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UTMB cancelled after a month of uncertainty

One of the world’s biggest ultramarathons has been forced to cancel its 2020 edition

Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc

For almost a month, a lot of uncertainty has surrounded the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). With the race scheduled for August 24 to 30 in Chamonix, the French government announced in late April that major sporting events were cancelled until at least September. But UTMB organizers gave athletes and the running community hope, saying the race would likely still be run, just with a few alterations so it could fit the government’s guidelines. Satisfying these guidelines proved to be unsuccessful, and this morning, it was announced that the 2020 edition of UTMB has been officially cancelled.

Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc

The UTMB route—which is 171K long—starts and finishes in Chamonix, located in the French Alps, and takes runners through Italy and Switzerland before they return to France. The event has been run since 2003, and this year would have been its 18th edition. Although poor weather has forced organizers to shorten the event in years past (2010, 2012 and 2017), 2020 will be the first year they’ve been forced to cancel the race outright.

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Reasons for cancelling

In the cancellation notice, event organizers listed their reasons for calling the event off, the biggest of which was the health and safety of participants. There were 10,000 runners registered for the 2020 event, and the UTMB site says these athletes came from more than 100 different countries. In April, UTMB co-founder Catherine Poletti proposed the possibility of cutting that number to 5,000 competitors, but that still couldn’t feasibly work with the French public health rules. Organizers ultimately decided that cancelling was “the most responsible decision to preserve the health and safety of all participants, which include runners, inhabitants of the Mont-Blanc region, visitors, suppliers, partners and volunteers.”

Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc Course
Photo: Pascal Tournaire/UTMB

Refunds and 2021

Runners registered for the 2020 event will receive a refund of 55 per cent of their original entry fee. UTMB officials have also given participants the option to turn down this refund and donate it to charity, which can be done through the event’s website.

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UTMB is not a race you just sign up for—runners undergo a long qualifying process for this event. With this in mind, organizers will give 2020 runners the opportunity to reserve their spots in the 2021, 2022 or 2023 events.