6 questions after Hardrock
By Henry Howard
Just three weeks after Western States, the Hardrock 100 returned after a two-year hiatus. The challenging race in the San Juan Mountains had dozens of storylines beforehand. And after Francois D’haene took first place overall and Sabrina Stanley defended her title from 2018, there were plenty of questions that arose.
Is Francois D’haene eyeing redemption at Western States? The Frenchman’s debut at Hardrock could not have gone better for him. He topped Kilian Jornet’s overall course record by nearly an hour, by running 21:45:51 compared with the previous fastest time of 22:41:33 in 2014. D’haene has three wins at UTMB and four victories at Diagonale des Fous (Reunion Island). However, he does not have a cougar. At Western States, he was second to Jim Walmsley in 2018, which followed a 14th-place finish in 2015 and a did not start the following year. Will D’haene look to add a victory at Western to his resume in 2022 or later? (Here are five things we learned at Western States.)
Who will emerge victorious at UTMB this year? Speaking of Walmsley, he will make his third try at UTMB next month (one DNF and one fifth-place finish) and D’haene is registered as well. (Walmsley actually paced D’haene at Hardrock.) The race has the makings of a showdown of two of the sport’s top stars. They will be among the favorites in a highly competitive field. Stay tuned.
Will Sabrina Stanley get respect from Ultra Runner of the Year voters now? In 2019, she finished fifth in the voting, even though she won HURT 100, Never Summer, Diagonale des Fous, Cruel Jewel and Fragrance Lake. Some judges believed that Stanley needed to succeed against tougher competition. Well, beating Courtney Dauwalter, holding off Hardrock specialist Darcy Piceu and finishing with the second-fastest women’s time ever should resonate with voters this year. The year is barely way off over but Stanley has already picked up a significant, meaningful victory. (Related: Sabrina Stanley is a competitor since birth.)
Will Darcy Piceu keep her Hardrock streak? A model of consistency, Piceu has finished first or second in all eight of her Hardrock races. During a pre-race interview with iRunFar she hinted at returning two more times as a runner, “I’m kind of adopting Roch Horton’s philosophy of trying to run it 10 years and then give back for 10 years. I hope I can do that.” (Related Darcy Piceu reflects on a personal grand slam.)
How frequently will iRunFar keep up its tremendous live coverage? Weekends may never be the same again during the most prestigious ultras. iRunFar was praised for its excellent coverage during Western States, and it kept followers informed throughout Hardrock, even without the live commentary. And the team even did so while iRunFar managing editor Meghan Hicks was crushing the race, finishing on the podium for the women in third place.
What will the gender breakdown be at Hardrock 2022? In the days leading up to the race, Hardrock announced that starting with next year’s race it would refine its complicated entrant system to allow more female runners in. Simply put, if 25 percent those entering are women, then 25 percent of those starting the race would be women. Had that rule been in place this year, that would have meant a likely increase from the 16 women in the race.
It’s a start. But I’d like to see Hardrock and other races do more to encourage participation among women.