Every year at the end of August, the world’s elite trail runners come to Chamonix for a week of endurance racing. The week of the UTMB® Chamonix – Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc – includes five individual races and a team challenge, and the distances are really epic.
The runners will cross three countries, seven valleys, 71 glaciers and 400 mountain summits, with the flagship UTMB Chamonix® race covering 168km and with 9600m of positive height gain.
The week comprises 6 races of different lengths, taking in different variations on the three countries and half or full loops of Mont Blanc.
- UTMB Chamonix®: Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, 168km ,+9600 m
- CCC®: Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix, 101km, +6100 m
- TDS®: Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie, 119km, +7250 m
- OCC: Orsières – Champex – Chamonix, 53 km, +3300 m
- PTL®: La Petite Trotte à Léon, approx. 300 km, +28000 m (team challenge)
- MCC: Martigny – Combe – Chamonix, 40km, +2300 m (new in 2018, for UTMB® volunteers)
The UTMB® was first held in 2003, with additional races being added from 2006. Essentially, the route of the race follows the traditional Tour du Mont Blanc hiking route, forming a loop around Mont Blanc.
The key difference is that, while the walking route is usually completed in 7-10 days, most runners of the main UTMB® race will complete the course in 30-45 hours. The winners will come in slightly more than 20 hours from their place at the starting line.
Since the first race in 2003, the rate of entries and its popularity have grown exponentially. Only three years after the race began, the limit of 2500 runners was surpassed and so the CCC® race was created to offer more opportunities to runners to take part.
Since 2007, runners have had to gain qualifying points before being able to enter to take part, and almost every year since the criteria have been tightened to select as much as possible based on ability and experience. There is also an element of chance as the race is so oversubscribed that a system of pre-authorisation and random draw is now in place to select at random from those who meet the qualifying criteria.
From the pros to the newbies, each competitor is required to carry an extensive list of equipment to ensure their security at all points of the course.
A quick history of UTMB®
- 2003: the race is run through rain, cold and hailstones, with 711 trail-runners on the start line from 19 different countries.
- 2004: Local boy Vincent Delebarre wins the UTMB®.
- 2006: the CCC® is run for the first time, and won by the female runner Corinne Favre.
- 2008: the youngest entrant in that year’s race, Kilian Jornet wins his first UTMB® at just 20 years of age.
- 2009: in searing temperatures of 28-30C, Kilian Jornet takes the top podium for the second time. Another new race, the TDS® is also introduced.
- 2010: the first attempt at the race is called off after rain causing rock slides. A second start the next days crowns Brits the champions – Jez Bragg and Lizzy Hawker, who won her first UTMB® in 2005 and holds the record for highest number of wins – 6.
- 2012: another year of hellish weather conditions makes it impossible to race in Italy, so the race is shortened and redirected in France.
- 2014: the OCC is run for the first time.
- 2015: a sunny and hot week for all the races made it challenging, especially for those running the team PTL® event. Only 17 out of 115 registered teams made it to the finish line within the time limit.
- 2018: financial prizes will be offered for the first time, with men and women winning equal prize money for taking top positions in the four main individual competitions: UTMB®, TDS®, CCC®, OCC.
Innovation at UTMB®
The UTMB® prides itself on always being at the forefront of developments and new ideas in trail running.
- Environment: all runners must carry a personal beaker and rubbish pouches; ambassadors for the environment work before, during and after the race to minimise impact; there is a communal transport system open to friends, family and volunteers.
- Health: UTMB® participates in studies and medical questionnaires; there is a defined health policy.
- Race coverage: Live location of the runners, visible online thanks to chips in their bibs; text message alerts to friends and family when runners pass checkpoints.
- Communication: live videos of runners available online, online TV available in French, English and Spanish.
- Trail runners of the future: a full programme of races for small kids (Mini UTMB®), teenagers (Y Run) and young adults (YCC) gives runners of all ages the opportunity to get a taste for trail running.
Watch ®UTMB Chamonix centre
If you’re here supporting a friend or family member, you’re sure to be following them around the course to cheer them on and support them.
All other visitors to Chamonix can’t avoid the amazing atmosphere either. The best spot for this is as close as possible to the large arch in front of Chamonix town hall on Place du Triangle de l’Amitié (or from the balcony of our Les Balances Apartment). The PTL® and UTMB® races both start from this central location, and all the races throughout the week have their finish lines here.
Settle in at one of the cafés or bars close to the finish line and watch the participants dig deep to continue running across the finish line. Make sure you join in with the clapping and cheering to help them with the final few metres!
If you’re exploring the mountains in Chamonix valley during the UTMB® week, you’re sure to see some of the runners coming past too, especially in areas around Le Tour and Vallorcine, Flégère and Les Houches.
Why we love UTMB®
Here at Chamonix All Year we love UTMB® week. Chamonix is always buzzy in the summer but the last week in August has the town bursting at the seams. It’s one of our busiest weeks in the year with guests arriving throughout the week with their friends and families here to cheer them on. At any time of the day or night, you’re likely to find the barriers up to the finish arch lined with people clapping the runners across the line and celebrating their great achievement.
If you’ve got a place to run this year, make sure you book your UTMB® Chamonix accommodation as soon as possible, as our properties do book up early and availability is limited. Use the search box on the top right of this page to find the best accommodation for you and your friends and family.
More information: http://ultratrailmb.com/