After a lengthy disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, normal service has finally resumed for international team racing. The inaugural World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was first set to take place in November 2021, but the ongoing pandemic forced that event’s postponement and eventual cancellation.
Delightfully, it’s full steam ahead for the 2022 edition, which combines the Trail World Championships and World Mountain Running Championships into a single, nearly-week-long event. The event features teams from all over the world competing in an uphill-only race, a classic mountain race, a 40-kilometer trail race, and an 80k trail race — the one we’ll be focusing our coverage on at iRunFar. Each event also features an individual race and a team event. Each team can field up to six runners, with the top three from each country counting for team scoring.
The race features 4,807 meters (15,771 feet) of elevation gain over 78k (48.5 miles) on predominantly runnable trails and dirt road. Temperatures on race day are likely to reach 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) with high humidity, so how well the athletes cope with these challenging conditions will greatly affect who comes out on top.
Below are the top women you can look out for in the 80k race, and a breakdown of the top teams that will be competing for team podium spots. Some of the Asian countries have yet to release details of their teams, so we’ll add more information to this preview accordingly as it comes online. Check out the full entrants’ lists for all eight races.
Don’t miss our in-depth Trail World Championships men’s preview as well.
iRunFar will be covering the 80k race live, so be sure to follow along. The race begins at 6:30 a.m. local time on Saturday, November 5, which is 5:30 p.m. on Friday, November 4, in U.S. Mountain Time.
Favorites for Individual Women’s Win
France’s Blandine L’Hirondel (pre-race interview) caught many by surprise when she won the 2019 Trail World Championships, a 44k event, on her first occasion representing France at the event. She won’t slip under the radar so easily this year, with all she has achieved since that. She went on to take bronze at the 2019 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships later that year. In 2021, she won OCC by a 22-minute margin, setting a new course record (and was handed a puppy at the finish line for good measure!). In 2022, she returned to Chamonix to win CCC, in a more competitive than usual women’s field. She leads the charge in a strong French team who will be hard to match.
Just five minutes back from L’Hirondel in the 2022 CCC in second place was Nepal’s Sunmaya Budha. The 24-year-old also won the Thailand by UTMB 106k in 2021, placing third overall. Having already performed well in similar conditions to this event is bound to be an advantage. She is the only Nepalese runner on the start list for the 80k, and hers is a name we’ll likely be hearing a lot more of going forward.
Poland’s Dominika Stelmach (pre-race interview) won the 2021 Cappadocia Ultra-Trail 120k and finished a close second behind Clare Gallagher at the 2022 Black Canyons 100k. She had a below-par run at the Western States 100 this year, where she placed 17th, but a fast win at the more recent 2022 Chudy Wawrzyniec 80k in Poland would suggest she’s back on form and could do really well. With a 2:36 marathon best, however she deals with the conditions and terrain, lacking in leg speed won’t be the issue.
It wasn’t Azara García’s day at this year’s UTMB and she failed to finish. But she went into that race as one of the favorites and we are not ruling her out of this one either. The Spaniard won the 2021 Transgrancanaria 129k, Ultra Sierra Nevada 100k, and Ultra Pirineu 100k. In 2022, she had a great win at the 85k Bucovina Ultra Rocks in Romania, and it’s possible that this distance plays more to her strengths than 100 miles. She also took fourth at the 2019 Trail World Championships 44k and second in 2016. As Spain is a country that takes these championships seriously, she’s sure to be bringing her A-game.
The 2021 CCC winner — Spain’s Marta Molist — has had an incredible run of form the past couple of years, winning almost every race she started in 2021 and 2022. A few more highlights include wins at the 2021 and 2022 Penyagolosa MiM 60k, the 2022 Mozart by UTMB 78k, and the 2022 Swiss Alps 50k. She raced the Trail World Championships 44k in 2019 and placed 15th, but her progress since should see her finish further up the field this time around.
Kaytlyn Gerbin’s (pre-race interview) most recent notable result was a third-place finish at the 2022 UTMB. She described herself as being in “no woman’s land” in the latter half of that race, as there were big gaps both in front of her and behind, which left little incentive for her to do anything but coast to her 25:07 finish. She was on the USA team that took bronze in the 85k Trail World Championships at Penyagolosa Trails in 2018, where she placed 10th. Since that, she’s taken second and sixth at the 2018 and 2019 Western States 100, respectively, and won the 2020 Transgrancanaria 129k. She won the 2022 Yakima Rim Skyline 50k, but most of her best results have been over bigger distances. So, if anything, 80k might be a little short for her.
