Thursday, March 27, 2008

The North Face Ultra-Trail Tour du Mont Blanc

The North Face Ultra-Trail Tour du Mont Blanc (aka UTMB). A foot race around Mont Blanc, the highest mountain peak in Western Europe. Cut-off time: 46 hours. It's a 163 km (101 miles) tour in three countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. There's about 9,000 meters of vertical gain. 

For comparison, the same loop is usually completed in 7-11 days by ordinary hikers. The record time of 20 hours and 5 minutes was set by Dachiri Dawa Sherpa in 2003, when the race was organised for the first time. In 2007 the 59-year-old Italian Marco Olmo won in 21:31, thus becoming the only person to have won the event twice.

The race starts at 18:30 on a Friday evening, so the fastest runners may get it done by Saturday afternoon. The slower ones will arrive on Sunday - if they can finish at all, after two grueling nights.

I've decided that UTMB is my ultimate goal. That's the reason why I'm doing these crazy ultra distance training runs once a week in 2008. One needs a higher purpose in life. And you probably thought I was nuts, huh?

There's no way I get in for the August 2008 UTMB. The number of runners is limited to 2,000. The race sold out the day the registration was opened in December.

So I'm going to aim for the UTMB in August 2009. Gives me time to train properly. To qualify, first I need to earn at least 4 points during 2007-8 from the various 1-4 point ultra trail races listed on their website. Then I need to enter into their lottery system in December and get myself selected in January.

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