Most Influential Ultrapeople in the US

Everyone’s got their own opinions on the definition of “influence.” When was someone influential? Why were they influential, who did they influence, and are they still relevant?  Earlier this week, Ultra168 posted a list of their “Top 25 Most Influential” which was pretty good, but I’ll take a different approach and submit my own—not based on opinion, but rather clicks and metrics.

For the sake of this post, “influence” will be defined as “who’s getting clicked on the most over the past few years.”

If you’ve followed URP for any length of time, you know the topics, guests, and subjects vary, from old school veterans (Horton, Bozanich, Trason, Medinger) to the new crowd (Sage, Vargo, Dannis, Harrison.) With over 150 podcasts spread out over 3.5 years and five-days-a-week Daily News, the site is seeing a quarter million combined downloads and pageviews each month–enough for what I consider to be a fair sampling of our community. Traffic comes from all over the country (and about 12% international), with approximately 3/4 of you having run an ultra and the rest still in training. Readership (and clicks) varies from my mom to many elites. My focus with the site is on US runners and races, and the results reflect such. I know there are myriad issues with my sampling, but to hell with it, it’s my site and I get to dictate what’s real science.  🙂

Armed with a sophmoric understanding of WordPress and Google metrics, I’ve compiled a list of who’s clicked on the most, searched for the most, and which podcasts are downloaded the most frequently. Of course a reasonable argument is that popularity isn’t synonymous with influence, but for the sake of this list, I’ll figure that if readers and listeners are clicking on someone’s name, they’re interested (and therefore infleuenced) by what they have to say. Short of diving into a deep analysis, these are the trends I see, and put in no particular order.

So again, this list isn’t my opinion….it’s actually yours.

Rob Krar and his beard

Whether it’s a post, written interview, or podcast, we all seem to eat up information on everyone’s favorite bearded pharmacist-turned-ultra stud.  He gives honest and forthright interviews and shows that a top athlete can maintain a full time job and wife and still get it done. Interviews here and here.

Jenn Sheltonimage

URP’s most searched-for runner.  A lot of the intrigue may come from her looks and her party girl persona, but Jenn is also an accomplished ultrarunner who keeps people guessing. Interviews here and here.

David Horton

David Horton exemplifies old school better than almost anyone.  His list of runs is mind-boggling, his races are legendary, and he teaches ultrarunning for pete’s sake.  Best yet, Dr. Horton has opinions on the sport and doesn’t shy away from sharing them. Interview here.

WS Board and Craig Thornley

Western States 100 continues to hold a revered place in the MUT world, and for good reason. The Board has a healthy balance between old and new, and with Thornley as RD, it’ll likely stay at the top for awhile. It seems all Western States news is lapped up eagerly by readers from around the world.  LB Interview here.

halwiki_400x400Hal Koerner

Who doesn’t love Hal? From Brian Morrison’s ode to Hal from ’09 to his long list of admirers today, Hal is another great ambassador for the sport and is always a threat on the trails.  He’s got funky style, a wife and kid, a cool running store, a book, and a list of accomplishments many pages long.  When Hal talks, people listen. Interviews here and here.

Kilian Jornet

If I interviewed Kilian about his sock drawer, you’d listen. If he wrote a post in Swahili about finger puppet shows, you’d click on it and read it.  Though he remains a bit distant due to language and species differences (I’m convinced of it), he’s currently the best in the world and holds a lot of ellie-204x300influence.

Ellie Greenwood

Ellie’s done things in the sport that “would never be done” and all with a huge smile on her face. Interviews with her, posts by her, and races she enters are all influential to our tribe. Interviews here and here.

Ian Corless/TalkUltra

The podcasts are ultra-long, but there’s no denying that Ian gets some great shots, scoops, and some informative interviews from the international MUT crowd.  He consistently puts out solid work week after week and you all click on it a lot.  Site here.

