Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc
Photo: UTMB

UTMB, which takes place in Chamonix in the French Alps this Friday, may be the most prestigious trail ultramarathon in the world. It’s a combination of the region’s unparalleled beauty, the sheer drama of the event, the 171K of forbidding terrain, shockingly difficult elevation changes and unpredictable weather, and media attention to rival the Tour de France. Those who have raced it speak of it with reverence and affection, and they come back again and again.

This year the field is fully stacked field on both the men’s and women’s sides, with many of the top names in the sport competing. Of  last year’s top five men, only one is not returning (last year’s winner, Francois d’Haene).

RELATED: VIDEO: We dare you not to want to run after watching these six minutes of the UTMB

On the women’s side, we have Americans Kaci Lickteig (12th at Western States this year, after winning in 2016 and recovering from a fractured pelvis in 2017), Magda Boulet (VP of research and development for GU Energy Labs and winner of this year’s Marathon des Sables, a seven-day ultramarathon in the Moroccan Sahara), and Stephanie Violett (who finished sixth at Western States, despite having a torn thigh muscle).

On the men’s side, the favourite is three-time champion Kilian Jornet, who finished second to d’Haene last year, and who just yesterday warmed up by setting a course record at the 52K Trofeo Kima skyrunning race. 

Jornet’s closest rival will likely be Jim Walmsley, who finally slayed the Western States dragon this year (after two previous attempts), besting Tim Olson’s 2012 record by 16 minutes. Walmsley was fifth at UTMB last year. 

RELATED: Jim Walmsley’s Strava stats from Western States

Xavier Thévenard of France has two previous wins  at UTMB (in 2013 and 2015), and was fourth last year. He has also won its sister races. Most recently, Thévenard was on course to win this year’s Hardrock 100 when he was disqualified at mile 91 for accepting aid outside an aid station. 

Tim Tollefson finished third at UTMB in both 2016 and 2017. Tollefson has had some strong third-place finishes at U.S. ultras and one DNF, but should not be overlooked as a possible contender this year.

Alex Nichols is an American ultrarunner who crushed the supported Nolan’s 14 record in June.

Fans of British trail running in particular will be interested to know that a documentary crew will be following Damian Hall as he attempts a top-10 finish at his fourth UTMB. (Hall finished 12th last year. The film is called Underdog), Hall’s story is compelling for the sheer passion he has for this race, as described in an article in Trail Running magazine. Hall’s progress can be tracked live here

Tara Berry of Vancouver is the only Canadian in the lineup this year. She’s coming back from a tibia injury and planning to give the race her best shot.

#tbt to utmb last year! Just under 170km last year? And about 10,000 meters of gain.. not to mention all the weather! 6 months ago when I was walk/running after being off completely from a tibia injury, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to the start of utmb (and I’m still not totally sure) 🤣. I signed up for UTMB this year the morning of the same day in Dec i felt a sharp pain in my shin, when I went out for a run after registering. I had to call to get a ride home.. it seemed like it happened abruptly… And maybe I was overly excited about the thought of utmb again, already?! Flash forward 3-4 months completely off I started back up again- each month has been two steps forward and at the same time one step back at times. Still having some shin issues, but after a bone scan was completely clear last week and I’ve been able to do a couple runs this week, I’m hoping the body is gonna hold out and I’ll get to give utmb a go again! Chamonix is so special in so many ways! Off to France tomorrow! 🤞 #longesttaperever #utmb #utmb2018 #wegotthislegs #roadtoutmb #roadtoutmb2018

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The UTMB site will have live tracking, here, and runners can be tracked by name.

UTMB can be watched live on the site. The race starts Friday, August 31 at 6:00 p.m. local time (12 noon EDT), and the first men’s finisher is expected sometime around 2:45 p.m. Saturday (8:45 a.m. EDT). First women expected around 4:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. EDT) Saturday. The cutoff is 4:30 p.m. Sunday (10:30 a.m. EDT).

Or watch on the iRunFar site, here.

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