Dreaming of Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc

Posted: March 3, 2012 in Events

The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) is a race across the Alpine mountains along the borders of three countries – France, Italy, and Switzerland. It’s 166km of bliss and blisters, sometimes less, sometimes more depending on the weather and the conditions along the course. The winners finish in a little over 20hrs. Most participants take more than 35hrs, if at all. UTMB is notorious for high drop out rates. The mix of stunning course, top notch organization, and competitive field has made it the unofficial ultra trail World Championships.

Learning more about the race and the runners who compete in it like Lizzy Hawker and Kilian Jornet makes me wish I could be fast enough and strong enough to take on the challenge myself. There’s just that joy of running on the mountains, of negotiating the ups and downs, that makes me feel like I’m a kid playing outdoors – something I rediscovered at Pico de Loro. And with a course as breathtaking as this, how can anyone resist?

How to Get to UTMB

Here in the Philippines, the nearest local equivalent is the TNF100 in Baguio held every April (though previous TNF races have also been held at Camsur and Sacobia). Finishers of the 100K category get 3 points. UTMB hopefuls need to collect 7 points from a maximum of three races to be considered. Where do you collect the other 4 points? The UTMB website has a list of recognized races. The bulk is located in Europe but there are lots in Hongkong and one in Malaysia (none yet in Thailand and Singapore). There is also a new 100 mile (160K) trail run called Taklang Damulag 100 (TD100) by Bald Runner which is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. Though as of the moment, only one person has ever crossed the finish line within the cut-off time of 30hrs at the inaugural race. Maybe TD100 will also get recognition as a qualifier for the UTMB in the near future.

If the UTMB point system seems daunting, you’d be right. It’s difficult by design and almost makes the Boston Marathon qualifying times look humane. I guess, like in any ultra marathon, you don’t agonize over the distance but just put one foot in front of the other and go as far as your legs can take you. I’d love for a Filipino to qualify for Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. Who knows? Maybe it’s going to be you. Start dreaming. 😉

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