Saturday 9 September 2017

UTMB 2017

It’s quite a long way around quite a big mountain…


The 2017 utmb: time to give the hundred-mile distance another crack then! But this year – just make damn sure that you make it all the way around and back to that finish line in Chamonix!

I've had an unexceptional racing season in 2017 and my running form's been mediocre right through the summer. That top racing gear's been missing. With that in mind, the hilly hundred miles of the utmb would be no place to do anything silly! Well, doing the utmb is obviously totally silly, but what I mean is that I was not in sufficiently good shape to leg it off and play cat and mouse at the front of the field. The game plan was caution, caution, caution: get to Champex, carry on running, and just keep moving until that finish line comes into view! Oh, and enjoy it along the way...

In 2016 it all ended in Champex.
Preferably not to be repeated this year...


So, the start line was a pretty calm, low-key affair. NOT! As Ludo Collet made the Kiwi haka look like a primary school nursery rhyme I soaked up and enjoyed the atmosphere. I’d been ambushed and pulled forward to carry a gps spot-tracker, and hence found myself on the front line of runners, which was good. François stood calm and collected by my side, whilst on my right Kilian was playing computer games on his iphone, and Walmsey could be spotted further over to the left, warming up for his 100 x 1-mile reps session. I could have been imagining it, but I thought I also spotted a mouse chewing up Laney’s cap and vest.

the utmb startline ambiance!!!


So off we went. I’d made it clear beforehand that I’d be cruising down the road and there would be no silly 6-minute mile-ing shenanigans. Oops, that didn’t happen. It’s just incredible how easy 15kph feels when you’re caught up in a mass of hundreds of runners and the side of the path is lined with an infinite succession of small and large pink hands sticking out, eager for high-fives.

cruise, cruise, cruise...


Chamonix, Saint Gervais, Contamines, .. then things start to finally quieten down. The trail becomes a more peaceful place. Up the hill we went, last year into a starry cloudless night, this year into a sleety visionless gloom!

glad we're not orienteering...

I changed my jacket, put on a fresh T-shirt and prepared myself for an atmospheric night on the mountain. It couldn’t be any worse than a mountain marathon in NW Scotland – at least I wouldn’t have to pitch a tent at the end of the day!

headcase race


The night running doesn’t feel too long in the end. It passes quickly, so long as you’re kept occupied! I spent most of the night running and often talking with fellow Brit Damian Hall. He went on to have a storming run (finishing 12th). As well as keeping occupied, there’s no better way to get through the night than to stop for a 3am risotto in Courmayeur. Try it sometime! Thanks crew – it’s certainly nuts to run right through a Friday night, but perhaps even crazier, at least more selfless, to assist someone in doing so. Merci Carole, Chris et Steph!!! And while I’m on that subject, thanks also to those who supported me out there, right through the day and the night: the “Allez Lagnes”, “Go GB”, “Jump Vaucluse”,.. etc. were all highly appreciated and contributed significantly to spurring me all the way to that finish line.

3am risotto

bon app' !


There’s quite a lot of time to reflect while you’re out running ultras. And I worked it out! - Yes, I finally determined THE SECRET to succeeding at ultra running. It came to me in the latter 40km or so. So here it is: What you must do is learn to run, well at least learn to keep moving forward in some form or other, whilst your legs are in excruciating pain. Yep, that’s it. Simple! Now you know this secret, it’s easy, right? Try it! The only slight problem and the caveat I’d attach is the following: the pain can be quite intense!!!

pain is relative, and usually temporary

So yes, my legs hurt towards the end. Those last three medium-sized (800m) hills were no molehills. But at the end of the day they’re only three medium-sized hills aren't they? It’s just a question of keeping moving and you’ll get over them, in the end. Mind over matter. Or “mind over cooked legs”.

any excuse to walk


Whooppee, I’d got round!!

no high-jump PR today

My finishing position (16th) wasn’t the sporting achievement of my lifetime, but that wasn’t of too much importance. I’d been in it to get around this year. It had been hard and it had taken two attempts, but I’d finally made it. Now that box is ticked, next time I come back I can try legging it off with the American track athletes, or not!

top 30

That said, “next time” won’t be any time too soon. I definitely enjoyed the whole experience, it was painful at times but generally fun, but right now I’m kind of thinking I’ll stick to some shorter stuff for the next year or two…


no beer has ever gone to my head as fast as this one...

my utmb story in video:


  1. Pole attitude à Notre dame de la Gorge!!! 😂

  2. Encore BRAVO Andy ;-)
    Petite question technique : je suis à la recherche d'un nouveau sac et le Scott me tente mais est-ce que le porte bâtons va être commercialisé par SCOTT ? ou sinon quelle astuce pour le fabriquer ;-)

    Merci d'avance and have a good end of season


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