The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc or the UTMB as its lovingly known is often spoken of being THE ultra-adventure. A few weeks ago I didn’t understand what the UTMB really meant to people – I didn’t see the big appeal – the tales of people traffic jams and the hard packed tracks were not exciting.
Finding myself, purely by coincidence, in the Chamonix Valley during the week leading up to the UTMB I found myself wondering more and more about the possible adventures through the mountains. Exploring the western side of the Mont Blanc massif in the days leading up to the race I found my spectating spot for the Friday night.
At 5pm on race night I had really warm vertical kilometre hike up to 1800m – to my selected spot at the top of the Col de Voza climb. This was the first proper climb for the runners so I expected they would have spread out a little and to be going slow enough for me to catch the names on their race numbers to cheer then on. I’d done a bit of entry list stalking and had my spotting list ready.
Something magical happened as I waited. As the last of the sunshine was still glistening on the peak of Mont Blanc and the speedy French leader glided by, the mountain came alive – the trails came alive and I felt part of this mountain race – yet so calm and peaceful all the same.
One by one the top runners began passing. I had a little tingle of my cowbell – the runners loved it! Then I was away, ringing my bell and calling out “alle alle” as the enduring 2,000+ runners ran, jogged then walked past.
The sun was nearly set by now, turning Mont Blanc a beautiful crimson and I just didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay up there all night. I ran with the runners all the way down to Montivon, I just wanted to be part of it, as the sun disappeared over the horizon.
As I arrived back at my tent, across the valley was the flickering light of head torches and the feint ringing of cowbells.
I sat in the light of the full moon quite overwhelmed. It seemed I had just fallen in love.
So if you get the opportunity to be part of the UTMB, as a runner or a spectator, be warned: you may just find yourself falling in love.