Elite runner from Washington has already had a solid 2013 season
Joseph Gray likes being a defending champion of the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. It's the "co-" part of the title that he'd like to do without this time.
Gray will return to Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii, on November 24 for the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. He was involved in the most exciting finish in event history last year, when he and Ben Bruce crossed the line simultaneously and were declared co-champions.
"Many people have come to me since then saying (Bruce) should have been disqualified, to other people telling me I shouldn't have looked back," Gray said. "All in all it's over and I'm over it. I'm only focused on returning with a solid performance."
Gray, who is 29 and resides in Lakewood, Washington, has already had a solid year of racing in 2013. In July, he won the North American Central American Caribbean (NACAC) Mountain Running Championship at New Hampshire. In September, he placed seventh overall and was the top American at the 2013 World Mountain Running Championships in Poland.
Later in September, he placed second at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah. Since then, his focus has been on defending his title at Kualoa Ranch.
"Nothing specific," he said of his training."Just old-fashioned hard work."
Gray has competed in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship just twice in his career (2009 and 2012), and he said the stunning views at Kualoa Ranch can be the toughest opponent.
"I think the course has a few areas that stand out, but the hardest challenge is to make sure you stay on course," he said. "There is a lot going on so you can lose focus and end up running extra. Course recognition for me is the hardest aspect, but I think after running here twice I can manage this year."
Gray would also like to duplicate some of his post-race activities in Hawaii from a year ago, when he got to spend some extra days relaxing. "I always make sure to enjoy Hawaii when I make this trip," he said. "As always, I will spend some time being lazy, gazing at the ocean from Waikiki Beach."
A replay of last year's photo finish will not happen this year, as Bruce will not be able to attend the race this year due to scheduling conflicts.
However, Gray is part of a stacked men's field that is entered in this year's race. Oregon's Max King will return to Kualoa Ranch after missing it last year for the birth of his daughter. King won the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Utah's Patrick Smyth, who finished ahead of both Gray and King at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship back in September, is also in this year's field.
Lucy Smith from Canada took the women's title last year, and she will also be back to defend this year.
While those elite runners chase the overall title, there are also numerous age-group titles at stake, as well as shorter-distance races. Runners of all ages and skill levels can enter the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, and there is still time to sign up. Online registration will remain open through November 20 at www.xterrakualoa.com.