Just eight months after the first-ever combined Trail World Championships and World Mountain Running Championships were held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, athletes are gearing up to go again — as the 2023 World Mountain and Trail Running Championships head to the Tyrolean Alps, and the joint host venues of Innsbruck and Stubai, Austria.
The action will take place from June 6 to June 10, Wednesday through Saturday, and will feature an uphill mountain race, a classic mountain race, a 45-kilometer “Short Trail” race, and an 87k “Long Trail” race.
iRunFar’s coverage will primarily focus on the 87k (54 miles) “Long Trail” race, which takes place on Friday, June 9. Don’t worry, we’ll also bring you some news and coverage of the other races, too!
The course’s terrain and elevation will offer a very different set of challenges to last year’s humid, Thai jungle. The now-confirmed alternate course (due to snow remaining high on the original course) packs in 6,500 meters (over 21,000 feet) of climbing on a net downhill, point-to-point course — over steep and technical singletrack. While initial estimates we heard from a women’s winning time were for nine hours, others are now talking about winning times as high as 11 hours.
In this preview, we look at the women we’re most likely to see atop the individual podium, what teams will be in positions to run for team podium finishes, and some other ladies to keep our eyes on as the race progresses.
Check out the full entrants’ lists for all eight races across four events.
And, be sure to see our in-depth preview of the 2023 Trail World Championships 80k men’s race.
A Look at the Top of the Field
There is a stellar line-up for this year’s women’s race. Seven of last year’s top 10 are returning, including reigning world champion Blandine L’Hirondel of France. Notable absentees include Sweden’s Ida Nilsson, who placed second last year after leading for much of the race, and Hungary’s Eszter Csillag, who placed fourth. Both are currently prepping for this year’s Western States 100. Also absent is eighth-place finisher Spain’s Maite Maiora, who appears to be focusing on UTMB, having recently sealed her entry with a win at the 175k Trail Alsace Grand Est.
Added into the mix is a fresh U.S. squad, including former Western States 100 champion Clare Gallagher, who should mix it up at the front of the individual race.
We’ll take a look at the returning top-10 runners first, and then get into teams and other strong individuals.
Returning Top Ten
Blandine L’Hirondel (pre-race interview) — the reigning world champion, reigning CCC champion, and OCC course-record holder — has been running strong thus far in 2023. She won the 37k Lyon Urban Trail in March, followed by the Istria 69k, and more recently took fifth in the ever-competitive Zegama Marathon. L’Hirondel, who is adept in a range of distances, also won the 2019 44k Trail World Championships and took bronze at the 2019 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. She should be pretty comfortable on this very mountainous course and will be hard to beat.
Gemma Arenas of Spain placed third at last year’s Trail World Championships 80k, and has a long history with this competition. This will be her sixth Trail World Championships participation, and she’s placed in the top 10 in all but one of those outings. She’s running strong this year too, having placed third at the Transgrancanaria Marathon and won the 60k Penyagolosa MiM.
Germany’s Rosanna Buchauer took fifth place last year. She went into the race with form, having placed fifth in an extra competitive women’s race at the 2022 CCC, and won the 2022 51k Eiger Ultra-Trail and the 60k Madeira Island Ultra-Trail (MIUT) in late 2021. We’ve haven’t seen much of her yet this year, and she suffered a DNF at the 2023 Penyagolosa MiM 60k.
French duo Audrey Tanguy and Marion Delespierre took joint sixth place last year, to seal the team win for France. They also recently shared second place at the 2023 ONE&1 Run to Camp 42 mile in France — these ladies stick together! Both bring a wealth of experience to the French squad. Tanguy has previously won TDS twice, in 2018 and 2019, placed sixth at the 2021 Western States 100, and was second at the MIUT 115k last year. This year, Tanguy also won the 46k Trail du Ventoux. Delespierre’s previous standout results include fourth at the 2021 UTMB and a win in the 85k MIUT that same year. This year, she’s also placed sixth in the 50k at Tarawera.
Giuditta Turini from Italy placed ninth at last year’s 80k Trail World Championships race, but her relevant experience on technical trails might see her climbing a little further up the field this time around. She placed second in the 2021 TDS, and she won both this year’s 50k Ultra Supramonte Oliena and last year’s 61k But SkyUltra. She also placed second at the 2021 Mont-Blanc 90k — a race that has been likened to this course by some who have recced.
