Set against a stunning backdrop of Europe's highest mountain in the Alps, Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc is perhaps the world's most celebrated and iconic ultra trail race.
It is a monster - but a stunningly beautiful monster - at 170km long with 10,000m of climbing. As well as being the highest points scoring race in the Ultra Trail World Tour, UTMB is the highlight of a week-long running festival in Chamonix on the cusp of August and September that also includes the TDS, CCC, OCC and PTL races.
2018 marks the sixteenth edition and, with UTMB less than two weeks away, we take a look at the 18 key stats for this year's race.
1. 2018 sees 2,361 runners and hikers entered. That's a significant fall on 2,652 participants in 2017, but that includes deliberate overbooking (like airlines selling plane tickets) as there will always be a large number of DNS runners.
2. Men continue to dominate the numbers with 88.6%, with only 11.4% women, but that's a healthy increase from 9.5% in 2018. However, the women are far better represented in the shorter races at Chamonix.
3. This year, the oldest runner is 70 year old René Michel Martinoli from France at 70 and while Quentin Higueret from France and Shunya Matsunot from Japan are only 21. In fact, there's only six runners in the bottom age category (20-23) and all are men.
4. There are 76 countries represented at UTMB this year, including single runners from Guatemala, Indonesia, Estonia, Cyprus, Nepal, Tunisia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Costa Rica, Moldova, Montenegro, Venezuela (probably just got a lot more expensive 😩), and Tanzania.
5. The countries with the most runners are largely as expected, though Hong Kong at #11 with 2.2% is batting waaaay above it's average.
- France - 32.8%
- Spain - 9.7%
- Italy - 8.5%
- United Kingdom - 5.5%
- China - 4.7%
- Japan - 4.0%
- Poland - 3.6%
- United States - 3.4%
- Germany - 2.5%
- Portugal - 2.5%
- France - 12.0
- Hong Kong - 7.7
- Iceland - 6.5
- Portugal - 5.4
- Switzerland - 5.4
- Thailand +100%
- South Africa +100%
- Latvia +50%
- Czech Republic +43%
- Slovakia +40%
8. For the larger countries with over 25 runners, Canada stood out for year-on-year numbers growth at +38% but there were a number of countries where participation dropped hard, including Japan -36%, Hong Kong -32%, United Kingdom -20%, Italy -16% and Spain -15%.
9. The country with the highest ITRA average was Nepal with 812, courtesy of their single runner, trail journeyman and all-round nice guy, Sangé Sherpa.
10. This year's median ITRA score is 545 so you don't need to be a elite mountain gazelle to compete and finish. The average is a bit higher at 560, skewed by a few of those elite mountain gazelles, with averages of 564 for men and the women not far off at 531.
11. No surprises then that the biggest cohort of runners is 500-550 with 26.5%, followed by 20.5% in the 450-500 group. There are only 3.8% of runners with ITRA scores above 750.
12. In 2018, Jim Walmsley boasts the highest ITRA score at an incredible 951, ahead of European favourite Kilian Jornet on 930. The lowest ITRA score is 369.
13. 2016 champion Caroline Chaverot from France is the highest of the women at 805, narrowly ahead of Mimmi Kotka from Sweden. Clare Gallagher, Kaci Lickteig and Magdalena Boulet from the United States are next, all bunched together at 769, 767 and 767.
14. By ITRA scores, the United States will have four of the top six runners but has never won the men's event. Will 2018 be their year? For the women, Krissy Moehl, Nikki Kimball and Rory Bosio have all brought it home for the US of A.
- Jim Walmsley - 951
- Hayden Hawks - 922
- Zach Miller - 906
- Tim Tollefson - 906
15. Looking at average ITRA scores for the runners, these were the top countries (with a minimum of 5 runners). They breed 'em tough in down in Mordor 😜
- New Zealand - 684
- Norway - 683
- United States - 620
- Sweden - 617
- South Africa - 614
16. Surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly), the 40-49 age category is the largest, with 46.8% of all runners, while 23-39 has 33.1%. Trail runners are like fine wines, as proven by 2.0% of competitors being over 60!
17. By number of runners, the most prolific sponsors (big ups guys!) are:
- Columbia - 23
- Salomon - 12
- CMBM - 12
- Vibram - 9
- Compressport - 9
18. It's a super tough event but, if you've prepared well, keep a positive attitude and wear your guaranteed chafe-free T8 Commando V2 running underwear, there's a 100% chance you're giving yourself the best possible chance of finishing and having a blast!