Jim Walmsley missed the 100K world record by just 11 seconds at the Hoka Project Carbon X 2 race, completing the distance in 6:09:25.
The successful ultramarathoner shattered the American record of 6:27:44, previously held by Max King, and set a PR at the distance.
After more than six hours of running, Jim Walmsley crossed the finish line 11 seconds short of his ultimate goal—the world record in the 100K.
At the Hoka Project Carbon X 2 100K race on January 23, held in Chandler, Arizona, Walmsley ran 6:09:25, shattering the American record of 6:27:44, set by Max King in 2014. But the world record (6:09:14, set by Nao Kazami in 2018) continues to elude him.
'Definitely feels like one of the more special runs I’ve had,' Walmsley said, in his post-race interview. 'Really felt like I got everything out of myself today, dug real deep, and fought all the way to the line. I don’t feel like I gave up, but it was tough to see the seconds tick by. It’s a little bittersweet, but definitely awarded with an American record today, and those don’t come very often. I don’t get to do things like this in my home state very often, so it’s extremely positive. A 45-minute PR. It was a pretty amazing day.'
Nineteen men and women were chasing national and world records in the 100K distance in Saturday’s race. Walsmley was the men’s favourite to set both the world record and the American record, while Camille Herron was favoured for the women. Herron was forced to drop out of the women’s race with a hip injury.
Walmsley started the race in a pack with five other runners, running conservatively to keep his legs fresh. But the other four runners faded behind him, leaving Walmsley to chase the record alone. His pacing picked up over the final 30K, as he raced the clock with everything he had.
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Around the 3:30 mark in the race, Walmsley clipped his left shoulder on a course sign, and he was visibly bleeding for the next two and a half hours. At water stops, he’d fuel and treat his wound as best he could while keeping his stride.
The race came down to the final 10K, as Walmsley needed to run 37:58 or faster over the final miles. Those watching the race on the live stream could see the fatigue and pain set in over that final stretch. He let out a loud 'C’mon, Jim' scream with a little more than 5K to go, fighting the clock with everything he had.
As he entered the drag strip to the finish, he had just over a minute to cover the final hundreds of meters. He got on his toes, repeatedly checked his watch, and ran as hard as he could to beat the clock that was now in his sights. Ultimately, he watched the clock tick past 6:09:14, finishing 11 seconds later.
'We’ll have to try it again,' Walmsley said in his post-race interview. 'We’re in the right ballpark and on the right track and we have a shoe to compete with this and we’re knocking on the door. I don’t think I’m done with the 100K. Fortunately, unfortunately, there’s likely another one down the road.'
The remainder of Walmsley’s year is uncertain, because of the pandemic. He told Runner’s World before the race that he’s looking at first are the Comrades Marathon and the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. In the near future, he’s hoping to do the Black Canyon 100K three weeks from this weekend on February 13.
The Flagstaff, Arizona, native wasn’t the only runner with a notable day out on the course. Rajpaul Pannu took second in the men’s 100K in his first-ever attempt at the distance. Pannu is a math teacher in addition to being a pro runner who finished 63rd at the Olympic Marathon Trials in February 2020.
In the women’s race, the United Kingdom’s Carla Molinaro and the United States’s Camille Herron led for the first half of the race before France’s Audrey Tanguy slowly made her way past both runners early in the second half of the race. After that, Herron was forced to drop out after six of nine laps due to a hip injury.
Tanguy, the reigning and two-time champion of the Ultra-Trail Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (TDS), captured the lead and ran away with the race for the win in 7:40:35, unofficially.
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