Marcela Vašínová from the Czech Republic has had some really competitive results at around the marathon distance. These include fifth at the 2021 and 2022 Marathon du Mont-Blanc, ninth in the 2022 Zegama Marathon, and sixth in the 2021 Sierre-Zinal. She’s had some good results at ultra distances too, including a win at the 2022 Lysohorský Ultra Trail 68k. She’ll be fascinating to watch how shorter distance speed translates to this 80k distance.
Expected Top Teams
In this section, we preview teams and their members that are most likely to compete for top team spots.
To remind us all, the most recent Trail World Championships were a 44k race run in Portugal in June 2019, with France, Spain, and Romania finishing first through third in the women’s team rankings.
This is a fairly new French squad. The only runner who was present at the 2019 Trail World Championships 44k is the aforementioned Blandine L’Hirondel. But there is still a depth of experience and talent in this team that will make them a force to be reckoned with, let alone the fact that France takes the Trail World Championships seriously in its qualifications, training, and logistical preparations.
Blandine L’Hirondel – See above.
Audrey Tanguy has been running ultras for the best part of a decade and she keeps getting better. Standout results include wins at the 2018 and 2019 TDS, a sixth-place finish at the 2021 Western States 100, and second behind Courtney Dauwalter at this year’s Madeira Island Ultra-Trail 115k. As with a few of the top women in this preview, she failed to finish this year’s UTMB, in this case, due to a lower back problem that arose shortly before the race. Assuming she’s put that injury to bed, the training block should stand her in good stead.
Like Tanguy, Manon Bohard was on our preview for the 2022 UTMB but failed to finish that time around. Her previous top form included winning the 2021 TDS and, in 2022, the 80k race at the Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival and the 76k Trail Verbier Saint-Bernard by UTMB. Since this year’s UTMB disappointment, she’s been successfully mixing it up with some shorter-distance races, winning the Wildstrubel by UTMB 25k and the Trail Vallée de Joux 36k. Some speedy runs following a 100-mile training block could be a winning combination for this 80k race.
Marion Delespierre was fourth at the 2021 UTMB in a fast 25:54, and won the 85k race at Madeira Island Ultra-Trail that same year. She also placed second in the 2019 Diagonale des Fous. As with Bohard, she’s been doing some shorter races in the build-up to this world championships, and won the Ultra-Trail du Haut-Giffre 30k in June, and the marathon at the Trail Faverges Seythenex in August.
Our 2022 UTMB preview called it that Jocelyne Pauly was “capable of another similar performance” to her 2018 third-place time of 26:15:11. Well, she finished fourth within 73 seconds of that time this year, so we hope you’re paying attention to Jocelyne! Some of her other great results include winning the 2018 Diagonale des Fous, a second-place finish in the 2019 Tor des Géants, and a win at this year’s Grand Trail de la Vallée d’Ossau 74k.
Laure Paradan is less well-known on the international front than her teammates, but she has had some strong results at home in France, including taking eighth at last year’s competitive Grand Trail des Templiers 80k. It’s not her first time wearing the French vest — she placed a respectable 13th in the 47k race at the European Athletics Off-Road Running Championships in Spain earlier this year.
The Spanish team won gold at the 2018 Trail World Championships 85k on home soil, and they narrowly missed out to France at the 2019 Trail World Championships 44k in Portugal. The country has a wealth of strong ultrarunners to pick from and opted for this tried-and-tested bunch. The country takes the Trail World Championships seriously with all things preparation, so you can bet they’ll be placing their best foot forward.
Azara García – See above.
Marta Molist – See above.
Gemma Arenas has represented Spain four times at the Trail World Championships and has finished in the top 10 on three of those occasions. The most recent was a seventh-place finish in the 2019 event, which was possibly a little short for her at 44k. She placed fourth in 2018 over 85k, when Penyagolosa Trails in Spain was the host event. This year, she finished a close second behind teammate Marta Molist in the Penyagolosa MiM 60k — improving on her 2021 time, which earned the same position, by 12 minutes. She also took second at last year’s competitive Grand Trail des Templiers 80k.
