The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) is one of the marquee events of ultra trail racing, but with any lottery entry system, some runners will always miss out.
This year 16,994 people applied for 7000 places in four different races, with athletes working for years to gather enough points to even apply.
If you are one of the many who misses out even after two attempts, at least the third consecutive year you are guaranteed a spot. So if you who thought running 170km in the mountains was tough, try getting on the start line.
For the 9,994 disappointed runners that don’t get to toe the line in Chamonix, France, Courmayeur, Italy or Orsieres in Switzerland this summer what to do instead?
Thankfully there are some great alternative Alpine races that you may never have heard of, that have not yet sold out and will provide an equal or tougher challenge as the UTMB. Some might not have the massive crowds and huge numbers of participants, but that’s a bonus for some runners surely?
1) Trail Aiguille Rouge (TAR)
This race may be a few weeks later but it’s a beautiful race on some of the lesser known trails of Chamonix within the stunning Aiguille Rouge National Park.
The entries don’t open until 1st April, but if you’re looking for an OCC alternative with a little more meat on the bones, this is a slightly more technical option.
Further info: www.aiguillesrouges.fr
2) Ultra Tour des 4 Massifs
is near Grenoble and has distances of 169k, 100k, 40k and 20km and is the week before the UTMB festival so still within the school holidays period. Registration is open now and it’ll keep your UTMB points ticking over, add to the experience and show you a mountainous area of France that fair fewer see.
It’s a little hillier too, with 11,000m over the 169km. Tasty.
Further info: www.ut4m.fr
3) Montreux Trail Festival
The festival is organised by bow tie wearing Swiss International Diego Pazos and shows some of the spectacular landscapes in the mountains behind Montreux, Switzerland.
With options ranging from 164km (and 12,000m) to the family relay with 800m run by the kids and Freddie Mercury and Queen themed 15 & 6km races, it’s truly a festival of trail in the town best known for its music. It is a little earlier in the summer, but in years to come this event will sell out too.
Further info: www.montreux-trail.ch
4) Tor des Geants
The Tor des Geants is the daddy of all mountain ultras, as difficult to get into as the UTMB, yet it’s little baby, the 130km TorDret wasn’t sold out last year and neither race has opened so far. The TorDret starts9 pm at night, straight into the mountains of Aosta and had quite a high attrition rate in it’s first edition, which may be because of it’s 12,000m of up and down over the course.
The people of Aosta are one of the main reasons to do or support either of these races, the support shown by the local, manning life bases over the huge times that they are open and always with a smile providing great Italian food, is phenomenal.
Further info: www.tordesgeants.it
5) Swiss Peaks Trail
Also in it’s second year is the Swiss Peaks Trail, with races of 170, 90, 45, 35 & 15km in the Swiss Valais Canton, normally known for it’s shorter mountain races such as Sierre-Zinal. They even have a 360km event for the ultra-masochistic amongst you, but all the other distances promise stunning views and cracking trails.
The website’s videos give you a small insight into Alpine wonderland.
Further info: www.swisspeaks.ch
6) Alpine Training Camp
Okay so maybe not a race itself, but another alternative is the Alpine Training Camp run by Natalie White and myself in the Chamonix valley in the middle of July. With only a couple of spots left, it is an excellent introduction to Alpine trail running or an opportunity for the more experienced amongst you to take your running to the next level.
With workshops on uphill and downhill running, using poles, nutrition advice with a leading professional and great days out in the hills with like-minded runners, you won’t regret it.
Further info: www.robbiebritton.co.uk/training-camps/
All in all I just want you to know that the UTMB isn’t the be all and end all that some think it is, wth excellent races already established and popping up in the Alps all the time.
If you weren’t selected for the UTMB this year, then don’t worry. Turn that frown upside down and find yourself a trail less traveled to adventure on.