UTMB Announces Pregnancy Deferrals

UTMB is updating its entry system for runners who give birth. Here’s what you need to know.

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The UTMB organization has introduced a new pregnancy deferral policy that will go into effect for the 2023 season. 

Last year, less than 10 percent of participants in the 100M UTMB World Series final were female. UTMB has historically been criticized for regressive and unequal gender policies, such as a lack of a pregnancy deferral policy and unequal media coverage. At the 2022 UTMB World Series Final in Chamonix, France, journalists were initially granted access to the top ten male athletes along the course and at the finish line, but only the top five women, before pushback caused the organization to walk that rule back and allow access to the top ten women. Video coverage of athletes also skewed male, focusing on male finish-line interviews while women continued to compete on the course. 

The policy includes deferrals for pregnant athletes, athletes with a partner who becomes pregnant, or any athletes who are adopting or using a surrogate parent to return to competition. 

All events with an entry lottery will now issue a refund and priority entry for up to five years for all 50K, 100K, and 100M races for pregnant runners, and partners can defer their entry or receive a refund for up to two years. The previous policy meant that runners who had previously earned qualifying stones would lose those when they became pregnant, were no longer able to race, and would be forced to requalify and re-earn stones after giving birth. For non-lottery races, runners may receive a full refund or a deferred entry valid for up to two years. 

That process is difficult and onerous, as it requires training for a 50K-100M race and travel and costs associated with getting to the start line of a UTMB World Series event, which many runners pointed out puts an unfair burden on pregnant athletes. This updated policy recognizes the biological reality of giving birth and the financial and time burdens associated with parenthood. 

The UTMB organization worked with the Professional Trail Runners Association (PTRA) members Kaytlyn Gerbin and Eszter Csillag, as well as SheRaces, an organization that works to increase female participation in trail races, based in the UK and founded by ultrarunner Sophie Power, to shape and update its policy. 

“We need pregnancy deferral policies to encourage women to get on the start line,” says Power. “It’s critical that race directors and organizations use the powers that they have, and use things that they can control, like entry processes, to make things equal, rather than always putting the onus on women.”

The issue is personal for Power, who lost her chance to compete in 2014 after becoming pregnant with her son. It took her four years to requalify and gain the UTMB index needed to compete in Chamonix, and at the time, UTMB didn’t have any policies for pregnancy or postpartum.

“There is so much more to do to ensure that our competition is held in equal regard, and I will support you all the way to drive the changes needed—starting with freezing the indexes,” says Power in an Instagram post. “Some change happened quickly.  Some has taken longer. Most of what we need is still to come. But we will keep working until it does.”

Power says this is an important step forward for the race series, and trail running more broadly. 

“There are things that we cannot change quickly. We cannot kind of easily give women more leisure time. We cannot change the fact that childcare falls predominantly on women. We cannot quickly and easily change assumptions about women. But we can change some barriers to entry, and it’s important that we change the things we can control.”

Many other internationally competitive races like Western States Endurance Run already have pregnancy policies in place. WSER

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