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A Look at the 2010 Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc

As trail running is slowly getting more mature as a sport in its whole, performances of runners on competitions all over the world are getting better and better. To sneak into a top spot at the most popular races is becoming something you really have to sweat out.

And the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is not just another example. The 8th edition promises to be, as happened at WS100, a fierceful competition with an impressive field of runners. It’s the ‘race of all the superlatives’.

Let’s do a short reminder of the race features: crossing France, Italy and Switzerland, the UTMB is the complete tour of the Mont-Blanc (highest European peak with 4,810.45 m -15,782 ft-). 166Km on the GR TMB through 10 mountain passes over 2000m and an elevation gain of 9400m – 30,839 feet – to be finished before the 46hrs cut off. With more than 2300 participants every year, it has become, since its first edition in 2003, the most popular mountain ultra race in Europe.

The number and the class of this year’s competitors is absolutely amazing. The race will have all the winners of prior editions: Dawa Sherpa (’03), Vincent Delebarre (’04), Christophe Jacquerot (’05), Marco Olmo (’06 ’07) and, of course, Kilian Jornet (’08 ’09).

The Spaniard comes to Chamonix with the intention of taking home his third victory in a row, but will have to keep many other top runners in line: Florent Troillet (current ski mountaineering world champion), Thomas Lorblanchet (current trail running world champion), Sébastien Chaigneau (2nd UTMB ’09), Ludovic Pommeret (3rd CCC ’09), Jean Yves Rey (CCC ’09 winner), Julien Chorier (3rd UTMB ’08), Tsuyoshi Kaburaki (3rd UTMB ’09), Németh Csaba, Miguel Heras, Jez Bragg, François D’Haene, Samuel Bonaudo, Kenichi Yamamoto… All of them will have to face an impressively strong US participation: Scott Jurek, Karl Meltzer, Geoff Roes, Topher Gaylord, Mike Wolfe or Scott Mason. No need to highlight their performances right?

On the women’s side Krissy Moehl will not toe the start line to defend the title, but Lizz Hawker will be there for try to best her 2nd place in the past edition. ’06 UTMB winner Karine Herry and Tracy Garneau will also be there in the battle for the top spots, as well as Fernanda Maciel, Cathy Dubois, Julia Alter, etc. Special mention for US athlete Kami Semick, who will be running the shorter CCC.

The race will have a nice media coverage, with life broadcast by the local radio station Radio Mont Blanc, through the on-line life page on the official website as well as up to date information of all runners through message service.

I am excited to say that I’ll be on-site in Chamonix to closely enjoy the race and that I’ll be keeping up to date all TRSoul readers through Twitter and Facebook. Make sure to “follow” or “like” trailrunningSoul as news will start flowing the days prior the race.

The organization is putting a lot of efforts into the eco-responsible side of the race, trying to minimize the impact inherent to an event which will bring 6,500 runners and more than 15,000 people to the town of Chamonix.

Added to the personal beaker (part of the mandatory equipment), the runners will have to carry a bag for all the trash they generate while on the trail. The bag will be periodically emptied at the special bins provided on each aid station.

Part of the effort for the UTMB to be eco-friendly will go to the transportation. New this year, there’s going to be closures on a couple of roads where only the organisation’s buses will be authorized. That means a considerable decrease in car pollution and lighter impact on the area (as well as increased profit for the organization, as non-runners have to buy a 25€ all-weekend ticket).

The organization also encourages car pooling and the use of train and bus. As an example of the transportation numbers we are talking about here and the pressure put on the environment, last year 11,300 people took the organization’s buses over the weekend.

There are also some changes which will affect next year’s edition entrants list. As the race cap is at 2300 participants, the organization wants to lower the number of people left out by the lottery and so registration for the 2011 will see three new rules concerning how the points to enter the race are won:

Decrease to 2 years (instead of 3) the period of time to get your points (so for 2011, point are valid only if acquired in ’09 or ’10)

Decrease to 3 years (instead of 5) the period of time to get the points for the UTMB races

The need to get 5 points (instead of 4) in maximum two competitions

This means that your performances will have to be fresher and better to get into the lottery from now on.

Will this bring more prepared runners and therefore better performances? We’ll see.

This year, there are no more races added to the “UTMB family”. I think four competitions on the same weekend is good enough and probably the mountain would not bear more environmental pressure. So the other three races remain the CCC – 98 km, 5,600m in 26hrs -, the TDS – 111 km, 6,600m in 31hrs – and the PTL – 245 km, 19,000m in 110hrs.

While the CCC will not have any changes, the TDS will be tougher than the two previous events and run in the opposite direction, and the PTL will have, new this year, teams of two added to the regular three-runner teams.

And that’s all for this sneak peak for now. Keep visiting TRSoul as more is to come on this year’s edition of the UTMB. It’s going to be a race which will go down in history… Oh, and some quick facts and numbers to end up this post:

Quick facts:

A total 6500 participants from 55 different countries:

  • Participation by countries: France 62,15%; Italy 7,68%; Spain 7,03%; UK 4,54% and Switzerland 3,28%
  • 1700 volunteers
  • 3900 lottery entrants (for 2330 spots)
  • 92,7% male, 7,3% female participants
  • Average age of 43,2
  • 15 aid stations
  • 40 doctors and 70 nurses
  • 20,000 energy bars, 7,500 bananas, 2,600kg of cheese
  • 8,000 markers