Leading ultra-runners descend on Taiwan as Asia stages the IAU World 24-Hour Championships for the first time
This weekend (Dec 1-2) sees the eagerly awaited eighth edition of the IAU World 24-Hour Championships, writes Adrian Stott.
Due to the COVID pandemic, the World 24-Hour Championships, which generally alternate every two years with continental events, have not been held since 2019, when they took place in Albi, France. There has been one European championship in that time, in Verona, Italy, last October.
The 24-hour championships have historically produced excellent performances which shape annual and all-time rankings. This weekend’s field in Taiwan is no exception and one of the strongest ever assembled for a world 24-hour event.
Both of the champions from 2019, Camille Herron of the United States and Alexander Sorokin of Lithuania, are in the field.
Herron broke the existing world 24-hour record in that 2019 race. Her mark of 270.116km (167.842 miles) for the women still stands.
Sorokin’s distance from Albi in 2019 was 278.972km (173.345 miles) which, at the time, ranked him the fourth best 24-hour athlete of all time. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, though.
He improved Yiannis Kouros’s legendary world record in 2022, recording 309.399km (192.251 miles) at Panience, Poland, and increased that again when winning the European title in Verona to record 319.614km (198.598 miles), narrowly missing the 200-mile barrier.
The standard of 24-hour running, both in men and women, has risen dramatically in the last few years.
While Sorokin will start a clear favourite in the men’s race, he will have the silver and bronze medalists from Verona last year for company. Silver medalist Andrzej Piotrowski, from Poland, in recording 301.858km (187.565 miles) became only the third man in history to run over 300km in a 24-hour race.
The bronze medallist in Verona, Marco Visiniti, from Italy, like Piotrowski, also broke his national record when recording a distance of 288.437km (179.226 miles). They will again both be a contenders for the podium.
A dark horse could be the only Greek runner in the race, Fotis Zisimopoulos. He won the Spartathlon, the famous 245km race in Greece, for the third time this year, breaking Kouros’ long-standing record and becoming the first runner to go under 20 hours on the course. He has run one 24-hour race previously, at Barcelona in 2022. He recorded a fast 100-mile split of 12 hours 13 minutes, before fading a little in the latter stages to record 236.000km. Time will tell if he has learned from that and can pace himself better to compete with those who have learned the art of racing 24 hours.
Robbie Britton (Adrian Stott)
The British men have a strong team led by Robbie Britton and Dan Lawson. Lawson, the European champion from 2016, set a PB last year in Verona with a distance of 273.003km. Britton, the bronze medallist back in 2015 at the World Championships in Turin, ran his best 24-hour race yet earlier this year to break Dave Dowdle’s long-standing British record, running 277.439km.
They will be backed up by Paul Maskell and Dan Hawkins, both top 10 finishers at Verona last year, along with Damian Carr and Alex Whearity. If they all run to form, they could well challenge for the team medals. Teams from Japan, USA, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden and Poland will also be strong contenders.
Camille Herron (Sri Chinmoy AC)
Herron, who, like Zisimopoulos, set a course record in the Spartathlon in September, looks like a clear favourite on paper. Among her main challengers will be the Polish duo of Patrycja Bereznowska and Aleksandra Niwinska. Bereznowska, a former world champion herself and previous world record- holder before Herron, has achieved several podium places in international 24-hour races and, with Niwinska, helped Poland to the team title in Verona.
Herron’s USA team-mates Marisa Lizak and Jennifer Holman should spearhead a strong team challenge, along with the Poles and the Japanese, who often have their athletes peaking for championships.
The British team challenge is led by GB 100-mile record holder Sam Amend and Sophie Powers, who won the Crawley 24-hour event in April with 235.739km. They will be joined by Eloise Eccles and Jen Coleman, both members of the GB team that finished fourth in last September’s European Championships.
The race will be held on a 2km loop and starts at 10am local time (2am in the UK) on Friday December 1.
Live tracking and streaming links from the IAU website
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