Hal Koerner

Ultra Runner

Winning a marathon is lung- and leg-busting work, but winning an ultra-marathon is exponentially harder. So what does it say about an athlete who runs a hundred ultras during a decade and consistently finishes near the top?

Hal Koerner defines an “Ultra” as being any race over the official marathon-distance of 26.2 miles, and typically up to 100 miles or more. To date he’s run 94 ultra’s, won 24 of them and finished in the top three in 75 percent of his races. That astounding level of success puts him in an elite league of athlete, and The North Face welcomes him to their Endurance Team.

An outdoor enthusiast since age 10, Hal has hiked, biked and burned shoe rubber on trails all over the United States. He set the speed record for the 500 mile Colorado trail in 2003 with a time of nine days, 10 hours, 19 minutes (which went unbroken for three years). He won the 2007 Western States 100 miler, the oldest and most prestigious hundred-miler in the world, finishing with the fifth fastest time (16:12:16) since it’s inception in 1977, and he won the event again in 2009. His goal, he says, is to cross that finish line in 15.30. Hal is also a two-time champion of the Angeles Crest 100 miler in California, and five-time champion of the Bear 100 in Utah.

All that backcountry running has led to some close encounters with oversized wildlife. While competing in the 2004 Western States he and a fellow runner flushed out a bear, which Hal describes as “yeti sized,” and which almost bowled his friend over as it lumbered away. And near the end of the Bear 100 in the Wasatch Mountains, Hal was shadowed for a while by a large mountain lion. “I found a rusty old shovel and proceeded to clang it against the hillside the final 3 miles,” he recalls.

Trail running is obviously Hal’s passion, and for the last seven years he’s been named one of the top ten ultra-runners in North America by Ultrarunning magazine. He’s equally proud of his role as a mentor of the sport, which can be seen in the form of the local races he organizes and the running store he owns and operates, Rogue Valley Runners, in Hal’s hometown of Ashland, Oregon.

Nickname: Drop Bag Words to Live By: If you don’t know, now you know. Three Things You Always Pack: Running shoes, another pair of running shoes, and a visor Theme Music When Training or Competing: Mos Def, Ms. Fat Booty. Training Nutrition: High carbs, beer, GU, water, and trail. Pet’s Name/Type: Abbey and Ember / English Setter/Collie and Mini Aussie Favorite Movie: The Big Lebowski Favorite Book: The Art of Racing in the Rain
Most Humbling Moment: During the Hong Kong Edition of the Trailwalker 100k in 2004 I completely fell apart before the halfway point. Being thousands of miles from home and having so many people care for me during my ordeal that didn’t know me or even speak my language really brought home, for me, the spirit of competition and running on every level not to mention humanity in general.
Ambition: To look back on my ultra running career and know that I was a formidable a competitor for an unusually long time.
Weakness: Candy Inspiration Within the Sport: I’m continually inspired by other runners every day. Their motivation to push through pain to attain monumental goals helps me to keep my own ambitions alive.
Dream Vacation: I’d love to be on a hut trip through the San Juans of southwestern Colorado in the summer and perhaps even more in the winter.
Favorite Destination for Your Sport: Colorado Rockies Favorite Piece of History in Your Sport: Ann Trason winning Comrades Marathon and turning around one week later to win Western States 100 Three Things People Should Know About Me:

  1. I don’t run as much as I should
  2. I don’t think about much else besides running
  3. I don’t think about much when I’m running
  • 2 X Western States 100 Champion
  • 2 X Angeles Crest 100 Champion
  • 5 X Bear 100 Champions
  • USATF 50 Mile Champion

MTA5K to ACH

July 19 2011
Source: Hal Koerner
 Yes, the logo looks like an 80's ski genre movie poster complete with snow and egg yolk sun.  What's uncanny is that there is still snow on Mt A race your Co RD looks like she just rolled off the screen of Hot Dog or Ski Patrol but definitely not 2009's Hot Tub Time Machine, that was too good a movie.    Jenn Shelton carving turns on MT A last week.  What I'm really talking about if you've followed me this far is the upcoming Mt A 5K.  It's a benefit run for Jefferson Public Radio and is put on by store employees Jenn Shelton and Maya Nerenberg.  Sorry, Jenn doesn't actually work at the store she just takes GU's from it like she does.   This is the inaugural event and by all standards it shouldn't even make it off the ground.  But from what I've heard there's a keg at the finish, prizes for just about every finisher, a premium for first man and woman to the summit (you must ring the bell), and word is a new Hyundai will be raffled off.  OK, so I'm not so sure about that last one.  One thing I do know is that the event will be a great tune up for the upcoming Mt Ashland Hillclimb Run some two weeks later and will give competitors an idea about the best way to approach the summit.    I feel this race is pretty extreme and although I scoffed at the idea  months ago or rather the hypothetical proposition of such said event I am happy to see it gaining steam under the watchful eye of two incomparably capable race directors .It's amazing what, most likely, initiative and motivation can accomplish.  Perhaps you too will turn out Saturday and see what you've got stored.    

