ULTRA-TRAIL DU MONT BLANC 2015
A couple of years ago, my dad had bought me a t-shirt. It was merchandise of a running competition named Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc. It was my initial contact with this incredible race. My Dad, who has already ascended Mont Blanc, had been to Chamonix many times for mountaineering. When he returned home, he would always rhapsodize about his expeditions, but more so about the unique vibes of this 10.000 people village. This year, at the end of August, I had the chance to embrace the atmosphere of Chamonix and watch the start of the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc.
Over the last couple of months, as my interest for running grew, I stumbled upon a series of videos on YouTube showing people running wonderful trails in the mountains. I watched one, I watched two, I watched them all. I was visually caught by the fascination of conquering nature and started to generate an interest for trail running. Trail running simply means, running and hiking on trails amongst the mountains, rather than in busy cities, squeezing through people on the pavement. It is also referred to as fell, hill or mountain running.
After all, one month ago, I gave my trail running premier at the Lech High-Altitude Half Marathon. Unfortunately, due to a virus I carried, I was unable to perform at my maximum. Nevertheless, the sense of running trail within a stunning natural surrounding was beyond words. Yet, above all, it was a family affair, as my sister and Dad run, as well, whilst Mum and our dog Paul were cheering at the finishing line.
Trail running is only one category. It can be combined with an ultra marathon, which is any race longer than a regular marathon (42,195 kilometer), usually from 50 kilometers upwards. The Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, or in short UTMB is one of those. The race takes the runner around the Mont Blanc massif, starting in Chamonix (France), crossing into Italy and Switzerland, before returning to Chamonix. The athletes encounter around 170 kilometers of trail, with about 10,000 metres of height gain that they have to complete within 46 hours maximum. Those are the raw facts of the race I aim to compete in by 2018.
The UTMB has become my personal challenge over the course of the next two to three years. I will prepare myself accordingly, to transform my body and mind to the one of an ultra runner. There are certain criteria I have to fulfill to participate. Apart from the medical side, the organization also requires me to compete in a series of qualification races two years prior to the showdown in Chamonix. There are specific races that are attributed with a degree of difficulty by a point system, ranging from one ("easy") to four (very difficult). For the 2016 edition of the UTMB, the participants need to accumulate at least nine points out of a maximum of three events. However, due to increased popularity, I expect that the entry criteria will further be raised, in order to attract only the most capable runners.
Along with the preparation for the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, the training and qualification races, which are to be confirmed, I want to use this opportunity to raise awareness and funds for some of the precarious issues we are faced with today. Many of us, including myself, live a life of fortune with little to no worries, but we shall not disremember the ones, who cannot and need assistance and support. I will keep you posted on the charitable campaigns I want to set up.
So, here we are, this is the beginning of a long journey. It will be a progress, but I am more than excited to take one step at a time towards this magical race.