Trail runners who run roads / Road runners who run trails

A few days ago, the american runner Jim Walmsley beat the long standing 50 miles World Record in 4:50:07 (he averaged 5:48 per mile and 3:36 per kilometer- here his impressive Strava). The previous 50-mile world best of 4:50:21 was set by South African legend Bruce Fordyce in 1983. Earlier this year he tap the trial’s qualifier time of 64:00 at Houston Half Marathon. During last summer Jim break the record of 100 mile race Western States Endurance Run in 14h30′. Jim has been focusing in Ultratrail distance for the last years, obtaining great results, after a track & field past where he run 13:52 the 5000m and 29:08 the 10.000m back in 2012 before his ultrarunning career.

Walmsley is part of the athletes who are performing well in the trails as in the road. Since the begining of the trail running some athletes have been very competitive in both fields. The polyvalence of those athletes who are able to run any distance, any surface is rare and extremely difficult to achieve, because is not only a lineal curve of adding distance but in some cases also the technicality, is important to understand the differences between the different disciplines in Trail Running, as qualities required are not the same for a race like WS100, a Mountain Running race or a Skyrace.

The pioneer’s

The first editon of Sierre Zinal was won by swiss cross country skier Edi Hauser, podium in the Olympic games of Sapporo. The runner up was the belgian Gaston Roelants, record holder and olympic champion of 3000m steeple with 8’26”. The previous year of his run in Zinal, Gaston run his PB in 5000m (13’34”), 10.000m (28’03”) and one hour (20.7842m).

Jeff norman, born in 1945, is a british fell runner who won 6 times the three Peaks fell race from 1970, he was fell running champion in 1974. This year he also won the 2nd edition of Sierre Zinal in 2h48′. During this years he was running also road marathons in 2:15. In 1978 he run the marathon in Montreal’s Olympic Games finishing in 26th position. His PB is 2:12:50 in 1978. In the 80’s he broke (and still have) the 50km british record (both track and in route) in 2:48:06.

In the following years, John wild, was dominating the fell running scene. He was the 81 and 82 fell running champion. He had also good track times as 8:36 in the 3000m steeplechase and also won important races as the cross de San Sebastian in 1978.

David Cannon was a succesful fell runner. 1972 british champion and 6 times winner of Ben Nevis race during the 70’s. He turned his career towards marathon in 1980. In his first marathon, in Fukuoka, he run 2:11:35, and that same yer he won Montreal marathon in 2:11:21. The year after he won Paris marathon in 2:11:44. After he introduced the same transition path to Kenny Stuart.

One of the best fell runners of the history, Kenny stuart, won several times fell races as Ben Nevis (with a record standing today), Snowdon, Skiddaw, Fell running Championships (those are off-trail steep races) during the first half of the 80’s and was the first mountain running world champion in 1985 in Italy. After that he started running road and in his debut he won Glasgow marathon in 2:14:03. In 1989 he run Houston marathon in 2:11:36 before his career was curtailed by increasing allergy and virus problems.

Keith Anderson (13:49, 29:06, 1:04:53, 2:17) is a british fell runner who won in the early 90’s many fell races as Ben Nevis (1989), Edale Skyline, Sedbergh Hills, Three Shires… and the world mountain running trophy in 1992 and 1993.

Anderson’s focus later shifted to cross country and road running.In one of his 5k road races in 1994, Anderson placed second to the future 3000m world record holder Daniel Komen. Anderson ran the 1998 Boston Marathon in 2:17:08.

Martin Jones (14:00, 28:24, 1:03:05) won in 1992 and 1993 the World Mountain Running trophy. During the same time he was racing in cross country ( 1994 world championships) and half marathon (1:03:10 in the 199 world championships)

Chuck Smead, (14:37, 29:40, 1:05:47, 2:13:47) from USA, was born in 1951. He won Pikes Peak Marathon in 1972 and Sierre Zinal in 1977 (2:41:18). At same time he participated in road races, taking second in the Marathon at the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico City. In 1981 he run his PB in Eugene.

