Gray Wins 5th XTERRA Trail Run Worlds

Press Release / 06.12.2021
Joseph Gray takes a record 5th win
Joseph Gray takes a record 5th win / © XTERRA

Joseph Gray from Colorado Springs, Colorado and Grayson Murphy from Salt Lake City, Utah won the 13th XTERRA Trail Run World Championship half-marathon titles with winning times of 1:22:25 and 1:31:18, respectively, on a beautiful morning at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua in Maui on Saturday, December 4, 2021.

It was a record-breaking fifth XTERRA Trail Run World Championship win in a row for Gray and his unprecedented sixth elite title in Hawaii. For Murphy, it was her second straight, and she finished a remarkable sixth overall.

Andy Wacker from Boulder, Colorado and Najim Mahmoud from Flagstaff, Arizona finished second and third for the men. Bailey Kowalczyk from Nederland, Colorado and Katherine Short from Halfmoon Bay, Canada placed two/three in the women’s race.

In the men’s elite race Joseph DeMoor led a pack of five up the first big climb at mile two of the run followed by Gray, Mahmoud, Brett Hales and Wacker. The five runners were within 10-seconds of each other and all looking strong.

“We were bunched up for a long period of time before it thinned out,” said Gray. “It was very much a race where no one could breakaway because one guy would be in the lead and slip and fall down or almost fall down and so people lost a lot of momentum here and there, so it ended up being a real back and forth battle most of the race.”

Mahmoud, who has been training in Uganda for the last three years, did his best to stay with Gray as long as he could and was running in second for some time.

“I was patient in the beginning, tucked in behind for the first few Ks, then Joseph and Andy and I got in a group, then me and Joe pushed up front until about the 13K mark when he moved away,” said Mahmoud.

Wacker and Hales were also lurking not far behind.

“There were a lot of good runners here, guys I’ve been racing all year here, but Brett was the one who had me the most nervous,” said Gray. “He’s got a lot of grit, he’s a tough guy, a veteran, he knows how to race and even when he wasn’t in the front pack I still, in the back of my head, thought he’d be dangerous, and he was, because out of nowhere here comes Brett.”

Hales is a three-time XTERRA U.S. National Champion and finished runner-up to Gray at Worlds in 2018, but had run just a couple of competitive races since then.

“The first four miles was just adrenaline, the excitement of being here and mixing it up with Joe and the guys from the US Mountain Running team,” said Hales, who ran with the US team in 2016 and 2017. “The course was one of those things where you could just never quite get into a rhythm. Every time there was a downhill you’d have a quick 90-degree turn with an uphill, so you never got comfortable, and I absolutely loved it, it had a little bit of everything in it.”

In the end, Gray pulled away from everyone with a solid, consistent effort, turning in 6:12 miles on a really tough course.

“It’s a blessing. If it was just one it’d be great, but to get six, you can’t really put words to it,” said Gray. “It gets harder to win each time because you have a target on your back and everyone wants to knock you down, but I love those pressure moments. And I thought the course was cool, very twirly like a roller coaster.”

In the chase for second Wacker caught Mahmoud on the ridgeline just 3K from the finish and used his trademark downhill running skills to pull away.

“Had a perfect downhill on that last stretch and just put in that gap and didn’t let it go,” said Wacker, who is representing Team USA for the 15th time. “I’m an old guy and I’ve learned that it’s not over until it’s over. This course had everything – big climbs, quick turns, mud, smooth sections, and it was fun to see everyone’s strengths come out on different sections of the course.”

Hales held on for fourth and Edward Owens rounded out the top five.

Top 5 Men

1              JOSEPH GRAY    Colorado Springs, CO      1:22:25  6:12

2              ANDY WACKER  Boulder, CO        1:24:11  6:20

3              NAJIM MAHMOUD         Flagstaff, AZ       1:24:39  6:22

4              BRETT HALES      Billings, MT         1:25:16  6:25

5              EDWARD OWENS             Larkspur, CA       1:26:28  6:30

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