[Editor’s Note: This article is written by guest writer, Jim Graham.]
When veteran New Hampshire mountain runner and race co-director Tom Hooper posted a pre-race note advising, “Wear shoes with large lugs,” it meant that an already technical course would be downright epic on Sunday, April 30, for the 2023 USATF Mountain Running Championships.
Rain-soaked with deep mud, loose leaves, slippery roots, and even slush, the championships event at Mount Sunapee featured deep men’s and women’s fields, vying for spots on Team USA at the 2023 World Trail and Mountain Running Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, June 6 to 10.
it was Daniel Curts and Grayson Murphy who, ahem, weathered the conditions best to win Sunday’s race.
Curts’s win follows his third place at Saturday’s USATF Vertical Mountain Championships, and Murphy doubled up with wins in both days’ events. You can read our 2023 USATF Vertical Mountain Championships results article for more of that race story.
“The talent here was amazing for both the men and women, so seeing athletes of that caliber racing on such a technical course on a day like this was absolutely amazing,” Hooper said.
The light rain that arrived midway through Saturday’s vertical race turned into a downpour overnight, with temperatures dipping to the low 40s Fahrenheit and the wind gusting to over 30 miles per hour by Sunday morning. Covering 8.2 miles with 3,400 feet of elevation gain, the two-lap course was designed with the world championships in mind, said Paul Kirschrace co-director.
“We pride ourselves on designing challenging courses that will give the US the best team possible, and these courses are a great test for selecting our top runners for Austria,” Kirsch said.
2023 USATF Mountain Running Championships Women’s Race
Grayson Murphy followed up Saturday’s USATF Vertical Mountain Championships victory with another commanding win in this classic up/down race, finishing in 1:08:56, leading Allie McLaughlin1:11:53; Rachel Tomajczyk, 1:16:35; and Kasie Enman, 1:16:40. These top four made the US team.
This means that this year’s Team USA women’s classic up/down team will contain three world champions: Murphy, who was the 2019 World Mountain Running Championships winner; McLaughlin, the 2022 World Mountain Running Championships Uphill winner; and Enman, the 2011 World Mountain Running Championships winner.
“We have such a strong team and with such great experience, I’m really excited to see what we can do in Austria,” Murphy said.
Starting at the base of the mountains, Murphy and McLaughlin stayed close through most of the first climb, with Murphy opening a gap on a flatter section near the summit and gaining a lead of about a minute. But Murphy knew she’d have to stay aggressive down the steep and untracked ski-area glades just beyond, which saw runners taking spills throughout the day.
“Allie’s a great competitor. She always comes prepared and shows up with her dela A game dela, so I knew I could n’t afford to back off,” said Murphy, who extended her lead to 1:36 by the end of the first lap.
McLaughlin, who will compete in both the vertical and classic up/down world championships races, said she’s worked hard on her downhill technique since she began preparing for the Alaska’s Mount Marathon Race last year, which she won in course-record-setting time. “I could see how strong Grayson was on the downhills, so I really just tried to focus on holding on and having fun with it, without taking any huge risks,” she said.
2023 USATF Mountain Running Championships Women’s Results
- Grayson Murphy – 1:08:56
- Allie McLaughlin – 1:11:53
- Rachel Tomajczyk – 1:16:35
- Kasie Enman – 1:16:40
- Megan Lacy – 1:17:05
2023 USATF Mountain Running Championships Men’s Race
Daniel Curts said he had hoped for a better finish in Saturday’s vertical race, where he took third place, and he went to bed Saturday night thinking about redemption and a win in Sunday’s classic up/down race. But he wasn’t so sure when he woke up.
“Honestly, my legs felt terrible when I got up. I actually had doubts about finishing,” Curts said. “But as we got closer to the race and I warmed up a little, it all came back pretty well.”
Going out in a tight group, Curts gradually opened a small gap by the summit and completed the first lap in the lead by 24 seconds. Keeping the pressure on, Curts padded his lead on the second lap climb, winning in 1:01:04. He was followed closely throughout by a pack that included Canadian Alexandre Ricardwho won the vertical race on Saturday and was second on Sunday, in 1:02:43; morgan elliott1:02:51; Liam Meirow, 1:03:16; Canadian Remi Leroux, 1:03:26; and Edward Owens1:03:27.
Curts, Elliot, Meirow, and Owens qualified for the US team, with Ricard and Leroux being Canadian.
“Basically, I knew I was okay at the top of the second loop, so after that I really focused on staying composed and staying on my feet,” Curts said. “It was a tough course out there, and it would’ve really easy to take a spill.”
2023 USATF Mountain Running Championships Men’s Results
- Daniel Curts – 1:01:04
- Alexandre Ricard (Canada) – 1:02:43
- morgan elliott – 1:02:51
- Liam Meirow – 1:03:16
- Remi Leroux (Canada) – 1:03:26
- Edward Owens – 1:03:27