Big international races this weekend

This weekend there are a three exciting trail races taking place around the world, with a couple of top South Africans competing.

The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run

This is the grand-daddy of 100 mile trail runs, the oldest and most prestegious 100 mile race in the USA, and maybe the world. This year’s event includes a stacked field of runners from the USA and around the world, including our very own Ryan Sandes. Ryan has run the race twice, and finished 2nd in a time of 15h03 in 2012, and 5th in a time of 15h46 las t year, and he has said that this is a focus race for him this year. I think he has a good chance of taking home the victory this year, but he will have to run a super race because the competition is very tough. The other guys likely to make up the top positions include Rob Krar (most people’s favourite to take the win), Dylan Bowman (very impressive wins at Tarawera 100k and TNF100 this year so far), Francois D’haene (last year’s UTWT champion and unbeatable at hilly 100-milers last year), Julien ChorierAlex VarnerIan SharmanSeth Swanson, and more. Like I said, a really strong mens field.

In the women’s field, returning champion Stephanie Howe will be the one to beat. She will face some tough competition though, especially from Magdalena Boulet and Michelle Yeats. I think this will be the women’s podium, and anyone of them could take the victory, but I think Stephanie will win it again this year. For more in-depth previews of the fields, have a look at these articles by iRunFar (men and women) and Ian Corliss (men and women).

This should be a very exciting race, check out the race day webcast and live video. The race starts at 2pm South African time on Saturday 27th June.

The North Face Lavarado Ultra Trail

The Lavarado Ultra Trail is part of the Ultra Trail World Tour, 119km with around 5800m elevation gain through the Italian Dolomites. Last year, the race was won by Anton Krupicka, but due to injury he will not be back this year to defend his title. However, there are still some strong men racing, including Americans Timothy Olsen and Nick Clark, Brit Danny Kendall [Update: not running], New Zealander Scott Hawker, a bunch of Italian, French and Spanish athletes, and South African Daniel Rowland. Daniel has been living and training in Chile and most recently Switzerland, so he should be used to the altitude, climbing and technical European trails, so he has a good shot at a top result.

In the women’s field Italy’s Francesca Canepa and France’s Nathalie Mauclair and Caroline Chaverot will be the ones to watch, with these three all in contention for podium spots and the win. Check out iRunFar’s race preview here.

Big up to some other South Africans running the race: Lloyd Samassa and Gregory Perks, good luck!

Mont-Blanc Marathon

There are a bunch of races at the Mont-Blanc Marathon event including 80km, 42km, 23km, 10km and vertical km distances.  All the races take place in the beautiful Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley, a trail running mecca in the Alps.

In the 80km event, some of the top men include Manuel Merillas from Spain, Seb Chaigneau from France, Phillip Reiter from Germany, Alex Nichols from USA and Caine Warburton from Australia. My money would be on Manuel Merillas, so much talent in such a young guy, or Alex Nichols after some good performances recently.

In the women’s race, Rory Bosio from the USA is the hot favourite to take the win, after her performance at UTMB last year, she is definitely the one to beat. [UPDATE – Although Rory is entered, I’m not sure if she is actually running] Also one to watch is Mira Rai from Nepal. Check out Ian Corliss’s 80km race preview here.

In the 42km event, the favourite for the mens race must be Max King from USA. By his own admission he crashed and burned a bit during Comrades, but I still think he has the speed and ability to take the win over the shorter course. But he will have some tough competition from some other strong men including Michel Lanne from France and Erik Haugsnes from Norway,  In the women’s race, another Comrades runner Ellie Greenwood from Canada should be able to take the win if she has recovered from Comrades.

In the VK, trail legend Kilian Jornet is signed up to race, so it will be interesting to see what kind of shape he is in after doing mostly mountaineering recently. I wouldn’t be surprise to see him win the VK regardless, that guy is amazing. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him enter and win the marathon event, he won it last year and although he isn’t signed up yet, it could happen in which case he will be the one to beat! Max King is also running the VK, so that should be a good contest.

In the women’s event, Emilie Forsberg has also come down from the mountains to race and could be tough to beat, but also depending on current fitness. She won’t have it all her own way though, with Megan Kimmel and especially Laura Orgue racing. Laura is probably the favourite to take the VK victory.

All in all, an exciting weekend of racing up ahead. I will to be doing any of theses races this year (although all of them are on my bucket list!), but I will be racing at the final race of the Winter Trail Challenge at Milestone Kitchens. Let me know in the comments if you have any favourites or predictions for the races.

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