Sugarloaf Mountain Ready for XTERRA Trail Run World Championship
Sugarloaf Mountain Ready for XTERRA Trail Run World Championship
After 38 qualifying events, the pinnacle race of the reimagined XTERRA Trail Run World Series now heads to Sugarloaf Mountain to decide who will earn the right to join the 2023 class of XTERRA Trail Run World Champions.
The Road to Sugarloaf Mountain
With the XTERRA Triathlon World Championship in the books, attention now turns to the second championship race in just 8 days as the qualifiers of the 2023 XTERRA Trail World Champs head to Maine, USA, to settle the series in the first ever qualification-only Trail Run World Championship in XTERRA history.
It’s the culmination of the reimaged series that now unites all XTERRA trail runners in a single series – complete with 3 regional championships and 1 World Championship – where those looking for a place on the starting line will have to earn it the hard way.
The road to Sugarloaf began when the new XTERRA Trail Run World Series was first announced ahead of the 2023 season.
Since then the series has wound its way through 38 events in 18 countries, touching down in Japan, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Tahiti and Taiwan in the APAC region, Andorra, France, Malta, Oman, South Africa, Spain and the UK in the EMEA region, and Argentinina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Puerto Rico, and the USA in the Americas, as runners from around the globe completed for a slot to the series finale on Sugarloaf Mountain.
Each of the 3 regional championships in the 2023 series has delivered the moments only a championship race can, such as Hậu Hà Thị from Vietnam showcasing an unfathomable amount of natural talent in Taiwan, Samuel Ongaki from Kenya taking the win in his new home of Alabama, and nearly 800 runners weaving their way through a UNESCO World Heritage site at the European Trail Run Championship just two weeks ago.
It’s been a long road, but there is just one final climb to go. Come October 1st, all those who have earned their slots from races around the world will take to the line of either the 45K Marathon or the 21K Half Marathon at Sugarloaf Resort, in search of being crowned a 2023 Trail Run World Champion.
The Trail Run World Champs in Numbers
This will be the 14th edition of the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship race, but unlike the previous 13, it will be the first ever qualification-only Trail Run World Championship and also the first edition to offer both Full Marathon (FM) and Half Marathon (HM) distances.
All 13 previous championship races were contested at the half marathon distance, whereas 2023 will be the first time that 2 sets of World Champions are crowned for each of the respective distances.
In a true representation of what the unified series hopes to achieve, a record 19 nationalities will be represented in the 500+ runners that will take to the start line, with 36 states represented for the host country
Those in search of a Full Distance championship title will take on 45K of trail with 1300 metres of elevation, while those in the Half Marathon will need to cross the line first in their age division after 21K and just short of 1000 metres of climbing in order to end the series as a World Champion.
With no Full Marathon category at the pervious Trail Run World Championship in 2021, all age division titles are vacant and ready to be claimed by those who return first, but no less than 9 of the current XTERRA Trail Run World Champions will be returning to defend their titles and continue their reign when the race begins this Sunday.
World Champs Course Overview
There are multiple reasons why sugarloaf was chosen as the destination for the first XTERRA Trail Run World Championship to be held outside of Hawaii since the race began in 2008, but Steve Andrus, XTERRA Americas Tour Manager, probably summed it up best with his statement:
“The trails are epic, the challenge is worthy of a world championship, our partners at the Maine Sports Commission and Sugarloaf are going all-in to provide a first-class experience for runners from across the globe, and the location is amazing in the fall with perfect weather and a landscape that will be bursting into a kaleidoscope of colours.”
The topography at Sugarloaf boasts more than 100 kilometres of twisting tree-lined trails from its base elevation at 1,417 feet to its mountain peak at 4,237 feet, giving the course designers plenty to work with.
For the 21K Half Marathon, the journey begins with a lung-busting start, featuring a steep climb that will test the determination of every runner right from the get-go.
However, participants should not be deterred as the top of the first climb marks the end of the hardest part and the start of a long descent.
The course is also intentionally designed to be less technical, ensuring that runners can maintain their speed and momentum throughout.
While challenges will come continuously during the run, they won’t hinder any runner’s ability to experience the thrill of racing through the signature trails of Sugarloaf Mountain.
And for those taking on the 45K Full Marathon, the race begins with the same challenging ascent as the Half Marathon that will immediately separate those in championship contention from the rest.
But much like the 21K, expect the race to get fast once the first climb is conquered as the trail remains non-technical to allow for speed and flow through each of the sections.
But as many trail runners will know, one of the greatest parts of any event is those you meet along the trail and the stories they have to tell.
There will be plenty of time after the race to share war stories from the day, but fortunately many Trail Run World Championship qualifiers have already been kind enough to share the personal stories that lead them to the startline of the biggest race of the year.
Through the Sugarloaf Trailblazers series, we’ve heard inspiring stories of overcoming depression through trail running, of discovering inner peace and never giving up, and of finding solace in the mountains and learning that anything is truly possible.
We’ve also heard stories that demonstrate, without a shadow of a doubt, that age is nothing but a number, and that there so many important life lessons can be learned from trail running.
And who can forget the apt comparison of why trail running is like frying bacon in the nude.
The Maine Wedge
Axes tell stories, and those who are crowned as a 2023 XTERRA Trail Run World Champion will be awarded with an axe that tells theirs.
Each of the crowned Champions this weekend will be awarded with an Allagash Cruiser – a handmade axe that plays a significant cultural role in the history of Maine, USA.
At one time, there were over 200 axe patterns found throughout the United States, with one particular design, known as the Maine Wedge, being unique to the county of Maine.
Starting with a three and a half pound billet of 1050 carbon steel, heat, force, and years of accumulated skill are combined to create the Allagash Cruiser – a versatile 2.5 pound wedge camp axe rich in history and Maine culture that will be awarded to 2023 Trail Run World Champions to honour their achievement.