Two French runners in seventh? Coincidentally, yes, but that is where the commonalitiy ends between these two. One athlete raced more times than we can count on our two hands (and feet) while the other swept in like a tactition on very targeted missions. One athlete had to end the year with some serious frequent flier miles while the other stayed a little closer to home. In both cases they blew us all away with their 2023 performances – and if you missed yesterday’s eighth place annoucement you can find that here.
Claire Bannwarth raced 24 times that we know of in 2023 (which doesn’t take into account her FKT performance on the Colorado Trail) winning 16 of them. While those stats are impressive all by themselves, what floored many of us was that Claire is an ultra-ultrarunner – we are talking loooooong distance racing ^extreme. If there is a “200-mile” race specialist she is it. In hingsight, we’re not sure Claire ever stopped running during 2023. She kicked her season off a year ago winning the (winter) Spine Race and only just closed out her season right before the holidays running a smidge shy of 141 miles (226.81 kilometers) in a 24-hour event in Barcelona.
Other notable results include a seventh place finish in the classic 128km race at Transgrancanaria, a third place finish at Ultra-Trail Snowdonia’s 100-mile, a fifth place finish at the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run, a win at the Tahoe 200-mile, a 16th place finish at UTMB’s 170km, and a win at the Kodiak by UTMB 100-mile race. Looking over Claire’s nearly baffling running resume from 2023 the only month she didn’t technically race was August, but again remember she spent the first week of August conquering the 500-mile Colorado trail in what she calls the “most challenging adventure” of her life, but also the adventure where she had “the best pizza slices” of her life – we’re pretty sure there is beautiful symbolism in there somewhere.
What can’t Claire do? Well we would collectively pee our pants if she ends up on the Barkley Marathons start list…
In stark contrast to his position seven running mate, Germain Grangier raced only four times during the 2023 running season. However the TNF athlete, known as “Serge” to his friends, made each racing oppurtunity count lining up against deep global competition at each stop on the race calendar. His performances felt like a tactician coming in for a strike before heading back again to Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage to train and exist in a quieter mountain environment. What they (he and his partner fellow TNF athlete Katie Schide) lack in reiable wifi, is made up for by having the perfect training environment from the front door.
After a winter training on skis, Germain showed up to Transvulcania in May and came away with a solid fifth place performance in an excellent men’s field. From there the season seemed on a one-way trajectory, up. In June he took home a victory at the classic Mont-Blanc 90km, running an hour faster than he did on the course in 2019. Back on the training grind, all eyes were then set ahead on an impressive fall double of UTMB and La Diagonale des Fous (Grand Raid Réunion). Having two top ten performances at previous UTMB showings (5th in 2021 and 9th in 2019) and a 4th place finish at La Diagonale des Fous in 2022 we were excited to see what Germain could put together this year. If this double header had a report card for him it would read “exceeds expectations“. Germain ran two incredible races only seven weeks apart finishing third at UTMB and second at La Diagonale des Fous – a permanent podium threat as far as we are concerned.
2024 – get your popcorn ready!
There’s no one way to race a trail season just like there’s no one way to find your way into our hearts. Claire and Germain put together vastly different performances this year and our hearts grew two sizes too big to accomodate how incredible they both are. Congratulations to both runners, you’ve made us lifetime fans.
Trail Runner of The Year 2023 is brought to you with support from our friends over at Ketone IQ