Trail and ultra running fans have been treated to a host of incredible performances over the last 10 years. As the decade comes to a close, we look at the 20 top runners from 2010 to 2020. There’s a mass of great performances to pick from, but this is for those who have been consistent for years, taking top spots multiple times at the most competitive races, often dominating one race in particular or in other cases, proving their versatility across a range of terrains.
Who knows what the next decade will bring? With a strong showing in the last two years from Chinese athletes, perhaps it will be the decade of the East. For now, it’s a trip down nostalgia lane.
20. Darcy Piceu Africa
The American runner holds course records for the Bighorn 100 in Wyoming and the Bear 100 in Utah, but what really sets her apart is her dominance of one of the most competitive and toughest races – the Hardrock 100. Africa won it in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
19. Ivan Cudin
In the world of panoramic YouTube videos of mountain runners, it’s easy to forget that road ultras are a part of our sport too. One of the most famous, and in many ways original, races is the Spartathlon. It is 246km long, following the route Pheidippides is said to have ran from Athens to Sparta before the battle of Marathon. The decade was kicked off by back to back Spartathlon wins by Italian Cudin in 2010 and 2011, and he won again in 2014. He finished third in 2013.
18. Szilvia Lubics
Szilvia Lubics of Hungary matches Cudin, also racking up three Spartathlon titles in 2011, 2013 and 2014 and third places in 2012 and 2015.
She has compounded her impressive races with other high finishes, like fourth place at the 217km Badwater race in the US.
17. Lucy Wambui Murigi
The Sierre Zinal is one of the most famous and hotly contested short trail races of the year.
It is 31km through the Swiss Alps and Kenyan runner Murigi has claimed the title three times, in 2015, 2017 and 2018, cementing her place among the best trail runners of the decade.
16. Pete Kostelnick
Badwater is a brutal 135-mile (217km) race, heading through Death Valley in Nevada, so named for its unrelenting heat. The American won it twice, 2015 and 2016, setting the course record on the latter (which has since been beaten by Yoshihiko Ishikawa).
But it’s Kostelnick’s record for crossing the US from coast to coast in 42 days, six hours and 30 minutes, set in 2016, that earns him a place on the list. Few runners can compete in a hotly contested race and cross a continent in record time in the same year. He was also the first person to run from Alaska to Florida in 2018 too.
15. Jared Campbell
The 160km Barkley Marathon in Tennessee has captured the imagination of the world, beyond the ultra running scene, with its Netflix documentary The race that eats its young. First run in 1986, it was not until 1995 that anyone actually finished. It took another six years to get the second finisher.
American Campbell has racked up three finishes – 2012, 2014 and 2016 – and is still the only person to finish three times. Honourable mention to Brett Maune, who finished in 2011 and 2012, the first person to finish twice.
14. Rory Bosio
The first of many Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) winners on this list. The famous 171km race in Chamonix attracts the best runners in the world.
A single win is a career-defining moment, but two, as Bosio did in 2013 and 2014, marks her out as an exception. The American earned her place on the list by winning the competitive 120km Lavaredo Ultra-Trail in Italy in 2014 as well.
13. Francesca Canepa
The sport of ultra running is not kind to the body and longevity at the top is a rare thing. Canepa is on the list because her achievements span the decade.
In 2012, she took gold at 120km Lavaredo, and then six years later the Italian took gold at the UTMB. In between, she racked up a host of wins at competitive races like the HK100, Eiger Ultra Trail and Mozart 100. She closed off the decade with a win at the 130km Oman by UTMB race in November 2019.
12. Sumie Inagaki
The Japanese runner was already making her mark in the 2000s, but kicked off this decade by setting the women’s 48-hour run world record, at 397km in 2010.
She racked up two titles at Badwater, in 2011 and 2012.
11. Bongmusa Mthembu
There is no other ultramarathon that attracts more people than the 89km Comrades in South Africa. In 2019, it was capped at 25,000 runners.
The South African took the honours, in 2014, 2017 and 2018.
11. Elena Nurgalieva
The Russian runner dominated the decade’s Comrades list, winning in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Incredibly, but not relevant to this decade’s honours, she also won four times in the previous decade (2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008).