Fellow american Pablo Vigil, (29:13, 2:15:19) run track and cross country young, and his 2:15 in Cleverland in 1980. He came to Europe to race the Cross Country world championships in 1978 and then to race theWorld Mountain Running trophy and in mountain running and some classical mountain races, where he won 4 consecutive times Sierre Zinal, from 1979 to 1982, with a best time of 2:33:49.

Jim Howard won in 1981 Avenue of gians marathon with a time of 2:18:04, that was not his PB of 2:15:25, but it was only 2 weeks after he won a 41 mile race and 6 days after his victory in 100 miles Western States in 16:02. To recover from all that, 13 days after he placed 2nd at San Francisco marathon in 2:19:24. He won WS100 2 times and Leadville 100 one time among numerous victories in 50 miles and 100k races.

Jim Howard at 1983 WS100

East African’s in mountain running

Earlier this year, Joel Ayeko from Uganda was leading the steep uphill of the World cross-country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark. He is an excelent uphill runner. 6 month ago he crossed the finish line of the Mountain Running Championships in Canillo, Andorra in 2nd position. He finished the race in Denmark in 10th position.

Ayeko’s case is not unique, Mountain Running races, with non technical circuits and moderate elevations (uphill years is about 12km with 1000m+ and up&down is about 12km with 800m+-) are atractive for runners with great athletic capacities. Uganda has been present in those events since the begining of the 2000’s. Martin Toroitich (13:34, 27:57, 1:01:06), Phillip kiplimo (14:01, 28:34, 1:02:20, 2:11:30), Fred Musubo (13:43, 28,57, 1:01:08, 2:06:56), Robert Chemonges (14:01, 28:57, 1:02:55, 2:09:05), Isaac Kiprop (13:41, 28:27, 1:03:20), Martin Toroitich (13:34, 27:57, 1:02:19) who has been placing top 10 in both wmra and cross country world championships, or Victor Kiplangat (28:37, 1:01:26, WMRA 2017 champion) are also mountain runners participating in the WMRA championships.

Eritrea has been present also since 2004 in those championships with great results, 2010 WMRA world champion Samson kiflemariam (13:21, 28:08, 1:00:52, 2:11:56 and Petro Mamu, (1:03:40, 2:14:50) who was the 2017 World Champion before been tested positive for doping. Petro has been also running longer distances, winning Sierre Zinal (2h33) and Limone Skyrace.

Etiopian Eticha Tesfaye (28:59, 1:03:24, 2:10:05) won Sierre Zinal in 1996 (2:41:05) and 4 times Jungfrau Marathon between 2002 and 2006. 2 years before his Sierre Zinal victory he won his first marathon in Amsterdam in 2:15, he won 15 more marathons during his career.

Semetru Alemayehu (2:07:45) from Kenya make the podium in 1999’s Sierre Zinal (2:38) Jungfrau Marathon and Tyon-Dixence, 2 month later he run in 2 consecutive weeks Lausane and Frankfurt marathon (2:14 and 2:12) before he run his bests in Torin (2:08 and 2:07 the following year). He also participated in the 2000 Olympics, finishing 22 and the next year 10th at the IAAF marathon world championships.

Also from Kenya, Panin robert Surum (28:54, 1:14.37) placed 3rd at 2018 Sierre Zinal. Isaac Toroitich Kosgei (1:03:56, 2:12:59) has been placing top 10’s in both wmra championships and Sierre Zinal.

Geoffrei Ndungu (13:57, 1:01:12, 2:08:33) has been winning half and marathons in europe and national cross country championships in Kenya he has been racing at the same time in mountain running, winning races as Jungfrau marathon or Tyon-Dixence and placing top 10 at Sierre Zinal.

John Somopol Mnangat (14:01, 29:05, 1:03:25) won skaala opp in 2009 (1h 09:55)

But not only east africans has been performing in mountain running at the same time as in the track.

