Previews19 Jun 2024

Mountain Running World Cup opens at Broken Arrow


Anna Gibson wins the 2023 Broken Arrow VK (© Peter Maksimow)

The 2024 Valsir Mountain Running World Cup kicks off in style on Friday (21) at the Broken Arrow in Palisades Tahoe, California. The season launches with the Broken Arrow VK, a short uphill gold label race, and continues with the 23km Broken Arrow Skyrace, a long gold label race, on Sunday.

With a base elevation of 1890m and stunning peaks all around, including the prominent 2700m Washeshu Peak, Broken Arrow has the perfect credentials for mountain racing. 

Many of the athletes from last year’s podiums return. In the women’s VK, last year’s winner Anna Gibson is back to defend her title. The 2023 runner up, Jade Belzberg, also returns, as do Annie Dube and Anna Mae Flynn, who finished fourth and fifth respectively last year. But they will face stiff competition in the form of Allie McLaughlin, the uphill champion at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in 2022, and Tabor Hemming. 

The men’s VK is also looking incredibly competitive. Darren Thomas, second last year, is back, as is last year’s fifth-place finisher Abraham Hernandez Cruz. Joining them will be some big names, including 2023 World Cup winner Philemon Kiriago, Jim Walmsley, Eli Hemming and Christian Allen. 

Many runners are contesting both the VK and the Skyrace, with a day in between to recover. Last year the Skyrace was severely affected by snow, but the snowline is not set to be as low this year.

Memorably McLaughlin battled with Gibson last year, taking the lead and stretching it out to win. McLaughlin is doing the double here, as are Tabor Hemming, who was third last year, and Dube. Janelle Lincks, fourth last year, also returns. Sophia Laukli, a breakout star in last year’s World Cup, also looks to be toeing the line and will be one to watch.

In the men’s Skyrace, defending champion Eli Hemming returns, along with the rest of last year’s podium, Chad Hall and Meikael Beaudoin-Rousseau. Allen, Kipngeno and Thomas will double up, which should make things interesting. To shake things up even further, former world champion Joe Gray is on the start list. Zak Hanna, who finished fourth in last year’s VK, is just taking on the Skyrace this year.

The VK on Friday starts on the valley floor and climbs its way up 914m over 4.8km to the summit of Washeshu Peak at 2708m. Despite some changes to the course this year, along the way it still takes in some brutally steep terrain, leading up to the iconic Headwall Ridge and the ‘stairway to heaven’ bolted ladder to the summit of Washeshu Peak. Runners will experience steep rock slabs, snow and scree, which is guaranteed to deliver an exciting race. 

On Sunday the Broken Arrow Skyrace is held on a loop which climbs 1533m over the course of 23km. It starts in Palisades Tahoe Village and most of the race takes place above the tree line on technical and demanding trails. Runners will be treated to views of Granite Chief Wilderness and they will experience Emigrant Pass, KT-22 and, like the VK runners, the ‘stairway to heaven’ ladder to Washeshu Peak. 

The Broken Arrow offers the first two of 12 races that form part of the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup in 2024. The season closes with the World Cup Final Val Bregaglia Trail on 13 October. There will be a livestream of the Broken Arrow action available on the event website.

Kirsty Reade (WMRA) for World Athletics