This year marks the first time that the IAU Trail World Championships move from a biannual schedule to an every-year occurrence. In this case, last May’s championships in Annecy, France will be followed up this week with the IAU Trail World Championships hosted in Peneda-Gerês National Park in northern Portugal.
Word from long-time trail runners is that the course is very tough. To start, there’s 4,680 meters (over 15,000 feet) of climbing and an equal amount of descent on the 85-kilometer (53-mile) point-to-point course. The first 30 kilometers has the potential to be faster, while the final 50k offers a larger proportion of difficult terrain.
The race has both individual and team competitions with the latter based off the combined time of each country’s top-three designated members. Below, we take a look at both sides of the competition. The individual competition is wide open while the team winner is likely to come from one of two teams. We’ve laid out the full squads of the countries most likely to finish up front with other top runners further down the article.
The race starts at 5 a.m. on Saturday, October 29th, which is 10 p.m. MDT on Friday, October 28th in the United States. As you’d expect, we’ll be reporting on the race live.
Be sure to also read our in-depth men’s IAU Trail World Championships preview to learn about who is in the men’s race.
The French Team
The French squad returns to the Trail World Championships as the defending champs. To repeat atop the podium, they’ll have to do so on foreign ground this time. Their cause will be helped by the fact that two of the world’s top trail ultrarunners of the past two years are on their team: Nathalie Mauclair and Caroline Chaverot.
Nathalie Mauclair had a strong 2014, taking third at both the Western States 100 Mile and UTMB… and, then, 2015 happened. Last year, she won both UTMB and the Trail World Championships. Aside from her placing second at the Marathon des Sables in April, we’ve not seen much from Nathalie on the world stage this year. It’s worth noting that Mauclair is actually the two-time defending champ, as she also won in 2013.
On the other hand, Caroline Chaverot just won UTMB in August… along with the Buff Epic Trail, Mont Blanc 80k, Madeira Island Ultra Trail, and Transgrancanaria. Yeah, not a bad year so far. Last year, she was runner up to Mauclair at the Trail World Championships in addition to winning the Lavaredo and Eiger Ultra Trails and placing second at Transgrancanaria.
Anne-Lise Rousset may not be as well known as Mauclair or Chaverot, but she did finish fourth at last year’s Trail World Championships before placing third at Les Templiers later in the year. This year, she’s been runner up at Transvulcania and The Rut 50k. Maud Gobert won the Trail World Championships five years ago before placing 16th in 2013 and seventh in 2015. Gobert was fourth at the Skyrunning World Championships at the Buff Epic Trail in July. Aurélia Truel was runner up to Mauclair at the 2013 Trail World Championships before placing 17th at last year’s edition. She was fourth at the Tecnica MaXi-Race in May. Sophie Gagnon rounds out the French squad having placed second at this year’s MaXi Race. Gagnon has taken sixth at the past two French Trail National Championships.
The Spanish Team
Basque runner Uxue Fraile has had an even stronger past two years than Maiora outside of placing sixth at last year’s Trail World Championships. Fraile’s been second and third the past two runnings of UTMB, was third at Transgrancanaria in March, second at this year’s Lavaredo Ultra Trail, won last year’s Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji, and so on.
Azara García has high upside potential despite not being as well known internationally as some of her Spanish teammates. Azara won last year’s Zegama Marathon while taking second in the Sky division at this year’s Skyrunning World Championships.
Gemma Arenas races relatively frequently, regularly with solid results. This year, she’s been sixth at Transvulcania and ninth at the Skyrunning World Championships along with her win at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira and Ultra Pirineu. Teresa Nimes was 10th at last year’s Trail World Championships while she was third at CCC back in late August. Raquel Martínez, who was fifth at CCC and 12th at Transvulcania this year, is also on the team. Rounding out the team is Laia Cañes, who was third at last year’s CCC to go with numerous podium finishes in Spain the past few years.
The British Team
On the roads, Jo Zakrzewski has taken second (’11), third (’14), and fifth (’15) at the IAU 100k World Championships while she was second at the IAU 50k World Championships in 2014. She was fourth at the Trail World Championships in 2013.
In the past year, Jo Meek (pre-race interview) has placed eighth at the 2015 TNF EC 50-Mile Championships, 11th at Transvulcania, and was runner up at the CCC. She was fourth at the 2014 IAU 100k World Championships on the roads after placing fifth at the Comrades Marathon earlier in the year.
After placing second at the Zugspitz Ultratrail last year, Sophie Grant has been sixth at both Transgrancanaria and Lavaredo before coming in 10th at UTMB. In addition to taking 27th at last year’s Trail World Championships, Sally Fawcett has won this year’s Lakeland 50 mile and been runner up at the Hoka Highland Fling in 2014 and 2016. As far as we can tell, Beth Pascall’s trail ultrarunning highlight came this April when she won the 53-mile Highland Fling. She also ran 230km (143 miles) in a 24-hour event last September.
