On Saturday October 8th at seven in the morning under the cover of Karl the Fog the Ruth Anderson Memorial Endurance run kicked off around Lake Merced in San Francisco’s Sunset District. The race dates back to 1986 is named for ultrarunning pioneer Ruth Anderson who was known for breaking barriers and raced ultras late into her 70’s. While the race is no stranger to fast times, utilizing a 4.5 mile paved loop on a ratified course, an incredible performance was underway in the 35th edition of the event. CJ Albertson was going to break the any surface 50-kilometer world record, for a second time.
“Everyone was captivated by Berlin [Marathon] – lining the streets unable to actually see the performances unfold. And here we are at this small event – Berlin came to us – we got to witness a seminal human achievement.” explained Co-RD Rajeev Patel, “As we walked back to the start/finish line area he came by us again and we took a moment to turn back and watch him. His head was still, his arms didn’t not cross midline, his legs were coming up behind him and then landing perfectly parallel with each step… he was poetry in motion.”
2 hours 38minutes and 43seconds after the gun went off CJ Albertson reclaimed his world record taking nearly 90-seconds off the time set by South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka in March of this year. By all accounts Albertson’s run went off without a hitch, his performance was described as unlabored – never a grimace on his face all while averaging 5:03 minute per mile pace. A performance he called in advance of the race in an interview with Ultra Running Magazine. Listening back to tape from a quick post-race interview you can hear that same assuredness in his reflection of the day, “I guess I was pretty confident going out 5 minutes faster than world record pace…” followed by laughter and a healthy “hell yeah!” from photographer Tony DiPasquale.
No pacers, on an open course, with only a lead bike to alert runners and walkers of his quick approach, the professional runner for Brooks Running and collegiate coach for Clovis Community College time trialed a day most can only dream of… but for Albertson it was just another brick in the foundation of some very big goals. The 50-kilometer effort he put forward on Saturday was conveniently timed eight weeks away from the Valencia Marathon where he hopes to run high a 2:07 or low 2:08. “You have to take the opportunity presented to you” he explained, that’s where the motivation lies and where he finds momentum. When asked how it felt to have the record back CJ got out a “Good I guess!” through calm modest laughter, “You know, it doesn’t feel like much right now – it’s just me and like 20 people out here, but it’s kind of just one day – just one day in my build.” While this might have only been one day in a build up towards an eventual bid for a spot on the 2024 US Olympic Marathon team, I suspect this will not be the last time we see Albertson lay down an incredibly fast 50-kilometer time. Rumor has it sub 2:30 isn’t out of the question.