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6 takeaways from Hardrock

By Henry Howard

Two new overall course records were set at the Hardrock 100 over the weekend by two legends in the ultra running world.

On the men’s side, Kilian Jornet made a triumphant return, taking back his record from last year’s champion Francois D’haene. It was his fifth victory in Hardrock in five tries.

On the women’s side, Courtney Dauwalter lowered the women’s mark considerably, one year after she DNF’s during her first attempt at the challenging race in the San Juan Mountains.

Here are six quick takeaways from this year’s race:

1. He’s back: It’s Jornet’s ultra world and we’re all just living in it. He had not run Hardrock since 2017. No matter. Not only did Jornet win it again this year, he set the overall course record.

Just like in 2017, he is on the start list of UTMB, just over a month from now. Five years ago, he finished second. Will he be able to get a win this year, as he did in 2008, 2009 and 2011? With Jim Walmsley also racing, it should be quite the spectacle.

2. Smiling’s my favorite: Perhaps no elite athlete smiles as broadly or appears to be having as much fun as Dauwalter as she successfully crosses finish lines.

Whether she is approaching the famed rock to kiss at Hardrock or soaking in the fan-frenzied atmosphere at the end of UTMB, Dauwalter exudes pure joy. She won’t return to UTMB to defend her championship, but we look forward to seeing her race again sometime soon.

3. Up next for D’Haene: After his course record last year, D’Haene retreated to second this year in a stout time. Like Dauwalter, he will not be defending his title at UTMB either. He will, however, be spending time training with Walmsley as the three-time Western States champion aims to be the first American male to win UTMB.

What’s next for D’Haene? It’s unclear but one has to wonder if he’d want to take a crack at retaking the record at Hardrock.

4. Course records falling: As the pandemic canceled nearly all races in the heart of the 2020 season, many believed that break would allow the elites athletes to come back faster and stronger. As records have fallen at Hardrock, Western States and elsewhere, the prediction appears to be true.

But is it as simple as giving the elites a reprieve from big race efforts? Or are there other reasons at play? Among the other possibilities: the advances in running shoes, elites embracing cross-training, and science playing crucial roles in training, recovery and more. Whatever the reason(s), let’s hope the records continue to be crushed.

5. Sabrina Stanley’s shot heard ‘round the ultra world: A week before the race, Stanley announced she would not be defending her back-to-back victories in a Facebook post that called out Hardrock. It read, in part:

“Where do non-binary people go in the lottery? When will women be allowed 50% of the field regardless of how many apply? Maybe women aren't applying because they have been neglected since the start of the event. Women deserve more than the small offering the rules currently allow. The community of runners hoping to run the event some day deserve better, the San Juan Mountains deserve better.”

I have been a fan of Stanley's for a long time. She raises some good points here. But if enacting change was really the goal, a social media blast is not the way to create it. 6. Sportsmanship rules: It was a three-man race for much of the 100 miles. Jornet finished first, D’Haene in second and Dakota Jones took an impressive third place. After he completed the race, iRunFar’s coverage included a video of the three competitors hanging out afterward.

While the sport is changing, one thing remains certain: from the elites to the back-of-the-packers, there is boundless camaraderie, unrelenting compassion, bountiful joy and endless support for others that is unmatched in any other sport.


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