A pair of elite Canadian runners from British Columbia - Marilyn Arsenault and Melanie McQuaid - are headed to Kualoa Ranch on the Hawaiian island of Oahu to take on American standouts Allie McLaughlin and Megan Roche at Sunday’s XTERRA Trail Running World Championship half-marathon.
McQuaid is no stranger to XTERRA or Kualoa Ranch. As a professional triathlete she won XTERRA’s triathlon world championship three-times; and well before XTERRA started hosting runs at Kualoa Ranch McQuaid was ripping up the trails on her mountain bike at the Hawaiian Mountain Tour in the valley.
This will be McQuaid’s third attempt at the half-marathon. She was 10th in her first try in 2009, and was fifth two years later in 2011. After her first run at the ranch she posted an insightful top 10 list about the race in her blog post titled “XTERRA Run World Champs 2009 – Where the Dinosaurs Roam” …
“When you decide to challenge yourself with the hardest half marathon ever, I will give you an idea of what to expect,” posted McQuaid…
- The longest 21km, ever.
- Possibly the slowest 21km you will run, ever.
- The longest switchbacking climbs in a run, ever.
- The most long, switchbacking climbs in a row, ever.
- Seriously incredible ocean views from the top of said climbs.
- Steep freefalling descents in jungle surroundings.
- Foot thick, incredibly slippery mud in spots.
- The most heat and humidity you will ever experience in December (unless you are from Hawaii).
- The coolest venue: set for movies like Jurassic Park and the tv show Lost.
- Some really fast people and some super chillaxed people but overall a super fun, relaxed vibe that XTERRA is known for.
Aresnault, who has won championship titles on all surfaces, might just feel right at home in the hills of Hawaii and to put her speed in perspective, consider that she has run faster than 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Champion Lucy Smith this season.
“Marilyn is in great form and finished a minute ahead of me at Nationals last weekend and head to head, has been faster than me this year,” said Smith, who just pulled from Sunday’s race due to a bad cold. “She is a solid competitor and massively talented, but hasn’t run the worlds course. I am not sure of the pedigree of the two young mountain runners, but I think Marilyn's stamina and maturity will serve her well at Worlds.”
Those two young mountain runners – McLaughlin and Roche – have been making quite a name for themselves this season and will be honored as the “Women’s Mountain Runner of the Year” and the “Women’s Sub-Ultra Trail Runner of the Year”, respectively, at the USATF Mountain Ultra Trail Council Awards banquet tomorrow.
Not to be overlooked is Kimber Mattox from Bend, Oregon who was 2nd at XTERRA Nationals in Utah this September, recently won the Warrior Dash World Championship, and won five All-America medals in her college career that included a ninth-place finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase while running for the University of Oregon Ducks in 2012.
"After enjoying the XTERRA race in Utah, I was excited to try another," said Mattox. "I’ve heard great things about the trails in Hawaii, so thought this was a perfect opportunity to see them for myself."
Other contenders include XTERRA pro triathlete Kim Baugh, and Hawaii’s-own Lauren Ho, who was seventh overall at last year’s race. One women’s runner of particular interest is actually still just a girl, 11-year-old Kasuga Watabe from Japan. Watabe has posted remarkable results this season, winning the women’s title at eight trail races at distances ranging from 15-to-32 kilometers.
Of course with registration for the race open until the day before, there’s just no telling who might join this super-fast field for Sunday’s main event.