Do you think you have what it takes to run the UTMB®?
Trail runners from around the world come together to test themselves in one of the toughest mountain races in the world.
In August, over 10,000 athletes from over 100 countries descend on Chamonix, France. Starting in this small mountain town tucked away in the Alps, the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc or UTMB® as it is more affectionately known is widely regarded as one of the toughest mountain races in the world. The UTMB® holds a distinct cachet for ultra runners.
The route alone makes it pretty memorably epic: the course circumnavigates the Mont Blanc Massif through three countries, France, Switzerland, and Italy, over roughly 170 kilometers or 105 miles. The race climbs up numerous high-altitude passes, delivering a total elevation gain of 10,000 meters or 33,000 feet. The terrain is tough, rocky, steep, and technical in sections, with long, gnarly descents. Even though the race is run annually in August, the high altitude and mountainous terrain means the weather is almost always difficult and unpredictable–snow, rain, wind, and even lightning are not uncommon. Not to mention the complete lack of sleep.
The race climbs up numerous high-altitude passes, delivering a total elevation gain of 10,000 meters or 33,000 feet.
The first UTMB® was held in 2003 with around 700 runners, 67 of whom finished the full course. At the time, the race was open to anyone crazy enough to attempt it, but in order to keep numbers manageable, runners now must first qualify to even enter the lottery by earning points in approved races prior to the event.
Runners need excellent training and need to be completely self-sufficient in the mountains, carrying a minimum of equipment for safety reasons. This includes a waterproof jacket, warm clothes, food and water, whistle, survival blanket, and head lamp. Other than the ten or so food and drink stations scattered along the route, runners can not get any outside assistance.
The terrain is tough, rocky, steep, and technical in sections, with long, gnarly descents.
While the fastest runner will complete the course in around 20 hours, the average contestant finishes in about 30 hours, with a maximum time set at 46.5 hours for safety. To finish is to win.
The race is more about the runner versus the mountain than runner against runner. In fact, it’s more runner with runner. Each competitor holds a mutual respect for the other, you are suffering out there together. Many runners will even unofficially team up to face the darkness, loneliness, and challenges together.
While the UTMB® is the classic race, a total of 6 races of varying lengths and technical difficulty are held the same weekend.
MCC: Martigny-Combe – Chamoniox (40KM +2,300M)
PTL® : La Petite Trotte Lon (approx. 290KM +26,500M)
TDS® : Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (119KM +7,250M)
OCC® : Orsires – Champex – Chamonix (55KM +3,500M)
CCC® : Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix (101KM +6,100M)
UTMB®: ULTRA TRAIL MONT BLANC (170KM +10,000M)
What are the athletes wearing while they race 80+ miles through the Alps? Check out our Columbia Montrail gear: