It’s an exciting time as the Golden Trail Series returns in 2022. In under two weeks, the top trail runners in the world will toe the line at Zegama to kickstart this year’s edition.
Many of the top names from last year are back, and there is a train’s load of young talent out to prove themselves.
So, what will it be this year? Will the old guard hold on to their dominance, or will there be a newcomer’s face atop the podium this year?
Let’s dive into a preview of things to come.
Golden Trail Series Rules
To avoid confusion while following the series, it’s best to acquaint yourself with the rules and how the ranking system works.
Golden Trail Series Ranking System
The rankings break down based on the finish place of each competitor. Based on their position, they are assigned ranking points.
These ranking points accumulate up to the Final, which determines who qualifies. The top 30 runners are invited to the Final.
Each runner must participate in at least three of the six races in the Golden Trail Series to be eligible.
The assignment of points after each race is as follows:
The Final is structured differently from the qualifying races as it is a 5-day stage race. The point allocation is as follows for the Final only. Note: these points are awarded after each stage.
Golden Trail Series Prizes
For each race, the top athletes are competing for a significant prize purse. Here are the prizes awarded to the men’s and women’s finishers for the qualifying races. The prizes are the same for men and women.
Golden Trail Series Qualifying Races Prizes
However, an even more significant purse awaits the Golden Trail Series winner at the end.
Golden Trail Series Overall Ranking Prizes
As you can see, there’s some serious cash up for grabs. And the runners will be gunning to maximize their earnings in this growing sport.
Golden Trail Series 2022 Races
First, the races. The race lineup features a mixture of regulars and new races.
Zegama — 05/29/22
In the heart of Basque Country in Spain, Zegama — a town of around 1,500 — balloons into the massive beating heart of trail running.
The top trail runners in the world all descend on Zegama to take to its mountains in this storied race.
26 miles. 8900+ feet of elevation gain. This race is a beast, with enough climbing to melt a stair stepper.
The scenes from the race are some of the best in the world, but it hides the grueling nature of this race.
Despite all this, these runners finish in around four hours.
After all, “Zegama is Zegama.”
Zegama Course Records
Men’s: Stian Angermund — 3:45:08
Women’s: Maite Maiora — 4:34:27
Marathon du Mont-Blanc — 06/26/22
We’ll have to wait a month before we get the next classic.
The Marathon du Mont-Blanc — nicknamed The Roller Coaster — takes place around Mont Blanc near Chamonix, France.
Runners glide up and down stunning landscapes in one of the most beautiful races in the entire series.
Another 26 miles. And another 8000+ feet of elevation gain.
These first two races will be a lot to handle, so it’ll be interesting to see the lineup on race day.
Marathon du Mont-Blanc Course Records
Men’s: Kilian Jornet — 3:23:39
Women’s: Elisa Disco — 3:35:33
Stranda Fjord Trail Race — 08/06/22
We head to Norway a little over a month later, and we also head to a shorter race.
“Only” 16 miles this time — with over 5,500 feet of elevation gain — this race is sure to be a fast one.
A lower-profile race, so you’ll probably see some big names skip over this one in favor of other races. This race has the opportunity to give fresh faces the limelight.
Stranda Course Records
Men’s: Anders Haga — 2:31:01
Women’s: Anita Lilleskare — 03:12:17
Sierre-Zinal — 08/13/22
One of the world’s most scenic (and fast) mountain trail runs — Sierre-Zinal.
This race is pedal-to-the-metal for runners from the jump, as they come out as if they’re running a 10k; only it’s 19 miles of up-and-down along gorgeous mountain trails.
In one of Kilian Jornet’s favorite races, runners always show up ready to give everything they have. And that’s often shown as they cross the finish line completely shattered.
Sierre-Zinal Course Records
Men’s: Kilian Jornet — 2:25:35
Women’s: Maude Mathys — 2:49:20
Pikes Peak Ascent — 09/17/22
And we arrive in the U.S. for the first race Stateside — a half-marathon at the legendary Pikes Peak.
This race is always a grueling affair, with a 7,800-foot climb facing the runners. But, the best uphill runners in the world arrive in Manitou Springs prepared to show off their training.
And they do precisely that as they glide up the mountain like a herd of goats.
A $10,000 bonus is awarded to runners who can beat the times set by organizers each year for a bit of added incentive. For this year’s edition, the times are as follows:
- Men: 2:00:00
- Women: 2:21:00
Everyone will be watching eagerly to see who heads out to snag that extra $10,000!
Pikes Peak Course Records
Men’s: Matt Carpenter — 2:01:06
Women’s: Kim Dobson — 2:24:58
Flagstaff Sky Peaks — 09/25/22
Another newcomer to the Golden Trail Series — and the second and final race in the United States — is the Flagstaff Sky Peaks.
This 16-mile race is set in Arizona and traverses the San Francisco Peaks, forcing runners to accumulate a lot of vert in a short time before descending onto the Arizona Trail.
Another “shorter” race that is sure to have runners flying out of the gates. However, it’s limited to 450 participants, so this will be a smaller field than other races.
This is the first year for the 16-mile race, as the race had similar distances in the past.
So, let’s see who will be gunning for that course record!
Madeira Ocean & Trails — 10/26/22
Ahh, the bittersweet Final. According to the Golden Trail Series rankings, only the 30 best runners (more on this in a bit) qualify. So, you truly get the cream of the crop in this race.
Last years final also took place here (an epic race to follow), and it’s back again.
This time, it is a 5-day stage race format. At the end of the five days, rankings will be given out.
As well, there will be prizes given out daily. They are as follows:
- Stage winner
- Best climber
- Best downhiller
- Best sprinter
The Final will provide the same number of fireworks as the 2021 edition, so these races will be can’t-miss TV.
