For the 2011 UTMB mark as ‘brutal’. After the start time was moved on Friday evening to 11.30pm due to storms, the anticipation for this great race only grew, as Chamonix became a trail running couldron…
This beautifully captured film by The North Face on the Saturday morning, shows the immense scale of this event and what competitors had to run through over this vast massif, and just why there is such demand for the UTMB.
Setting off in heavy rain some of the leading lights in men’s and women’s trail running put themselves at the head of the field quickly. As ever in ultra distance running though, the first 6 hours are about settling into a rhythm and so was the case as Spain’s Kilian Jornet, Miguel Heras and Iker Karrera, along with France’s Sebastien Chaigneau, formed a quartet which pretty much stayed together until the Trient (145km) checkpoint – when Heras was cruelly forced to abandon due to knee pain.
It was left to these three to decide the spoils over the next 25km, and what ensued was a mammoth battle which saw a mere 19 minutes separating all three by the time they arrived to a massive welcome in Chamonix, with two-time winner Jornet pulling away from Karrera in the last hour to win by 9 mins in 20:36:43. Chaigneau was third, 10 minutes back on Karrera.
Humble Catalan Jornet later tweeted:
Amazing race #utmb2011 just fun!! Thanks all supporters and organizers! At end 170k and 9700m+ Very happy to complete podium with 2 friends!!
…before no doubt heading off to get some well-earned rest!
As Kilian sits atop of the throne once again, he will look back at a 166km route littered with trail running giant casualties, ‘dropped’ runners as they are known. The list includes Geoff Roes, Scott Jurek, Krissy Moehl, Jez Bragg, Miguel Heras, Nick Clark, Mike Wolfe, Dakota Jones et al. whether through injury, fatigue or other misfortune.
Though no less intense, the women’s race saw a dominant performance, by one athlete, proving that she should be considered one of the best endurance athletes in women’s sport today. Lizzie Hawker knows this race well. Wins in 2005, 2008 and last year’s shortened event, showed us that the North Face athlete is capable of dealing with everything that this epic event was capable of throwing at her.
And so it proved once again this year. Lizzie led from the outset, running so strongly early on that she led many of the men’s big names as they went through St. Gervais after about 20km. From this point onwards the UK runner poured on the pressure to all female contenders, continually extending her lead over the next 20 or so hours, finishing in 25:02, to glorious fanfare from the thousands of fans assembled in Chamonix.
Speaking immediately after she crossed the line Lizzie talked of being elated, but tired and having suffered with hip pain for much of the third part of the race. Her forth win in this monumental event must surely now place her in a hall of fame that few women will emulate in the future.
Spain’s Nerea Martinez took a brilliant second, after holding Hawker to around 45 minutes for much of the race, before fading in the latter stages. US runner Darcy Africa came through very strongly in the last two hours of the race to claim an excellent third.
Live results as they happen are here, with images and more reaction to follow.