Call it the 2023 World Mountain Running Championships Up and Down race or call it the Classic race, but the two lapper closed out the 2023 World Mountain and Trail Running Championships on June 10, and what a four-day stretch it was!
The men started at 12:30 p.m. local time and the women’s race ran 90 minutes later, both on a 15-kilometer course that gained 751 meters of elevation. That’s 9.3 miles and 2,463 feet. The race started in town and certainly featured more road terrain than many expected, including a section of trail created over top of road. In fact, nearly 3.6k of each lap was on the road.
As in all of the races here, there was a €16,500 prize purse that gave €4,000 to the winner with money stretching five deep. Podium finishers earned a ceremonial pine tree too, reflective of the organization’s efforts for sustainability.
2023 World Mountain Running Championships Up and Down Women’s Race
Doubling from a third-place finish in the Uphill race three days earlier, Grayson Murphy of the U.S. positioned herself near the front from the start, and led defending champion Rebecca Cheptegei from Uganda by a few steps five minutes into the race when climbing on trail.
Tove Alexandersson from Sweden started slower but ran downhill into second just less than 20 minutes into the race, and then overtook Murphy two minutes later. Alexandersson led Murphy by 11 seconds at halfway, but Murphy wasn’t done.
Some 34 minutes into the race Murphy regained the lead while climbing, quickly pushing past Alexandersson and building an immediate lead. Murphy was faster on the ups, and Alexandersson on the downs, it first appeared, but Murphy completely broke her chaser. It wasn’t close the rest of the way.
Grayson Murphy was way ahead at the finish with 64:29 on the clock. Alexandersson was second in 65:26.
In addition to the 2023 Uphill bronze medal, Murphy won the 2019 World Mountain Running Championships too. Alexandersson, age 30, is a world leader in orienteering and ski orienteering.
Joyce Muthoni Njeru from Kenya moved into third late in 66:40.
Defending champion Cheptegei only managed 18th in 70:29, arriving to the finish looking as if something wasn’t quite right with her..
Kenya dominated the team race, and the U.K. and France and won team silver and bronze, respectively.
2023 World Mountain Running Championships Up and Down Women’s Results
- Grayson Murphy (USA) – 64:29
- Tove Alexandersson (Sweden) – 65:26
- Joyce Muthoni Njeru (Kenya) – 66:40
- Valentine Rutto (Kenya) – 66:56
- Domenika Mayer (Germany) – 67:09
- Monica Florea (Romania) – 67:25
- Philaries Kisang (Kenya) – 68:31
- Tereza Hrochovà (Czech Republic) – 68:37
- Cecile Jarousseau (France) – 68:40
- Alice Goodall (U.K.) – 69:22
- Kenya (14 points) – Joyce Muthoni Njeru, Valentine Rutto, Philaries Kisang
- United Kingdom (43 points) – Alice Goodall, Scout Adkin, Phillipa Williams
- France (46 points) – Cecile Jarousseau, Christel Dewalle, Elise Poncet
[Editor’s Note: Christel Dewalle previously served a four-month doping ban after a positive test for the stimulant Heptaminol at the 2016 Skyrunning World Championships.]
2023 World Mountain Running Championships Up and Down Men’s Race
What a crazy race. A number of lead changes and an early celebration, combined with the mixed terrain of the course, added to the excitement.
Liam Meirow of the U.S. towered over a shorter Isaac Kibet from Uganda right after the start, and as soon as they left town and moved to the trail it was Kibet in the lead. He stayed there for eight minutes until Kenya’s Philemon Kiriago passed, and then Germany’s Filimon Abraham did a short while later too. A bunch of others soon skipped in front too as the race got going in earnest. All of the top runners were racing in road shoes, reflective of the limited rock and root on the course.
Just before halfway Uganda’s Eliud Cherop, fifth at last year’s race, joined Kiriago and Abraham in a three-person lead group, and then Cherop broke free from the group. He led under the halfway arch in 26 minutes and mistakenly had a moment of muted celebration and finish line confusion after the first of two laps.
That let Kiriago and Abraham regain Cherop when the climbing resumed, and Kiriago and Abraham traded positions through the next section. Kiriago dropped Abraham and started to stretch the lead some 35 minutes into the race, but Ugandan Leonard Chemutai was surging behind. Chemutai, like Kiriago at only 20 years old, first collected Abraham and 48 minutes into the race passed Kiriago for the ultimate lead.
The breakaway three carried those positions to the finish, with some separation in between. Chemutai finished in 56:14 for gold. Kiriago was second in 56:22, and Abraham won individual bronze in 56:27. The three each waved flags through the finish chute.
Chemutai remarkably won the junior race at last year in Thailand. He did not race the earlier Uphill race, but Kiriago was seventh three days earlier.
Kenya won the team race ahead of Italy and Spain.
2023 World Mountain Running Championships Up and Down Men’s Results
- Leonard Chemutai (Uganda) – 56:14
- Philemon Kiriago (Kenya) – 56:22
- Filimon Abraham (Germany) – 56:27
- Eliud Cherop (Uganda) – 57:26
- Patrick Kipngeno (Kenya) – 57:27
- Alejandro García (Spain) – 59:25
- Cesare Maestri (Italy) – 59:28
- Josphat Kiprotich (Kenya) – 59:34
- Xavier Chevrier (Italy) – 59:43
- Andreu Blanes (Spain) – 59:54
- Kenya (15 points) – Philemon Kiriago, Patrick Kipngeno, Josphat Kiprotich
- Italy (30 points) – Cesare Maestri, Xavier Chevrier, Alberto Vender
- Spain (43 points) – Alejandro García, Andreu Blanes, Ibai Larrea
The next World Mountain and Trail Running Championships will be in Canfranc-Pirineos, Spain in June 2025.