Just behind Arenas, Maite Maiora finished fifth in the 2018 Trail World Championships, which was an 85k distance. She has great form in a broad range of distances and has excelled on both technical and fast trails. In a standout year in 2017 — she won the coveted Zegama Marathon, the uber-technical 57k Tromsø Skyrace, and the 100k Ultra Pirineu, as well as placing second at the CCC. In 2019, she took third at UTMB. More recently, she won the 68k race at the 2021 Skyrunning World Championships, and won this year’s Val d’Aran by UTMB 55k.
Monica Vives didn’t finish the 2019 Trail World Championships 44k. But she’s back, and has shown some improving form since then! She recently placed second at the 2022 Nice Côte d’Azur by UTMB 59k and was third at the Penyagolosa MiM 60k earlier this year.
The USA has a whopper lineup of both men and women for all of the distances at this world championships, and it’s very unlikely they’ll be coming home without some hardware.
Kaytlyn Gerbin – See above.
The USA’s Addie Bracy could do some real damage on this 80k course. She won the competitive Speedgoat by UTMB 50k this year and also won the 2021 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile by a big margin. She has a strong background in classic mountain racing as well as ultras, and previously placed top 10 at World Mountain Running Championships, including eighth in the 13k classic race in 2017 and sixth in the 30k long-distance event that same year. In terms of results specific to this distance, she won the Quad Rock 50 Mile three years running, from 2018 to 2020, and placed third in both The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships and the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in 2019.
Brittany Charboneau burst onto the trail running scene in 2019, with a win at the Leadville Trail Half Marathon, and has hardly stopped winning since that. Big victories include the 2020 Pikes Peak Marathon, and the 2022 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, the latter of which was her debut at the distance. She also took second at the 2022 Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k, and second at the 2022 Pikes Peak Marathon — although it looks from the times like that one was a below-par day for her.
Leah Yingling is having a super 2022. She placed third in the Bandera 100k and second in the Canyons by UTMB 100k — up from sixth from last year and shaving 40 minutes off her time in slower, wetter conditions. She then went on to place sixth among this year’s stacked women’s field at the Western States 100. She also took second at the George Waterfalls 50k earlier in the year, so while long ultras seem to be more her forte, she should be solid over the 80k distance.
Jennifer Lichter was originally named on Team USA but is no longer running.
The Polish team has left no margin for error, with only three women starting. They are three very fast women, though, so if the stars align correctly for them, the team could still have a shot!
Dominika Stelmach – See above.
Katarzyna Solińska finished second behind Mimmi Kotka at the 2022 Lavaredo Ultra Trail by UTMB 120k, and was fifth in last year’s CCC. Other notable results include third at the Lavaredo UltraDolomites 80k, which takes place as part of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail by UTMB event, in 2021. She was part of the Polish squad in the last Trail World Championships in 2019, over the 44k distance, and placed 37th. She has clearly demonstrated her ability over bigger distances since then, and should be more of a player this time around.
Katarzyna Wilk has mostly raced at home in Poland but has had buckets of wins there, including the 2022 European Running Festival – Krynicka Setka 100k. Last year, she placed third in the Lavaredo Cortina Trail 48k, which takes place at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail by UTMB event. Back in 2019, she placed 11th at that race the day after taking second at the Lavaredo Cortina Skyrace 19k. Her times suggest she could finish ahead of some more household names in international trail running.
Team Italy is the first team on site so they’ll have hopefully beat jet lag, recce the course, and be heat/humidity adapted. The squad was to be headlined by this year’s TDS winner, Martina Valmossoi, but unfortunately, she has withdrawn due to injury. That leaves the team with just three runners, so all will need to put in a good performance for the team to have a chance at the podium.
Alessandra Boifava recently won the 2022 TOR130 — the 130k race that runs alongside the Tor des Géants, which features 12,000 meters of height gain. She also placed sixth at the 2022 Lavaredo Ultra Trail by UTMB 120k, the same placing as she attained at the race back in 2019, but she was 43 minutes quicker this year. Boifava represented Italy at the 2018 Trail World Championships 85k and was just in the top third of the women back then, but improving form since that could see her climb higher up.
