For an ultrarunner who participated in 23 ultrarunning events last year, it seems like there would be few new things to try- and yet the extraordinary Claire Bannwarth will take part in her first US ultra when she lines up at the 2023 Hardrock 100.
The Hardrock 100 is often the main feature of the year for those who participate in it; the grueling run takes competitors through 102.5 miles of the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, with 10,118m of elevation gain along the way.
Yet for Bannwarth, such a race is just another box to be ticked as she racks up an astounding number of 2023 ultra races, almost defying physical possibilities.
A busy- and successful – 2023
It’s one thing to run in a high number of races, another to complete them and quite another still to compete at a high level in them, which is what Claire Bannwarth has continued to do.
Her year began strongly in January, taking victory in Britain’s hardest ultra marathon- the Spine Race. The 268-mile course with 13,300m of elevation gain takes place at the height of winter in England and is known for its brutal weather conditions.
Most ultrarunners would structure entire years of training around the event just to hope to finish- but for Bannwarth, a dominant display in the women’s race simply marked the beginning of another year of ultrarunning achievements.
In February she ran Transgrancanaria and put up a solid top ten finish, before she won the overall title at the Spanish Trailcat200 – a 322km race.
She followed that up with the Ultra-Trail Snowdonia by UTMB 100M in May, finishing third. She then won the Trail Menorca 185km, and finished third at the Montreux Trail Festival 2023 MXTREME in June before winning the 306km multi-stage Raid de L’Archange at La Barjo Ultra 2023.
Backyard runs and post-Hardrock 100 plans
Those are just Claire Bannwarth’s accomplishments in more traditional ultra races, however. She has also run in Backyward ultras, breaking her own Backyward Ultra record when she ran 48 loops – 321.8km – in 48 hours at Infinity Trail Hossegor in her native France.
In her first backyard ultra – Infinity Trail Les Terrils- she completed 30 loops (261.5km) alongside Justine Houteer Magni, more than any other runners.
In June she also ran in the Challenge Running Suffolk backyard ultra, running 61 loops of the 6.7km route.
That leads up to Hardrock 100, where she will be challenging the likes of Courtney Dauwalter for the title- the American gunning for her own extraordinary endurance achievement as she aims to become the first person to win Western States and the Hardrock 100 in the same year.
Yet at present not even Hardrock will satisfy Bannwarth’s desire to add more miles to the clock- she’s set to race in the Tahoe 200 just a week after Hardrock 100, a further 206.2 miles.
As Bannwarth continues to push herself, the question becomes how many ultra events will she tick off this year? How many hundreds of miles will she conquer? And, perhaps most important of all, how long can she go on for?