The UTMB that wasn't, and then was!
A crazy 24 hours of ultra trail running in Europe was witnessed last Friday evening as the 8th annual UTMB set off bang on time at 18.30 CET. But barely an 8th of the way into the event (approx 21km) the race was cancelled, or should I say postponed and, for many, over…
Confusion? Well, the reason being that most people on the ground in Chamonix (organisers included) really didn’t seem know what was going on for a period of time. Facebook and Twitter feeds were as electric as the storms pulsing high above the Mont Blanc region. Heavy rain in the preceding 6-8 hours leading up the race, along with terrible weather conditions higher in the Col de la Seigne area (with snow forecast above 2000m) had caused a mudslide, indeed early reports even talked of runners being caught up in this.
By the Contamines scheduled stop the race was halted. Runners at first asked why, then the realization dawned and the hoards sat down, contemplated, complained or simply cried. It is easy to cast stones when in the heat of a trail battle and the (naturally) selfish reasoning comes into play, the “I have trained for this for a whole year!” reactions. But the reality is that mountains can be dangerous places, and should never be underestimated, especially the highest peak in the whole of Europe.
When you think about personal safety, you think about one or two people, when you are responsible for 2300 you have act clinically and fast, and that is what the orgainsers did. The problems then began to arise on ‘what next’ scenarios. For such a large and prestigious event it seemed that Plan A was executed, however when it came to Plan B it seemed, well it seemed that there wasn’t one!
A reliable source tells me that for the ensuing hours no one was really clear what was to happen next, “slightly chaotic” was one reaction. For some of the elite runners (Kilian Jornet, Thomas Lorblanchet, Geoff Roes) it was easy, it was over, and all roads pointed to the Kima Trophy Ultra SkyMarathon® on Sunday. Kilian went on to win another Ultra SkyMarathon® World Championship, but before he left for northern Italy he was quick to point out that the event was ill-prepared for such happenings, and stated that for such a powerful race the organising team should have had an alternative course in place in case of bad weather.
The young Catalan is in a good position to state his views on the sport too and Linsey Meyer points out that Kilian “speaks out on how more and more of the mountain course organizers are removing technical sections for safety reasons changing the face of the sport perhaps in his opinion for the worse.”
A UTMB of sorts was re-hashed, around 95km of running, actually most of the CCC route, which had taken place in the hours before the UTMB. This was much of the second-half of the UTMB course anyway. It was to start at 10am on Saturday.
You might think that I should be reporting on the racing, and the fantastic wins for Brits Jez Bragg and Lizzie Hawker. You would be right in expecting some coverage on that, and there will be over the coming days on MST. However, we thought we would put you all (who don’t already know) in the light over what must be considered one of the most momentous, and crazy, weekends in European trail running history.