Ultra-Trail Du Mont Blanc 2016 – A Song of Ice and Fire (UTMB 2016)


“A hundred miles is a life in a day,” said the legendary ultrarunner, Ann Trason. It can feel like this. And a long race certainly mirrors a life. It has its ups, its downs, the times when it feels almost easy, the times when it feels like I am fighting hard just to stand still or stay awake, the times when I am sharing (with fellow competitors, volunteers, supporters present and absent), and the times when I feel entirely alone.

3-D course profile, looks a little lumpy!

There is no cheating in ultra endurance. We who “do” put in the time and are committed to our long term goals. This is not a sport of gross power but of absolute patience, acceptance, fortitude and stamina. Will I be tough enough to complete my next challenge? Is my body, mind and soul resilient enough to endure?

Team photo with the WAA Experts during the Expo, Javier Bodas (Centre top) finished 12th Overall among some strong performances from the whole team!

This is what I wanted to find out when I signed up for the UTMB this year, having been to Chamonix half a dozen times and having lived there for a short period last summer, I’ve been part of this event in some capacity either through volunteering, media or running one of the races for a few years now. It’s had a special place in my heart and it’s one of the reasons I started dreaming of running a 100 miles in the first place. For the uninitiated the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc is a 170 kilometer race around Mont Blanc which is the highest mountain in Western Europe, it’s also one of the oldest and most historic hiking trails in the world linking three countries. Generally people take around a week to 10 days to get the route done at a leisurely pace but during the race we have around 46 and half hours to finish it. The terrain has some technical sections and it’s generally very steep with around 10,000m (33,000 ft) of ascent. There are certainly easier 100 milers out there, ones that are closer to home and one’s that do not require you to traverse alpine terrain but there’s something special about the UTMB. It’s widely regarded as the trail running “Olympics” as runners from all over the world (87 countries this year!) gather for this one week at the trail running capital of the world, Chamonix. Just the beauty of the course, the pageantry, the incredible level of crowd support, organization  & competition make it the biggest trail running race in the world. There is nowhere else in the world where Ultrarunning gets this amount of attention and support.

Nervous smiles at Bib collection

Start – Chamonix to Saint Gervaix (21Km)

Top Centre right at the back in the yellow tee pictured before the start, it’s a little like Where’s Wally? – Photo by Strava

Since I’ve already seen or been part of the start, I decided to stay at the hostel for as long as possible before heading out as it’s generally a very emotional affair. Sebastian, a French runner living in London and I headed out to the start together. We were pretty relaxed and thought it was a good idea to start at the back as that’ll force us to pace ourselves and not go out too fast. After all the drama, they played “conquest of paradise” which is the theme song of the UTMB. You could literally feel the emotions as they sent us out on our own journey’s, our own conquest of paradise. Since I knew lots of my friends were here, I decided to run on the side to wave, high five and take it all in. Bumped into quite a few of my friends as Stephanie took a selfie with me. After stopping and hugging my friends along the way which was very special as John Munro was waving the Indian flag 😀 I think I was the last runner to leave Chamonix so got a heroes send off which was very special especially from my Scottish family ❤

Selfie with Stephanie right after the start!
After lots of waving and hugging, I was the last runner to leave Chamonix but wasn’t the last to come back 😉

I knew the first 10 km is reasonably flat by UTMB standards so wanted some gap between the main field to be able to run without stopping as there are a few bottles necks. This worked out well as I kept passing people and it mentally gives you a boost, as I was moving very well. I knew the whole course in the back of my hand so I didn’t panic being so far at back of the field. I remember the crowds lining up the streets cheering us on, one of the pubs were even offering us beer, which was very tempting, but I stuck to my RRUNN energy drinks! I was moving well and got to les houches feeling very relaxed, met Carl and Tanya & Alex who I stayed with last summer. It was good to see known faces on the trail, we started up the first climb which was a ski hill called “Le delevret’. Bumped into Paige Morrow, a Canadian runner who I met at the hostel and she’s friends with Stephanie too. We kept chatting about races in Canada and slowly moving up the field, at one of the junctions I bumped into Dave & Tracey Troman. After a quick photo I was on my way but it was so good to see them. This hill is quite steep so I took it easy with the climbing and was just trying to eat and drink, as it was quite warm and humid so I was sweating buckets. The views of Mont Blanc as the sun was setting were beautiful with the alpine glow in the background. Paige and I kept running together until the summit as I stopped to put my headlamp on before the descent and she ran on. I couldn’t find her but kept moving well and my main priority was not to trash my quads on such a steep descent. I managed to wiggle my way across and pass some people without accelerating too much. The long winding downhill to Saint gervais was fun as I was slowly settling into the rhythm of the race and also as nightfall was approaching, I was looking forward to this as I knew it’ll be A LOT cooler to run as opposed to the heat of the day. It’s been a weird last two years as we’ve had record temperatures at UTMB, which is quite unusual at the end of the summer, but we can’t predict the weather so just have to deal with it.

Cheeky smile with Dave Troman on the first climb, already sweating buckets! – Photo by Tracey Troman

We slowly reached the town with lots of people out cheering which was nice, as soon as I entered the checkpoint they had an MC announcing names of the runners and the country they’re from. He seemed a little surprised looking at my flag haha but it was good fun, I filled up my bottles and ate some food here as I knew it was mostly uphill from here (literally!) until Col du bonhomme.


