The UTMB Races: An Easy Guide to What You Need to Know

Did you know every August, the population of Chamonix, France, doubles? Chamonix — host of the UTMB races — sees men and women sporting running packs, hiking poles, and muddy trail shoes flooding its borders.

These trail runners come to run one of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc races. Some of the most difficult trail races in the world.

And it’s a beautiful sight to watch.

So, let’s look at what UTMB is, what the UTMB races are, how you qualify for one, and all the other fun bits and details.

See the UTMB 2022 results here!

What is UTMB?

The most straightforward comparison to make is it’s the Super Bowl of ultrarunning.

However, that’s a bit simplistic and doesn’t fully capture the grandeur of this race.

The race is a 106-mile (170-kilometer) course race around the highest mountain in Western Europe and the namesake for the race, Mont Blanc.

If the distance isn’t enough to ‘wow’ you, how about adding 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) of elevation gain to the mix?

Not enough for you? Add in the occasional snow, rain, windstorms, and all the dangers of running through high mountain passes.

Mix in a little sugar and spice, and that’s UTMB.

How many races are there in UTMB?

There are 6 major events and 1 youth event in the UTMB series. But, what are the different UTMB races? They are:

Now, let’s get a quick overview of each major race.

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB race)

  • 106 miles (170 kilometers)
  • 33,000 feet (10,000 meters)

UTMB map

UTMB races course map
Photo from UTMB

UTMB elevation profile

UTMB elevation profile
Photo from UTMB

Petit Trotte a Leon (PTL race)

  • 186 miles (300 kilometers)
  • 82,000 feet (25,000 meters) of elevation gain
  • Team-based
  • No waymarkers and a different route each year
  • Orienteering skills are essential
  • Started in 2008
PTL map
PTL course map
Photo from UTMB

Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (TDS race)

  • 90 miles (145 kilometers)
  • 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) elevation gain
  • Started in 2009
TDS map
TDS course map
Photo from UTMB

TDS elevation profile

TDS elevation profile
Photo from UTMB

Courmayeur—Champex—Chamonix (CCC race)

  • 63 miles (101 kilometers)
  • 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) elevation gain
  • Started in 2006
CCC map
CCC course map
Photo from UTMB

CCC elevation profile

CCC elevation profile
Photo from UTMB

Orsieres—Champex—Chamonix (OCC race)

  • 34 miles (55 kilometers)
  • 11,500 feet (3,500 meters) elevation gain
  • Started in 2014
OCC map
OCC course map
Photo from UTMB

OCC elevation profile

OCC elevation profile
Photo from UTMB

De Martigny-Combe A Chamonix (MCC race)

  • 25 miles (40 kilometers)
  • 7500 feet (2,300 meters) elevation
  • For locals and volunteers
  • Started in 2018

MCC map

MCC course map
Photo from UTMB

MCC elevation profile

MCC elevation profile

How hard is it to qualify for UTMB races?

The UTMB series has only become more difficult to qualify for because of its increase in popularity.

So, they’ve switched to a system of “Running Stones”. These replaced the previous system of qualifying points.

A Running Stone is one entry into the UTMB World Series Final lottery(UTMB, UTMB PTL, UTMB TDS, UTMB OCC, UTMB CCC, or UTMB MCC).

You earn these by participating in one of the UTMB World Series races. There are varying distances (20K, 50K, 100K, and 100M category).They take place worldwide, so finding a UTMB qualifying race usually isn’t difficult.

Once you earn running stones, you need a valid and up-to-date UTMB index. 

You achieve this by participating in one of the UTMB World Series Majors, event races, or a UTMB index race within the last two years.

Then (and only then) can you use your Running Stones to enter a race via the UTMB lottery. 

If you’re selected via the lottery, the Running Stones disappear. If you’re not selected, they return to your account.

UTMB Running Stones don’t expire, but you have to have earned at least one within the last two years to enter the lottery.

Simple, right?

For elite runners, the process is much simpler, and usually get an invite to participate.

What is the fastest time at UTMB?

Francois D’Haene from France set the men’s course record in 2017 with a time of 19:01:32. This beat the previous record of 20:11:44, which he also set in 2014.


Courtney Dauwalter from the USA set the women’s course record in 2021 with a time of 22:30:54. This beat the previous record of 22:37:26 set by Rory Bosio (a fellow American) in 2013.

Conclusion

Whether you have goals to run UTMB Mont Blanc, CCC Chamonix, or any other races, or simply to observe the festivities, it’s a joy to be a part of.

The UTMB is a giant display of everything great about trail and ultrarunning. 

From the start of the race, through Champex Lac, La Fouly, and Les Contamines, to the finishing line in Chamonix, the trail running world tunes in to this one small town in France that becomes the center of our universe.