Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
While most of the scenic beauty is located along the many miles of the course, a different kind of beauty emerges at the finish line. It’s that place where emotions flow freely like the water in a mountain stream. Where friends, family and the running community gather to celebrate, embrace, comfort and swap stories, forever cementing all that has been experienced.
The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (aka UTMB)—the famous 100-miler circumnavigating Mont Blanc—was always a race Jenny Welch, 35, of Monrovia, California, dreamed of getting into. It finally happened in 2018. Then, five weeks before the race, she suffered multiple stress fractures in her foot, which forced her to stop running entirely. Undeterred, she traveled to Chamonix, France, and made her dream become reality, finishing in
44 hours 45 minutes.
Running fast 100Ks has been known to cause unexplainable euphoria, even when everything is falling apart during those last 20 miles. Moments after finishing the Black Canyon 100K, the endorphins wore off and Andy Pearson, 33, of Santa Monica, California, was found questioning his existence.
You never know how far you can go till you put it all out there. For Tim Probst, 35, of Ferndale, Washington, the Orcas Island 50-miler in his home state pushed him fully to his limits, when he barely made the final race cutoff.
“If I wrote a book about what happened today, it would be titled My Nine Hour Hallucination or The Fourth Dimension—What Running Through the Fourth Night Feels Like.
“I wasn’t actually lost,” says Van Phan, 47, of Maple Valley, Washington, of her experience being trapped in another world—a five-square-foot prison—for nearly nine hours, only 12 miles from the finish line of Utah’s Moab 240.
“I was pacing around in a small area talking to no one, trying to stay warm in my emergency bivy on an exposed and windy mesa. I felt like I couldn’t escape. At one point I even felt like I was going to die there.”
A race like the Tahoe 200 in California changes you—you’re not the same person coming out as going in. Jared Buchanan, 28, of Los Angeles, California, ran the race with the spirit of his father, whom he had lost to suicide.
Everything seems bigger in Europe—the mountains, the energy, the crowds. Spaniard Jordi Gamito Baus, 37, savors the epic spectacle of the final few meters of the 2018 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, where he placed third.