Trail races often don’t get the recognition and coverage that they deserve, especially in relation to major road races.
However, trail running is still important, and highlighting some of the top trail running events can help bring awareness to this sector of the running experience.
This can get more road runners interested in trying trail running, and enjoying all of the many benefits of running off roads.
In light of this, the recent Broken Arrow Skyrace 23K race on Sunday, June 17, 2023, was a trail running bonanza with impressive results by veteran trail running favorites as well as newcomers.
One of the hold-ups that some runners have about taking up trail running in a competitive sense is that there is a common misconception that all trail running races are ultramarathons. An ultramarathon is any race that is longer than 26.2 miles, the standard marathon distance.
Although it is true that many of the biggest trail running races are ultramarathons, and conversely, many of the biggest ultramarathon events are trail races, there are plenty of shorter trail races that are nowhere near as long as a marathon.
Case in point: the Broken Arrow Skyrace 23K is 23 kilometers, or just over 14.25 miles.
This is a little more than one mile longer than a half marathon, making it a long but approachable trail running distance for seasoned road runners who have at least dabbled with the half marathon or marathon in the past.
Plus, the trail race event festival also included some shorter trail running events.In the 23K race, race organizers had to adjust the course at the last minute due to high winds. The original course was a single loop that took runners up to the summit of the Palisades Tahoe ski resort.
Given the exposure to the winds at the mountain top, the race organizers decided to have the 23K trail running participants run two laps of the 11K race course that still saw plenty of elevation and difficult stretches, but spared runners from hitting the exposed summit.
On the women’s side, the champion was Allie “Allie Mac” McLaughlin who finished the two-lap race in 1:51:46, over six minutes ahead of runner-up Anna Gibson who clocked in at 1:51:46.
McLaughlin was actually a late entrant into the 23K trail race after running in the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Austria just last week.
Her last-minute decision to run the Broken Arrow Skyrace 23K paid off well, as her victory earned her $5,500 (another common misconception about trail running is that there’s little to no prize money to be earned).
In the men’s race, the 23k doubled as a World Mountain Running Association World Cup Gold Race, which is an international race series comprised of short-distance mountain races.
The champion was Eli Hemming who reigned supreme over veritable challenger Chad Hall.
Hemming finished the two-lap trail running course about 2.5 minutes faster than Hall, finishing in 1:34:46.
As mentioned, in addition to the 23k race, the Broken Arrow Skyrace included several other trail races, including five other individual trail races—the Vertical Kilometer race, the 11K, and 46K trail races, a 1.5-mile kids run, and the 5.75-mile Iron Face Challenge—along with the multi-race Triple Crown (for trail runners who competed in the Vertical Climb, 23K, and 46K) and Iron Crown (23K, 46K, and Iron Face Challenge) events.
The 5.75-mile Iron Face Challenge included a “via ferrata section,” which required runners to use actual rock climbing gear to navigate over iron bars embedded into rock walls mid-course.
Overall, nearly 3,000 runners from all around the U.S. and 30 other countries participated in the Broken Arrow Skyrace event.
There were also plenty of other trail running-related events and activities going on during the festival in addition to the organized races.
Examples include skills workshops for trail runners, gear demonstrations, showings of trail running movies, and group trail runs.
In addition to having a host of impressive trail race performances and trail running events, one noteworthy aspect of the Broken Arrow Skyrace festival was the exceptional livestream broadcast of the Vertical Kilometer race, 23K, and portions of the Iron Face Challenge on the Broken Arrow YouTube channel and UltraSignup’s website and YouTube channel.
Hosted by trail running legends Dylan Bowman, Corrine Malcolm, and Courtney Dauwalter, the comprehensive livestream production had awesome play-by-play commentary, multiple-camera vantage points using drones and running camera operators, and in-the-moment post-race interviews with top athletes.
This coverage is evidence of the fact that trail running races are gaining interest among the running community at large.