Trail Runner of The Year 2023: Eighth

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Headshot of Corrine Malcolm, Editor-in-Chief at Freetrail

By: Corrine Malcolm

Freetrail Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Trail Society Podcast.

Day three of TROY 2023 is upon us! Today’s highlighted athletes are work horses – both silently putting in the training day after day while juggling the other demands that fill their busy lives. And as self-proclaimed mega fans of them, we salute their efforts because they give us so much to cheer for. If you missed yesterday’s ninth place annoucement you can find that here.

In eighth position this year we have Lululemon’s Leah Yingling and Asics’ Stian Angermund.

Leah Yingling during UTCT in November of 2023. PC: Zac Zinn for UTCT
Leah Yingling during UTCT in November of 2023. PC: Zac Zinn for UTCT

Part of Lululemon’s new and growing voyage into the trail and ultrarunning world, Leah Yingling has got to be the queen of consistency. A frequent racer, Leah toed the start line nine times this year, winning three times, which included great runs at the Bull Run Run 50-miler and the Tushars Marathon, and finished on the podium three additional times which included a 2nd place finish at the Way-Too-Cool 50km. While Leah had an incredible 2023, what has made her running even more impressive is that she has always needed to balance it around working fulltime as a biomedical engineer. I’ve heard her joke that her training isn’t exciting, it’s just old-fashion hard work. Excitedingly, Leah was able to take a sabatical from work for roughly five-months – offering her a much needed reset in an effort to rebalance her plate in a sustainable way. That good old-fashioned hard work that has been a staple of her training didn’t change, but being able to rest, recover, and exhale did.

That rebalancing of the “life plate”, hollistically, also afforded Leah the ability to travel over to Chamonix in early August giving her valuable time on the ground ahead of UTMB. This annual migration for many in our sport would be the first time Leah would officially pin a bib on for UTMB’s 170km event. In June this year Leah took her F6 bib back to WSER and was able to notch another top ten performance, finishing ninth, in a record setting year for the women’s field. By doing so she would also have the oppurtunity at a lifetime goal for many elite ultrarunners, pulling off a top ten finish in both world-class events. Making good on her time away from work and time on the ground in Europe, Leah ran an incredibly smart race to battle it out in the top ten, ultimately finishing 8th securring an excellent finish in the WSER x UTMB double.

Leah currenlty has a ticket back into WSER if she wants to make her third appearance in Olympic Valley this upcoming June, and while we can’t tell her what to do… we sure hope to see her with F9 pinned onto her singlet.

Stian Angermund on his way to defending his WMTRC Short Trail title in June of 2023: PC: Ryan Thrower
Stian Angermund on his way to defending his WMTRC Short Trail title in June of 2023: PC: Ryan Thrower

Stian Stian Stian – whatever he touches seems to turn to gold. We’re talking World Championship Gold, OCC 55km Gold, course record gold, and while we are burying the lead… you better believe we are here for all of it! In contrast to many of his peers, Stian doesn’t race a lot, but when he does it has meant he is showing up to trail’s biggest stages ready to fight. In 2023 he opened up his season winning and setting the course record at the Istria by UTMB 69km, while this secured his spot at UTMB finals his most duanting task awaited in June. Near the very end of 2022, Stian became the World Mountain and Trail Running Champion (WMTRC) in the Short Trail distance – this year in Innsbruck, Austria in a star-studded field Stian became the back to back World Champion in the Short Trail race (a trail marathon with over 10,000 feet of climbing). Doing so, set his season apart.

In July Stian added to his impressive running resume finishing fourth at both the DoloMyths Run and the MontΓ©e du Nid d’Aigle, both classics on the World Mountain Running Association calendar. With one last box to check, the whole family (Stian, his wife Katrine who gave birth to baby boy in October, and their toddler Ingrid) headed to Chamonix for another go at UTMB’s OCC 55km race – an event Stian won in 2019. The race was an aboslute battle, a real who’s who of the shorter ultrarunning world, and much like in 2019 with a decisive surge headed into the final climb no one could match Stian. An absolutely stellar way to bookend a season.

While some might want to see Stian race more, we will forever champion the quality of the races this guy gives us.

Consistency is king, or in this case king and queen – and getting to celebrate the consistency of both Leah and Stian this year makes us hungry for what lies ahead in 2024. Get those freetrail fantasy ballots ready – but first, join us back here tomorrow morning to find out which two runners brought it home in seventh position.

Trail Runner of The Year 2023 is brought to you with support from our friends over at Ketone IQ

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Trail Runner of The Year 2023: First

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