Racers will take on 100 kilometers within France instead of 100 miles in France, Switzerland, and Italy.
The approximately 2,300 trail runners that were primed for the 10th The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), scheduled to depart Friday evening, were rattled by news that their 100-mile race would be cut short. Weather reports of cold and snowy conditions caused race organizers to redraw the route to 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) entirely within France. Organizers say the weather conditions will continue over the next few days, so there is no use in delaying the race.
The news initially frustrated some of the ultra runners, who had been physically and mentally preparing for the grueling distance high up in the mountains. A few of the top runners are rumored to have instantly dropped out of the race. But The North Face team of runners—including Lizzy Hawker, Jez Bragg, Mike Foote, Rory Bosio, and Helen Cospolich—recovered from the change in plan and are getting ready for the cold and snowy French Alps.
The evening departure is designed for a 100-mile race, allowing the competitors to run through the cold, dark evening when their legs are still fresh. The rerouted 100-kilometer distance will also kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday, with the first finisher arriving back in Chamonix at around 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
The Ultra-Trail Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix (CCC), which is always 100 kilometers, took off as planned this morning under fair conditions. Those runners are currently slogging through rough, snowy trails.
I will be experiencing the UTMB race trailside while crewing for 28-year-old Missoula ultra runner Mike Foote. Though this is his first 100-kilometer race, it’s a distance he generally runs solo, so our team will be there to help as needed but also experience what’s its like to navigate these trails though the snowy French Alps.
Our crew stocked up on bananas, nuts, water, and Nescafe to stay up all night in the support vans. In addition to Rachel Foote, Mike’s sister and the trusted lead of our crew, speedy trail runner Dakota Jones will also be at least occasionally seat-belted into the van to lend his expertise. The race departs at 7 p.m. Chamonix time. It’s certain to be adventure. Stay tuned.