Sunmaya Budha of Nepal placed 10th at last year’s Trail World Championships 80k. She went into the race with strong form, having placed a close second behind Blandine L’Hirondel at the 2022 CCC. The month following her top-10 finish at the world championships, she took on the 100k at Doi Inthanon. Perhaps it was a little too soon, ending in a DNF, but she is back on form this year, having won the Coros 50k and the 30k at the Golden 100 Hong Kong, both taking place in Hong Kong, as part of her build-up for this race.
Others with Top Five Potential (Who Aren’t Noted on Teams Below)
Marcela Vašínová (pre-race interview) of the Czech Republic is no stranger to these trails, having placed second in the 2019 Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival Marathon, and the Mozart Marathon that same year. This isn’t a big surprise as she lives relatively nearby in Salzburg, Austria. More recently, she has strong results in some of the most competitive races in the world — including fifth in the Marathon du Mont-Blanc in both 2021 and 2022, sixth in the 2021 Sierre-Zinal, and a win in the 2021 42k Skyrunning World Championships. The technical terrain and mountainous nature of the route will suit her, but the distance will be on the longer end of her comfort zone.
Australia’s Anna McKenna might be running the Trail World Championships 80k as a plan B, as her score card for 2023 looks as though she was on the hunt for a Western States 100 Golden Ticket — narrowly missing out with fourth-place finishes at both the Canyons 100k and the Tarawera 100k. She took the win in last year’s Ultra-Trail Australia 100k, and could make a real impression at her first Trail World Championships.
Expected Top Teams
Last year’s winning team, France, has taken a “don’t mend it ‘till it’s broken” approach to team selection, bringing back five of their six-woman team who took victory last fall. The team will once again be headlined by returning overall reigning champion Blandine L’Hirondel, and backed up by Audrey Tanguy and Marion Delespierre, who are all previewed above.
Manon Bohard had a somewhat below-par run at last year’s Trail World Championships 80k, where she placed 20th — but it’s likely this year’s technical, Alpine course will play more to her strengths. Earlier this year, she ran a stormer at the MIUT 115k, winning by almost an hour. She’s also previously won the 2021 TDS and, in 2022, the 80k race at the Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival and the 76k Trail Verbier Saint-Bernard.
Jocelyne Pauly placed 16th at last year’s Trail World Championships 80k and has since taken third at both the 2023 French Long Trail Championships and the 100k Penyagolosa CSP. She’s probably unlikely to threaten the overall podium, but is a solid addition to this strong French team.
The U.S. is bringing a whopper six-woman team this year, and might be France’s strongest opposition. Unlike Team France, this is an all new team — with no returning runners from last year’s squad — but it still features some big-name runners with lots of experience.
First up is Clare Gallagher (pre-race interview), who has the potential to challenge for a podium spot. Gallagher’s standout results include winning the 2019 Western States 100 and the 2017 CCC, and she was eighth in the 85k Trail World Championships in 2018. More recently, she won the 2023 Chuckanut 50k and the 2022 Leadville Trail 100 Mile, demonstrating her versatility over a range of distances in the most competitive fields.
Hannah Osowski has been running really strong the past couple of years, and around the 50-mile distance seems to be her sweet spot. She placed fourth at the 2023 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and also won the 2022 San Juan Solstice 50 Mile and the 2022 Gorge Waterfalls 100k.
Shea Aquilano placed sixth in a competitive field at the 2023 Black Canyon 100k and took third at the 2022 JFK 50 Mile. She doesn’t have a lengthy back catalog of top results, but is on a steep upward trajectory the past couple of years and is one to watch — both in this race and going forward.
Allison Baca took second in the 2023 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile and in the 2022 Moab Red Hot 55k. She also wasn’t far off the top 10 at last year’s Western States 100, placing 13th.
Just behind Baca in third at the 2023 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and also lining up for Team USA, is Sarah Keyes. Keyes also placed third at the 2021 Black Canyon 100k and 12th at the Western States 100 that same year. Despite tons of racing experience, she doesn’t appear to have raced much outside of the U.S., so this technical Alpine route might present interesting challenges for her.
Emily Schmitz, on the other hand, has raced plenty in Europe and recently won the 2023 Trail Alsace Grand Est 50k. She also took third in this year’s Istria 42k, and was fifth in the 2019 OCC.
