Welcome to Innsbruck! The city of 130,000 in western Austria, and the mountains of the Stubai Valley to the southwest of the city, just kicked off the second-ever combined World Mountain and Trail Running Championships.
The 2023 festivities opened on Wednesday, June 7, with the 2023 World Mountain Running Championships Uphill race and Kenya’s Patrick Kipngeno and Austria’s Andrea Mayr earned the event’s first individual golds. Kipngeno finished in 40:18, a repeat win from last year, and Mayr topped out in 48:14. It was incredibly Mayr’s seventh world championship win.
The course gained 1,020 meters over 7.1 kilometers and finished way up high at the Elfer Hut above the Stubai Valley. Alternately, that’s 3,346 feet across 4.4 miles.
2023 World Mountain Running Championships Uphill Men’s Race
Bursts of AC/DC’s “TNT “and Queen’s “We Will Rock You” pumped the runners up at the start and they might’ve jumped the line just a second or two early. A Spanish runner went down right away at the start, clutching his right shoulder as the field ran away. The race started with a 900-meter flat-ish road section through town, as a way to get to the trails and gain some separation.
Canada’s Alexandre Ricard joined a Kenyan and Ugandan lead pack for the first several minutes, wisely distancing from the bigger group. That’s because only three minutes into the race a fence gate bottlenecked runners further back. And then less than 10 minutes into the race, slower runners were already grabbing a few powerhike steps on the steeper terrain.
Halfway up the mountain Ricard was gone from the lead pack, and defending champion Patrick Kipngeno of Kenya asserted himself at the front. Levi Kiprotich from Uganda was in pursuit, and Kenyan and Ugandan runners were in third and fourth too, setting up for a close team race. joseph graythe 2019 World Mountain Running Champion from the USA, had moved up nicely and raced in fifth.
The race finished on crowd-lined singletrack above treeline, and Kipngeno was so far ahead that he had time to high five spectators while smiling before finishing. Kipngeno’s 40:18 finish was 93 seconds better than everyone else. He was exactly that far ahead last year too. Kipngeno will double back for Saturday’s World Mountain Running Championships Up and Down race.
Levi Kiprotich was second in 41:51, perhaps giving up some time to his chasers late. Kenya’s Josphat Kiprotich and Uganda’s Eliud Cherop were third and fourth in 42:04 and 42:16, respectively.
Joseph Gray stayed in fifth in 42:32.
Each country’s first three runners scored in the team competition, and scored via finish position (not by time), and with three runners inside the top seven, Kenya totaled only 11 points to win team gold. Uganda placed second with 21 points, and Switzerland was a surprise third.
2023 World Mountain Running Championships Uphill Men’s Results
- Patrick Kipngeno (Kenya) – 40:18
- Levi Kiprotich (Uganda) – 41:51
- Josphat Kiprotich (Kenya) – 42:04
- Eliud Cherop (Uganda) – 42:16
- joseph gray (USA) – 42:32
- Daniel Osanz (Spain) – 42:41
- Philemon Kiriago (Kenya) – 42:54
- Joe Steward (UK) – 43:02
- Filimon Abraham (Germany) – 43:08
- Roberto Delorenzi (Switzerland) – 43:31
2023 World Mountain Running Championships Uphill Women’s Race
The women took off at 2:00 pm local time, an hour after the men’s start, in 23-degree Celsius (80-degree Fahrenheit) sunny skies. That same 900-meter rolling road section meant another sprint start with Kenyan and Ugandan runners at the lead, and Allie McLaughlinlast year’s World Mountain Running Championships Uphill Champion, leapt into the early lead a few minutes in too, and only after clipping that problematic fence gate.
Fifteen minutes into the race though things were different and Austria’s Andrea Mayr moved into the lead and quickly opened a minute-plus gap.
Kenya’s Philaries Kisang, last year’s Thyon-Dixence race winner in Switzerland, spied Mayr from a distance, and when the grade eased a little, Kisang quickly made up time on Mayr. As the two moved above treeline, Kisang improbably regained the lead and put a few steps on Mayr. The excitement was short lived as Mayr moved back past Kisang and mercied her into hiking.
Mayr clutched the host country flag as she finished, and the added drama of that late duel certainly outshined the excitement of the earlier men’s race.
Mayr finished in 48:14 and Kisang was second in 48:51.
Mayr, a six-time world champion who was second at last year’s World Mountain Running Championships Uphill race, was incredible. Mayr, now age 43, is a former steeplechaser and a two-time Olympic marathoner. This was her first world championships win since 2016, and comes a remarkable 17 years after her first win in 2006. Her other wins came in 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 — all uphill years, back when the championships alternated uphill and up -and-down years. Mayr, as with men’s winner Kipgneno, won 4,000 euros. That was part of a total 16,500 euros cash purse that went five deep.
Grayson Murphy, coolly racing in a sprint-style one-piece suit, chased in third at 49:11. Murphy is the 2019 World Mountain Running Champion.
Fourth- and fifth-place Laura Hottenrott and Valentine Jepkoech Rutto of Germany and Kenya finished in 49:56 and 49:59.
Early pace pusher McLaughlin would finish 13th in 52:27.
Kenya easily won the team race, placing three runners inside the top 10. Their 17 points were followed by Germany with 33 for second place, and the UK was third with 51 points.
2023 World Mountain Running Championships Uphill Women’s Results
- Andrea Mayr (Austria) – 48:14
- Philaries Kipsang (Kenya) – 48:51
- Grayson Murphy (USA) – 49:22
- Laura Hottenrott (Germany) – 49:56
- Valentine Jepkoech Rutto (Kenya) – 49:59
- Christel Dewalle (France) – 50:04
- Domenika Mayer (Germany) – 51:21
- Scout Adkin (UK) – 51:39
- Karoline Holsen Kyte (Norway) – 51:51
- Joyce Muthoni (Kenya) – 52:09
[Christel Dewalle previously served a four-month doping ban after a positive test for the stimulant Heptaminol at the 2016 Skyrunning World Championships.]
The event continues with the Trail World Championships 40k on Thursday, June 8, the Trail World Championships 80k on Friday, June 9, and the World Mountain Running Championships Up and Down race on Saturday, June 10.