Come Get Some!

July 8 2011
Source: Hal Koerner
 The 2011 Siskiyou Out Back is tomorrow and with that we want to wish everyone a great time on trails.  This years course has been rerouted due to excessive amounts of snow on the crest and PCT.   It's a fast first 20+ so don't be fooled into thinking it's going to stay that easy.  The climb up Time Warp will be daunting and punch runners into the sun just as you reach the highest elevation of the day.  Rogue Valley Runners will be waiting for you at the aid station and we'll get you moving on to those last few miles!  See you out there!    

Remembering Ric

June 22 2011
Source: Hal Koerner
Ric Sayre 1954-2011 “Hey Ric”. I sure will miss saying that. He was so understated and even keeled that calmness and capability seemed to effervesce from his pores. Perhaps that was because he was almost deaf and couldn’t hear a damn thing or perhaps that was just because he knew something I didn’t. Hopefully, if all goes well, someday down the road we will all come to know what Ric knew and if I had to guess, it probably relates to living simply and humbly and being a good person. The Rogue Valley in particular and the world in general not only lost a great runner but vastly more detrimentally lost one of the finest and most unique individuals I have ever met. We should all try to be a bit more Ric-esque in our endeavors. Things would be better.Please help us remember this mans indelible impact on life, running and Ashland by joining us 9 am Sunday, June 26 on The Plaza for a memorial run through Lithia Park and beyond.

Granite Man and More

June 21 2011
Source: Hal Koerner
The picture above portrays many a serene Sunday at Applegate lake, but if you look close you can see that on this day a battle was brewing up in the hills that ring the reservoir.  The Granite Man 10 miler came on the heels of the Triathlon/Duathlon held on Saturday where wetsuits, bikes, and pounding feet set the scene for this steadily growing series of events.This years Granite Man was a tale of two pre-race vibes.  As much as many of us would have loved to camp at the beautiful aforementioned lake complete with community and camaraderie another group stayed back in A-town to pay homage to what had become a lifelong endeavor.  One of our own, Chris Rennaker, or Renegade, or  Renninger to some, finally graduated from sales associate to sales representative. No, not quite he's still working on that, but he did conquer the Masters program at SOU and is now ready to teach the youth of southern Oregon all things environmentally sound.  So we all wanted to know what would become of this celebration and subsequent race.  Luckily for us the RD raises the starting pistol at 9, making the journey south of Jacksonville a little easier to handle. This race is in it's 5th year and the course has been a staple for all of us when we circumnavigate the lake in winter and the snow levels require it.  It's a little bit of a grunt as you ascend Collings Mountain in the first 3 miles gaining a quick 1,000ft.  From there the course undulates the ridge and you catch quick glimpses of the Siskiyous.  This year it was hard to miss the Red Buttes and Greyback Mountain as they glared white, just like a shirtless runner waiting for summer to show.  You then descend back to the lake where the trail contours the water level back to Hart-Tish park.  Erik Skaggs had won the race the 3 previous times and would be tough to beat on this tailor made course. Likewise, this was Jenn Shelton's first race in southern Oregon and she knew the time to beat.  For Erik there was redemption as he bested Tyler Davis who had placed in front of him at this years Pear, while stamping out a new course record.  Jenn followed suit (of her man) with a new course record of her own even after staying up all night trying not to hear her high school girls CC team through ripstop walls.  So revelers went four deep in the top 5.  Pretty impressive numbers, but they don't tell of the true granite man on that day.   Coach Bob Julian took an impressive dive on the descent around mile 7 trying to allude yours truly and still managed to run within inches on the finish line for a would be 4th before hightailing it back out on the course unknowingly.  He did make it in before heading to urgent care where he is reportedly doing well.   Here are the results,  but the pictures below behold the real glory.  Yes purple shorts and no this isn't the swim portion. Erik and Tyler take it out early. Here's that picture Jenn, if you're lucky you might stay there at the 4th of July run. Pete kicking it old school with the headphones AND 32oz Gatorade. Erik is pointing to Leland to get back into his house or put a shirt on. Friday night's theme, Rubix Cube party Annie thinking this is too close to Western States.  Meghan's wonders if these will help with all the snow glare at WS100. Laura's LED western cap is not the most awesome part of this shot! Tim wonders if this bag can carry a cougar home?  They're pretty heavy.

