You may have entered a certain ‘Christmas Lottery’ that’s taking place right now – from 14th of December to 3rd January 2018. Like other lotteries, this one involves numbers: 171 and 10,300 being two of the key numbers that make up the ‘prize’.
So what do you win?
Just a medium sized square made from a thin (but resistant) material with a number printed on it. That’s all…! But it will entitle you to participate in the major trail running experience that will be the 16th UTMB® 2018. The above numbers 171 and 10,300 refer to the distance, and level gain that comes with the ‘mother’ race – the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.
This is an event which has come a long way from its beginnings, way back in 2003 in Chamonix, France.
The very first edition had three separate finishing points, the full race distance took runners all the way around Mont Blanc with a distance of 150 Km and 8000m D+, the two intermediate finishing lines were the mid distance Chamonix-Champex in 110 Km and 6000m D+ and the shorter stage was Chamonix-Courmayeur in 67 Km with 4000m D+. What made this special was that runners could choose at which distance to stop at during the race. Of the 720 athletes that took part, only 67 completed the full course, and that very first edition was won by Dawa Sherpa from Nepal, in 20 hours and 5 minutes and Krissy Moehl, United States, in 29 hours.
Over the years the race has evolved, having undergone various changes throughout it’s course. Nonetheless, as early as 2005 it was apparent that this was an event which appealed to trail runners everywhere. The combination of a desire to try something new, together with an adventurous race route around the star of the Alps - Mont Blanc itself, was enough to draw 2000 athletes to the starting line with an amazing 700 runners completing the full distance. Britain’s Lizzy Hawker was also participating, having only acquired her first pair of trail running shoes just ten days before. Lizzy goes on to win the race along with Swiss Christophe Jaquerod for the men. Lizzy will win the UTMB® in the years 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
In 2006 the race organisation decides to create the Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix CCC®, as the main event registers requests from over 10,000 runners. This is also the first year that Italy’s legendary Marco Olmo aged 58 wins the race. Olmo will win again in 2007.
A massive 3300 trail runners register for the 2008 UTMB®, within only 8 minutes of race registration opening up. This is the first year of the Petite Trotte à Léon – PTL. Victory at the UTMB® is for the twenty year old Kilian Jornet, who will win again in 2009, 2011,
The Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie – TDS makes it’s debut in 2009 and this is also the year that the ‘draw’ or ‘lottery’ is introduced to overcome the enormous numbers of entrants. A second win for Jornet and the women’s race is won by US Krissy Moehl.
The UTMB®’s history has often seen editions where bad weather has forced the race organisation to make changes to the race route. 2010 and 2011 were such years. With the race actually being suspended in 2010 only to be resumed the following day. Winners are the Britain’s Jez Bragg and again Lizzy Hawker.
The race has certainly developed throughout the years as we can read in the official UTMB® history with it’s own highs and lows, and although entries to the UTMB® have stabilised in recent editions, the competition still remains stiff in an attempt to win one of the sought after race bibs.
9% of entrants are Italian, one of which was Fabrizio Foglia who we interviewed regarding his experience with the whole UTMB® ‘machine’…as it becomes clear that if you’re selected for one of the races, that it can take over your life and headspace in the months preceding the event.
And remember… It’s never to late to dream, the eldest runner was 85 years old, running the OCC…
Maria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.