Probably the most talented mountain runner of all the times is the kiwi Jonhatan Wyatt ( 3:46, 13:27, 27:56, 1:02:37, 2:13:00) He dominated mountain running from 1998 when he won his first of 6 world titles (alternating the victories with italian Marco de Gasperi). Wyatt also performed in longer distance mountain running winning and breaking records of many races among Jungfrau Marathon (2003 – 2:49:01) and Sierre Zinal (2003 – 2:29:12) the same year he did his 10000m, h/m and marathon PB’s. Wyatt competed in Atlanta’96 Olympics in the 5000m reaching the semifinals and finishing 16th and in Athens’04 martahon finishing 21th in 2h17′.

before Jono, austrian Helmut Schmuck (13:58, 28:55, 2:13:17) won the 1994 wmra championships after participating at the 92 marathon olimpics in Barcelona.

During the Wyatt-De Gasperi dominance a colombian Orlando Ortiz, took 2016 WMRA title. Ortiz was running the same years his bests track and field times (1:51,3:48, 13:56, 28:23). Comombian’s are great mountain runners. The altitude and elevation on their country has make of them good climbers (also in cycling!) before Ortiz, Jairo Correa (14:03, 28:57) won 2 times the wmra championships and 3 times Sierre Zinal during the 90’s with a best time of 2:32:44. He still has the record on Thyon-Dixence on 1:08:28 from 1990.


Following Correa, Jacinto Lopez (14:08, 1:03:29, 1:16:54) won Sierre Zinal in 1994 with 2:35 and lately Juan Carlos Cardona has been placing podium in several ocasions. Cardona has competed in 3 olympic’s marathon, Athens, Bejing and London and achieved 2:12:17 in Boston 2011.

Probably the moto any distance, any surface doesn’t fits anybody better than Max King (13:56, 29:01, 1:03:08, 2:14:36). Olympic Trials in marathon and Steeplechase in 2012, X terra world champion 4 times, WMRA world champion in 2011, 100km world champion 2014 (6h27, american record), Podiums at Sierre Zinal,  NACAC Cross Country Championships and Western States 100 or Comrades marathon (5h37) … you name-it!

Italy has been on the roots of mountain running and following the stele of athlets like Lucio Fregona or Marco de Gasperi, many have follow the path. Xavier Chevrier (1:03:43), Martin Dematteis (14:37, 1:04:54) and his twin Bernard (14:31, 1:06) or Francesco Puppi have been racing ocasionally on road while doing mountain running.

Spanish Vicente Capitan (13:53, 29:09) combined cross country with mountain running and vertical kilometers. And recently, American’s Jo Gray (28:18, 1:03:42) won mountain running world titles and did podium in races as Sierre Zinal at the same time as winning XC american and Panamerican championships. Sage Canaday (14:29,1:04:32, 2:16) focused in ultrarunning doing numerous podiums, Patrick Smyth (3:47, 13:39, 28:25, 1:02:01, 2:15:00) and Andy Wacker (14:36, 28:52, 1:03:25, 2:17) follow that way on combnining flat and mountain races.

Scotish Robbie Simpson, (14:25, 1:04:39, 2:14:56) 3rd at the marathon in the 2018 Commonwealth Games combines spring marathon period with summer doing mountain races as winning Jungfrau marathon or podium Sierre Zinal.

Among the women’s

Chantal Langlacé was the winner of the 1st Sierre Zinal in 1974. 2 month after that she set a marathon world record in 2:46:24. In 1977 she set a new world mark in 2:35:16. She won Sierre Zinal again in 1979 with 3h 32 minutes, and contiunued her marathon career wining Paris Marathon among others and seting a PB of 2:33:58 in 1986.

Marijke Moser, won 2 times Sierre Zinal between Langlacé victories, at the same period she ran in the 1500m at the 1972 Olympics.

Veronique Marot broke twice the British record for the marathon, with 2:28:04 at the 1985 Chicago Marathon and 2:25:56 when winning the 1989 London Marathon. The latter time stood as the UK record for 13 years until the run of Paula Radcliffe. She is also a three-time winner of the Houston Marathon and represented Great Britain at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. She was also a 3 time winner of Sierre Zinal, with victories at the same period (84-85-87) and a PB of 3:01.

Lynn Bjorklund set the U.S. high school record in the 3000 metres in 1975. A record which stood until 2013. In 1981, she also set the female course record for the Pikes Peak Marathon.

