Trail Runner’s Guide to UTMB 2023

Everything you need to know about the UTMB race series in Chamonix.

Photo: AFP via Getty Images

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The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) isn’t just one thing. It’s the Spandex Superbowl, wrapped in Gore-Tex Mardi Gras with a dash of Chafing World Cup. It’s a week-long festival of mountain running that attracts thousands of runners to Chamonix, France.

See our entire collection of UTMB stories here.

The petit French cobblestone streets will teem with compression-sock-clad competitors who will be competing in one of the six events throughout the week. The five smaller races (perhaps in prestige, rather than mileage, as in the case of PTL) lead up to UTMB, considered by many to be the sport’s crown jewel. This is our breakdown of the week’s events.

RELATED: With entry changes on the horizon, this year’s UTMB might be the most competitive ever. Here’s why.

Spanish trailer Pau Capell competes in the 19th edition of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) a 171km trail race crossing France, Italy and Switzerland in Chamonix, south-eastern France on August 27, 2022. – The Spanish ultra trail star Kilian Jornet was victorious in the fourth Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) of his career, setting a new record time of under twenty hours. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP) (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images)

UTMB: The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

The marquee and last event of the week-long series, UTMB completely circles its namesake summit in just over 100 miles with a whopping 32,808 feet of vertical gain—more than it would take to summit Everest from sea level. About 2,300 runners will attempt to traverse the course’s ten alpine summits in under 46 hours 30 minutes.
Though an American man has yet to cinch a UTMB win, U.S. women have taken home top honors. Krissy Moehl won the women’s inaugural event in 2003, and again in 2009. Rory Bosio racked up two consecutive victories in 2013 and 2014, and Nikki Kimball claimed the title in 2007. Courtney Dauwalter won’t be returning after her back-to-back victories, leaving the top female spot in hot contention.

Competitors take the start of the 170km Mont Blanc Ultra Trail (UTMB) race around the Mont Blanc crossing France, Italy and Swiss, on August 30, 2019 in Chamonix. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images)

UTMB Races

CCC: Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix

Previously seen as the “little sister of the UTMB”, CCC has become a respected race in its own right with a demanding 62-mile course that ascends over 20,000 feet. It just about covers the last 60 miles of the UTMB course, which offers an in-depth preview for many runners with UTMB dreams. Historically, Americans have been successful at CCC, with notable victories by Clare Gallagher, Hayden Hawks and Zach Miller.

PTL: Petite Trotte à Léon

Perhaps UTMB’s most distinctive event, the PTL takes teams of two to three runners over 186 miles of rugged, unmarked terrain around Mont Blanc. Named for an adventurous French baker and hardcore volunteer, it takes many teams the allowed 152 hours 30 to complete.

The course changes every year and there is no official winner. The event is so challenging that finishing is judged as a win.

TDS: Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie

The extra-technical TDS is the “cool-kids” race, attracting a who’s who of mountain runners from around the world.  2019’s new-and-improved route is even more rugged than previous years. It traverses 90 miles from Courmayeur, Italy, to Chamonix around the Mont Blanc massif. This “mid-distance” (by UTMB standards) event hosts 1,600 runners, and has a 42-hour cutoff. No American has ever won TDS, but Hillary Allen ran a ferocious race for 2nd in 2019.


OCC: Orsières-Champex-Chamonix

With the consolidation of the new series, we’re going to see increased competition at OCC, as UTMB looks to turn it into a world-championship-style event. For fans of “shorter” mountain races, this will be a must-watch.  The route climbs over 11,000 feet as it winds through the Swiss Valais region with a 14-hour-30-minute cutoff.


MCC: Martigny-Combe-Chamonix

The MCC is a 24-mile race for the “bénévoles” and “gens du pays,” the volunteers and locals who help with UTMB. The shortest of the races, it provides an accessible surprisingly challenging (7,500 feet of elevation gain) glimpse into the French Alps.

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