HOKA Project Carbon X is Here: A 50 Mile & 100K World Record Attempt By Jim Walmsley and Others in Brand-New Carbon X Shoe

By Weldon Johnson 
May 1, 2019

May 3 Update: Viewing info: The races start at 6 am pacific/ 9 am east coast and will be streamed live on the HOKA ONE ONE Facebook page here (if all goes well the first person will finish around noon).
*The course is USATF certified and record eligible. It has a downhill section at the start (roughly 150 feet) , and then 5 relatively flat loops. Course profile here.
*Discussion thread on the race here.
*We’ll have more after the press conference on Friday afternoon.

Editor’s note: HOKA ONE ONE is sponsoring LetsRun.com’s exploration of the ultramarathon over the next month and our quest to determine the answer to the question: “What are the best ultramarathons in the world?” You can join the debate here. While this is sponsored content, HOKA had no say in what was written.

For weeks, HOKA ONE ONE had been teasing on social media that Project Carbon X was coming. Now the details of Project Carbon X are known. Project Carbon X is a 100K world record attempt by multiple HOKA athletes that will take place this Saturday in Sacramento and will be broadcast live to the world for free. The race, which has been in the planning stages for the last year, is being held to mark the launch of HOKA’s new Carbon X shoe, “a racing shoe that embodies the impossibly-cushioned, impossibly-lightweight construction pioneered by HOKA upon the brand’s launch ten years ago.”

The world record for 100 kilometers is 6:09:14 (5:56.5 mile pace for 62.2 miles), set by Japan’s Nao Kazami last year at the Lake Saroma Ultramarathon. Prior to that, the record was Don Ritchie‘s 6:10:20 (5:57.2 mile pace) from 1978. Ritchie’s mark was the longest-standing world record recognized by the IAAF when Kazami broke it in 2018.

HOKA has enlisted many of its top ultra athletes for the effort. The field is led by America’s ultra superstar, Jim WalmsleyUltraRunning Magazine‘s UltraRunner of the Year in 2016 and 2017 and course record holder at the Western States Endurance Run and 16 other trail races. The field also includes Japan’s Hideaki Yamauchi, the two-time defending World 100k Champion, 2:15 marathoner Tyler Andrews, 2016 world 100k bronze medallist Patrick Reagan, Yoshiki Takada of Japan, and former indoor marathon world record holder Michael Wardian. HOKA athletes Sage Canaday and Tim Freriks will pace. There is a separate women’s race with Sabrina Little and Aiko Kanematsu, but neither woman is expected to go for the women’s world record of 6:33:11 (Little isn’t expected to go for Ann Trason‘s 7:00:48 American record either).

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While the men’s race is being billed as a world record attempt at 100k, there is also the possibility that Walmsley or Andrews gets really bold and tries to break the 50-mile world record (Bruce Fordyce‘s 4:50:51 from 1984, which is 5:49.0 mile pace), the 100k world record (5:56.5 mile pace), and the 6-hour barrier in the 100k (5:47.6 mile pace) all in the same race. The candidate most likely to try to do that would be Walmsley as he has experience at long ultras, while Andrews’ longest race is 50km.

The course will be record eligible and go from Folsom to Sacramento (roughly 20 miles) and then have 5 loops (roughly 8 miles).

HOKA ONE ONE Senior Global Sports Marketing Manager Mike McManus joined us on our podcast this week and talked about the race and how Project Carbon X came about. McManus said, “Tyler and Jim are two of the athletes who are going to go for it. They probably are going to go out the most aggressively in the race. I think both of those guys are looking at six hours as their target for 100k.”

Walmsley has rewritten some of the ultramarathon course records in the last couple of years (most notably breaking the course record at Western States by 16 minutes), but his most notable success has come in trail ultras, not on the road.

The big question mark for him is if his style of running is made for a flat road ultra. His one high-profile experience in a flat road 100k ended in disaster at the 2015 World 100k Championships in the Netherlands. Walmsley went out near world-record pace, opening up a nearly three-minute lead at halfway in 3:05:20 before fading miserably in the second half and finishing in 28th place in 7:05:19. But that was before he began rewriting the trail ultra record books in America starting in 2016.

“He really wants to go after the 50-mile [record],” McManus said, noting that that record is held by one of the legends of the sport. “Bruce Fordyce is maybe the greatest all-time ultra runner ever. Certainly in that category of top four or five … I think Jim would also tell you he has no idea what will happen after 50 miles.”

Fordyce’s 50-mile world record of 4:50:51 is 5:49.0 mile pace and would amount to a 6:01:26 if the same pace were maintained for 100k. Six-hour pace is 5:47.6 per mile, and the 100k world record is 5:56.5 mile pace.

Distance Time Athlete Pace Other
100k in 6 hours 6:00:00 ???? 5:47.6
50-mile world record 4:50:51 Bruce Fordyce 5:49.0
6:01:26 if maintain this pace for 100k
100k world record 6:09:14 Nao Kazami 5:56.5
100k American record 6:27:44 Max King 6:14.4

McManus said, “I think the dream for both those guys is six hours. Jim and Tyler in particular want to take a big swing at some of these world marks and get after it… The 100-kilometer event is certainly our way of creating excitement and awareness of our new shoe called Carbon X, which will debut at the race and be available right after. We’re going to do it in a big way having a 100km world record attempt.”

It’s expected that Yamauchi and Reagan will go out at a more modest 6:20 100k pace (still faster than American record pace).

Quick Take: Does This End in a Ball of Flames?

Admittedly, we don’t know a ton about the ultras but looking at the chart above, our main question is does trying to target sub-6 hours, the 50-mile record, and 100k record at the same time end up in no records being broken at all?

Ultrarunning expert and LRC poster SteelTownRunner told LetsRun, “Some consider it (the 100k on the roads or track) the hardest event they ever run.” The good news for those hoping for the record is he also said, “6:09 is damn good… [but] I’m firmly of the opinion someone can break 6 hours for 100k.”

LRC will be on-site at the race on Saturday, which starts at 9 a.m. Eastern and will be streamed on Hoka’s Facebook page. We will have more analysis once we get to California and can speak to the athletes.

Talk about today’s announcement on our world famous messageboard / fan forum. MB: Hoka Carbon X project is the 100k WR.

HOKA ONE ONE is sponsoring LetsRun.com’s exploration of the ultramarathon over the next month and our quest to determine the answer to the question: “What are the best ultramarathons in the world?” You can join the debate here. While this is sponsored content, HOKA had no say in what was written.

*LRC Podcast with Mike McManus on Project Carbon X

More: Press Release: HOKA ONE ONE Announces Project Carbon X: A 100K World Record Attempt in Brand-New Carbon X Shoe

LRC What are the best ultras in the world?
 Ultramarathoning 101: Sage Canaday Explains The Ultramarathon Scene To LRC – Getting Helicoptered Out Of Races, Carrying A Phone And How Would Kipchoge Do

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