The UTMB 2020 has been cancelled – Runner’s World (UK)

The UTMB 2020 has been cancelled  Runner’s World (UK)

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The list of high-profile races that have been cancelled because of Covid-19 has just grown by one. Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), which was scheduled to take place from August 24-31, has just been cancelled.

Ten thousand runners from 111 countries had been due to descend on Chamonix, the French alpine resort where the UTMB starts and finishes. However, the race’s organisers today announced that the race would no longer take place in a bid to ‘preserve the health and safety of all involved’.

Runners who had a place in this year’s race will be given a partial refund of 55 per cent of the registration fee. They will also have a place reserved in the same race in either 2021, 2022 or 2023 to give them more flexibility. Next year’s race will take place from August 23-29.

Catherine Poletti, founder of the UTMB, said: ‘In the mountains, we are familiar with risk and commitment. When the conditions are not right, it’s more reasonable to turn and go home. Risk-taking is part of our culture, as is knowing your limits. To give up is to show courage. When you give up an ascent, you know that there will be other opportunities to come back, when the conditions are right, when you are ready, when the storm is over.’

The UTMB has been called the ‘World Cup of mountain running’. Alongside the titular race, which involves a 106-mile circumnavigation of Mont Blanc, there is a series of other events. Since its inception in 2003, when 700 people took part, the race series has grown rapidly and now requires strict qualifying criteria.

For many runners, competing in the UTMB is a bucket-list item and the culmination of several years’ work in gaining the requisite qualifying points. However, the organisers said they do not wish to offer runners an experience that does not live up to their dreams.

‘Trail running is about meeting other people,’ said Poletti. ‘It’s taking the time to chat at the aid station, it’s the freedom of movement. Because of the current situation, it has become difficult to organise races that offer this pleasure and these possibilities. We have of course imagined an event adjusted to the sanitary rules, with staggered starts, less runners and social distancing at the aid stations. In such conditions, the UTMB would not be the one we know, and above all, the one each participant would like to experience. Taking part in the UTMB implies a long process for runners, each of them expects to experience a full and satisfying race. Let’s be patient.’

More information about the cancellation of this year’s race, and what it means to runners, is available at the UTMB website.

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