SIERRE ZINAL 2023: RACE PREVIEW. WMRA WORLD CUP & GOLDEN TRAILS COME TOGETHER AT THE SWISS ALPS Our WMRA & GOLDEN TRAIL   sections bring us the 50th edition of Sierre Zinal, arguably the best mountain running annual event in the world.

This is the WMRA next long distance mountain race with its 31km with 2200m of ascent, and also the next stage of the GTWS and it will once more offer  the most competitive field of  the year, bar for the World Champs held at Innsbruck. Let us kick off with the top runners across the 2022 finish line.



This coming weekend both the WMRA World Cup and the Golden Trail Series head to Switzerland, an iconic race in the mountain running world. Most mountain races have a lot of history behind them but this is the 50th edition of Sierre-Zina,

Since its oirign in 1974 men and women have raced over the same distance here, and the winners roster reads like an international who’s who of mountain running, set in the heart of the Swiss Alps at the Valais canton.


The route itself is iconic: Widely known as ‘La course des cinq 4000’ because the runners get to enjoy views including 5 peaks over 4000m along the way. Those are the Weisshorn (4506m), Zinalrothorn (4221m), Obergabelhorn (4073m) Matterhorn (4478m) and Dent Blanche (4357m)).

Athletes start in Sierre at 570m and then climb up, up, up to the highest point at 2425m at Nava over the course of 24km. Then the final 7km is downhill, culminating in a frantic sprint through Zinal to the finish line at 1680m. It’s a tantalisingly runnable, fast course, which as we know results in some very exciting racing.

The 50th Sierre Zinal is now coming!  Will Kilian Jornet’s and Maude Mathys’ records get beaten? Tune in on the 12th of August to find out! The times to beat:

  • Men’s record: 02:25:35 Kilian Jornet in 2019
  • Women’s record: 02:49:20 Maude Mathys in 2019


Mountain races were not common in the 1970’s. Jean-Claude Pont, Dr. of Mathematics, Professor of “History and Philosophy of Science” at the University of Geneva and a certified Swiss mountain guide, once imagined a running event set in the spectacular mountains of Anniviers where people could “rediscover the virtues of physical effort and regain bodily fitness by taking on a unique running challenge”. It would also considerably contribute to the development of the Val d´Anniviers in the heart of the Central Valais.

As he recalls in his book, “Courir dans une Cathédrale”, dedicated to the story of the first forty years of the race, he prompted the tourist industry to focus on racing opportunities available. He aimed to showcase and celebrate the breathtaking Anniviers mountainscape that had enthralled him since childhood. The race would be named, not just Sierre-Zinal, but the “Race of the Five 4000 m Peaks”!

And so the Swiss Alps have been run ever since. Sierre-Zinal draws top international runners back year after year, in pursuit of one of the biggest accolades in mountain running.  Legends have been born here ever since 1974

Over this first 50 years of history, the most successful runners in the race are: Kilian Jornet (9 Golds); Ricardo Mejía (5 Golds); Pablo Vigil, Maude Mathys and Anna Pichrtova  (4 Golds), plus Marco de Gasperi, Jairo Correa, Veronique Marot and Isabella Crettenand (3 Golds)

From 1979 to 1982 Pablo Vigil (USA) won 4 in a row.In the women’s race Veronique Marot (GBR) won 3 out of 4 between 1984 and 1987, then Isabella Crettenand-Moretti (SUI) was unbeaten between 1995 and 1997. In 2001 Ricardo Mejia (MEX) won his first of 3 races, but his dominance was interrupted by Jonathan Wyatt (NZL) in 2002 and 2003, who set the record of 2.29.12 which was unbeaten for 16 years.  In 2006 Anna Pichrtova (CZE) began her 4 year reign, setting the women’s record of 2.54.26 in the process. This record would also endure for 11 years.