The US Team
The American women’s squad suffers for having two of its five designated runners–Devon Yanko and Sabrina Little–sidelined with injuries without any designated replacements. Now, one misstep or a bad race from even one team member could result in a poor team performance.
YiOu Wang had quite the start to her season. She won the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in April after taking second at the Way Too Cool 50k a month earlier. In May, she broke the long-standing course record of the Quicksilver 50k in California. Then, she had a rough go at the Western States 100 Mile in June, when she took 13th.
Maybe it’s my faulty memory, but I feel like I’ve seen Larisa Dannis’s name on a number of entrants lists for prominent races this year while she’s not raced. This year, she has won one shorter NorCal trail race as well as the Ice Age 50 Mile, but that’s all she’s raced as far as I can find. That said, if Larisa is healthy and ready, she’s got the wheels to run way into the top 10, as shown by her second place at Western States in 2014, a 5:59 50 miler at Door County in late 2014, and third at last December’s The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships.
Although it’s her first year focused on ultras, Corrine Malcolm has been running consistently enough that I’d not be surprised to see her round out the scoring members of the American squad. This year, she’s been fifth at the Chuckanut 50k, fourth at the Gorge Waterfalls 100k, first at the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile, and sixth at The Rut 50k.
Other Top Women
- Ester Alves (Portugal) — The top woman from the host team, Alves was sixth at Transgrancanaria and seventh at Transvulcania last year. She was eighth at UTMB in 2014.
- Lisa Borzani (Italy) — Leading an Italian team with upside potential, Lisa Borzani was 11th at last year’s Trail World Championships. Since then, she’s taken second at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k and third at the MaXi-Race Annecy.
- [Updated 10/24: Melanie Bos isn’t racing.]
Melanie Bos (Canada) — Although she finished 37th at last year’s Trail World Championships, Melanie has finished between ninth and 15th at the past three TNF 50-Mile Championships.
[Updated 10/24: Ruth Croft won’t be racing.]
Ruth Croft (New Zealand) — In the past two years, she’s won the CCC (’15), been second at Tarawera (’15) and Trofeo Kima (’16), third at Transvulcania (’16), and fourth at the TNF EC 50-Mile Championships (’15). That’s quite a diversity of top performances. After Emelie Forsberg, Ruth is the top contender outside of the top teams.
- Ragna Debats (Netherlands) — While often seen racing in Catalan colors, Ragna Debats will run for her home country of the Netherlands. This year alone, she’s been fourth at Skyrun Comapedrosa, fifth at Matterhorn Ultraks, sixth at the Dolomites Skyrace, and seventh in the Sky race at the Skyrunning World Championships.
- Kellie Emmerson (Australia) — Kellie was 19th at last year’s Trail World Championships and third earlier this year at Ultra-Trail Australia.
Emelie Forsberg (Sweden) (pre-race interview) — Prior to her skiing injury over last winter, she won Transvulcania, Mount Marathon, Ice Trail Tarentaise, Tromsø Skyrace, The Rut 50k, Glen Coe Skyline, and Ultra Pirineu in the year prior. Even coming back from injury, Emelie is a contender for the win.
- Malene Haukøy (Norway) –Haukøy improved on her third place at last year’s Tromsø Skyrace, where she beat Maite Maiora by taking second this year.
- Fiona Hayvice (New Zealand) — Fiona won the Tarawera Ultramarathon this year after placing fourth there last year. She was also second at Ultra-Trail Australia this year.
- Michaela Mertová (Czech Republic) — Routinely sixth or seventh in strong fields the past two years, including Ice Trail Tarentaise ’15, Limone ’15, Livigno Skymarathon ’16, and the Sky race at the Skyrunning World Championships ’16. She was second at Matterhorn Ultraks this August.
- Simona Morbelli (Italy) — Last year, Simona won the Zugspitz Ultratrail and was 14th at the TNF EC 50-Mile Championships.
- Verónica Ramirez (Argentina) — Won this year’s 130-kilometer Patagonia Run after placing third last year.
- Nikolina Sustic (Croatia) — A fast road 100k runner with three times of 7:40 to 7:41 the past two years. Ninth at last year’s IAU 50k World Championships on the roads in 3:39.
- Ildiko Wermescher (Germany) — 18th at last year’s Trail World Championships. This year, she’s been ninth at Ultra-Trail Australia, second at the Zugspitz Ultratrail, fourth at the Eiger Ultra Trail, and seventh at UTMB.
Top Contenders Entered But Not Racing
- Oihana Kortazar (Spain)
- Mimmi Kotka (Sweden)
- Sabrina Little (US)
- Maite Maiora (Spain)
- Ida Nilsson (Sweden)
- Devon Yanko (US)
Call for Comments
- Which runner will win this year’s IAU Trail World Championships and who will join her on the podium?
- Which teams stand to finish at the front?
- Let us know which other runners we should note in our preview as well as if we’ve included someone who you know won’t be racing.