They don't have an official world championship for ultramarathons yet but Saturday's Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run will do nicely for now.
International runners dominated throughout the long day's journey into night from Squaw Valley to Auburn, no one more so than Spaniard Kilan Jornet, who became the first foreigner to win in the race's 38-year history with the third-fastest time ever 15 hours, 34 minutes and 24 seconds.
In doing so, Jornet erased doubt that his dominance in the sport can extend beyond Europe, where he's a two-time winner of the Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc considered the other ultimate race among uber-distance types. Last year, the medical student from Puigcerda, Spain, finished a disappointing for him third in his Western States debut behind defending champion Geoff Roes, who dropped out Saturday at Mile 55. It was Roes' first loss at the 100-mile distance.
Second place went to Mike Wolfe of Helena, Mont., who must like running in California; he won the Way Too Cool 50K in March and was second at the Miwok 100K in the Bay Area in May. Wolfe was four minutes behind Jornet.
The next three finishers, however, were international runners. Nick Clark, a Briton living in Colorado, was third, and another Brit, Jez Bragg, was fourth. Japan's Tsuyoshi Kaburaki was fifth. In a first for Western States, the top four runners finished in under 16 hours.
The top women were still on the course at press time, with Oregon's Kami Semick overtaking Tracy Garneau at 90 miles. Garneau, the defending champion, had led since the start.
The most dominating performance was by Jornet, 23, the second-youngest male Western States winner. He might have won last year, too, had he properly prepared. Last year, he ran 528 miles across the Pyrenees a few weeks before coming to the United States. He also failed to carry water bottles between aid stations last year and struggled in the final 20 miles.
No such repeat this time. Jornet heat-trained in Greece and was so cognizant of hydration that he actually gained nearly a pound over the course of Saturday's race.
"Last year," he said, "I lost five kilos. I felt much better this year. But, you know, 100 miles is never easy. My stomach still doesn't feel great, but (it was) better than last year."