But by far the most dominant male athlete here has been Kilian Jornet (ESP) who has won an incredible 9 times. He finally beat the record set by Jonathan Wyatt at an unbelievably exciting 2019 race, running 2.25.35. Lucy Wambui (KEN) has won 3 times in recent years (2015, 2017, 2018) but it was Maude Mathys (SUI) who finally smashed Anna Pichrtova’s record with a stunning run of 2.49.20, also in 2019 and who has gone on to win four times in a row since then.

The 2022 edition will be remembered because the first two runners to cross the line, man and woman, were later disqualified for doping, whereas Maude Mathys and Andreu Blanes were then hailed as the rightful winners.  Unfortunately, it now seems that neither Kilian Jornet nor Andreu Blanes or Grayson Murphy will be striving for 2023 gold. We will miss them…and will also celebrate the plentiful talent listed. Follow us to discover it.

Andreu Blanes wins Sierre Zinal 2022. Photo Mayayo



Sierre Zinal is a race especially open to all types of runners due to its characteristics. Neither too technical, nor too rolling. Neither very long, nor short… Therefore, here converge and win often, athletes trained in other disciplines. It was not by happenstance that first victory in 1974 went to cross-country skier over the Olympic champion of the 3,000m hurdles.


The expected female duel was originally to be between Grayson Murphy, as two-time Classic WMRA world champion in Patagonia 2019, and Innsbruck 2023 vs the flying  dutch Nienke Brinkman, who won the GTWS 2022 and has proven to compete as comfortable on the mountain as on the asphalt.

However, the absence of the American at the last minute turns the spotlight on the Kenyan Philaries Kisang who was already silver in Zinal 2022 and now arrives as Classic WMRA Innsbruck world runner-up.

Nienke Brinkman should make a comeback after her injury at the 50th edition of Sierre-Zinal. The 2022 Golden Trail champion will have a lot of work ahead of her on these Swiss trails with Kisang, who arrives very strong just a few weeks after winning world silver on the Uphill in Innsbruck and silver on neighboring Montee Nid d’Aigles in the Mont Blanc on a 19.5k/D+2,000m track.

Other options

Among the other alternatives. we can point to Judith Wyder, who just proved that she’s in shape after her victory at DoloMyths Run. as well as American Sophia Laukli, who won the Marathon du Mont-Blanc this year and finished second in the DoloMyths Run. Her compatriot Allie McLaughlin arrives in Zinal after her WMRA World Cup gold from Broken Arrow.

In addition, they will be fighting for the top 10 talents like the Irish Sarah McCormack, the Kenyan Lucy Wambui Murigi. the Polish Bailey Kowalczyk and the German Daniela Oemus 




Unfortunately, a hip injury will prevent Kilian Jornet taking the start line at Sierre-Zinal’s 50th edition. The race record-holder will nevertheless be at the event to assist the French and English live broadcast on Eurosport. Andreu Blanes who focused on qualifying for 3.000 steeplechase in the Olympics this year will not be racing either

With the last two champions out of the running, Rémi Bonnet seems among top prospects as GTWS 2022 and Marathon du Mont-Blanc 2023 winner. In fact, he has clearly announced he wants to win this Swiss leg this year. He will be up against Patrick Kipngeno (Run2gether, Kenya), who arrives as World Champion Uhill at Innsbruck, WMRA world cup leader and already took the silver last year at Sierre-Zinal.

Behind these two top runners, we must  also look at three top talents such as veteran Petro Mamu (Scarpa, Eritrea) already race-winner in 2016, who finished 3rd last year sprinting past Kilian Jornet just before the finish line. Philemon Kiriago (Kenya) who arrives as second in the WMRA world cup and who already took top5 in the 2022 edition, passed by Kilian Jornet in the final descent.  Robert Pkemoi (Kenya) is currently 11th in the GTWS overall ranking with a stunning 5th place at Zegama at the start of the season.

Other top names to watch in this race are Robbie Simpson (UK), Elhousine Elazzaoui (Morocco), Davide Magnini (Italy), Matthias Kyburz (Switzerland) and Cesare Maestri (Italy)







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