She also finished second and third in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
9. Camille Herron
The American hit the headlines in 2019 for setting the 24-hour run world record at a mammoth 270km, breaking her own 262km record set in 2018.
She was the first person to win the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) 50km, 100km and 24 hour World Championships. Herron was named IAU International Athlete of the Year in 2015 and 2018. Herron was also UltraRunning Magazine’s UltraRunner of the year in 2017. She won Comrades in 2017 too.
8. Jim Walmsley
The American speedster won UltraRunning Magazine’s UltraRunner of the year three years in a row, 2016, 2017 and 2018. But it looked like for all the wins he was racking up, Walmsley might struggle claim one of the big titles, having blown up on the Western States 100 in California two years in a row in 2016 and 2017.
He lived up to his potential by setting the Western States record in 2018. He placed himself among the best by breaking his own record in 2019, getting so close to the 14-hour barrier that it has changed what runners think is possible on the course. He also set the 50-mile world record.
7. François D’Haene
The French runner is a three-time winner of the UTMB, 2012, 2014 and 2017. In the 2017 race, the start line was packed with talent and multiple former winners, which D’Haene dispatched by moving from third to first around halfway.
He finished second in the Western States in 2018, won the HK100 in 2016 and won the Ultra Trail Mont Fuji in 2014.
6. Rachid El Morabity
Winning a race three times over a decade, as many runners on this list have done, is a testament to an incredible level of consistency.
Moroccan El Morabity has earned his place among the decades best by winning the famous 250km multi-day Marathon des Sables an incredible seven times, first in 2011 and then from 2014 to 2019.
5. Lizzy Hawker
The Briton won the UTMB in 2010, 2011 and 2012 (having already won twice the decade before). Hawker set the now-broken 24-hour running world record, covering 246km in 2011. She was named one of the National Geographic Adventurers of the Year in 2014.
She now is race director for the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa in Italy.
4. Ellie Greenwood
British runner Greenwood started the decade with a bang, winning the 100km World Championships in 2010 and the Western States 100 in 2011 and then again in 2012, setting the record on the latter run.
In 2012, she also won the UTMB’s 100km CCC. She won the 100km World Championships again in 2014 and won Comrades the same year. She was named UltraRunning Magazine’s UltraRunner of the year three times, in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
3. Courtney Dauwalter
Dauwalter is surely one the best ultra runners in the world at the moment, the American proving herself a class above by winning the 2019 UTMB by an hour. She won the Western States in 2018.
in 2018, she came second in Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra, where runners keep running the same 6km loop, starting the loop every hour, until there is one person left. She ran for 67 hours, covering 449km. She won the Moab 240 in 2017, beating all the men. The next closest competitor was a mind-boggling 10 hours behind her.
2. Xavier Thevenard
In between winning the UTMB in 2013, 2015 and 2018, the Frenchman became the only runner to win all the different races at the UTMB week – the 100km CCC (2010), the 120km TDS (2014) and the 55km OCC (2016).
He proved himself more than a one-trick pony, and among the best of the decade.
1. Kilian Jornet
Looking at the list of wins in the last 10 years, it’s hard to know how the Spaniard finds time to run this many races. He won the UTMB in 2011 (having already won it twice the decade before). He won Hardrock 100 four times (2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017), setting the course record in 2015 and winning with a dislocated shoulder in 2017.
He won the 31km Sierre Zinal six times (2010, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019), setting the record on his latest win and becoming the person with the most Sierre Zinal wins, seven, having also won in 2009.
He won the Western States in 2011.
Jornet won the incredibly competitive 42km Zegama-Aizkorri in Spain seven times (2010 to 2014, 2016 and 2019), taking his tally to nine, with two wins in the 2000s.
He also set the record on the 106km Bob Graham Round in England in 2018, beating Billy Bland’s time that had stood for 36 years. In between all of these incredible results, there is a truck load of other wins and records at the likes of the Marathon du Mont Blanc, Trofeo Kima in Italy and Pikes Peak Marathon in the US.
Jornet is a once-in-a generation specimen.