(The Gear Loop) - While running is a sport as old as the proverbial hills, trail running - defined as running on any unpaved surface - started to boom at the turn of the millennium and is arguably morphing into one of the world’s fastest-growing sports.
This is helped, in part, by the fact it’s almost free (all you need is a good pair of trail running shoes and you’re set), but running through incredible scenery helps to eat up the miles and bring benefits to mind as well as body.
Many runners enjoy working towards a goal, and there has been an explosion of events in recent years. With that in mind, we’ve hand-picked some of the most stunning trail-running events from around the globe this summer, so you can get training... and saving for the air fare.
Gran Trail Courmayeur
Courmayeur, Italy, 8-10 July 2022
There are three distances to this race in picturesque Courmayeur, at the foot of Mont Blanc, held over 30km (elevation gain 2000m), 55km (elevation gain 3800m) and 100km, with an elevation gain of a whopping 7900m.
The 30km starts at 9am, taking runners along Val Ferrat, the 50km starts at 7am, routes runners to Val Veny and the 100km race, which starts the earliest at midnight on Saturday 10 July, combines the two.
Even the 30km race will be a challenge for ardent trail runners, as it has a maximum 8 hour time limit, but the 100km is really reserved for elite level athletes.
Audi Power of Four Trail Run
Aspen, Colorado, 9 July 2022
This legendary ski resort is just as good in summer as it is in winter, and what better reason to head to Aspen than to take part in a 50km ultra trail run that covers all four of the Aspen-Snowmass mountains (Aspen, Buttermilk, Snowmass and Aspen Highlands) with 3,048m of ascent.
If that’s pushing it, there’s a 25km race covering Buttermilk and Snowmass, or a 10km race starting at Elk Camp Restaurant and traverses across Snowmass.
The event is a highlight of the town’s summer, and part of a series of three events all sponsored by Audi, which include a Power of Four Ski Mountaineering in winter and the Snowmass 50 Bike Race in August.
Courchevel, France, 24 July 2022
Each destination in France’s famous Les 3 Vallées has its own special terrain and panorama - from forests to lakes to high peaks - so what better way to see it all than to run?
This mid-summer race has three distance categories - 33km (2190m of ascent), 22km (1580m of climbing) and the “gentle” starting race of 11km (630m of ascent). There’s a number cap of just 200 participants for each category, with just one start time of 0530. The race offers qualifying for the UTMB (see below).
The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc
Chamonix, France, 22-28 August 2022
One of - if not the - most legendary trail-running races in the world, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB for short) was first staged in 2003 when the sport was first taking off.
Some 10,000 of the world’s best trail runners participate in seven events over the week, racing day and night, sometimes between 20 and 40 hours.
Runners tackle summits of more than 4,000m along with Chamonix’s numerous valleys, alpine passes and glaciers including Mont-Blanc itself (4810m), as well as Dent du Géant, Grand Jorasses, Aiguille Vert and the Drus through France, Italy and Switzerland. There’s a total of 10,000m of ascent over the 170km race.
Not for the faint-hearted and runners must qualify by competing in one of the 30 UTMB World Series Events or one of the three UTMB World Series Majors, so don’t expect to rock up with your shoes and run.
Triglav Trail Run Festival
Mojstrana, Slovenia, 19-20 August 2022
This three-day mountaineering and trail-running festival takes place across the spectacular Julian Alps and Triglav National Park, with the 2,864m Mount Triglav as the centrepiece.
With races starting and finishing in the Mojstrana village, past waterfalls, through forests and around the rocky mountains and gravel single-track paths, this event is a way for runners to discover Slovenia in a completely new way.
The festival is for first-timers as well as experienced mountaineers, with a number of different races from a family and kids trot and the 14km 'Slovenian Alpine Museum Run', which covers a sharp but doable 480m of ascent, to the 86.5km Triglav Trail Run, with a punishing 4,500m of climbing.
Pyrénées Stage Run
Spain/Andorra, 4-10 September 2022
This race offers participants the chance to run across the beautiful Pyrénées through Spain and Andorra, with the option of spending a few days in Barcelona at the end.
The 240km race is open to teams of two or three (for both safety and for sharing the adventure) and starts in Ribes de Freser, finishing in Salardú, with two stages in Andorra.
The longest stage is day three, with 47.5km to cover, but each of the seven stages averages around 35km and 2,000m uphill per day with a total of 15,000m of climbing to tackle.
Dynafit Transalpine Run
Germany/Austria, 3-10 September 2022
The TAR is a team event spanning eight days and travels from Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany) to Vals in the South Tyrol, Austria.
A maximum of 300 teams of two runners will take on the 285km challenge, with 16,770m of total elevation gain to take on, including glacier passages and crossing above the 3,000m mark several times.
There is a second race, held over the first two days, for another 150 teams of two runners who don’t want to go the full distance.
Lake Tahoe Marathon
California, USA, 14-16 October 2022
Squeeze in one last trail run before the start of the ski season in sunny California and choose from a series of events happening around the Lake Tahoe Basin and Lakeside Beach in South Lake Tahoe.
Over the course of the weekend there are 14 different races, from a free-to-enter children’s "Pumpkin Run", a "Super Hero" 5km, a 10km trail race along the lakeside and a marathon relay - right up to the "72-mile Tahoe Midnight Express", which features an 18-hour time limit (the fastest runner completed in 9 hours, 22 minutes, 37 seconds).
There are special prizes for those who complete the three half marathons, dubbed "The Tahoe Trifecta", or the three marathons conveniently called "The Tahoe Triple". Go on, we dare you…