Ryan Sandes runs in Chamonix, France on July 26th, 2016.
© Kelvin Trautman/Red Bull Content Pool
Ultrarunning

12 of the best male ultrarunners on the planet

Forget marathons, ultrarunning is the ultimate distance discipline – and these 12 elite athletes are at the very top of the game.
Written by Will Gray
9 min readUpdated on
It takes hard work, passion and natural talent to reach the elite in the world of ultrarunning. Officially defined as any race longer than a marathon, races are typically on trails ranging from 50 to 100 miles, with flagship events including the Western States 100, the Hardrock 100 and the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc.
So what takes a runner from a good midfielder to a regular podium placer? “After a while, simply logging loads of miles won't be enough for real progress,” explained British ultrarunner Damian Hall. “You need to train smart, rest well and above all you need a passion for hilly places.”
Just like any elite sport, there is an acknowledged circuit in ultrarunning, and the top athletes often cross paths at the big events – but while they remain super competitive, it’s most often a friendly rivalry.
Hall added: “I don't think I’ve ever found a trail ultrarunner I didn't like. Camaraderie usually trumps competition, too, with people helping you out when you’re in trouble.”
There is no real definitive list but here are some of the top competitors:
01

Ryan Sandes

Ryan Sandes training for the Tarawera Ultra Marathon in Rotorua

Ryan Sandes training for the Tarawera Ultra Marathon in Rotorua

© Graeme Murray/Red Bull Content Pool

  • Born: March 10, 1982
  • Nationality: South African
Ryan Sandes likes to go big. A decade ago he became the first to win all 4Deserts races and in 2018, alongside Ryno Griesel, he set the fastest known time on the ‘holy grail’ of mountain runs, the 1,435km Great Himalayan Trail.

2 min

Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel finish the GHT

Running a total of 1,504 km in a total of 25 days 4 hours and 24 minutes Ryan and Ryno set new Fastest Known Time record on the Great Himalaya Trail.

His first success in a ‘classic’ ultra came in the Leadville 100 in 2011 when he set the third fastest time on his first 100-miler. He has since become the first to win on every continent, with victories including Western States 100, the TransGranCanaria (twice) and the Patagonian International Marathon.
“If you love what you do, it is easy to be successful. I like setting myself challenging goals and not stopping until I achieve them. I suppose you could call me stubborn determined – I don’t stop until I achieve me goal.”
02

Kilian Jornet

Kílian Jornet racing at the Ultra Pirineu endurance running race in Baga, Spain.

A love of running and the opportunities it gives him drives Jornet

© Oriol Batista

Ultras are just warm ups for this incredible mountain athlete. He’s won the biggest trail runs going, but also holds fastest known times for ascent and descent on the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Denali and Everest.
The son of a mountain guide, he grew up in a 2,000m-high hut and was a sky running word champion before hitting longer trails. His list of ultra victories includes three UTMBs, four Hardrock 100s and one Western States 100. He also holds the fastest known time on England’s famous Bob Graham Round.
“I like being able to be on the mountain every day. I like to run long and short races, vertical kilometers, mountain ski races, crossings, summits, to chain mountains... all bring me different and enriching things.”
03

Pau Capell

  • Born: September 10, 1991
  • Nationality: Spanish
  • Insta: @PauCapell
Capell has been top of the Ultra Trail World Tour rankings for the last two years and took a stunning near start-to-finish victory in the UTMB in 2019.
He only started running in 2013 to recover from a bad football injury. Just one year later, he won the Ultra Sierra Nevada and Ultra Trail Mallorca and since has won the Ultra Trail Australia, the Eiger Ultra, the Patagonia Run, the Mozart 100 and the last three TransGranCanaria races.
“Every race is different, so the strategy is different in every race. My motivation is always the same: enjoy training and do my best when I am competing. You need to enjoy it to be able to achieve 100 percent.”
04