Isabelle Crettenand-Moretti is probably the most all round endurance athlete. She has won Jungfrau marathon, Sierre Zinal 3 times, participated in IAAF cross country, distance and marathon world championships (PB: 15:48, 1:13 and 2:42), won ski mountaineering world championships, Pierra Menta and Patrouille des Glaciers with her twin sister Cristina Favre-Moretti, won the mountain bike race Grand Raid and numerous multisport adventure races.

Ann Trason, has been the best ultrarunner in the history. She have won Comrades marathon and 12 days after Western States 100. 2 times, in 1996 and 1997. In 1994 she placed 2nd overal in Leadville 100 setting a course record that stands today. The year after she won the IAU 100k world championships with a record time of 7h and 47 seconds.

Ann Trason

Tsige Worku, From Ethiopia won 2003 Sierre Zinal, she participated (and won) many half and marathons with a PB of 2:33.

Anna Pichrtova (1:12, 2:32) was the best runner in the 2000’s. She has won 5 times Sierre Zinal, Mont Washington road race, 5 times the Mont Kinabalu race, WMRA championships several times and she participated at the IAAF marathon world championships and the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Magda Boulet, (15:14, 31:48, 1:11:46, 2:26) finished second at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. In the IAAF World Cross Country championships, she has earned two bronze medals representing the USA in the team competition, 2010 and 2011. She won the 2002 San Francisco Marathon and finished sixth and first American women at the 2009 New York City Marathon.She finished second at the 2010 Rotterdam Marathon, in a personal best time of 2:26:22.

After her road career she turned into ultras, winning 2015 Western states, placing 5th at 2016 UTMB and winning Marathon des Sables in 2018.

Ida Nilsson

Ida Nilsson (4:18, 15:33, 33:50) followed a similar path, She finished seventh in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2006 European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg, where she set the Swedish national record at 9:39.24. She also participated in the 2005 World Championships. In the summer of 2006 Nilsson ran 3000 m in 9:01.01. After 2009 she had a serie of injuries and retired of athletics until 2013 when she start running again on the trails. In 2016 she won Transvulcania and in the following years San Francisco 50 miles, Zegama Aizkorri, The Rut…


Austria’n Andrea Mayr has been WMRA world champion 6 times since 2010. She represented Austria in the 3000 metres steeplechase at both the 2005 and 2007 World Championships in Athletics, Mayr competed in the 2012 London Olympics and has been also ski mountaineering world champion in vertical race. In 2009 she won Viena marathon with 2:30 and in 2011 she did her half marathon PB in 1:11.

Lucy Wambui Murigi, is a Kenyan mountain runner who has won the world mountain running championship as well as 3 times Sierre Zinal in the last years. She has run 32:48, 1:10 and 2:37.

Maude Mathis, is a swiss mountain runner, winner of European championships and podiums in world’s WMRA and records in races like Jungfrau marathon, Maud is also a ski mountaineering podium in world championships and in the last years she has started training for road achieving 33:03, 1:13 and 2:31.

Kiwi Ruth Croft won Golden Trail Series in 2018 and win some long races as Templiers. In 2019 she run 2:34 marathon. American Clare Gallagher had a trck & field career before going to the trails.

Athletes who has been taking the trails after a track career:

Spaniard Pablo Villalobos (1:49, 3:40, 13:23, 28:22, 1:03:15, 1:12:21) did a classical track & field carreer and after PB his marathon in 2011 he started to do some mountain races.

Fellow spanish runner Chema Martinez, (13:11, 27:30, 1:02:36, 2:08:09) was european champion in 10000m in 2002, and 2nd in the marathon European Championship in 2010, after retiring from the athletics he did some trail and stage races as Marathon des Sables where he finish 4th in 2016.

Fun Facts

Fabian Roncero (13:22, 27:14, 59:52, 2:07) was at it’s best during the begining of the 2000’s, achieving European records. In 2008 he run Zegama Aizkorri and other mountain races, but without good results.

Stoltzekleiven opp is a popular uphill race in Bergen, with only 900 meters of distance and 300m of elevation. Ingebrigtsen brothers has been participating in some editions, with a best time of 9:32 for Henrik and 9:14 for Jakob and 9:55 for Filip (record brom Thorbjørn Ludvigsen is 7:54)

Jakob Ingebrigtsen