In 2019, the Trail World Championships return to Portugal and take place in the town of Miranda do Corvo. The event remains an International Association of Ultrarunners competition in conjunction with the International Trail Running Association and co-organized by the Trilhos dos Abutres race organization. For the last four years, the championships have alternated between longer and shorter distances, and this year the course is shorter, at 44.2 kilometers (27.5 miles) in length and with 2,200 meters (7,218 feet) of climbing.
The Trail World Championships rules remain the same as in years past with individual and team medals. Countries can race nine official team members in the individual competition, six of whom are chosen ahead of time to represent and score for the country as a team. Three team members and their cumulative times combine to score the team competition, with a tiebreak lying in the performance of tying teams’ third runners.
Last year, it was teams Spain, France, and the USA who took home the respective team gold, silver, and bronze medals. Ragna Debats, Laia Cañes, and Claire Mougel were the medal-winning individuals. The defending team podium members all return strong teams, but there are several other countries who have solid, well-known line-ups that should challenge for top positions. Also, there are a number of up-and-comer teams who could upset. Claire Mougel doesn’t return, but Ragna Debats and Laia Cañes both will. It’s no sure bet for anyone though, as I think there are a good five women who could win and about 12 women who could podium. This hyper-competitive race will be fun to watch.
We begin this preview by highlighting three top women with excellent individual potential who either come from countries without full teams or teams that won’t be competitive in the team competition. Then, we explore the deepest teams and their members’ individual potential. Finally, we round out the preview with a list of more women to watch for top-25 placing.
The race starts at 9 a.m. local time on Saturday, June 8, which is 2 a.m. MDT Saturday morning in the U.S. Of course, we’re reporting on the Trail World Championships live! Be sure to read our in-depth men’s preview, too.
Thank you to Hoka One One for sponsoring our coverage of the Trail World Championships!
Top Individual Contenders
The Netherlands’s Ragna Debats (pre-race interview) is the reigning Trail World Champion, returning after a dominant victory last year. Less than two months ago, she won the Marathon des Sables, and just a month ago, she won the Transvulcania Ultramarathon. Those two races alone are very different, and so her win of them both represents incredible diversity. Now, here we are at yet another very different race, a fast 44k. If she can win this race, what a trio of victories this will be.
Ruth Croft (pre-race interview) of New Zealand is one of the most exciting names to hit the Trail World Championships (TWC) entrants list. I believe this is her first time representing New Zealand at a world champs? Croft has proven successful at many different kinds of off-road running, from shorter mountain races to longer ultramarathons. She had an outstanding 2018 which included winning the Golden Trail Series, the Speedgoat 50k, and the OCC. She is a podium contender.
Austria’s Sandra Koblmüller has had two strong results while wearing her country’s colors in previous world champs. In 2017, she took ninth at the TWCs and in 2018 she was sixth at the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) Long Distance Championships.
The Spanish Team
Alright, let’s dive into teams. The Spanish team was the gold-medal winner on home soil at last year’s TWCs, where they upset the French team who had won gold for the three prior years. Spain brings a formidable team to this year’s edition, too.
Laia Cañes had an incredible race to take second last year, her best finish among the three times she’s represented Spain at the TWCs. In 2017, when the course was 49k long in Italy, Cañes finished seventh. Laia is an interesting runner to me, though, as she has raced pretty regularly since her second place last year but not to the same level, including seventh place at the 2018 Ben Nevis Ultra SkyRace and sixth at the 2019 El Valle Trail, the latter the 47k Spanish trail national champs. She clearly peaked well last year at the TWCs.
Gemma Arenas was the second Spanish scorer at last year’s TWCs, where she took fourth. She’s competed for Spain at the last three champs, taking 25th in 2017 and fifth in 2016. I think of her as a longer-distance specialist, and these results reflect this as the 2016 and 2018 editions were longer. She took fourth at the 2019 El Valle Trail.
I believe Azara García has represented Spain at the last three TWCs, but that she’s not finished the last two editions. In 2016, when the championships were on an 85k course also in Portugal, García took second. Last fall, she won the Grand Trail des Templiers, and this year she’s won El Valle Trail, El Réventon, and the Penyagolosa MiM. She seems darn fit.
Though Sheila Avilés has been competing in trail running for years, I believe this is her first time competing at the TWCs. She races pretty frequently in the Skyrunner World Series scene and other mountainous trail races less than 50k long. She was second to García at El Valle Trail a couple months ago. In April, she took fourth at Mt. Awa Skyrace and she was third at the Transvulcania Half Marathon a month ago.
