Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc
28th of August to the 3rd of September 2017
The Ultra Trial du Mont-Blanc Festival is the ultra marathon runners dream (or nightmare!) Taking place every year in the glorious alpine town of Chamonix the ‘UTMB’ (as its is so well known as) attracts thousands of keen ultra runners each year who are willing to tackle some of the toughest races on earth. First held in 2001 the race is now in its 17th year giving the most elite runners from around globe a chance for glory.
But what does it involve I hear you say?
Well the UTMB itself (the main event of 5 key races) is a single stage mountain ultra marathon and has 166km of gruelling mountain tracks through France Italy and Switzerland, where competitors will gain 9,600m in total.
The runners follow a loop which most of the starter runners aim to complete in just 20 hours, with other competitors doing it over 30 to 45 hours meaning running through the night is often necessary. Other races across the week mean that over 10,000 participants competing at various levels now attend the festival and Chamonix becomes a bustle with many spectators also stopping by to cheer on the brave runners.
Its is well known across the world and is often thought of as the most difficult race on the planet. With over 2,000 starter competitors, the UTMB in Chamonix is often the pinnacle of a ultra runners career and year, with lots of participants training hard months in advance to compete.
The route itself is actually a loop around Mont Blanc, similar to the Tour du Mont Blanc path that hikers complete over the course of 7-10 days
In addition to the tricky terrain, competitors will also have to battle the elements, the mountain weather can change in an instant at these heights and so they could be dealing with blaring sun, torrential rain and even snow.
Competitors also get ranked in the Ultra Trial World tour which will add to their ranking and points.
Other races such as the CCC, Courmayeur, Champex Chamonix - quickly dubbed the ‘little sister’ of the UTMB, forming part of the weeks events this race offers a different route to its older sibling. Following the ‘Grande Randonnée du Tour du Mont-Blanc’ the course is nearly as gruelling as the UTMB, but with slight less ground to coverswith a course length of 101km.
Here is a summary of the races available during the festival. Our favourite being the ‘little trot’ at a whopping 300km…
- UTMB Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (166 km +9,600 m)
- CCC Courmayeur - Champex - Chamonix (101 km +6,100 m)
- TDS Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (119 km +7,250 m)
- OCC Orsières - Champex - Chamonix (53 km +3,300 m)
- PTL La Petite Trotte à Léon (approx. 300 km +28,000 m)
There is plenty of support for the runners on each route with spots for resting up, getting a massage, refuelling with hot food as well as the simple water stops, that means it takes a few thousand volunteers to help keep the runners as safe as possible. But it is expected that each runner brings the necessary gear and all participants have to have qualified to take part, collecting points from other races throughout the year.
So if you are heading to Chamonix in the next few weeks you are likely to witness the enormity of the incredible UTMB, its well worth checking it out, even if its just to cheer on the brave few taking on this mammoth challenge.
See you on the mountain.