An ultrarunner has made Running USA's list of the "Top 10 Moments for U.S. Distance Running in 2006." American Scott Jurek's September win in the Spartathlon, the 245km race from Athens to Sparta in Greece, has been ranked #8 on the list for 2006. In winning that race decisively over world #1-ranked Ryoichi Sekiya of Japan, Jurek vaulted himself to #2 (behind only the legendary Yiannis Kouros) on the all-time Spartathlon list. Rarely does an ultra athlete or performance make Running USA's annual top 10 list, which covers all of American distance running (Track, Cross-Country, Road, Trail) from 2 miles on up.

Below is RUNNING USA's Media Release on the U.S. Top 10 for the year (from www.runningusa.org)....


The 10 Best Moments for U.S. Distance Running in 2006
By Ryan Lamppa, Running USA wire

As 2006 closes, it is time to recognize and celebrate the "Best Moments" in U.S. distance running, and this year, there were plenty of exciting and historic individual and collective moments (and some disappointments). 2005 was a good year for the sport and 2006 was even better as the Top 10 moments below attest.

U.S. Women Strike First Ever U.S. Gold at World Mountain Running Trophy
In Bursa, Turkey last September, the Teva U.S. Women's Mountain Running Team won this country's first gold medal in the 22-year history of the World Mountain Running Trophy. With 35 points, Team USA turned back challenges from the Czech Republic and Italy, 37 and 39 points respectively. First-time team members Nicole Hunt (9th) and Rachael Dobbs (10th) and Chris Lundy (16th) led the U.S. history-making contingent.

Kastor's Four U.S. Records at Berlin
At the Vattenfall Berlin Half-Marathon on April 2, Deena Kastor finished second in 1:07:34 to Edith Masai's 1:07:16 and in the process, the Team Running USA athlete broke her U.S. record by 19 seconds. Additionally en route, the two-time Olympian set three more U.S. road records: 12K in 38:24, 10 miles in 51:31 and 20K in 64:07.

Jurek Wins Spartathlon Ultra in Greece
At the end of September, Scott Jurek, 7-time winner of the Western States 100 Mile Mountain Race and two-time winner of the Badwater 136 mile race from Death Valley to the base of Mt. Whitney, became the first American man ever to win the Spartathlon Ultra from Athens to Sparta, a 245.3 kilometer trek or a bit over 150 miles. His time of 22 hours, 52 minutes, 18 seconds is now #2 behind only ultra great Yiannis Kouros on the all-time course performance list.

Goucher 6th at World Cross
In the final edition of the World Cross Country 4K Championship, Adam Goucher worked his way thru the stellar short course field to finish 6th in Fukuoka, Japan last April. Goucher's finish was the highest U.S. Senior men's placing since Pat Porter took the same place in the 1986 long course (12K) race.

U.S. Men's Performances at LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon
Led by personal records from Abdi Abdirahman (2:08:56, 4th) and Brian Sell (2:10:47, 6th), at Chicago last October, U.S. men had their best sub-2:20 marathon mass finish (20) - excluding the Olympic Marathon Trials - in 15 years. Abdirahman, a two-time Olympian, became the fifth U.S. man under 2:09, while the Sell-fronted Hansons-Brooks Distance Project had 6 members under 2:16.

Tegenkamp's 13:04.90 5000 Meters in Europe
Matt Tegenkamp, 24, served notice that he is part of the American distance running resurgence with his stellar 2006 track season. At Stockholm on July 25, the Wisconsin grad became the fourth fastest American at 5000 meters with his 13:04.90 (only Olympians Bob Kennedy, Bernard Lagat and Sydney Maree are faster). He also set PRs this year at 1500m (3:35.96), 1 mile (3:56.38), 2 miles (8:16.50) and 3000m (7:34.98).

U.S. Men 3-4-5 at Venerable Boston
Led by 2004 Olympic Marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi, U.S. men made a statement at the 110th Boston Marathon in April. In his Boston debut, Keflezighi, a Team Running USA athlete, went for the win and placed third in 2:09:56, followed by Brian Sell (2:10:55, PR) and Alan Culpepper (2:11:02). In addition, Peter Gilmore (2:12:45, PR) and Clint Verran (2:14:12, PR) also finished in the top 10, 7th and 10th respectively. The U.S. also put 11 men in the top 20 - its best Boston showing in the prize money era (first year 1986) and its best showing overall since 1983.

New York City and Boston to Host 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials
America's two flagship marathons - ING New York City and BAA Boston - were selected by USA Track & Field to host the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
Both events - New York (men) and Boston (women) - will be run on multi-loop courses in the heart of each city with $250,000 in prize money and trips to Beijing on the line. The men's Trials will be Saturday, November 3, 2007 - the day before the 38th ING New York City Marathon and the women's Trials Sunday, April 20, 2008 - the day before the 112th BAA Boston Marathon. Mark your calendars.

Lincoln Breaks Long-Standing U.S. Steeplechase Record
In a fine display of running, 2004 Olympian Daniel Lincoln broke the U.S. 3000 meter steeplechase record with his 8:08.82 on July 14 in Rome (the med student at Arkansas was 5th overall). In the 1990s, Mark Croghan took numerous shots at Henry Marsh's mark (8:09.17 from August 1985) and just missed, but Lincoln, the doctor-to-be, had the right prescription.

Deena Does It! Sub-2:20 Win at London
On April 23, Kastor impressively won the Flora London Marathon in a sterling 2:19:36, which broke her 2003 U.S. record (2:21:16) and made the 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medalist the 4th fastest woman all-time and the 8th woman to break 2:20 (and first American woman). The Team Running USA athlete maintained a metronomic 5:20 pace throughout and split each half in 1:09:48. Brava, Deena.

Honorable mention:
Khalid Khannouchi's 2:07:04 at London; Abdirahman's 1:01:07 half-marathon (#2 U.S.) at Philadelphia and his 27:22.81 10,000m (#3 U.S) at Hengelo; Dathan Ritzenhein's 1:01:25 half-marathon at the Great North Run; Ryan Hall's U.S. 20K record (57:54) at the World Road Running Championships in Hungary; Jen Rhine's 14:55.18 (#3 U.S.) at Van Damme 5000m; Kara Goucher's 31:17.12 10,000m (#3 U.S.) at Helsinki; Webb (debut), Ritzenhein and Famiglietti (debut) sub-27:40 10,000m at Stanford; U.S. men's repeat bronze medal at Chiba Ekiden road relay; Sara Slattery's win at BolderBOULDER 10K and Ian Dobson's Manchester Road Race victory.

Since the "dark age" of 2000, U.S. distance running has made great strides - from the 2004 Olympic medals by Keflezighi and Kastor to the achievements above. The credit for this improvement mainly goes to the dedicated athletes and coaches as well as the training groups such as Team Running USA, Team USA Minnesota, Hansons-Brooks Distance Project and Nike Oregon Project and those entities - New York Road Runners, Chevron Houston Marathon, Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Atlanta Track Club, Town of Mammoth Lakes, Running USA and others - who directly support them.

This country does not yet have the relative distance depth of the 1980s, but the current crop of U.S. athletes is also competing against a deeper world scene, particularly with distance powers Kenya and Ethiopia, compared to the 70s and 80s, and moreover, this American distance running resurgence continues to raise the bar and to motivate and push the athletes to new heights. More success lies ahead, particularly if more funding and resources are secured.