And speaking of TV.
Where to Watch the Golden Trail Series
Like last year, the Golden Trail Series is bringing its live coverage to all the races.
In 2021, all the races were live-streamed. And, with the growing popularity of trail running, they provided their own unique coverage.
Runners and bikers had cameras strapped to them throughout the races as they followed the top runners — male and female. With this coverage method, you’re getting all the positional changes as they happen and feel like you’re right there with the runners (with a lot less work).
If you find you can’t wait for the races, check out their series Chasing Dreams, which came out after last year’s events and gives an in-depth look into the behind-the-scenes action.
Want to know what it’s like to be a runner in the Golden Trail Series? This is the video playlist for you.
Golden Trail Series Runners to Watch
Male Runners to Watch
The 2021 Golden Trail Series winner is back for another round. And, after his dominance in the qualifying stages last year, it’s hard not to put money on him as a favorite.
His hard running style and seemingly unending endurance give him a leg up in every competition he enters.
He’ll look to continue that success (and his success from 2018 as the winner) in this year’s edition. Can he be the first back-to-back winner?
A newcomer on the scene last year, Francesco Puppi, took the Golden Trail Series by storm, including winning last year’s Final to secure him the 2nd overall spot.
I had the opportunity to speak to Francesco via Instagram. He was gracious enough to answer some questions for me.
When asked what his favorite part of the Golden Trail Series was, he responded,
“Being able to compete with the best athletes in the world in the best races. I want to challenge myself at the highest level of the sport, and the Golden Trail World Series aims to do just that.”
He did add that not all the races suit him and his running style.
“There’s a variety of terrains and technicalities….for example, in last year’s final, it wasn’t a race for me, it was super technical and tough.”
In a race that wasn’t suited for him, he certainly did a fantastic job of mastering it! Let’s see if he continues that trend this year.
Just like Zegama is Zegama; Kilian is Kilian. While skipping many of the races last year (thus not qualifying for the Final), he is always a favorite every time he toes the starting line.
And this year will be no different.
Already signed up for the Zegama Aizkorri race — and likely to run Sierre-Zinal (a favorite of his) — we’ll see if he chooses to compete fully in the 2022 Golden Trail Series.
If so, the competition will be fierce for the top spot. It will be interesting to see if he can take home another Golden Trail Series title as he did in 2019.
Another former Golden Trail Series winner (2020), Bart is a strong runner that comes out of the gates fast and doesn’t stop until he hits the finish line tape.
After finishing third overall last year, he’s undoubtedly out to improve his performance and take home the €15,000 grand prize.
He’s tasted success before, and he’s looking to sit down at the dinner table to enjoy it once again.
Also one of the top ski mountaineering (skimo) athletes globally, Remi lives in the mountain as he transforms into a top trail runner once the snow melts.
Remi excels at climbing, and you’ll often see him at the front of the pack as they begin insanely steep climbs.
He’s had success winning a few of the qualifying stage races but has had trouble translating that into the top spot in the overall rankings.
But you can never rule him out. So, in 2022, look for Remi to continue his success in his skimo career. His trophy case isn’t quite finished yet.
Female Runners to Watch
Maude is one of the best female trail runners to ever live. And you know what you’re getting when you see her on the starting line.
Hard running, endless endurance, and a dominating competitor’s attitude.
The winner of the 2022 Golden Trail Series, Maude — like Stian — is looking to make it back-to-back wins.
Based on the races she has entered and her success, it wouldn’t be shocking to see her make that a reality this year. She’s the clear favorite in this year’s series.
Another newcomer who burst onto the scene at Sierre-Zinal in 2021. She had no sponsors before this race, and no one even knew her name.
Salomon quickly signed her after the race (literally right after), and she became a household name among trail runners. She’s switched to Nike now, but her stock is still sky-high.
And it was fantastic to watch her and Maude battle it out for the top spot.
While Maude got the best of her in those races, Nienke (who wasn’t even a trail runner before last year) has had a whole year to work on the trails.
Everyone is eager to see what she’ll do in this year’s trail series. I’m sure she’ll deliver on those expectations.
Anais has been on an absolute tear in her last six races, according to the International Trail Running Association (ITRA). For perspective, she’s finished:
- Trails de Bozel Mont-Jovet — 1st
- Marathon du Mont Blanc — 2nd
- Sierre-Zinal — 3rd
- Chiemgau — 2nd
- Trail du Petit Ballon — 1st
- La Asics Sainte Lyon — 1st
I’d be ecstatic if I had half that success in lower-profile races.
Anais has been a familiar name on the Golden Trail Series scene for years. And, after finishing 3rd overall in last year’s edition, she’ll look to challenge Maude for the title.
Sara Alonso runs hard. Every race, she looks as if she drank three Red Bulls and then was shot out of a cannon.
And fans love to see her give it all in every race she enters.
She finished 9th overall last year, but she’ll hope to improve that with more consistent performances this year.
When you’re watching, and you see a woman’s blonde hair waving back and forth, this feisty Spaniard is charging up to try to take the lead.
I had to include an American on this list, and it helps that she’s one of the top female runners year-in and year-out.
She finished 5th in last year’s series and was competitive in every race she entered. Her endurance and technical skills are something to be admired.
As you’ll see in the Chasing Dreams series, she’ll look to familiarize herself with the rules more, so she’ll have a competitive advantage.
I enjoy watching all the athletes, irrespective of their nationality. But I’d be lying if a part of me won’t be rooting for Dani to take the top of the podium.
The popularity of trail running (and the associated business behind it) is increasing every year as people discover this fantastic sport.
The growth of the Golden Trail Series has been phenomenal, and the athletic displays have equaled that.
The 2022 edition is sure to only build on that, so let’s see what surprises the runners have in store for us.