Plenty of runners are content staying in the bubble of their own training or perhaps the expanded circle of the local running scene in their area.
While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the solitude of your own runs or just focusing on the running community in which you live, it can also be really inspiring and potentially educational to follow the running careers of the best elite and professional runners in the world.
The fastest runners and the top performers in distance races are the epitome of mental and physical grit and performance. They embody an indomitable spirit, relentless determination, and physical prowess that we mere recreational runners can only ever aspire to attain.
Although some of the top marathon runners, such as Eliud Kipchoge and Emily Sisson, are nearly household names, The names of the best ultramarathon runners in the world likely can only roll off the tongues of some of the most avid competitive ultramarathoners in their own right.
However, any runner aspiring to improve their endurance can certainly take a lesson or two from the training and racing of the fastest and best ultramarathon runners in the world.
So, who are the best ultramarathon runners in the world?
Keep reading to learn the names, top performances, and notable characteristics of some of the best ultramarathoners in the world.
The 8 Best Ultramarathon Runners In The World Today
Every year, for at least the past decade or so, Ultra Running Magazine has crowned the top 10 ultra runners of the year. These ultra-runner rankings are based on the athletes’ performances in ultramarathon races over the course of the calendar year.
#8: Annie Hughes
Ultra runner Annie Hughes lives in Leadville, Colorado. At only 23 years old and only two years into her ultra-running career, she has already established herself as one of the best women ultramarathon runners in the world.
In 2021, Hughes ran seven ultras, winning five of them, including her hometown Leadville Trail 100, where she ran it in a time of 21:06:58.
Hughes also won the epically long Moab 240, finishing 68:50:02. She also won Mace’s Hideout, Collegiate Peaks, and Behind the Rocks.
She’s definitely an “up-and-comer” ultra runner who has already “come.”
#7: Arlen Glick
Arlen Glick is a fifth-generation Mennonite who currently lives in Massillon, Ohio. This 28-year-old earns our vote for being one of the best ultramarathon runners in the world due to his impressive performances in 2021.
Glick ran five ultras in the year, winning all four of the 100-milers he ran: Burning River, Umstead, Javelina, and Mohican. He set a new course record of 14:15:33 at Burning River and ran a super fast 13:14:51 at Javelina.
This wasn’t Glick’s only good year. With nine career 100-milers under his belt, he’s finished first in eight of them.
#6: Nick Coury
Ultra runner Nick Coury, a 34-year-old who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, certainly is one of the best ultra runners in the world right now when you look at his 2021 ultramarathon race results dossier.
Demonstrating his sheer physical endurance and resilience, Coury ran an amazing 11 ultramarathon events in 2021.
One cool thing is that Coury’s list of achievements and best ultra race performances span the gamut in terms of the type or format of the race.
Four of the events were fixed-time events, and seven were regular trail ultras. Coury won an incredible six of these events (three of each type), demonstrating his range as an ultra runner.
Of his most notable 2021 ultra performances, Coury set an American record for 24 hours (173.015 miles!) at the Desert Solstice Invitational.
He also won several shorter ultra trail races, like Whiskey Basin, Coldwater Rubble, and Pass Mountain.
This unstoppable ultramarathoner is not only busy running nearly a dozen ultras in the year, but he also works as a software engineering manager for Google, demonstrating that you don’t have to be a full-time professional runner to be one of the best ultramarathon runners in the world.
#5: Camille Herron
Camille Herron has been an ultramarathon icon for years at this point, with an incredible career to her name so far.
Now 39, Herron’s 2021 year of ultra-running was marked by some highs and lows, but she continues to be an unstoppable and idol-worthy top ultramarathon runner.
Even though Herron struggled through Western States, she had some other amazing performances, such as her record-breaking run at the Javelina 100, where she ran 14:03:23.
Just six weeks after that run, she set a new American record for the fastest 100 miles on a track.
She won the Desert Solstice Invitational in 13:21:51 and took second at the Jackpot Ultra Festival.
We love Herron’s indomitable spirit, class, and grit.
#4: Jim Walmsley
Jim Walmsley, who hails from Flagstaff, Arizona, is certainly one of the best ultramarathon runners in the world today.
At only 31 years old, Walmsley is still quite young but has been dominating the ultra-running scene for several years.
In January 2021, Walmsley set an American record for 100k of 6:09:26 and Project Carbon X. His time was only 12 seconds off the world record.
He also won the prestigious Western States Endurance Run for the third year in a row, finishing the 102-mile course in 14:46:01.
Walmsley set a course record of 9:47:20 at the Ultra-Trail Cape Town 100k in South Africa.
He is super fast and has been a consistent top ultramarathoner for quite a number of years.
#3: Tom Evans
Tom Evans is a former British Army Captain turned British superstar ultramarathon runner. In 2022, Evans finished third in an epic head-to-head race at Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc, establishing himself as one of the best ultra runners in the world today.
Evans won UTMB in 2018 and set a then-record-setting performance at the Western States 100 in 2018 in his debut 100-miler.
In 2020, Evans won the Ultra-Trail World Tour in New Zealand. He may be newer to the sport, but he certainly competes like a veteran.
#2: Courtney Dauwalter
Although determining the “best ultramarathon runners” in the world can be somewhat of a subjective process given the wide range of races that qualify as ultramarathons, any reasonable ranking of the top ultra runners in the world will certainly include phenom Courtney Dauwalter.
In 2021 alone, this Leadville, Colorado star won an incredible six races, and in two of them, she was the overall winner, ahead of even the fastest men.
Dauwalter set a new course record at UTMB, Europe’s most prestigious ultra, and arguably the most prestigious in the world, rivaled perhaps only by Western States 100. There, she finished the difficult course in 22:30:54, winning the race outright.
She also destroyed the former course record at the San Juan Solstice 50-miler, running 9:11:10. This 36-year-old is showing zero signs of slowing down and seems to be continually getting stronger, faster, tougher, and smile-ier!
She is a true ultramarathon legend.
#1: Kilian Jornet
No list of the best ultramarathon runners in the world today can be complete without Kilian Jornet, a Spanish ultramarathoner who has dominated the ultra scene over his impressive career.
It seemed like Jornet announced his retirement from the sport at the end of 2021, but those plans must have been thwarted because he took the win at the 2022 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc.
Not only did Jornet decisively win the race, but he ran a record-setting 19:49:30. This was his fourth victory on the esteemed course. He beat out Mathieu Blanchard from France (FRA), Tom Evans from Great Britain, and Jim Walmsley from the US in an epic race.
Jornet is also the six-time champion of the Skyrunner World Series and has many other prestigious ultra wins under his belt, including Grand Raid, the Western States Endurance Run, and the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run.
More than just an ultramarathon runner, Jornet is a climber and mountaineer, holding the fastest known time speed record for the ascent and descent of the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.
There were so many top ultramarathon runners to choose from that this is only a brief list of some of the best right now. Who gets your vote?