Karl MeltzerWestern States 2014 - Stephanie Deveau

The winningest hundred miler of all time, Karl never shies away from stating his opinion or beating his chest. Some people love him, some not so much, but there’s no doubt that the Speedgoat and his eponymous race has a huge amount of influence in the sport.  Doubt him? I dare you. Interviews here and here.

Dean Karnazes

Let’s be honest. Likely 50% of MUT runners wouldn’t be running today if it weren’t for Dean K.  Yeah, he’s a marketing machine and his best-selling book could best be described as “fictionalized”, but he’s done a tremendous amount for the sport.  Ask your neighbor to name an ultrarunner, and they’ll probably name Dean. That’s influence. Interview here.

IMG_1282Dakota Jones

“Young Money” is a bit of strange one. Doesn’t race much, and doesn’t write much, but when he does, it’s freaking amazing. One of the few Americans to beat Kilian in the mountains, Dakota writes some hilariously descriptive and revealing pieces about what it’s like being him. His report from the midpack is a must-read. Here’s our interview with him.

Chris McDougall and Born to Run

Another big one.  Sure, Vibrams have gone the way of Furbies, but Chris (and everyone from the book) played a large role in shaping the MUT world for a few years and still influence the sport. I’ve spoken with Scott, Jenn, Luis, Chris, and Ted, and all are still significant characters in this wacky world of ours.

Ann Trason

Ann helped set the bar for what women could do in this sport, and she set it so high that many of her records still stand. She’s famously won Western States a record 14 times, narrowly missing an outright win on a few occasions.  After a lengthy absence from public life, Ann is rejoining the tribe and if her podcasts and appearances are any indication, her influence has not waned one single bit.

Anton Krupickaself_propelled

Like Kilian, we’re always anxious to learn more about Anton. Though he hasn’t won a major 100 in five plus years, Anton is still a hugely influential athlete in this sport. His name and “hipster Jesus” image appear on ads from New Balance, Buff, and Ultimate Direction, and Anton is one of the few athletes in the world who seem to make a living as an MUT ambassador.  Anton also played a major role in designing minimalist trail shoes and hydration vests that changed the direction of the industry.   That’s influence. Interviews here and here.

Bryon Powell/iRunFar

There’s no denying IRF is the leader in overall race previews and information.  While the focus of the site is on elites, Bryon and company put out some quality material for all.  Interview here.

tim-olson-19Tim Olson

Everyone’s favorite long-haired-ex-addict-turned-ultragod-family-man Tim Olson has a great story that people want to hear. Whether it’s posting about travel, family, diet, or training, Tim wields a lot of influence in the sport and tears it up on the trails. Interview here.

Sage Canaday

When Sage entered the scene, he was one of the first modern-day roadies to try his meddle on the trails.  An ex Brooks/Hanson runner, Sage came into running with a stout resume, a solid marketing goal, and hasummitofBears racked up some killer wins in the past few years.  He regularly posts training videos and has a solid understanding of training and coaching. Interviews here and here.

Scott Jurek

Really one of the first ultra celebrities, Scott had and continues to have a huge influence on the sport, whether it be from books on healthy eating or product design, he has an unprecedented and likely never-to-be-matched seven consecutive wins at Western.  I spoke with Scott off the record a few months ago, and he’s got some big plans for 2015. Stay tuned. Interview here.

…and finally, all of you.

Thanks to all of you for listening, clicking, and having enough interest in this sport to check out the podcasts and read the URP Daily News.  A bit self-serving, sure, the Daily News has become a pretty influential page in the MUT world, and it wouldn’t be anything if it weren’t for you. The episodes are heard more than some radio stations and I’m constantly amazed at how many people make the DN part of their daily routine.  URP is only influential because you all continue to support it, and I appreciate the heck out of it. Thank You.

  • So who are you surprised didn’t make the list?
  • Who shocked you by making the list?
  • What products/things/races should be included? HOKA, MAP, and “hydration vest” have been searched more than many people. What else?
  • Objectively, which sites should be listed?



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