In her second-ever UTMB race, Claire Heslop was the first Canadian across the line in Chamonix, finishing in 18th place.
Heslop began the race in the last corral, behind the two groups of elites and the rest of the field. An hour and a half into the race, at the first checkpoint, she sat in 483rd place. Heslop stuck to her plan of having fun and staying in control, passing 300 runners as she made her way to the finish line. “I had no idea I was in the top 20 until I received a text about it from a friend of mine,” she says.
Heslop finished the 172 km course in a personal best time of 32 hours and 12 minutes, crossing the finish line at 2:00 a.m. “Coming into Chamonix is a moment I’ll never forget. I was surprised the town was up and roaring,” she says.
In her lead-up to UTMB, Heslop spent several weeks running high mileage in the French Alps to prepare. “I have always done well with altitude in previous races, but after my previous performance at UTMB, I knew needed to practice uphill and downhill pushes on comparable terrain,” says Heslop. “What a lot of North American runners don’t understand about UTMB is that it is a lot different than your typical ultra.”
Heslop spent time hiking the course this year to give her a mental understanding of the climbs and the tough technical sections. “There are a few sections of the course that are tough if the weather is poor. We were very lucky to have great conditions in this year’s race,” she says.
The Toronto native began ultrarunning seven years ago at local Ontario ultra races, such as Run for the Toad and Sulphur Springs. At the start of the pandemic, Heslop, who is a professor and ER physician with the University of Toronto, ran the perimeter of Toronto with Mark Carey for charity.
“Running has kept me sane, and the races are my reward,” says Heslop.
Heslop has qualified for UTMB in 2022 by finishing in the top five at UTMB Spain (a new UTMB qualifying race in the Pyrenees mountains). But next up for Heslop is the Ultra Mirage El Djerid 100 km in Tunisia, on Oct.2.