Editor’s Note: The 2023 World Mountain and Trail Running World Championships (WMTRC) in Innsbruck-Stubai, Austria are just about to kick off. As you read this, the opening ceremonies are underway – and while the title of this ‘could be Olympics of trail’ is still a bit wordy, we are here to champion the crap out of the races and athletes participating this week. Extra exciting for all of us, the race organization has announced that they will be streaming the races all week in six languages on both their website and Facebook page! While your anticipation is building (USA! USA!) head on over to Freetrail Fantasy and lock in your picks all at once or one race at a time.
Vertical Race (7.1km, 1,020m ascent) – June 7th, 2023
In the men’s vertical race, defending 2022 World Champion Kenyan Patrick Kipngeno should be considered a favorite for this year’s event, who won last year’s event by a commanding margin. Although he’s had a relatively short career in the sport, Patrick’s resume is punctuated by wins and podiums at Europe’s top uphill and short-course races. Always in consideration for a win at the most important short-course mountain races is the United States’ own Joe Gray, who earlier this year was the top American finisher at the USATF Mountain Running Championships (Sunapee Scramble). Joe has an incredible amount of experience competing at this level, having amassed ten USA Mountain Running National Championship wins and two World Mountain Running Championships during his career. Italian Cesare Maestri is also a podium threat, as the defending European Mountain Running Champion, and having finished seventh in the vertical race at the World Championships last year. Cesare has had notable success in Europe’s top short trail and uphill races over the course of his career.
Other notables: Zak Hanna (Ireland), Daniel Osanz (Spain), Dominik Rolli (Switzerland), Philemon Kiriago (Kenya), Dan Curts (USA)
The elite American duo of Grayson Murphy and Allie McLaughlin will be a force to be reckoned with in the vertical race. Allie is the defending World Champion in this race and had fantastic success in her 2022 race season, inclusive of major wins at top-tier Golden Trail World Series events. Notably, Grayson recently bested Allie in convincing fashion at the USATF Mountain Running Championships and looks to be in fantastic form in her training preparation for this race. Finishing second at the World Championships last year, Austria’s Andrea Mayr will be competing this year and making a bid for her 7th career Mountain Running World Championship title. A four-time European Mountain Running champion, Andrea is a perennial podium threat in any short-course mountain race. French vertical kilometer specialist Christel Dewalle will also be returning after an 8th-place finish in the 2022 World Championships. Most notably, Christel is famed for her current world record in the vertical kilometer, set last year at the Fully Vertical KM.
Other Notables: Philaries Kisang (Kenya), Scout Adkin (Great Britain), Susanna Saapunki (Finland), Onditz Iturbe (Spain), Judith Wyder (Switzerland)
Short Trail Race (45.2km, 3,132m ascent, 2,719m descent) – June 8th, 2023
Recently finishing second at the historic Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon, New Zealand’s (living in Spain) Caitlin Fielder will be one to keep an eye out for this race. She’s had historical success at the Golden Trail World Series, along with podium finishes at some of Europe’s most competitive marathon and short ultra-distance races in recent years, including Marathon du Mont-Blanc and the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc OCC 55-kilometer. Despite a recent DNF at the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon, Spain’s Nuria Gil Clapera is coming off an early season win at the highly competitive Transgrancanaria Marathon. Second at the OCC at UTMB Mont Blanc last year, with a fourth-place finish at last year’s World Championships, Nuria is poised to be a podium contender at this race. Emelie Forsberg (Swede living in Norway) has returned to consistent high-level competition after a few years of reduced racing, during which she started a family. A multi-time Skyrunning World Series champion, and having innumerable amount of ultra-distance trail victories internationally to her name, the Swede is primed for success at this race.
Other Notables: Toni McCann (South Africa), Fabiola Conti (Italy), Eleanor Davis (Great Britain), Jennifer Lichter (USA), Oihana Kortazar (Spain)
Defending his 2022 Short Trail World Championship Norway’s Stian Angermund opened his season with a tie for first at the Istria 100 by UTMB 68k. Although he raced infrequently in 2022, Stian has an incredible list of career wins across some of Europe’s most competitive races, including the UTMB OCC and Marathon du Mont-Blanc. A British expat now living in Norway, Jonathan Albon will be looking to improve on his third-place finish at the world championships last year. Jon has had success at the highest level of competition in the sport, finishing third in a world-class field at the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon last month, as well as a 2022 season which included a win at the Marathon du Mont-Blanc and a second-place finish at the 2022 UTMB Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix (CCC) 100k race. Also based in Norway, Sweden’s Petter Engdahl will be another to watch in this race. Despite an early season DNF at the Madeira Island Ultra Trail (MIUT) 115k, Petter set the course record at the UTMB CCC last year, becoming the first runner to ever complete the course in under 10 hours.
