In 2024, there’ll be another global trail running series, the World Trail Majors, made up of at least nine ultras spread around the globe.
This feels a bit like the band getting back together, as five of those races — the Hong Kong 100k, Transgrancanaria, Mt. Fuji 100 Mile (formerly Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji), Madeira Island Ultra-Trail, and Ultra-Trail Cape Town — were previously part of the now defunct Ultra-Trail World Tour. Additionally, a sixth race, the Black Canyon 100k, is put on by Aravaipa Running, which previously had the Javelina 100 Mile in the Ultra-Trail World Tour.
Below is the current schedule for 2024, although that may change as Anta Hong Kong 100k race director Steve Brammar notes, “We are in discussions with some other great events and the World Trail Majors is likely to grow a little in the coming weeks and months. We have not decided on any cap [on the number of races] at this early stage.”
2024 World Trail Majors Schedule
- Jan 20 – Hong Kong 100k – Hong Kong
- Feb 10 – Black Canyon Ultras 100k – U.S.
- Feb 24 – Transgrancanaria 126k – Spain
- April 26 – Mt. Fuji 100 Mile (formerly Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji) – Japan
- April 27 – Madeira Island Ultra-Trail 115k – Portugal
- June 8 – Swiss Canyon Trail 111k – Switzerland
- June 8 – South Downs Way 100 Mile – U.K.
- July 5 – Quebec Mega Trail 100 Mile – Canada
- Nov 22 – Ultra-Trail Cape Town 100 Mile – South Africa
What Are the World Trail Majors?
So, what are the World Trail Majors (WTM)?
Brammar describes the WTM as, “an association of the most emblematic races in the sport coming together to be a positive for the sport as a whole, connecting runners, communities, and cultures around the globe who love the sport of trail running. The focus is on all runners, not just elites. And the races are independent, retaining their individuality, authenticity, and heritage, but working closely together. Each race takes pride in, contributes to, reflects, and is nourished by, its community. And, as every trail runner knows, it’s the community that makes trail running so special. Our sense is that not all global trail running tours really recognize that.”
Jamil Coury, founder of Aravaipa Running, shares that he, “personally view[s] this series similar to the World Marathon Majors — a collection of some of the best races, a bucket list of events.”
“We hope it will be a lifeline for all those who believe in the pure and free philosophy of trail running,” notes Fernando González, the director of Arista Eventos, which puts on Transgrancanaria.
Why Create a New Race Series?
In communicating with three of the heads of WTM events, two primary themes arose on why the new series was formed: independence and collaboration. Underlying that is a desire to represent the spirit of trail running.
These organizers all spoke to the connectedness and positive collaboration they experienced as part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour (UTWT). Coury shares, “Since the disbanding of the the UTWT, many of us have been missing the connection amongst race directors and the global tie together with other events. This will certainly bring some of those connections back together.”
That UTWT spirit could be made even better Brammar explains, “With the World Trail Majors we are looking to re-create that supportive alliance of race directors from everywhere, but this time with a flat structure where all the races are equal. This in turn will help each race to provide the best possible experience for runners of all abilities — from the world’s best to those dreaming of finishing.”
Coury confirms some of the benefits of a global race series while explaining how such a series doesn’t exist for independent ultras at the moment, “There is no place at the table for independent organizers to take part in the UTMB World Series [other than the Western States 100], but there is a desire to be part of something bigger than just our own events. This was part of the beauty of the Ultra-Trail World Tour and the ability to converse with, meet, and work together with some of the best event directors and organizations across the world, all with a diverse set of events, cultures, and backgrounds. A lot of us missed that connection and it is definitely one of our reasons to join a circuit like this.”
Coury continues on that train of thought, “On top of that, we hope that the circuit will be beneficial for all involved whether that be athletes, local communities, and fans of the sport. I think an independent global tour of some of the world’s most historic and emblematic races is important, especially right now.”
Transgrancanaria was more recently part of the Spartan Trail World Championships after being part of the UTWT. As such, it’s not surprising that González adds, “At Transgrancanaria, we have always believed in ‘the power of alliances.’ Growing together, sharing, learning, and generating synergies. From all the projects we have participated in, we have always gained positive experiences.”
González explains why passion is an important part of the WTM, “Mountains have their own set of rules, different from those in cities. In races and among runners, there’s camaraderie, respect for nature, love, help, joy … Race organizations also need to embrace this philosophy to grow in a healthy manner and maintain our passion. So, let’s say we hope this becomes an ‘alliance of passionate organizations.'”