Giuditta Turini is having a great autumn, winning the Delicious Trail Dolomiti 43k in September, two weeks after breaking the tape at the But SkyUltra 61k. She then made it three in a row, winning the 30k race at the Ultra Trail Lago d’Orta in October. She had some really strong results on the international scene in 2021 as well, placing second in both TDS and the Marathon du Mont-Blanc 90k.
Camilla Spagnol has been running for a while but showed great progression this year. She recently won the 2022 Borc Trail 50k, placed second at the 2022 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail 85k, and took fourth at the Garda Trentino Trail 62k.
Team Norway fields five women, which gives good odds of three strong performances. Conditions will be very different from what some of them might be used to at home though, which could prove challenging.
Henriette Albon has a litany of strong results to her name, and would have more wins if she wasn’t continually drawn to the most competitive trail races going! She recently took sixth in the 2022 CCC, in a time that would have had her on the podium most other years. She also placed sixth at last year’s OCC race and fourth at the 2021 Ultra Pirineu 100k. She placed 12th in this year’s Zegama Marathon — not to be sniffed at in a race that saw Courtney Dauwalter finish 10th — and has demonstrated her ability over a broad range of distances and terrain in the mountains.
The rest of the women on Team Norway are:
- Sylvia Nordskar – 12th 2022 CCC; 14th 2022 Marathon du Mont-Blanc
- Sara-Rebekka Færø Linde – 4th 2022 Penyagolosa Trails MiM 60k; 1st 2021 Blefjells Beste 56k
- Mari Klakegg Fenre – 1st 2022 Nordmarkstravern NM Terrengultra 85k
- Thea Hanssen – 1st 2022 Ecotrail Oslo 80k; 1st 2020 Tromsø Mountain Ultra 50k
Other Top Women
- Johanna Antila (Finland) – 10th 2022 CCC; 2nd 2022 Lavaredo UltraDolomites 80k; 2nd 2022 Transgrancanaria 65k
- Rosanna Buchauer (Germany) – 5th 2022 CCC; 1st 2022 Eiger Ultra-Trail by UTMB 51k; 1st 2021 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail 60k
- Man Yee Cheung (Hong Kong) – 1st 2019 The North Face Hong Kong 100k; 5th 2019 Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji 165k
- Lou Clifton (Australia) – 17th 2022 UTMB; 1st 2022 Buffalo Stampede Festival 2022 – Bright Ultra 100k; 1st 2019 Cappadocia Ultra-Trail 120k
- Meryl Cooper (Great Britain) — 6th 2021 CCC; 2nd 2022 Ultra Trail Snowdonia 50k; 4th 2022 Transgrancanaria Advanced 60k; 91st 2019 Trail World Championships 44k
- Eszter Csillag (Hungary) – 5th 2022 UTMB; 5th 2022 Transgrancanaria 129k; 4th 2021 CCC
- Esther Fellhofer (Austria) – 3rd 2022 Lavaredo Ultra Trail by UTMB 120k; 7th 2022 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail 115k; 1st 2022 Eiger Ultra-Trail by UTMB 250k
- Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn (Great Britain) – 32nd 2019 Trail World Championships 44k; 6th 2022 Transgrancanaria 65k; 5th 2020 Transgrancanaria Marathon 42k; 1st 2018 Lakes in A Day 50 Mile
- Phitchanan Mahachot (Thailand) – 1st 2022 Pribpree Eco Trail 43k
- Inês Marques (Portugal) – 1st 2022 Grand Trail du Saint-Jacques by UTMB 72k; 3rd 2021 Transgrancanaria 129k
- Ida Nilsson (Sweden) – 4th 2022 & 1st 2021 Marató Pirineu; 3rd 2018 CCC; 1st 2018 Zegama Marathon
- Emma Pooley (Switzerland) – 2nd 2022 Eiger Ultra-Trail by UTMB 101k; 1st 2021 Ultra Tour Monte Rosa 106k
Call for Comments
- Who do you think will come out on top in the individual race?
- Which team do you think is the strongest?
- Are there any fast women who aren’t included in this preview but should be?