UTMB 2023 - The Ultimate Mountain Race•
Posted on August 07 2023
Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc History
The UTMB's inaugural edition took place in 2003 with only 67 runners crossing the finish line. Nepal's Dawa Sherpa and USA's Krissy Moehl emerged as the first male and female winners, braving the rain, hail and cold weather. Over the years, legendary athletes such as Lizzy Hawker, François D'Haene and Kilian Jornet have etched their names in the event's history with multiple victories.
The age range of elite competitors is awe-inspiring, exemplified by Italian veteran Marco Olmo's victory at the age of 58 and 59 in 2006 and 2007. On the other end of the spectrum, the young Kilian Jornet claimed the title at just 20, showcasing the diverse talent that converges on the UTMB.
What is UTMB race?
The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc is a legendary endurance running event that captivates the world each August/September. Set in the picturesque town of Chamonix, France, the UTMB World Series features a week-long celebration of trail running, attracting nearly 10,000 participants competing in seven different races.
The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc is steeped in legend and its history is a testament to the resilience of those who have dared to embark on this epic journey. The race courses wind through some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the world, offering panoramic views of majestic mountains, verdant valleys, and crystal-clear alpine lakes. It's an experience that goes beyond the physical exertion of running, inviting participants to immerse themselves in the beauty of the natural world.
The UTMB World Series runs from August 28 to September 3. However, the main event, the UTMB, starts on September 1, 2023, at 18:00 local time. Runners have 46 hours and 30 minutes to conquer the brutal 170km stage across France, Switzerland and Italy. Each competitor carries a GPS tracking device, which ensures their safety and provides real-time progress updates to fans following the race online.
The UTMB course is a demanding 170km loop that takes participants on a breathtaking journey through the majestic landscapes of the Alps. Starting in Chamonix, the route winds its way anticlockwise to Saint Gervais, Les Contamines, and La Balme. Checkpoints at Les Chapieux and Lac Combal precede the ascent over Mont Blanc, soaring at an impressive 4,810m. The path continues through Arnouvaz, La Fouly, and Triente before returning to Chamonix.
Variety of Races
As we have seen, the UTMB World Series is not just limited to the iconic UTMB race; it offers a variety of races to suit different preferences and abilities:
Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB):
Distance: 170 kilometers (106 miles)
Elevation Gain: 10,000 meters (33,000 feet)
Petit Trotte a Leon (PTL):
Distance: 300 kilometers (186 miles)
Elevation Gain: 25,000 meters (82,000 feet)
Team-based with no waymarkers and a different route each year
Orienteering skills are essential
Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (TDS):
Distance: 145 kilometers (90 miles)
Elevation Gain: 9,100 meters (30,000 feet)
Distance: 101 kilometers (63 miles)
Elevation Gain: 6,100 meters (20,000 feet)
Distance: 55 kilometers (34 miles)
Elevation Gain: 3,500 meters (11,500 feet)
De Martigny-Combe A Chamonix (MCC):
Distance: 40 kilometers (25 miles)
Elevation Gain: 2,300 meters (7,500 feet)
For locals and volunteers
Experience Trail Courmayeur (ETC)
Distance: 15 kilometers (9 miles)
Elevation Gain: 1,200 meters (4000 feet)
If you are interested, Fyke offers a guide on how to choose the right trail running event for your level.
Qualifying for UTMB Races
To reach the starting line of the main event, runners must first qualify, showcasing their dedication and prowess on other challenging trail races. This rigorous selection process ensures that only the most experienced and well-prepared athletes get the opportunity to tackle the iconic Mont Blanc trails. Qualifying for this event is a badge of honor that athletes wear proudly, knowing that they have earned their place in this prestigious event.
With the increasing popularity of Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, qualifying for the races has become more competitive. The system of 'Running Stones' has replaced the qualifying points system, making it easier for participants to enter. To earn Running Stones, runners must participate in one of the UTMB Index races, with varying distances (20K, 50K, 100K, and 100M categories). These races take place across different regions, including North America, Europe, and Asia, allowing runners to find a suitable event.
Once earned, a valid and up-to-date UTMB index is necessary to use the Running Stones to enter a race via the UTMB lottery. Elite runners often receive direct invitations to participate, simplifying the process for them.
Records and Past Winners
Francois D'Haene and Kilian Jornet share the crown as the most successful male runners in UTMB history, each boasting four wins. Great Britain's Lizzy Hawker reigns supreme as the most successful female runner, also securing four victories.
The Fastest Times
The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc has witnessed some phenomenal performances, and the current course records are held by:
Men's Course Record: Francois D’Haene (France) - 19:01:32 (2017)
Women's Course Record: Courtney Dauwalter (USA) - 22:30:54 (2021)
At UTMB, participants must be well-prepared for challenging mountain terrain and unpredictable weather.
A full kit check is conducted before the race, and organizers may require additional hot or cold weather gear based on conditions.
The basic kit includes essential items like a backpack, mobile phone, water beaker, torches, survival blanket, whistle and more. Hot weather kit includes sunglasses, cap, and sunscreen, while cold weather kit includes protective eyewear, extra jacket and waterproof gloves, among others.
UTMB: Where Legends are Made
The UTMB represents far more than a mere race; it epitomizes a jubilant commemoration of human endurance, propelling the boundaries of physical and mental capabilities amidst the grandeur of nature's magnificence.
From its historic beginnings to its current prominence, Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc remains the ultimate mountain race that continues to inspire athletes and spectators worldwide.
So mark your calendars and witness the triumph of athletes as they embark on this epic journey through the Alps, etching their names in the annals of UTMB and trail running history.
Learn to master the different terrains you'll find at the UTMB and other trail running events.