Jim Walmsley

Walmsley is one of the hottest names in trail running

Walmsley is one of the hottest names in trail running

© HOKA

This four-time Ultrarunner of the Year has won the last two Western States 100 races and also holds the unofficial 50-mile run world record.
Walmsley learned to race at a military academy and won three JFK 50s, two Lake Sonoma 50s, the Tawawera Ultra and Gorge Falls 100k before setting records in the Western States two years running. He ran the fastest Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim in 2016, hailed as ‘one of the greatest running records ever’.
“You have to dream big. If you can’t, if you don’t see yourself reaching those goals, you’re never going to do it. Whether you’re a person that talks about it or not, you have to believe in yourself.”
05

Xavier Thevenard

Xavier Thevenard crossing the line at the 2013 UTMB.

Xavier Thevenard at the 2013 UTMB

© Flickr CC/Peter Fredricson

Thevenard is the only person to achieve the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Grand Slam, winning all four categories including three main race victories.
His first win came on the 99km CCC in 2010 at his first attempt. Three years later he triumphed in the 170km flagship UTMB, winning again in 2015 and 2018 and coming second in 2019. He achieved his ‘Slam’ winning the 119km OCC in 2014 and the 55km CCC in 2016. He also won the 2019 Mt. Fuji ultra.
“In ultra, the fundamental values ​​are management and patience. Whatever the issue, the conditions or the unexpected, it is all about staying calm and focused. Patience is the key.”
06

Francois D'Haene

François D'haene during his record run in Corsica

François D'haene during his record run in Corsica

© Damien Rosso/Red Bull Content Pool

This three-time UTMB winner has raced for more than 6,000km and mixes his running with other passion...as a Beaujolais wine producer.
He grew up in the northern Alps and won his first UTMB in 2012, adding two more wins in 2014 and 2017. He has also won three Grand Raids on Réunion (also known as Diagonale des Fous). Beyond ultras, he has the fastest known time on Corsica’s GR20 and the John Muir Trail in California.
“I keep my motivation by not doing too many races and taking time to recover from them, scheduling the season very well for just a few goals. It’s important for me to choose races carefully and to know when to stop.”
07

Tom Evans

Tom Evans trains during a photo shoot in Surrey, United Kingdom on October 11, 2018.

Tom Evans running in Surrey, UK

© Ian Corless / Red Bull Content Pool

A former British Army captain, Tom Evans was little known to the ultrarunning world until 2017, but is now one of the world's leading competitors.
He made his mark in the Marathon des Sables in 2017, entering it as a bet a year after taking up running and ending up third, the best European finish ever. He won the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc CCC in 2018 and set a record overseas time at the Western States 100 in his debut 100-miler last year.
“I love racing in extremes as I think it adds complexity and another dynamic into the racing. I also really enjoy preparing specifically for a race. Getting nutrition, acclimatization, your race plan and training right is such a skill.”
08

David Kilgore

David Kilgore poses for a portrait at Coogan's Bluff in New York City, NY, USA on January 22, 2022.

David Kilgore loves pushing his body to the limit

© Joe Hale/Red Bull Content Pool

David Kilgore is a naturally talented athlete that progressed from track and country-cross running in his early days to compete in in more challenging events that pushed his body to the limit.
In 2020, he ran 100 miles in a single day to raise money for charity, and the following year he ran the entire circumference of Manhattan. His most remarkable feat, however, was participating in and winning the World Marathon Challenge. This saw Kilgore and 34 other runners compete in seven marathons in seven days across seven continents.
09

Damian Hall

Damian Hall runs in snowy conditions.

