Moving right along – let’s talk about two athletes who left incredible marks on the 2022 ultrarunning circuit. While neither are newcomers to the trail and ultrarunning scene it felt like 2022 cemented them amongst the greats. While you’re here, make sure you don’t miss out on the Q&A’s for tenth and ninth.
A golden ticket at the Canyons 100-kilometer in 2021 followed up by a second place finish at CCC later that summer turned heads for Abby Hall. What a lot of people missed, was that those podium finishes were the result of a tireless slow burn that the Flagstaff, Arizona based athlete had been doling out into her training for five years. A quiet grind. Leaving her full-time job seems to have paid dividends this year logging what is arguably her best season so far; finishing second at Transgrancanaria, third at CCC (better her time from 2021 by nearly an hour), and first at Transvulcania. Abby will be one of several prominent athletes who are looking to take a step up in distance and make the full loop around the Mont Blanc at UTMB in 2023.
FT: What was your personal highlight from 2022?
AH: This year, I returned to CCC for the third time and took 52 minutes off my previous course-best. Fine tuning my effort at that race to return to the podium, amongst a strong and inspiring field of women is something I’m tremendously proud of.
FT: What was a struggle or something you learned in 2022?
AH: In June, I had a bad fall in the Grand Canyon and split open my knee, which required stitches. In July, I fell again and re-opened the stitches. In August, I ran CCC, my A-goal for the year. With some weeks of limited mobility and an unclear path to my approaching goal, I focused on leveraging as much trust as I could in the training and consistency from the past year leading up to the race. Zooming out to the big picture gave me a larger well to draw confidence from. Moral of the story: sometimes it might be a narrow needle to thread, but it just might work.
FT: What are you looking forward to in 2023?
AH: This year, I’ll be racing my first big loop at UTMB. After three years of testing myself at CCC, I feel ready for the next phase of growth. While I only have two races queued up on my calendar at the moment, a big part of filling my cup is being part of my adidas TERREX teammates’ racing and goals. I’ll be out supporting them at events like Black Canyon, Broken Arrow and Western States. Time with our team always gets me in the right headspace, feeling inspired and ready to rip.
Despite a long history at the top of the Skyrunning circuit, while simultaneously being a regular and dominant feature of the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) scene, the pandemic had seemingly reset peoples’ memory of what Jonathan Albon had accomplished before winning OCC in a tight race over Robbie Simpson in 2021. Earning him the moniker of “the greatest athlete you’ve never heard of.” The talented British athlete who has called Norway home for the past seven years is not slowing down anytime soon. In 2022 Jonathan won the Maxi Marathon, the Marathon du Mont-Blanc, and the Stranda Fjord trail race -the later two both part of the highly competitive Golden Trail World Series. Something that caught our attention, and the voters attention, was that Jonathan has range. Taking a step up in distance since last years OCC, he finished second to his frequent training partner Petter Engdahl in the 2022 edition of CCC (arguably one of the most competitive races of the year). To close out his season Jonathan finished third in the trail marathon distance event at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand. What lays ahead for this runner in 2023? It sounds like we will see more of that range on display with his eyes set on Zegama-Aizkorri, Sierre Zinal and again on CCC.
It’s safe to say that Abby and Jonathan are firmly planted in the memories of the trail and ultrarunning community, and won’t be given dark horse status again anytime soon. The sky is the limit for both of these athletes and we can’t wait to see what their 2023 seasons hold for them on the world’s biggest stages. So who might be in seventh? No spoilers here – check back tomorrow morning to find out!