Other Notables: Francesco Puppi (Italy), Davide Magnini (Italy), Max King (USA), Thibaut Baronian (France), Ruy Ueda (Japan)
Long Trail Race (84.9km, 5,554m ascent, 5,966m descent) – June 9th, 2023
Third at the World Championships Long Trail race in 2022, Italy’s Andreas Reiterer will surely be seeking to secure another podium at this year’s competition. A podium finisher at the UTMB CCC race in 2022, Andreas has continued his success through to 2023, with a victory at the Istria 100 by UTMB marathon, and a third place at the competitive Transvulcania 72k race. Hannes Namberger of Germany will be making his debut at the World Championships this year, Hannes had an incredible 2022 racing season which included wins at the Penyagolosa CSP 106k, Lavaredo Ultra Trail by UTMB 121k and a tie for first place at the Ultra-Trail Cape Town 100k. Given his race experience, he should be a favorite to succeed on this year’s challenging race course. Finishing just outside of the top five at last year’s world championship race, France’s Thibaut Garrivier won the MIUT 85k in convincing fashion to open his 2023 race season. Thibaut has notable historic wins at the UTMB CCC and Transvulcania 72k, along with a top-ten finish at UTMB in 2022. He joins an elite team of French athletes also in search of a top 5 spot.
Other Notables: Nicolas Martin (France), Ionel Christian Manole (Romania), Zach Miller (USA), Didrik Hermansen (Norway), José Angel Fernández (Spain)
The women’s field is highlighted by France’s Blandine L’hirondel who is returning to defend her WMTRC Long Trail World Championship from 2022. Blandine has had a sensational run of racing over the last few years, most recently including wins at the UTMB CCC and the European Athletics Off-Road Running Championships in 2022. Gemma Arenas Alcazar has had a plethora of experience at world championship trail running events and will be representing her home country of Spain for the sixth consecutive time. A definite consideration for the podium, Gemma has started her season off strong with a first-place win at the Penyagolosa MiM 60k race, and a podium finish at the Transgrancanaria Marathon. France’s Manon Bohard should also be competitive for the podium at this race. Manon started her season with a second-place finish at the French national trail championship (at Trail de la Cité de Pierres 68k race) and followed up with a dominant winning performance at the MIUT 115k. Also a winner of the 2021 edition of the mountainous UTMB Traces du Duc de Savoie (TDS) race, Manon looks set up for success in Austria.
Other Notables: Sunmaya Budha (Nepal), Clare Gallagher (USA), Azara García (Spain), Katrin Götz (Switzerland), Katharina Hartmuth (Germany)
Mountain Classic Race (15km, 751m ascent) – June 10th, 2023
Uganda’s Rebecca Cheptegei only recently entered the competitive trail running circuit, but was incredibly successful right out of the gate, winning the Mountain Classic race at the WMTRC World Championship in 2022. A former Ugandan national record holder in the marathon (2:22), she has shown promise in some of Europe’s most competitive short-distance trail races and will certainly be in competition for a top spot at this year’s event. Not dissimilar to the Vertical Race, the American duo of Grayson Murphy and Allie McLaughlin should also be highly competitive in the Mountain Classic. Allie finished third in this race at last year’s World Championships in this race format, while Grayson was the winner of the World Championships in the Mountain Classic in 2019. Also returning to improve on her fourth-place performance at the World Championship last year is former Romanian national track title holder Monica Madalina Florea, Florea also finished second in this event in the 2022 European Championships.
Other Notables: Scout Adkin (Great Britain) , Tove Alexandersson (Sweden), Elise Poncet (France), Alice Gaggi (Italy), Onditz Iturbe (Spain)
Akin to the Vertical race, Kenya’s Patrick Kipngeno and Italy’s Cesare Maestri should also be favorites to contend in this event. Patrick finished 2nd in this Mountain Classic in this event last year, while Cesare finished 9th. Cesare was also second in the European Championships in this race format last year, and second at the World Championships for the Mountain Classic in 2019. American Dan Curts could also contend for a top spot in this race. Dan had an impressive win at the USATF National Championships earlier this year and finished second at last year’s National Championship race. Although he had an underwhelming placement at last year’s world championships, Curts has had notable results on the track and road in his post-collegiate career and should be well-equipped to improve on his placement this year.
Other Notables: Andreu Blanes Reig (Spain), Alberto Vender (Italy), Theodore Klein (France), Sam Hendry (Canada), Xavier Chevrier (Italy)
Below is a list of athletes that are confirmed to be not participating in the World Championships this year, although they may have been originally listed as national team members:
Long Trail: Jim Walmsley (USA), Erin Clark (USA), Jazmine Lowther (Canada), Lucy Bartholomew (Australia), Johanna Antila (Finland)
Short Trail: Seth Ruhling (USA)
Vertical: Jim Walmsley (USA), Eddie Owens (USA)