The 2022 USATF Trail Marathon Championships were held November 5, in the desert canyons of Moab, UT at the Moab Trail Marathon. Both the men’s and women’s defending champions Adam Peterman and Allie McLaughlin were in Thailand winning World Championship gold medals thus were not on the startline. In addition to their individual world championship gold medals, Adam and Allie also helped secure team golds for Team USA.
While many of the country’s top trail runners competed overseas in Thailand, there was an opportunity for new champions to be crowned in Moab. Two young “ up-and-comers” Klaire Rhodes, 24, (Anchorage, AK) and Brian Whitfield, 26, (Colorado Springs, CO) took the wins and their first USATF Championship titles.
The Moab Trail Marathon has hosted the USATF Marathon Trail Championships ten times since 2010, and the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championship in 2013 and 2017. The event features a weekend full of racing including the marathon, half marathons on Saturday and Sunday, a 5K, and a kids’ 1K. Race director Danelle Ballengee is also a past American Trail Running Association (ATRA) advisory board member and past member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team. Check out our story from the archives with Ballengee’s trail running tips “Eight Excuses To Trail Run Why You Can!”
The championship marathon course was 26.2 miles on a mixture of dirt trail, rugged jeep roads, single-track, and slick rock with significant exposure. The course featured 3,500 feet of elevation gain and loss, with two major canyon climbs at the beginning and another just passed halfway. The altitude averaged between four thousand and five thousand feet.
This year’s national championship course was particularly challenging with wet and muddy conditions that slowed progress for participants at the beginning of the race and made technical parts of the course more challenging for athletes to navigate in the course’s latter sections.
Athletes from more than fifteen states competed in the 2022 USATF Trail Marathon championships. Brian Whitfield (Colorado Springs, CO), a sponsored athlete by Hoka One One, pushed the pace from the beginning with a small chase pack hot on heels nearly the entire race. Whitfield took the win in a time of 3:04:28, followed by stand out Alaskan runner Tracen Knopp (Wasilla, AK) in 3:07:50, and 1:03 half marathoner Willie Milam (Telluride, CO) rounded out the podium in third with a time of 3:08:35.
Whitfield said about his win and being crowned 2022 USATF Trail Marathon Champion, “This is my fifth time running the Moab Trail Marathon. I’ve placed ninth, eighth, fourth, second and now first. It feels good to finally get the win at one of my favorite events. I love this course and it was particularly challenging this year because of wet conditions. We were mud-hopping and the technical parts of the course became even more sketchy. I’m just happy to have another great race here in Moab!”
Knopp shared his post race thoughts stepping out of his familiar Alaskan racing scene and making a name for himself in the trail racing scene down in the lower-forty-eight, “The course was absolutely beautiful. It was also way more rugged and technical than I expected, which suited me well and was more similar to the kind of racing I’m used to in Alaska. Compared to racing in Alaska, there’s definitely more “backyard” low-key races up there but still with many great runners. It’s fun to come down here and compete with many talented runners here too.”
Knopp looks forward to racing more in the lower-forty-eight as he will be attending graduate school in Reno, NV along with women’s’ champion, Klaire Rhodes, this coming year.
In the women’s race, Klaire Rhodes (Anchorage, AK) established a comfortable lead of several minutes by the halfway mark, which she held onto for the rest of the race. She won in a time of 3:52:33. Rhodes is also one of the top athletes in the Alaskan trail running scene and placed fifth at the 2022 Mount Marathon mountain running race. Moab was one of her first competitive races in the lower forty-eight.
Rhodes spokeof her victory and experience of racing in Moab, “This was my first time in Moab and also my first time racing here. I tried to make a conscious effort to look around and enjoy my surroundings because the course was so pretty. I wanted a podium finish and was glad to come away with the win. Following this race, I will take some time to ski and prepare for more races in the lower forty-eight like the Chuckanut 50K and possibly the Canyons 100K.”
The women’s national championship podium was completed by Megan Drake (Orem, UT) and 2022 Kendall Mountain Champion Lindsey McDonald (Flagstaff, AZ) in times of 3:59:25 and 4:00:23 respectively.
For full men’s and women’s results check out the Racing Underground website.
Sponsor prizes were awarded to top age group finishers (5 year age-group increments, M/F for USATF) in the marathon and half marathon. A $6,600 cash purse was shared between marathon finishers, as well as the chance to be titled the “Trail Marathon National Champion” (overall and age group). Participants must have been registered in the USATF-Open category to be eligible for overall and age-group awards.
A portion of race entry fees were donated to local non-profit organizations, including the Humane Society of Moab Valley, Grand County Search & Rescue, Trail Mix and Community Rebuilds.