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2019 champion is running UTMB anyway

Spanish ultrarunner Pau Capell says he plans on running the 171K UTMB Mont-Blanc route even though the race is cancelled

Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc

On May 20, race organizers for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc announced that the 2020 edition was officially cancelled. The UTMB features seven events (all of which start in Chamonix every August), the most famous being the gruelling 171K ultra that takes runners through the Alps in France, Italy and Switzerland. Runners around the world were of course disappointed when the race was called off, no matter how inevitable that cancellation seemed to be. The men’s champion from 2019, Pau Capell of Spain, isn’t accepting the cancellation, and he has announced that he will be running the route on his own in late August.

Not a sure thing

Capell made this announcement soon after the UTMB was officially cancelled (just two days later), posting on Twitter and Instagram to say, “I will run UTMB! Alone, without a bib and with my support team.” He also posted that he plans to start the run at 6 p.m. on August 28, four days after the event was set to officially start.

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There are many issues that could arise and ruin Capell’s plan, including potential travel restrictions and further lockdowns in his home country of Spain or in France. Both countries were under strict lockdowns for the past two months, and restrictions have only recently been loosened in each country. Many public health officials around the world have forecast a second wave of the coronavirus, so by August, Spain, France and the rest of the world could be back in lockdown, which would stop Capell from going.

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The right call?

There’s also the moral question of whether it’s OK to go and do this race when it’s been cancelled. UTMB organizers called the race off because it was the best way to keep everyone safe, and although Capell running on his own with a small support crew is much different than thousands of runners coming to race the UTMB events, it’s still a questionable decision.

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Capell is an experienced ultrarunner, and he will undoubtedly come well prepared with enough supplies and a good crew, but there’s the possibility that people will follow in his footsteps and take on the UTMB solo as well. If this happens, it’s very possible that other runners won’t be as well prepared as Capell, and that could create issues for themselves and other runners around them.

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If Capell is able to go through with his solo run, it will be interesting to see how it goes. When he won the race in 2019, he covered the 171K course in 20:19:07. It’s hard to imagine that he could beat that time without the adrenaline shot delivered from a real race with cheering spectators and other competitors, but we’ll just have to wait and see what type of run he can produce if the time comes.