Below are the rest of the Spanish women’s delegation.
- Marta Molist – 2nd 2019 Transgancanaria Marathon; 3rd 2019 El Valle Trail
- Anna Comet – 14th 2017 TWCs; 5th 2019 El Valle Trail; Winner 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Marathon
- Montserrat Martínez – 8th 2019 El Valle Trail; 3rd 2019 El Réventon; 4th 2019 Penyagolosa MiM; 9th 2019 Transvulcania Half Marathon
- Mónica Vives – 10th 2019 El Valle Trail; 4th 2019 El Réventon; 2nd 2019 Penyagolosa MiM
We’ve learned that it’s Montserrat Martínez and Mónica Vives who will not score for the Spanish team. [Updated June 8]
The French Squad
The French women won team gold in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and they took silver last year. They are a team of fresh faces as they return just two members of last year’s team.
Adeline Roche had a huge breakout at the 2017 TWCs when she won. Last year, the shorter-distance specialist circled back with a seventh-place finish after a shortened-due-to-injury training block at the longer TWCs. Also last year, she competed at the WMRA Championships, taking 30th. In April, Roche won the Trail Drôme, a 42k selection race for France’s TWCs team. Given that this year’s course is short, Adeline should be seen as a favorite.
Sarah Vieuille returns to the French team after taking 25th last year. Vieuille has had a great year of running since then, taking second at the 2018 Les Templiers behind Spain’s García, finishing third at the 2019 Trail du Ventoux, and third again at the 2019 Trail Drôme.
This will be Blandine L’hirondel’s first time representing France at the TWCs, and she earned her spot by taking second at Trail Drôme in April. Before that, she took another second at the 2019 Trail du Ventoux. At both those races, she finished in front of teammate Vieuille.
Maryline Nakache is a name we’ve seen around race results of late. I believe she earned her spot on the French team through winning the 2018 French trail national champs at the 67k La Sky Race Max de Montgenevre. Also in 2018, she took third at Les Templiers behind Spain’s García and teammate Vieuille. So far in 2019, she won the EcoTrail de Paris and took second behind Spain’s Comet at the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Marathon.
And here are the other members of the French team:
- Christelle Lazard – 6th 2018 La Sky Race Max de Montgenevre; 4th 2019 Trail Drôme
- Clementine Geoffray – 5th 2019 Trail Drôme
Julie Roux is on the entrants list but not competing.
The Italian Women
After taking year’s a break from bringing a competitive team to the TWCs last year, Italy is back. It makes total sense, though, as Italy has very competitive shorter-distance mountain and trail running scenes and this year’s TWCs are shorter. Italy really shook things up in 2017 in taking a team silver and putting a woman on the individual podium and I see no reason not to expect more of the same this year.
Silvia Rampazzo has represented her country at world champs several times over the years. Two years ago, she took third at the 2017 TWCs, leading Italy to that team silver. And for the last two years, in 2017 and 2018, she’s competed at the WMRA Long Distance Champs, winning in 2017 and taking third in 2018. In 2018, she also competed in the Golden Trail Series, tying for fifth in the series.
Gloria Giudici also competed for Italy at the 2017 TWCs, taking 12th and crossing the line as the second Italian. Giudici has run Sierre-Zinal for the last two years, taking eighth in 2017 and 21st last year. Giudici also competed for her country at last year’s WMRA Champs, finishing 43rd.
Barbara Bani was the third scoring member on Italy’s team-silver-medal-earning team at the 2017 TWCs, where she finished 15th. Bani has competed on behalf of her country at a variety of world champs over the years, most recently taking 17th at the 2018 WMRA Long Distance Champs. Earlier this year, she took second at the 2019 Maremontana Trail, a 45k race which served as a selection race for Italy’s TWCs team.
Lidia Mongelli was also on the Italy team at the 2017 TWCs, and she took 21st. She represented the country again last year, and took 24th as the first Italian woman. In March, Lidia took fourth at the Maremontana Trail.
These are the other two members of the Italian women’s team:
- Emma Quaglia – 23rd 2018 WMRA Champs
- Sarah Palfrader – 3rd 2019 Maremontana Trail; 5th 2019 Transvulcania Marathon
The USA women return following their bronze team medal last year. Each year, there has been almost 100% turnover in the women representing USA at the TWCs. This year’s women have some fascinating potential.