Best Town Ever

June 10 2011
Source: Hal Koerner
Ashland on the short list for 'Best Town in America' honor Outside Magazine has 10 finalists; you can vote online   By John Darling For the Tidings Posted: 2:00 AM June 10, 2011Ashland has been named to the Top 10 "Best Towns in America" by Outside Magazine, which is asking the public to vote for the one, best-ever "dream town" that offers the best access to outdoor recreation, along with "culture, perfect scenery and stress-free and reasonable cost of living."The Ashland Chamber of Commerce is urging people to get on the magazine's Facebook page and vote for Ashland during the three-week contest, noting that the winning town will grace the October cover of the publication, with all the prestige and economic benefits the come from being named "Best Town Ever.""It's a great way to showcase Ashland for its outdoor attractions and beautiful landscape — and to put us on the map for other reasons than our cultural amenities," said Katharine Flanagan of the Chamber.Outside last year recognized Ashland as one of the top trail-running cities in America and, said Hal Koerner of Rogue Valley Runners, such notoriety in the "best of" articles (it has placed in the poll before) may trigger more traffic and growth but "it will be the right kind of traffic and growth, because this is a discerning town and we're far away from big-city complexities."It's not a call to get everyone in the world here tomorrow," he said. "We do responsible growth here. Ashland has quality — the best attributes of a big city, without the downside — and a lot of cities (in the poll) don't have that. We have good weather, outgoing people and easy access (to outdoor activities) without the crowds."Tia Boddington, editor of UltraRunning Magazine, moved her publication here from Denver in large part because of great running trails and Ashland's other pluses and says, "Ashland absolutely deserves to be on that list."Boddington says such fame is a "mixed blessing," but is mostly positive, with more people and more boost to the local economy. It also creates the necessity for the trails and rivers to be better maintained for recreation and could nudge housing costs, which remain "quite affordable in the valley, though maybe not in Ashland." She adds, "I moved here for the running, bicycling, skiing, climbing, all of it — and Ashland would be a good choice for Best Ever Town because it's not just the outdoor lifestyle; it's also the restaurants, university, so much intellectual activity, great food and lots of music. Once you get through playing outside, you can dress up and go have fun."Outside is the most influential general interest magazine for outside activities, said John Baxter of United Bicycle Institute in Ashland and, its lauding of Ashland is a "good thing ... though Ashland is already on the map for biking" since the Mount Ashland Super Downhill Race "brought a lot of industry types and generated a lot of press."Baxter says there's no bad effect from making "best of" lists, as "it spurs the economy ... and might cause substantial economic growth from cycle-related companies moving to Ashland."For the past 15 years, the magazine's editors have voted the Top 10 list, but this time will let the public name the best town on its Facebook, with the winner not only being on the cover but featured on Outside TV. Readers are invited to post comments, photos and videos.The other towns being voted on are Portland, Ore., Portland, Me., Boulder, Colo., Santa Fe, N.M., Tucson, Ariz., Burlington, Vt., Madison, Wisc., Charleston, S.C. and Chattanooga, Tenn."This is Outside's first major social media contest and we are expecting a heated debate from our followers — in addition to extensive buzz surrounding this wildly-popular topic," said Jen Wittman, Outside's director of marketing, in a news release. "This is a great program to demonstrate strength of our multimedia brand and engage active-lifestyle enthusiasts nationwide in a fun competition. I am hoping for some crazy stunts from our athletes, personalities and tourism boards from the top ten towns as they work to get the attention of our editors."John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.Here's the link to FaceBook.

