In a major victory for masters endurance athletes, the top three women at the world’s most difficult ultramarathon this past weekend were all well over 40 years old. Two of the top five men were also over 40.

Francesca Canepa of Italy, Uxue Fraile Azpeitia of Spain and Jocelyne Pauly of France were the top three female finishers at UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc), the iconic 100-mile race in Chamonix, France that saw numerous upsets and DNF’s this year. Canepa turns 47 this week. Azpeitia is 44. Pauly also has a birthday this week (she’s turning 45).

Hallvard Schjølberg of Norway and the U.K.’s Damian Hall, also both 40+, were fourth and fifth. 

RELATED: Xavier Thevenard wins UTMB

This was Hall’s fourth UTMB, and first top-10 finish. His time was 22:35:13. (Hall finished 12th last year.) British fell runner Nicky Spinks, 51, can be seen crewing for Hall in the video of his finish, below. 

Schjølberg, who lives and trains in Norway’s Lofoten Islands, finished the race 22:06:59. Schjølberg finished fourth at last year’s UTMB also. In 2016 he was 28th. Schjølberg, who only started running in 2011 and racing ultras in 2016, told the Norwegian site Kondis that it was difficult to keep warm during the first eight hours of the race, and to stay upright during the technical descents in the rain and fog. Schølberg plans to race Scotland’s 52K Glen Coe Skyline in two weeks.

Hall’s race was chronicled by a documentary crew. The project is called Underdog, and is expected to be completed later this month. 

Though cold, wet weather undoubtedly played a role in the huge numbers of DNF’s this year, it was not the only factor. Of the favourites we listed in our preview on August, Xavier Thévenard was not only the winner but the sole finisher. Kilian Jornet was forced to drop out of the race after suffering an allergic reaction to a bee sting a few hours before the start. 

Jim Walmsley also DNF’d, as did Tim Tollefson, who sustained a 6-cm cut to his thigh 44K into the race and finally dropped out at 90K. Alex Nichols fell hard in the crush of bodies at the race start, which similarly doomed his race. Fellow American Zach Miller sprained his ankle and eventually dropped out.

 

Some had speculated that Thévenard was unlikely to be recovered enough from his extremely fast race at Hardrock to podium at UTMB. (Thévenard was leading at 90 miles and likely would have won, but was disqualified for accepting aid outside an aid station earlier in the race.)

RELATED: UTMB 2018 shaping up to be spectacular

For some spectacular footage of UTMB 2018, courtesy of Trail Running Magazine, click here

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