Trail Runner Eric LiPuma Reflects on his IAU 50K World Championships Experience

Elite trail & road runner Eric LiPuma recently competed on his first US Team when he ran the 2019 IAU 50K (Road) World Championships in Brasov, Romania where he finished 24th place.

He had also qualified for the 2018 US 50K Team by winning the Caumsett 50K, which also served as the 2018 USATF 50K Road Championships, in Long Island, New York. Unfortunately Eric didn’t get to race because the 2018 IAU 50K World Championships were cancelled due to the organizers withdrawing the event.

Eric winning the 2018 Caumsett 50K.

We caught up with LiPuma to ask him about his experience missing the 2018 IAU 50K World Championship and how his 2019 racing season unfolded.

[Peter Maksimow] Usually you train specifically for a big race, especially when it’s a world championship; however, you were not initially selected to the team. What were the circumstances?

[Eric LiPuma] I ran under the 3 hour qualifying time back in March at the 2019 USATF 50K Road National Championships, where I placed 5th, but only the winner earned an automatic spot on the team. This year was the most competitive ever with 6 or 7 guys all running under 3 hours and there were also a few runners submitting extremely strong resumes. Against such a strong candidate pool, I did not initially make the team. Fast forward to August 22 and I received an email saying that an athlete was injured and there was a spot for me on the team as long as I was in decent shape and could get to Brasov, Romania for the race on September 1st. I was extremely stoked and knew I couldn’t turn down that offer as long as the plane ticket price wasn’t ridiculous. It wasn’t! I really hadn’t been running much in the few weeks prior to this but felt I was in good enough shape to not embarrass myself.

[Peter] You changed racing plans when you were not initially selected for the US 50K Team. Tell us about that.

[Eric] Once I found out I wasn’t on the 50K team I switched plans from 50K road training to mountain and trail race training. I signed up for the mountain running classic Mount Washington Road Race and Vermont 100 Mile. Mount Washington was on June 15th and the Vermont 100 Mile was on July 20th. We ended up getting pretty brutal weather at the 100 with the heat index getting up to 112. I only made it to the 100k mark before pulling the plug and decided it wasn’t worth doing serious damage to my body. In hindsight, I’m very happy I made that decision since IAU 50K World Championships was only 5 weeks later!

Eric nearing the finish on Mt Washington.

[Peter] It is an honor to wear the USA uniform but with one week notice it would be pretty daunting to jump onto a starting line of a world championship race at the last minute. What was your mindset going into it?

[Eric] Making a US Team has been a pretty big goal of mine so was a huge honor to be selected. My mindset was that this may be a once in a lifetime type opportunity and I’d be crazy to turn it down. I also had a ton of self-doubt. After dropping out of the Vermont 100 Mile I took two weeks completely off running. I did a fair bit of biking during those weeks but most of those rides also involved stopping at a brewery or two.

[Peter] You recently relocated from Boulder, CO to Stowe, VT for work. How has that change influenced your running?

[Eric] The move has influenced my running quite a bit. Stowe also has an almost non-existent running scene which kills my motivation sometimes but I do have a few guys that I can get out with every so often. Boulder has such a vibrant running scene that moving almost anywhere else would feel like a downgrade. I think a return to Boulder may be in my future.

Eric beating the 100 degree heat at the 2019 Vermont 100 Mile.

[Peter] You won the 2018 USATF 50K Road Championships and qualified for the US Team but you didn’t get to compete. What happened in that case?

[Eric] I did! That year was kind of strange. Originally, China had committed to hosting the IAU 50K World Championships but ended up cancelling the event before the full US team had even been selected. I was disappointed but had been warned at Caumsett that the world championship might not be happening.

[Peter] So, from qualifying for the 2018 US 50K Team and not getting your shot to compete in the World Championship to not being chosen for the 2019 US 50K Team and deciding to run Vermont 100 Mile, but then being called up one week before the world championship and then, ultimately, scoring for the team. That’s a wild ride! What’s next?

[Eric] My running career has gone in many different directions since winning the 2018 Caumsett 50K but I think everything happens for a reason! My next race is the Waterville Valley Mountain Race this Sunday and doubles as the USATF Mountain Running Championships. Racing in Romania fried my legs pretty good but I’ve rested a lot since then and think I may have one more solid race in me this season. In 2020 I want to focus on getting out of my comfort zone and trying my hand at some bigger mountain objectives back in Colorado. I also want to try running a fast road 100k and 24-hour track race but I may push those off for a few more years! [Editors Note: this interview took place before last weekend’s Waterville Valley Mountain Race. Eric finished 21st place in the event. You can read more about the Waterville Valley race on our website. ]

[Peter] Thanks for talking with us, Eric and best of luck for the remainder of the season and beyond!

[Eric] Thanks to you and the American Trail Running Association for everything you do in the trail running community!

Eric at the 2019 IAU 50K World Championships.

Congratulations to the entire US 50K Team on their results at the IAU 50K World Championships. Here are the US Team results:

The US Women’s team took the silver medal.
5th – Courtney Olsen – 3:19:23.
6th – Elizabeth Northern – 3:19:24
10th – Caroline Veltri – 3:24:31
15th – Sarah Cummings – 3:27:45
22nd – Devon Yanko – 3:32:01
27th – Courtney Peterson – 3:35:45

The US Men’s team finished in 5th.
7th – Kyle Masterson – 2:51:09
10th – Craig Hunt – 2:51:42
24th – Eric LiPuma – 3:04:14
34th – Zachary Ornelas – 3:07:56
63rd – Austin Bogina – 3:38:07
DNF – Tyler Andrews

Eric LiPuma at last weekend’s Waterville Valley Mountain Race. Photo by Michael Scott.