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Ten things you need to know about UTMB

UTMB 2014. Photo credit: Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® Franck Oddoux.

Ten things you need to know about UTMB


Last updated: 05-Sep-16

By Alice Morrison

It is that time of the year again, the Tour De France of ultra running is taking place. The Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc is a single stage mountain ultra marathon. It takes place in the Alps, across France, Italy and Switzerland. The distance is approximately 166 kilometres with a total elevation gain of around 9,600 m.

There are over two thousand starters for the ultra alone and the combined participation in all of the events is a whopping 10,000 runners. Alice Morrison has put together ten things you need to know, before you strap on your trail shoes and get running, or qualifying.

1. There are actually a variety of different races that take place during the whole event including the Little Trot, which is 300km with 28,000 m of ascent. Who says the French don’t have a great sense of humour!

  • 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)

2. You need to qualify to participate and there are races all during the year and all over the world that give you the points to do that. We have very helpfully put together a RunUltra selection for you so that you can start getting those points now. See below.

3. Runners are supposed to carry a minimum of equipment for safety reasons. This includes a waterproof jacket, warm clothes, food and water, whistle, survival blanket and head lamp.

4. There are food and drink points along the route, every 10 to 15 km. In addition, four big "life bases" provide hot meals, beds and massages: Chamonix (France), Les Chapieux (France), Courmayeur (Italy) and Champex (Switzerland).

5. UK runner, Elizabeth Hawker, has won the woman’s UTMB 5 times. Go, Elizabeth, go! What a legend.

6. In 2008, the race filled up in just 7 minutes after it was opened, so the organisers decided to introduce a draw.

7. Kilian Jornet, poster boy for UTMB and trail running in general, climbed his first 3000 metre peak in the Pyrenees at the grand old age of ........... three. So, get your toddlers out there.

8. The route more or less follows the Tour du Mont Blanc hiking path. This would normally take you around 9 days.

9. There is no prize money awarded.

10. It is obligatory for male runners to sport a beard of at least 4 cm from the end of their chin, with a maximum length of ten centimetres. (OK we made that one up but we think obligatory bearding may be a way ahead for the future.)

A selection of UTMB Qualyfing races from the RunUltra calendar



September: 10 Peaks Brecon Beacons, the Cotswold Way Century, the Cotswold Way Challenge, the Ring o'Fire, St Oswald's Ultra, the Thames Path Challenge, the Cumbria Way Ultra and the Ultra Trail of Suffolk.

October: Lakes in a Day Ultra Run.

November: The Druids Challenge and the White Rose Ultra.


September: Camí de Cavalls Epic, Canfranc-Canfranc, Trail to Heaven, Eyes of the Devil and Ultra Pirineu.

October: Mondúber Ultra Trail, Tenerife Blue Trail and Ultra Trail Sierra de Montsant.

IRELAND Kerry Way Ultra (September).

SWITZERLAND Humani Trail (September).

MACEDONIA Krali Marko Ultra Trail (September).

USA: Mountain Lakes 100 and Volcanic 50K. (September)


September: Ucka Trail.

October: Valamar Trail.

FRANCE: Trail Haut Clunysois (October).

BELGIUM: Bear Trail (October).

ITALY: Trail Monte Casto (October).

COSTA RICA: La Transtica (November).

THAILAND: Thailand Ultra Marathon (November).


MOROCCO: Marathon des Sables (April).

UK: Great Glen Ultra (July).

Have you run any of these races? Leave a review on the race listing to help other runners make up their minds.

Lakes in a Day. Photo credit: Open Adventure.

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