Damian Hall is a record-breaking ultra runner

© Lee Proctor/Inov8

  • Born: November 17, 1975
  • Nationality: English
Hall is a record-breaking ultrarunner whose efforts on the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc were the subject of a film, Underdog. Spoiler: he finished fifth.
He did his first half marathon in 2011, his first ultra a year later, and has since set record times for top UK trails the Paddy Buckley Round, the South West Coast Path and the Cape Wrath Trail. He has done four UTMBs, won the Ice Ultra and was second at the Mozart 100 in 2018 and won the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, RAT and Ultimate Trails 55K last year.
“I’d missed my cousin’s wedding for the UTMB, my dad’s 70th birthday for a B race and I’d neglected my wife and kids more times than I remember. I don’t think I have any non-running friends left. But it all felt worth it.”
10

Ruy Ueda

Ruy Ueda prepares for his race in Tokyo, Japan on September 10, 2017.

Ruy training in Tokyo

© Jason Halayko/Red Bull Content Pool

  • Born: October 3, 1993
  • Nationality: Japanese
  • Insta: @uedaruy
It’s all about maximum attack for this Japanese ultra specialist. Ruy Ueda is one of the top high altitude runners, with success at both short and long distances.
He finished fifth in his first ultra, the Tokyo Shibamata 100k, and made his mark internationally in 2016, winning the Gorge Waterfalls 100k in the US and finishing second in the 101km Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc CCC. Last year he won the Red Bull 400 Sapporo and the Skyrunner World Series.
“Winning is cool, but dominating the race is even better. When I was 19, I tried 100k on the roads. It was amazing, but I was very tired. I get very tired from long races, so I choose shorter races but I also like long races.”
11

Flo Neuschwander

Ultra-runner Flo Neuschwander on the move.

Flo Neuschwander

© Phil Pham/Red Bull Content Pool

Flo Neuschwander runs ultra-distances in record time, even on the treadmill. "For me, the distance or the terrain or whatever doesn't matter," he says. "The main thing is running!"
Apart from racing in Ultrarunning events, Neuschwander has mastered a whole series of incredible self-imposed challenges. These include his 'Running from Laufen to Laufen' project that saw him run an incredible 550km at over 10,000 metres of altitude in seven days, as well as being the proud holder of the 50km and 100km best time world records on a treadmill.
12

Dylan Bowman

Ultrarunner Dylan Bowman runs on Mount Tamalpais in Marin, CA, USA on 18 August, 2016

Dylan Bowman scrambling for the summit on another training run

© Cameron Baird/Red Bull Content Pool

  • Born: March 24, 1986
  • Nationality: American
  • Insta: @dylanbo
Dylan Bowman discovered his running talent after finishing his university lacrosse career and quickly established himself as a top ultra competitor.
He took a year to prepare for his first ultra, the Leadville Trail 100 in 2010, and stunned the field by coming third. A year later he won the San Diego 100 and has since added the Tarawera Ultra (twice), the 100 Australia, the 100 Istria and the Mount Fuji Ultra to his victory list.
“After my first marathon I remember being totally destroyed at the finish and then completely obsessed the next day. As long as you have an intense, deep-rooted desire to finish, you’re golden. You will surprise and impress yourself.”
Bonus! Get to know the name of a new ultrarunning record-breaker: Jasmin Paris.

Part of this story

Ryan Sandes

A record-breaking endurance ace who holds the fastest known time on the Great Himalaya Trail, Ryan Sandes has also won all four of the 4 Deserts events.

South AfricaSouth Africa

Ruy Ueda

Ruy Ueda is a Japanese ultrarunner with an attacking approach that's brought him victory in some of the world's most prestigious high-altitude races.

JapanJapan

Dylan Bowman

Never one to shy away from a challenge, American ultrarunner Dylan Bowman can always be found at the front of the international field.

United StatesUnited States

Tom Evans

United KingdomUnited Kingdom

Florian Neuschwander

German ultrarunner Florian Neuschwander loves nothing more than testing his endurance levels by covering staggering distances on foot.

GermanyGermany

David Kilgore

In the world of endurance sports and ultra-running, American David Kilgore has carved out a reputation as one of the very best.

United StatesUnited States