April 22, 2024
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UTMB, or the Extremely-Path du Mont-Blanc, is a 106-mile loop across the Mont Blanc massif with over 32,940 ft of elevation achieve. This mountain extremely attracts among the prime competitors on the planet, drawing in names like Kilian Jornet and Courtney Dauwalter, whereas internet hosting 1000’s of runners from all around the world.

Runners should accumulate qualifying factors by way of “stones” in UTMB-branded occasions of comparable distances within the UTMB World Sequence. For instance, runners who need to run the 106-mile race in Chamonix should end a UTMB occasion like Canyons by UTMB or Wildstrubel by UTMB. So, by the point many runners toe the road in Chamonix, they’ve some expertise within the distance.

In 2022, 68 p.c of the two,300-plus runners completed UTMB. How do these runners prepare for such a beastly race? We parsed via the Strava knowledge for some stunning finds.

How UTMB Runners Prepare

After analyzing Strava knowledge from UTMB runners, there was not a statistically important distinction in coaching between finishers and non-finishers, who have been almost similar throughout all measures together with coaching quantity, vertical ft amassed, and median longest run. A 68 p.c ending price for UTMB is pretty respectable amongst mountain ultras. For comparability, the Western States Endurance Run’s (WSER) ending price in 2023 was 81 p.c, versus the 2023 Leadville 100’s 43 p.c ending price, probably as a result of absence of a qualification course of and paired with excessive altitude and this yr’s scorching circumstances.

Over six months of coaching, UTMB runners common 931 cumulative miles, 140 hours of operating time, and greater than 130,000 ft of elevation achieve. That averages out to 38 miles per week, or simply beneath six hours per week of operating over a 24-week coaching cycle. The common UTMB runner begins at a 30-mile-a-week common, which they construct in direction of almost 80 miles per week of their peak week.

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The height week for many runners is three weeks earlier than race day, and the information reveals a variety in UTMB runners’ peak weeks. The common sits at simply 79 miles in that peak week, however the majority of athletes fall someplace between 66 to 97 miles in that prime quantity week.

On common, UTMB runners rack up 16,000 of elevation achieve of their peak week. Diving into 2022’s UTMB males’s winner Kilian Jonet’s coaching knowledge from final yr, we will see that even whereas recovering from a win on the Hardrock 100, Jornet mimicked the common elevation achieve of UTMB in his coaching, logging runs that common between 396-750 ft per mile.

Lengthy runs are additionally important to organize for an occasion like UTMB, and plenty of athletes used a race to facilitate the construct in direction of race day. Strava revealed that 57 p.c of runners did a race of their coaching, whereas 39 p.c of UTMB runners’ longest run was 100K or longer. Additionally, 62 p.c of athletes logged a long term of over 50 miles.

Crowds of runners at the start of the 19th edition of UTMB, 2022.
Crowds of runners at the beginning of the nineteenth version of UTMB, 2022. (Photograph: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty)

Lengthy runs like these have been rare in UTMB runners’ coaching. Twenty-four p.c of UTMB runners did a couple of run of fifty miles or longer. In actual fact, once you management for these very lengthy runs and races in UTMB runners’ coaching, the median long term within the two months main as much as the race is simply 14 miles. Moreover, the median variety of weeks an athlete logs a run of 20 miles or longer is six.

That’s usually in alignment with suggestions for 100-mile coaching, that are trending in direction of not overemphasizing the long term which dangers harm, and has diminishing returns for adaptation. For instance, whereas the precise knowledge isn’t public, Courtney Dauwalter says her lengthy runs coaching for UTMB in 2022 have been sometimes between three or 4 hours, seeing that the price of going over 5 hours outweighed the potential advantages.

UTMB Versus Western States

When evaluating how athletes skilled for the Western States Endurance Run with UTMB, attention-grabbing tendencies emerge. First, let’s acknowledge the apparent: these are very completely different occasions on nearly each entrance, however this could nonetheless supply vital comparisons.

WSER is a considerably much less technical race, traversing from Olympic Valley to Auburn, California, on terrain that’s a lot much less steep than the European Alps. It’s additionally considerably hotter, although 2023 was a very cool yr (an element on this yr’s considerably anomalously excessive ending price of 81 p.c). The sector can be smaller, with slightly below 400 runners, versus UTMB’s 2,400 runners. They each have qualifying requirements that mandate runners have expertise at an analogous distance—a minimal of 100K for WSER runners.

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Ending occasions and cutoffs are additionally completely different. Dauwalter, who at the moment holds the ladies’s file on each programs, demonstrates the distinction in issue. Her course file for WSER is a blistering 15:29:33, whereas her equally spectacular UTMB course file is 22:30:54.

Most UTMB runners take between 32 and 46 hours to complete, with the common ending time being about 40 hours. The cutoff occasions for the programs are additionally very completely different, with WSER’s 30-hour cutoff being consistent with the comparatively tame terrain, but in addition important sufficient to confer an honor to all belt buckle recipients.

UTMB, however, has a cutoff time of 46.5 hours, which displays the problem of the terrain and the distinction between European and U.S.-based path racing. When runners obtain their bibs for UTMB, additionally they get a paper card that claims “Sleeping, Do Not Disturb” on account of anticipating the prevalence of napping on the course.

UTMB runners logged much less quantity than WSER runners, averaging simply 38 miles per week in comparison with WSER’s 50 common weekly miles. UTMB runners, nevertheless, packed quite a lot of vert into these miles, averaging 140 ft per mile over the coaching cycle, versus WSER’s 115 ft. Which means that UTMB runners’ coaching was 22 p.c steeper than that of WSER runners. This is sensible as UTMB is considerably steeper, racking up nearly double WSER’s 15,540 whole ft of elevation achieve.

UTMB runners logged considerably much less distance than their WSER counterparts, averaging simply 931 miles over the six-month coaching cycle, versus 1,193 miles for WSER. Western States runners’ peak weeks have been larger, too, averaging 87 miles of their highest quantity week, versus UTMB’s 79 miles.

The clear pattern that emerged from UTMB runners’ knowledge is that you just may not have to run as a lot as one may suppose to achieve success at this occasion. Beginning at 30 miles per week, and peaking at beneath 80 is achievable for a lot of runners, which is maybe what makes this excessive, however attainable, occasion so alluring for runners all around the world.

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