This is Bazically How it Went Down

June 8 2011
Source: Hal Koerner
"G’Day to one and all, on this very nice Monday in Oakhurst, California!  I have just returned from the Fish Camp area where Frank and I removed ribbons.  Thanks to a few nice runners, it was less of a job than I thought.  Runners had removed 80% of the orange tape before I arrived. We must keep the Forest clean. OK, where do we start with this story!  As you all know by now, including the runners who didn’t make the 22nd Annual running of the Shadow, we had a tough couple of weeks.  With my good luck we were able to congregate at Green Meadows for a magical event.  At the popular pre-race dinner I explained the new Plan C course details.  Our bad winter weather, including over 30 inches of snow in the Fish Camp area, really played havoc with my original course.  The new course had a main-road crossing with the 11 mile loop on Miami Motor Bike Trails, all areas of danger for runners, but because I lead a clean and quiet life style we had no mishaps!  Of course, the 30 or so volunteers did help some!  One runner decided his head was strong enough to challenge a tree branch and ended up in the local Oakhurst emergency room with 12 staples required to hold his noggin together. But he returned to Green Meadows to enjoy the entertainment and no legal action…. Many thanks mate.  Yes, we had our usual turnout of good runners.  My mate and past 6 time winner Oswaldo Lopez did his usual appearance 30 minutes before the start along with running mate Benny Madrigal.  My long time good mate Bruce LaBelle finally made it to Fish Camp as did Hal Koerner with wife Carly.  One never knows who may turn up.    I know the first timers where ready to rumble!  To those who expected an accurate 50K course – tough – 29 miles is an ultra.  Come back again maybe I can add a few miles!  Over the years we have had many distances, but no one really complains.  It’s just tough to have a course record that stands. So, we got started in a slight drizzle with 121 smiling faces on the start-line.  Boy was I happy to see them run out of GM after 2 tough weeks.  I raced round to the highway 41 crossing in down town Fish Camp where Nancy and her twin Susan were handling the danger of crossing a main highway!  All the runners were still happy and those who offered verbal abuse to the RD will be named later.   I then drove South to help Big Mike set up the first aid station.  The front runners arrived on time and didn’t stop to wine and dine.  I then took off again with McDoogal in tow to set up his station, Karen my long time helper arrived on time.   Finally, my mates from Fresno - Brandon and young Chris followed me down a couple of hills to their station at the lowest point of the course.  Actually, it was a nice bridge crossing with fast flowing water, trouble was the front runners had beaten us there and so we had to refuel them on one of the steep climbs up from the river.  No problems.  Nice surprise was to see my OC mate Michelle Barton charging up the long hill in third place and only minutes behind Hal and Ozzie baby.  She was smiling and shouted "I love your new course".    By the time I hit the course again the front-runners had reached McDoogal and were heading North.  I stopped at Big Mike’s station and he shouted “They had gone through heading up to Fish Camp”.  Back in Green Meadows my good mates Stef and the young twins from Orange County had prepared the aid station.  The 2 speedsters arrived together and left together heading for the Dump turn around point.  I arrived there to find the volunteers were not at the right location, but only a 100 yards away.  So a quick move and all was reset and ready for the leaders and only a minute or two later they arrived.   Big Hal had taking a 200 meter lead and Ozzie had removed his shirt, both now a little intense, because the final downhill was around the corner.  By the time I returned to GM they had both finished, were chatting and going over respective stories of the race.  Both enjoyed the new course and the bad conditions were not a factor.  Hal considered it a little more than a challenge in prep for WS, but praised Oswaldo.  Miss Hair arrived in GM with a fan fare of cheers to finish third overall and another win from the talented mum.  Ken Letterie came in smiling and happy to be the third man.  Second women overall, Hal’s wife Carly was 48 minutes behind Miss Red Blur and third was Christy Scott only 6 minutes further back. " - Baz Hawley R.D. Carly crushes the downhill to the finish. Yep, 96 finishers and Shahid, Carly and I made it in the top 15!     1 Hal Koerner m 35 3:24:46 2 Oswaldo Lopez m 39 3:25:18 3 Michelle Barton f 40 3:58:03 4 Ken Letterie m 28 4:02:04 5 Jim Magnan m 53 4:24:47 6 Randy Vadertwig m 37 4:25:31 7 Ali Shahid m 25 4:28:25 8 Jonathan Byers m 23 4:31:33 9 Duane Miller m 38 4:31:57 10 Howie Stern m 41 4:38:45 11 Michael Roberts m 54 4:39:51 12 Bruce Labelle m 55 4:41:14 13 Dennis Koors m 39 4:41:29 14 Matt James m 34 4:43:49 15 Carly B. Koerner f 29 4:46:11 Here's my Garmin detail, I feel it was closer to 30 miles considering my 2:20 4th mile. Moving well but...... I love this guys enthusiasm! We all hobbled away from the 22nd running of the Shadow of the Giants 50k thinking we must return and give the standard course a try.  I waited forever to make up my mind and run this event and I thank Carly and Shahid for pushing it. I congratulate them on their new personal bests and perhaps the breakthrough performance of the year goes to Shahid for his 7th place finish and 30 plus minute improvement.Carly, one ultra away from 30, will go for it on her 30th birthday at the S.O.B. 50k. Like they say, it's all downhill from there.  What do you do after running 50k?