some serious pre-UTMB training on 10,200 Hope Pass outside of Leadville during the 2016 TransRockies Run where she raced six days/120 miles with #gucrew partner @bbgillis to win the co-ed team division. Less than a month after the adult summer camp that is @transrockiesevents (where I had a ton of fun shooting the @guenergylabs team) Magda would head to Europe for UTMB where she placed 5th and top American woman (fellow #gucrew teammate David Laney also put in a training week at TransRockies and took 5th at UTMB). Magda’s top American finish at UTMB along with wins at The Canyons 100k and Overlook 50k, 2nd at @endurancechallengeseries #tnf50 and 3rd at Speedgoat 50k earned her #2 this year in @ultrarunningmag’s #UROY rankings (she was ranked #1 in 2015). Stay tuned tomorrow to see who is ranked #1 (I bet it's the person who Magda handed the torch to at Western States....). #ultraphotosoftheyear #guforit #wewillrockgu #ultrarunning #stagerace #transrockiesrun #transrockies #hopepass #ultrarunningmagazine #UROY

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Jeff Browning (45 - Bend, Oregon)

@gobroncobilly climbing up to Grant Swamp Pass above Island Lake in the Colorado San Juan mountains early in the 2016 Hardrock 100. Its been said that 100 miles is the distance of truth for ultras and while Jeff didn’t win them all he had some incredible performances at some of the toughest and most competitive 100 milers in the country. Most notably Jeff finished 3rd at the Western States 100 and only 19 days later turned around to finish 4th at the Hardrock 100 (you can see more about that in @matttrappe’s film “The Double”). In addition he won the H.U.R.T. 100 in Hawaii, was 4th at Run Rabbit Run 100, and was 1st at the Free State 100k and Frozen Trail Runfest 50k. At 45 Jeff is the oldest runner in this year’s @ultrarunningmag #UROY voting coming in at #2 (no other male in the top 10 was over 36). In contrast tomorrow’s #1 male for the second year in a row will be the youngest UROY in the history of the magazines’s rankings so check back tomorrow to see who it is! #ultraphotosoftheyear #hr100 #islandlake #ultraruning #ultrarunningmagazine #ultrarunneroftheyear #UROY

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#1 - Jim Walmsley and Kaci Lickteig

Jim Walmsley (26 - Flagstaff, Arizona)

In ultrarunning 2016 was the year of @walmsley172 who was just named as @ultrarunningmagazine's Ultra Runner of the Year (#UROY). With the exception of Western States where he took a notorious wrong turn at mile 93 on course record pace Jim was undefeated in 2016, racing 8 total ultras with a variety of distances and terrain and took down some prestigious course records and FKTs like the Grand Canyon R2R2R along the way. At 26 he is also the youngest UROY in the magazine's 36 years of ranking. I have a lot of photos of Jim in 2016 but it was this moment when he pulled himself from the Rucky Chucky rapids (even before his notorious wrong turn) and continued to charge for the #ws100 course record that I knew things had changed for him and that his race had become a thing of legend and a story that would transcend the sport. I meet people all the time outside of running that have heard about his race and even if he were to never race again in 20 years people will still be talking about his 2016 run for the course record. Jim has said that he’d rather have one year like this year giving running everything the has and taking on big goals than a decade of decent results but not committing to reaching his full potential. His UROY award is a reflection of that commitment and a long year of focused dedication and hard work. However while winning UROY is a great award for Jim it's like being named the league MVP but not winning the Super Bowl. He still has unfinished business at Western States so I’m excited to follow his journey as he heads back for redemption and takes on bigger challenges in 2017. For more photos and data on Jim and the other UROY’s seasons head over to my website (link in my profile). #seeyouinsquaw #runningforredemption #ultraphotosoftheyear #coconinocowboys #curlsforthegirls #bringbackthecroptop #westernlegend #westernwalmsley #ws100 #ultrarunningmagazine #ultrarunneroftheyear #uroy

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Kaci Lickteig (30 - Omaha, Nebraska)

@ultrarunnerkc, the 2016 @ultrarunningmag Ultra Runner of the Year (#UROY) and 2016 Western States winner, gets passed the torch from 2015 UROY and Western States winner @runboulet early in Western States this year. 30 year old Kaci, the youngest female UROY since the Ann Trason era of the early 90s, trains on the flatlands of Omaha, Nebraska (she ran 5,000 miles in 2016) and was the near unanimous choice for this year’s top woman racing eight ultras in 2016 and winning seven of them (three were overall wins) including the Western States 100 and Bear 100. People talk about the crazy numbers put up this year by @walmsley172 (this year’s male UROY) but when you break down Kaci’s numbers she is equally impressive and even surpasses him in many statistics (and their record is technically 1-1). For more photos and data on this year’s top 10 Ultra Runners of the Year and data check out my website (link in my profile) #ultraphotosoftheyear #ws100 #seeyouinsquaw #ultrarunning #ultrarunningmagazine #UROY

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2016 Ultra Runners of the Year

You wouldn't expect to see the female "Ultra Runner of the Year" (@ultrarunnerkc) getting cheered on by the male "Ultra Runner of the Year" (@walmsley172) as she passes him in the biggest race of the year but the 2016 Western States 100 was full of surprises. Both Kaci and Jim are super deserving recipients of the top #UROY award with incredible 2016 seasons and I look forward to seeing them break their 1-1 head-to-head record next year. :) As a photographer I witnessed a lot of incredible performances and moments in ultrarunning in 2016 and it has been fun to look back on some of them with the announcements of @ultrarunningmag's #UROY rankings the last couple weeks. To see some more ultra photos from 2016 and some stats and charts about this year's top runners check out the link in my profile. #ultraphotosoftheyear #ultrarunneroftheyear #ultrarunning #ws100 #westernstates100 #westernlegend #seeyouinsquaw

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2016 UROY Breakdown

Below are a few charts that highlight various information about this year's Ultra Runners of the Year. Note that some of the information like race elevation profiles and ages of historical UROY winners are pulled from various unofficial sources (race websites/Strava/blogs/dated race results) due to lack of available information. If you have more accurate information please email me (see Contact Me! page) and I'll update the spreadsheet.

Thanks to Ultrasignup.com and Ultra Running Magazine for having such easy access race results and historical data to help fill out the data. 

Link to data (Google Sheets)

Error Notes

If errors are pointed out I'll update them in the Google data sheet but due to the time requirements of updating graphs for what was a fun winter break project (they were created in Excel on a family member's PC when I visited during Christmas/New Years) I'll just list out the changes below in the short run and update the graphs in a couple weeks.

-Listed Gorge Waterfalls 100k instead of 50k for Ian Sharman. Lowers personal total race distance from 466 to 435, average race distance from 78 to 73, and gain/mile increases 121 to 130. Overall UROY average race distance stays around 73 miles, overall average total race milage decreases from 382.81 to 381.26, and overall average total milage gain/mile increases from 151 to 151.4. Overall not a major shift to overall averages but changes Ian's stats a bit. 

-Pam Smith's Vegas Moonlight 6 Hour 1st place finish was not included in her UltraRunning results. Increases her total races from 4 to 5, increases total distance raced from 389.8 to 431.56, decreases her average race distance from 97.45 to 86.31, and decreases her average gain/mile from 20.1 to 18.2. 

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