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From 100-mile to cross-country: trail runners doing it all

Tom Evans is not only one of the best ultrarunners in the world, he is now competing as one of the best cross-country runners in Europe

It’s not every day that a trail runner will excel at both 100-mile races and 10K cross-country challenges. But Great Britain’s Tom Evans is showing the running world how all disciplines can be be complementary. This year, Evans raced to a podium spot at the Western States Endurance Run (WSER). This weekend, he switched gears at the European Cross Country Championship trials in Liverpool. Evans placed sixth, earning himself a spot for the race next month.

RELATED: How Jim Walmsley broke his own record at WSER

From 100-mile to cross-country, Evans just might be unstoppable. Whether it’s fast twitch or slow, Evans seems to have figured out a happy and competitive medium. Not only is Evans one of the best ultrarunners in the world, he is now one of the best cross-country runners on the planet. Yesterday’s race allowed him a qualifying spot for the 2019 European Cross Country Championships in Portugal next month.

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When months of hard training, dedication and planning comes off! SO unbelievably proud to have finished 3rd at this year's Western States! Running the fastest time ever for a non US citizen – in my 100 mile debut 💥. . . There are so many people to thank, whiteout whom wouldn’t have made this possible! . . . My amazing Partners who support we through thick and thin @adidasterrex @redbulluk @forth_edge @garminuk @oakley My coach and training group @abtraininggroup who push me in training to be the best that I can be, not to mention the brains behind it all, Allison Benton, my coach! . . . To the epic crew that I had with me on the course @sb_arete @majocalgary @julesbartlett @charlie.harpur @good_vibes_athlete @maxwilko @calstrin @stevenhalliwellproduction . . . . And lastly to my friends and family who have to put up with all the training. Especially @unicorneventing @gillynickols2146 @sophiecoldwell !! . . . . @wser #adidasterex #100miles #westernstates100 #goals #debut #achieve

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In 2018 Evans won UTMB’s CCC 101K race in one of the deepest fields in the world. In June of this year, Evans raced to third at WSER in a record-breaking field. The only ultrarunners to beat him that day have the top two times on the course (Jim Walmsley and Jared Hazen.) A few short months later, Evans is dominating the cross-country scene in the UK and competing with athletes who train specifically for the 10K distance.

RELATED: Western States record still owned by a Canadian

The parallels between trail running and cross-country may seem obvious. Yet, the disciplines remain uniquely independent of one another. The terrain in cross-country can be similar to an ultra-trail race, just shorter, faster, and usually more intense. If a 100-miler is like a lifetime in a day, then a cross country race is like Grade 9–lots of highs and lows in a short period of time.

Evans’ cross-country success did not happen overnight. He has been focusing on making the team, and pulled out of World Mountain Running Championships this month to avoid risking a knee injury. Evans uses cross-country as a training method to improve his fitness for ultra-trail races. It helps him with strength, speed, ascents, and descents. He is also not the only runner dabbling in the sport of cross-country. He and a few others we know can remind the running world that there is no such thing as labels.

Canadian trail and mountain runner Alexandre Ricard will be toeing the line again next weekend at the Canadian National XC Championships in Abbotsford, BC. As well, for years, Ellie Greenwood has been known to race cross-country competitively. Hopefully we will continue to hear of ultra-trail runners making the leap from 100-milers to cross-country.

RELATED: Canada takes bronze at NACAC Mountain Running Championships