The course at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is unlike any race you will ever run. It's not a mud run, but there will be mud. It's not an adventure race, but you may need to use that rope to get down the hill. It's not more than 21 kilometers, but you may feel as if you've just done an ultra.
This is why we love the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship so much. The course at Kualoa Ranch beguiles us and humbles us in equal measure. You may be feeling like a hero as you flow through the single track at mile five, but by mile nine, you might find yourself walking up that hill like everybody else.
The beauty of this event is that it levels the playing field - no one has it easy. To win at Kualoa Ranch, you need the agility of a mountain goat, the endurance of an ultra runner, and the fire of Pele herself.
This year - as in all years - the field is tough. In the men's race, defending and two-time XTERRA Trail Run World Champ, Joe Gray, is the favorite. Last year, he led Team USA to their first-ever gold medal in Bulgaria at the World Mountain Running Championships. He also earned the individual gold medal and title of 2016 World Mountain Running Champion.
At this year's race, he helped lead his team to a bronze medal, despite a knee injury so bad that many other runners would have dropped out.
Gray's US Mountain Running teammate, Andy Wacker, will be lining up near Gray up at the start in Kualoa Ranch. This year, Wacker also competed in the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championship in Premana (32K), and in the IAU Trail Run World Championship (50K). In both races, the U.S. men’s team took home the silver medal.
Gray and Wacker (pictured leftwith Patrick Smyth) will be joined by Darren Brown, a former professional runner and collegiate track star at the University of Texas. He's run a sub-4 minute mile and he won the XTERRA Beaver Creek 21K this July and was sixth at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Snowbasin in September.
Tyler Curtis, like Brown, has speedy roots. In college at the Colorado School of Mines - where he is now a coach - he was a successful 3000 and 5000 meter runner as well as a steeplechaser. Since then, he has been running longer distances on both the roads and trails. Last year at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, Curtis was fourth, so he will be looking to make the podium this year for sure.
Because this is XTERRA Trail Run Worlds, these Americans will be competing against other distance and mountain runners from all over the world, like Antonio Goncalves, who won the XTERRA Ilhabela Trail Run in Brazil and William Paiva, who was second in that same race.
In the women's race, 2013 and 2016 XTERRA Trail Run World Champ, Polina Carlson (pictured above) will be looking to win her third title at Kualoa Ranch. Currently training for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, Carlson won the XTERRA Gunstock Trail Half Marathon in October and was 9th at her first ultra – the Broken Arrow Sky Race 52K – which included many miles of snow and ice.
Jill Thompson will be joining Carlson at the start. The 37-year old has been focused on raising her four children, but Thompson was a standout runner at Georgetown University, which is one of the top NCAA Division I running programs in the country. At the XTERRA Gunstock Trail Half Marathon in October, she finished just five seconds behind Carlson.
Malia Crouse, (pictured above) who recently won the XTERRA Kapalua 10K on Maui, will be one to watch at Kualoa Ranch as well. She was third at XTERRA Trail Run Worlds last year and has been training hard for the Honolulu Marathon in December, so she's in fighting shape.
Malory Peterson is a young ultra and trail runner who finished sixth at Trail Run Worlds last year. She's competed in the Leadville 100, the HURT 100, and the Rut 50K in Montana.
Some of the top runners from the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship are flying out to Oahu to see how they do down at sea level. Giselle Slotboom, who was second at Trail Run Nationals behind Lesley Paterson will be there as well as Megan Flanagan, who was fifth. Emma Kosciak, who was a regional champ in the XTERRA Texas Trail Series and placed ninth at XTERRA Trail Run Nationals, will also be at Trail Run Worlds, making her first attempt, as well as mountain runner Emma Kraft.
Geisla Dos Santos Moraes (pictured above), who has been racing and setting records on the trails in Brazil for the past eight years qualified for the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at XTERRA Ilhabela in Brazil. She will be joined by runner up Claudete Lima.
The XTERRA Trail Run World Championship will be held at Kualoa Ranch on December 3rd. The race is open to the public and you don't need to qualify in order to enter.
Special discounts are available to military who register before November 24th. For more information and to register, please visit www.xterraplanet.com/trailrun.
Photo of Gray, Wacker and Smyth courtesy of Mike Scott