Vasiliy Larkin is the fastest runner in the field for the 28th IAU 100km World Championships, which will take place in the Dutch town of Winschoten, and he will be aiming to become the first Russian man to win the annual championship in a decade on Saturday (12).
Larkin’s best time of 6:18:26 dates back two years to the Ispitai Sebia Ultramarathon in 2013 but the 24-year-old runner was also just over the six-hour mark at the famous Comrades Marathon in South Africa this year.
Not since Gregoriy Murzin won in 2005 has a Russian stood on top of the podium, with Italian and Japanese runners taking the majority of the titles, three apiece.
All of those Italian victories – in 2008, 2011 and 2012 – were by Giorgio Calcaterra, now 43, who has shown good form this year by winning the 100km del Passatore on home soil earlier this year.
Two other potential contenders for the gold medal, in the absence of the USA’s 2014 champion Max King, are Great Britain’s Steven Way and Sweden’s Jonas Buud, who have best times in the last three years of 6:19:20 and 6:28:57 respectively.
Way has recently moved up from predominantly running marathons to ultrarunning while Buud has taken the silver medal at four of the last five 100km world championships and will finally be looking to make the move to the top of the podium.
Another well-known name in the field is the 2014 bronze medallist, Spain’s Jose Antonio Requejo.
In the men’s team race, Japan are the favourites with Great Britain and Spain also having strong teams.
Great Britain’s Ellie Greenwood is not defending the title she won 12 months ago in Doha, which leaves the door open for the 2014 silver and bronze medallists, Japan’s Chiyuki Mochizuki and Great Britain’s Jo Zakrzewski, to move up.
However, the possible favourite is USA’s Camille Herron. She ran 7:26:24 at the Mad City 100km earlier this year, and is more than 10 minutes faster than any other entrant on recent form over the last three years.
Russia’s 2011 world champion Marina Zhalybina will also be in the field, alongside her teammate Irina Antrapova, and Zhalybina knows Winschoten well after having won when the Dutch city staged the championships four years ago.
In the team competition, Nikolina Sustic will be leading a very fast Croatian team while Japan, Great Britain and Sweden also have good medal chances.
Around 240 runners representing 37 countries will do 10 laps of a relatively flat 10km course in Winschoten, which has been the venue for a long-standing annual ultrarunning event dating back to 1976 and has also staged these championships five times in the past, most recently in 2011.
This year’s race also has a number of other concurrent championships: the 23rd IAU European Championships, 100km World Masters Championships and the Dutch Championships.
Phil Minshull and the IAU for the IAAF