We begin with the USA’s longer-distance specialists, and one is Kelly Wolf. I hope we don’t forget Wolf’s 2018 for a long time, because it was a good one. Last year, she won the Tarawera Ultramarathons 100k, took third at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon, and won the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, among her other results. So far this year, she’s taken fourth at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile.
Update June 3: Anna Mae Flynn is not racing.
Anna Mae Flynn is fresh off a win at April’s Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. In the last couple of years, her other top results have been a win of the 2017 Speedgoat 50k and sixth at the 2018 Transvulcania Ultramarathon.
Now, we preview a couple of the USA’s shorter-distance specialists. Though I believe this is her first time representing the USA at the TWCs, Kasie Enman is no stranger to wearing her country’s colors at other world champs. Going back to 2011, she was the WMRA Champ. More recently, in 2017, she took second at the WMRA Long Distance Champs behind champ Rampazzo of Italy as well as 13th at the WMRA Champs.
Dani Moreno has competed on behalf of her country once before, where she took 21st at the 2017 WMRA Long Distance Champs. Moreno won the 2017 and 2018 XTERRA Trail Run World Championships. (The champs language is XTERRA’s branding/marketing language rather than a federation-supported event.) Earlier this year, she won the FOURmidable 50k, one of the USA’s selection races for its TWCs team.
Here is the rest of Team USA:
- Corey Conner – 4th 2019 FOURmidable 50k
- Elizabeth Ryan – 3rd 2018 Ragged Mountain 50k (another selection race for the USA’s TWCs team)
United Kingdom’s Team
With its diverse group of women, the U.K.’s team looks interesting. It’s fun to imagine a number of teams challenging the traditionally outstanding teams of Spain and France for team medals.
While there are a number of women I’m personally looking forward to watching race for the first time at the TWCs, Charlotte Morgan might be at the top of my list. Morgan was the 2018 WMRA Long Distance Champ, and she was seventh at the same race in 2017. It appears Morgan has been running tune-up races with frequency this year, including taking fourth at the competitive Trofeo Nasego race in Italy ahead of Italy’s Bani.
Jasmin Paris is running the TWCs?! I think this is her first time competing for the U.K. at this race. She’s probably most famous for her ’round’-running capabilities, loops which tag fell tops, where she holds the women’s speed record on England’s Bob Graham Round and the overall speed record on Scotland’s Ramsay Round. Earlier this year, her overall win, which was also an overall course-record time, at the 268-mile Spine Race earned her mainstream recognition. Though she’s trended toward the long races in recent years, her off-road origins were shorter-distance fell running.
Jo Meek has had two prior strong finishes at the TWCs, taking seventh in 2016 and 17th in 2017. Her best 2018 result was probably 11th at the competitive Mont-Blanc Marathon.
Here are the other members of the U.K.’s team:
- Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn – 23rd & 21st at the 2017 & 2018 TWCs
- Georgia Tindley – 28th 2018 WMRA Long Distance Champs
- Meryl Cooper – Winner 2018 Grossglockner Trail
Holly Page is on the entrants list, but isn’t racing due to injury.
The Romanian Team
I don’t have a good grip on Romania’s mountain-running scene, but this team has three women with top runs at the WMRA Long Distance Champs in the last two years, so I feel like we all need to pay attention. Romania has seven women on the entrants list, so at some point six of them will get named the team’s competitors. We’ll update this section when we find out. Let’s take a look at these ladies:
If you haven’t heard of Romania’s Denisa Dragomir (pre-race interview) before now, my guess is you will have after this year’s TWCs. She has finished third and fourth at the 2017 and 2018 WMRA Long Distance Champs. She’s took fourth at the 2018 Zegama Marathon and third at the 2018 Giir Di Mont. In the latter race, she was five minutes behind winner Rampazzo of Italy and eight minutes ahead of fourth place Morgan of the U.K.
Ingrid Mutter has finished eighth and 16th respectively at the 2017 and 2018 WMRA Long Distance Champs. Also last year, she took 11th at the Zegama Marathon. She won the 2019 Primavera Trail Marathon in Romania, which must have served as a selection race for Romania’s TWCs team because all of these women raced it.
Andreea Pîșcu took 11th at last year’s WMRA Long Distance Champs.
