World Champions! The U.S. men finished first in the Long Trail Running event as part of the World Mountain Trail Running Championships held in Chiang Mai, Thailand. From left to right: Adam Merry, Eric LiPuma, World Individual Champion Adam Peterman and Carbondale local Jeff Colt are all smiles following their stellar performances. Photo by Richard Bolt

The heat, humidity and snakes of Thailand’s mountainous jungles did not deter the United States’ elite mountain and trail running athletes from having an amazing weekend at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships (WMTRC) on Nov. 4-6.

Situated in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, outside of Chiang Mai, the inaugural event attracted nearly 900 of the world’s strongest runners from 48 countries. Team U.S.A. Track and Field (USATF) sent 37 athletes from 12 states, including Colorado (and Carbondale). The athletes competed in five races: Uphill Mountain Running, Short Trail, Long Trail, Junior Up/Down Mountain and Senior Up/Down Mountain.

Supported by a dedicated crew of volunteers and staff members, Team USATF athletes overcame the grueling conditions and stiff competition to earn four team and three individual medals, thus placing fourth in the overall medal count.

“We’re very proud of our U.S. mountain and trail running athletes who endured long travel with limited time for acclimation to the hot and humid weather in Thailand,” said Team Leader Richard Bolt. “Because of the team competition within this championship, every U.S. runner played an important role in the race for medals.”

On Nov. 4-5, Team USATF outran the competition, winning the individual and team world titles in both the women’s Uphill and men’s Long Trail races. Allie McLaughlin of Colorado Springs and Adam Peterman of Montana were crowned their events’ champions. The uphill-only race included 3,500 feet of climbing over 5.3 miles, whereas the Long Trail course ascended 15,700 feet over 50 miles.

“They didn’t just win, but won by large margins while making it look easy,” said Bolt.

Emphasizing each athlete’s critical role, Bolt added that if uphill athlete Rachel Tomajczyk was 40 seconds slower her team would have missed gold. She ended up in 26th, while Lauren Gregory finished 12th for the gold medal team.

McLaughlin’s dominant performance continued on Nov. 6, when she won bronze in the competitive Up/Down Mountain Running event. Athletes raced 1,558 feet of uphill before sprinting back down to complete the 6.6 miles course. Teammates Tomajczyk and Corey Dowe competed alongside McLaughlin to secure the team bronze medal.

Colorado represents

This year, Team USATF had a number of Colorado athletes compete, including some who contributed to the U.S. medal count.

Carbondale resident and first-time Team USATF athlete Jeff Colt placed 14th in the Long Trail race, and was the third runner for the winning U.S. team. Earlier this season, the On Running athlete finished third at the Black Canyon 100k, ultimately earning him a coveted Golden Ticket to this year’s 100-mile Western States Endurance Run. There he had an impressive 11th place finish in a stacked field.

In the Short Trail race, Stevie Kremer of Crested Butte and Joseph DeMoor of Carbondale raced 25 miles through the jungle, gaining 8,000 feet of elevation along the way. 

Kremer, a veteran Team USATF athlete, placed seventh and helped the women’s Short Trail team win silver. Sponsored by Salomon, Kremer is a regular at Roaring Fork Valley races. She currently holds the course record for the Lead King Loop’s 25k, and has multiple individual titles at the Golden Leaf Trail Half Marathon.

DeMoor, fresh off his 2022 Skyrunning Running World Championship Vertical win, finished 39th in the men’s competition. The La Sportiva athlete had a standout season with multiple top performances including a win at the 2022 Leadville Heavy Half. His Short Trail team finished sixth overall, as Max King from Oregon placed fourth individually.

In the women’s Junior Up/Down Mountain race, which included 740 feet of climbing over four miles, Samantha Blair of Eagle helped her team to fourth place by finishing 13th. Oakley Olson of Utah led the team with a fifth place finish.

A bright future

The 2022 WMTRC marks a significant turning point for mountain and trail running. Prior to 2021, championship events were independently organized by the World Mountain Association, International Association of Ultrarunners and International Trail Running Association, according to Bolt, who is also the director of online marketing for the American Trail Running Association.

Recognizing a need to enhance the sport, the governing bodies formed a new partnership to create the WMTRC. Now, with the dedicated efforts and resources made possible by World Athletics, Bolt said the sport’s future is bright.

By bringing multiple disciplines together, runners can look forward to an elevated championship experience that fully displays their athletic prowess.

“Multi-day festivals of mountain and trail running are not new, but having one with a wide range of distinct disciplines for athletes competing for their county is unprecedented,” said Bolt.

The new event also levels the playing field by setting the standard for a strong clean sport commitment. Currently, the WMTRC “is the only high-profile mountain and trail running festival subject to the gold standard of anti-doping by the World Anti-Doping Agency,” said Bolt.

High-profile events such as the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and the Golden Trail Series have yet to include World Anti-Doping Agency testing into their races.

The first biennial WMTRC was originally slated for 2021, but was postponed due to the pandemic. Fortunately, athletes and spectators alike can look forward to 2023 when Austria will host the next WMTRC.

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