How Did the World Trail Majors Come Together?
The idea behind the World Trail Majors has been floating around for a few years. Brammar, who along with González were leaders of the founding process, shares, “If you look closely, you’ll see that six of the race directors were indeed part of the UTWT … When UTWT ceased existing (and once the COVID-19 pandemic was in the rear view mirror) the idea was floated of building an alliance of races from around the world that are independent and are focused on the best interests of the sport. Issues such as sustainability, runner safety, inclusivity, and increasing participation were at the forefront of our minds.”
When it came to pulling together events for World Trail Majors, Brammar notes, “The races we were looking for must also showcase the best trail running our respective locations have to offer. Swiss Canyon Trail and Québec Mega Trail are top quality races, which had also been co-operating with Madeira Island Ultra-Trail for a few years and attending each others’ events, so they were an obvious choice. And the South Downs Way 100 Mile came highly recommended as one of the U.K.’s best-loved long trail races. We are really excited to be working with each of these races and looking forward to building something great together.”
González relates, “This is a very recent alliance, and we are still building the foundation. Its inception was rather serendipitous; some of us were already contemplating healthier and more genuine alternatives to existing structures. Initially, it was easy to unite with former members of previous tours who decided to leave that ship and shared the same life philosophy. Others joined gradually through these initial members. The journey has only just begun, and many race organizers who believe in this free and genuine philosophy of race organization are already knocking on our doors.”
How Are the World Trail Majors Organized?
In contrast to various tours owned and operated by global corporations, Coury shares, “The league itself is run collectively by the member races on a very democratic level. There is not one single race that owns the series. There will be some shared staff members and resources to oversee series-wide communications, marketing, and coordination.”
Brammar confirms that, “[all] the races involved are equal and the structure is deliberately flat, democratic, and non-hierarchical.”
Operating as a confederation of equals will have its challenges, González acknowledges, “The path won’t be easy when you believe in a horizontal structure where everyone has an equal say, it can be slower and more complicated, but it’s the structure we’ve chosen and believe to be the fairest. We’ll fight to make it work.”
However, most of the race organizations that are currently part of the WTM have experience with participating in global tours. González notes, “I’ve learned a lot from past experiences. There are various interests within current trail running organizations. The most important thing is to be cautious of ‘power intoxication’ as that’s when alliances tend to break and differences arise. Maintaining the philosophy with humility and camaraderie is not easy, but it’s the only way to endure over time.”
A Look Toward Competitive Racing
While some of the details are still to be worked out, the major outline of the WTM as a competitive tour focuses on a lack of a qualifier race system, having only one’s two best races count toward one’s annual ranking, and an equal rather than hierarchical scoring across the various races with a yet undetermined prize purse.
Those first two points are quite intentional with Brammar noting, “This flexibility aims to ease the pressure on athletes to over-race and over-travel.”
Does WTM intend to attract top runners to compete? González shares, “We understand that it’s challenging to compete against money and power, and these won’t be our weapons when trying to establish a place in this world. We firmly believe in the philosophy of this sport and the passion that is trail running, and we know that what motivates a runner to choose one race over another is to have an unforgettable experience. So, we’ll focus on that, offering unforgettable life experiences, something we excel at in all the races that make up the WTM.”
“We won’t forget about monetary prizes and travel assistance for elite athletes, as the elite cannot live on philosophy alone,” explains González. In this regard, we will implement appropriate monetary rewards and assistance based on the circumstances for elite runners.”
A Look at All Participants
While the WTM hopes to attract elite competition, its intention is to appeal to all trail runners with its slate of races. Brammar explains:
“Each race in the World Trail Majors has a strong reputation and most have a big international following. The races also have an authenticity that comes from a number of factors including their independence and that the race directors and volunteers love and believe in what they do. And each race provides a true trail running experience for each runner. Trail runners (at all levels — elite and grassroots) see what is happening with the sport at present and many are looking for an alternative that is still ‘epic’, but is also true to trail running’s real values. They will find that experience in the World Trail Majors.”
Brammar continues, “We want to focus on [every] runner while never neglecting the elite runner. We want to work hand-in-hand with the Pro Trail Runners Association to find common ground and gradually help elite runners find their place, respect, and recognition. However, our primary focus will be on the larger group, those who keep this flame alive, those who train year-round with the sole goal of crossing the same finish line as the elite but many hours later.”
Call for Comments
- What are your thoughts on World Trail Majors?
- Will you be running any of the WTM races in 2024?