Here’s the rest of Romania’s team:
- Viorica Malai – 2nd 2019 Primavera Trail Marathon
- Crina Buzgan – 3rd 2019 Primavera Trail Marathon
- Laura Popescu – 4th 2019 Primavera Trail Marathon
- Cristina Constantin – 20th 2019 Transgrancanaria
The Polish Squad
Here is my dark-horse pick for the team that could throw a wrench into TWCs team-finishing traditions: the Polish squad. This team is only four women deep, so the margin for error is narrower than the more robust women’s teams.
The squad may be led by Magdalena Łączak, who has had an incredible year-plus of trail ultrarunning highlighted by taking sixth at last year’s TWCs. Among her other recent successes are wins in 2017 and 2018 at Transgrancanaria. My only question is if this race is too short for Łączak’s normal sweet spot of longer, tougher trail ultras?
Each of the three remaining team members have top-25 finishes at various world champs:
- Edyta Lewandowska – 15th 2018 TWCs
- Katarzyna Solińska – 18th 2018 WMRA Long Distance Champs
- Paulina Wywłoka – 23rd 2018 WMRA Long Distance Champs
Each year, it seems Sweden builds out their women’s team a little more. This year, they bring four runners, which doesn’t offer much margin of error.
Sweden’s Fanny Borgström is on the rise in the last couple years. Last year, she took 17th at the TWCs, but followed that up with much stronger runs at the shorter-distance, competitive Mont-Blanc Marathon, where she was seventh, and the Otter Trail Run, where she was fourth.
Sanna El Kott has been all over the Skyrunner World Series scene–and a lot of other races–in the last two years. Her top finishes in 2018 were second places at both the High Trail Vanoise and Olympus Marathon. This race distance seems potentially right in El Kott’s wheelhouse, and I could see her having a strong debut in racing in her country’s colors.
The other two women of Sweden’s team are:
- Johanna Bygdell – 16th 2018 TWCs
- Lisa Ring – Winner 2016 & 2018 Ultravasan 45k
Other Women to Watch
Here are more women to watch:
- Linda Boldāne (Latvia) – 11th 2018 CCC
- Sunmaya Budha (Nepal) – 8th 2018 Mont-Blanc Marathon
- Kathryn Drew (Canada) – 1st 2019 Chuckanut 50k
- Katrin Götz (Switzerland) – Prolific and successful racer in long ultramarathons; 6th 2016 TWCs; 3rd 2018 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
Landie Greyling (South Africa) – 5th 2019 Penyagolosa MiMLandie Greyling is not racing due to injury. [Updated June 3] Nicolette Griffioen (South Africa) – 5th 2016 WMRA Long Distance Champs[Updated June 6]
- Nancy Jiang (New Zealand) – 15th 2019 WMRA Champs
- Ying-Suet Leung (Hong Kong) – 1st 2018 Hong Kong trail champs; 8th 2019 Hong Kong 100k
- Kim Magnus (Canada) – 27th 2018 TWCs; 2nd 2019 Chuckanut 50k
- Elísabet Margeirsdóttir (Iceland) – 8th 2018 Hong Kong 100k
- Inês Marques (Portugal) – 20th 2018 TWCs
- Katerina Matrasova (Czech Republic) – 11th 2016 WMRA Long Distance Champs; 20th & 26th at the 2016 & 2017 TWCs
- Michaela Mertova (Czech Republic) – 9th 2016 TWCs; 15th 2017 WMRA Long Distance Champs
- Mercedes Pila (Ecuador) – 3rd 2018 Ben Nevis Ultra SkyRace behind winner Debats of the Netherlands and second-place Arenas of Spain
- Claudia Rosegger (Austria) – 19th 2018 TWCs
- Takako Takamura (Japan) – 1st 2016-2018 Hasetsune Cup; 3rd 2019 Mt. Awa Skyrace
- Martina Trimmel (Austria) – 1st 2018 Mozart 100k
- Katrine Villumsen (Denmark) – 16th & 15th at the 2017 & 2018 WMRA Long Distance Champs
- Yuri Yoshizumi (Japan) – 13th 2016 TWCs; 1st 2019 Transvulcania Marathon
Call for Comments
- Which individuals and teams do you think will challenge for the win?
- Are there any runners you think will surprise this weekend?
- With top runners from such a variety of countries, it’s impossible to have context for all the runners. Please let us know how the top runners racing from your country stack up!
- Have we mentioned someone who you know isn’t racing?