Italy is fielding a strong five-woman team, which could give them a good shot at a podium spot. Last year’s ninth-place woman, Giuditta Turini, returns, as detailed above.
Also starting is last year’s TDS winner Martina Valmassoi (pre-race interview). Valmassoi was on the original Italian squad for last year’s Trail World Championships 80k, but injury ruled her out before the start, so she will be keen to make this one count. A dab hand at technical ultras, Valmassoi also recently won this year’s Transvulcania Ultramarathon, as well as the 2021 Lavaredo Ultra Trail. This tricky course should suit her down to the ground.
Camilla Spagnol finished 23rd in last year’s Trail World Championships 80k, and has had some solid results since, placing third in the 60k Vibram Maremontana in Italy in March — the Italian team selection race— and second in the 100k Penyagolosa Trails CSP. This year’s world championships course will likely be closer to her comfort zone in terms of climate and terrain, and she should be able to improve on last year’s ranking.
Marina Cugnetto, who finished third in last year’s UltraDolomites 80k at the Lavaredo races, and Francesca Pretto together complete the squad. Pretto finished ninth at the 2022 UTMB, fourth at the 2022 UltraDolomites 80k, and third at Lavaredo in 2019.
Last year’s third-place woman, Gemma Arenas, will be back as detailed above, on this three-woman team.
Azara García will also be lining out for Team Spain, and could make a real impact in the individual race also. This year, she won the 85k Transgrancanaria Advanced. All in 2023, she won the Transgrancanaria 129k, Ultra Sierra Nevada 100k, and Ultra Pirineu 100k. She also has form in the Trail World Championships, having placed fourth in 2019 and second in 2016 with a more middling result at last year’s event.
Shorter trail race specialist Rosa María Lara completes the promising trio.
Like Spain, Team Poland is putting all its cards on the table, with three strong women, but no back-up runners to allow for anyone to have an off day.
Returning from last year’s squad is Katarzyna Wilk, who finished a credible 17th at last year’s Trail World Championships 80k. She’s had a lot of success in home ultras, including the 2022 European Running Festival – Krynicka Setka 100k, which she won last year. On the international stage, she also placed third at the 48k Cortina Trail at the 2021 Lavaredo.
Paulina Tracz had a brilliant run at the 2023 Istria 110k, finishing second, just two minutes back of the leader. Last year she placed second in the Chudy Wawrzyniec 80k and has won a stack of races at home in Poland.
Katarzyna Solińska is returning from a 22nd-place finish at last year’s Trail World Championships 80k. She placed ninth in the Transgrancanaria Marathon earlier this year, two days after winning the event’s vertical-kilometer race, and was second at Lavaredo in 2022.
Other Strong Teams
Other strong women’s teams to look out for are Germany, Japan, and Canada.
Other Top Women to Watch
Here are some other top women to watch from around the world.
- Honoka Akiyama (Japan) – 14th 2022 Trail World Championships 80k; 2nd 2022 Hasetsune Cup
- Johanna Antila (Finland) — 13th 2022 Trail World Championships 80k; 10th 2022 CCC; 2nd 2022 and 2023 Transgrancanaria Advanced 85k
- Esther Fellhofer (Austria) — 3rd 2022 Lavaredo; 7th 2022 MIUT 115k; 30th 2022 Trail World Championships 80k
- Martina Klančnik Potrč (Slovenia) — 7th 2022 Transgrancanaria 129k; 2nd 2022 Trail Verbier St Bernard 45k
- Anne-Marie Madden (Canada) — 3rd 2022 Black Canyon 100k; 11th 2022 Western States 100
- Jasmin Paris (U.K.) — 1st 2021 Ultra Tour Monte Rosa; 1st 2019 Spine Race
- Eva Sperger (Germany) — 10th 2022 UTMB; 6th 2022 MIUT 115k
- Takako Takamura (Japan) — 14th 2022 Trail World Championships 40k; 1st 2022 Hasetsune Cup
- Dominique Van Mechgelen (Belgium) — 5th 2022 Transgrancanaria 129k; 11th 2019 OCC
- Yuri Yoshizumi (Japan) — 1st 2022 Doi Inthanon 100k; 9th 2023 Canyons 100k
- Arden Young (Canada) — 7th 2022 Bandera 100k; 10th 2022 Javelina 100 Mile
Call for Comments
- What are your predictions?
- What teams and individuals do you think will come out on top this year?