Nearing the summit of Le Delevret Photo by : Prozis

Saint Gervais (21km) – les Chapieux (50 km)


Saint Gervais CP – Photo by Nick Ham

After getting some calories in at this checkpoint I quickly jogged out and kept moving, I knew I was closer than I wanted to be to the cut-offs so early on but since I can always accelerate when needed it didn’t bother me too much. Main priority was not to expend too much energy early on, a race like UTMB which is just pure alpine climbing and descending for a 100 miles is a race of attrition and the last three climbs will make you pay for any excesses in the beginning. This section was mostly just going up and down around the valley, certain sections were very steep so had to take it easy. There were some grassy bits, which were nice to run on, I mostly was with French runners so was quiet and kept moving. This stretch seemed longer than it actually is as it’s slowly going uphill to les Contamines. I knew we were quite close to les contamines once we hit the road sections and had a couple of road crossings. We have to go under a bridge and then climb up to reach the checkpoint as there are crowds waiting there which was really nice. After almost 30k into the race I knew I had to get a move on to avoid being timed out at les Chapieux but I got into the checkpoint grabbed some food and sat down as I saw Chris and Donielle. He wasn’t feeling too well, as his stomach wasn’t playing ball, I tried to encourage him to move, as we didn’t have that long until the cut-off. After chatting to them I started the ascent off the checkpoint, as it’s the biggest climb in the race all the way up to Col du bonhomme. I was a lot slower going through here compared to last year but it didn’t worry me too much as I felt really good and my quads were in good condition.

Notre-dame de la Gorge before we start the big ascent up the Col – Photo by Nick Ham

There were lots of people enjoying a barbeque and out in the restaurants cheering us on at les Contamines, it quickly started going uphill. My focus was to get to notre-dame, which is the base of the climb before we start heading into the high country. Did some running and power hiking here as it was all-uphill, wasn’t feeling too great so kept the effort easy. While my legs felt good my energy levels were off so tried to be a little patient. I noticed a bunch of people with a pen and pad noting down the brand of shoes the runners were wearing, some were working for Adidas and some for Hoka one one, I guess it must be a survey they were conducting. The climb up was okay as we got closer to Notre dame I started noticing familiar things which encouraged me, once we got closer we could hear the music blaring as there is usually a big bon fire party going on at the Gorge before we hit the steep part of the climb. There were still lots of people cheering us on here and I started climbing well, passed a lot of people in this section, as the track is quite wide before it narrows into a single track later on. I was passed on the opposite side by a couple of elite men who dropped out and had to pass us on the way back, spotted Rory Bosio who was in tears as she dropped out of the race and was escorted by a race official which was heart breaking as around the same place last year Nuria Picas dropped. Both were the hot favorites to win but a lot of things can and will go wrong when you run a 100 miles and no one is guaranteed of a finish. I have so much admiration and respect for people putting their bodies on the line to put such impressive performances but you always know there’s a big risk of a DNF when you’re pushing so hard.

La Balme checkpoint half-way up the climb – Photo by Nick Ham

As we kept climbing it was beautiful to see all the headlamps snaking up the trail all the way to the summit, which seemed so far away! I kept focusing on getting to the intermediate checkpoint half way up the climb called “La Blame”. After some steep climbing we got to la balme, I had my usual fare of salty noodle broth, cake and some salty crackers. Drank coke to get some caffeine as we were well into the night, lots of people were relaxing at the checkpoint as they knew they had a big climb before them. I moved quickly and rejoined the alpine single track as we went up, it got technical the higher we climbed which demanded more focus to keep pace with the group. I kept passing people at every opportunity. The altitude was starting to affect a few people and also the relentless nature of the climb, which gets very steep near the summit.

The headlamps snaking up the trail in the middle of a clear night was a beautiful experience – Photo by Peignes Verticale

We eventually crawled up the summit before they point you to croix du bon homme, which is a traverse and some more climbing until you hit the refugio. It’s another section that takes longer than it looks especially in the night and we got there before starting the long descent into les chapieux. After ticking off a big climb I was being careful on the descent as it was wet and slippery, it’s also very long so can be a strain on the quads. I was looking at the bigger picture and taking breaks where I could. There were a lot of things going on my mind at this point but listening to some songs helped me relax. I eventually got to the bottom to les chapieux as we walked into the checkpoint, it was brimming with people, some were sleeping and some looked super tired. It was quite fascinating and I ate and drank well before moving out of here after a short break. They had the first of many kit checks here to see if we were carrying the mandatory gear. After a quick check I headed out for the next section.


Les Chapieux (49 km) to Courmayeur (80 km)

View from the summit of Col de la seigne with the cloud inversion, one of the most beautiful things I’ve witnessed during a race

I knew the climb out of here is long and steep, it starts on road before hitting an alpine town and we start snaking up the mountain to Col de la seigne, it’s one of the highest points in the course. I was power hiking well here and kept pace with a Spanish runner, saw lots of people sleeping on the side of the trail, it was so tempting but kept moving on. After a long climb into the town, I sat down on a bench before you hit the trail which goes up the mountain. After a couple of minutes I joined the other runners to start climbing, this was a tough section as it was in the middle of the night and I was falling as sleep. It was hard to stay upright and still keep moving well, there were some streams here which I stopped to splash some glacial water on my face to wake me up. It was super steep and the going was tough but we kept putting one foot in front of the other as I knew once daylight comes my body would slowly wake up.

Spot the trail? Me neither, Col des pyramides in a nutshell – Photo by Nick Ham
Almost near the summit hitting some patches of snow 🙂 – Photo by Nick Ham

We eventually hit the summit of the Col de la seigne which is quite featureless and windy but it’s the border between France and Italy, after chatting with mountain rescue who were up there all night we started the short descent before going up col des pyramides which was an off-piste technical climb that was added last year to make the course more technical. Sat down at the small hut where the volunteers were asking us to turn left for the pyramides climb. Bumped into Tim Lambert who was taking a breather. We decided to start together and I wanted to run a little as I was starting to wake up slowly, the climb is super steep and technical with a talus boulder field to traverse and as we got higher there were snow fields which made it super interesting. The whole climb is quite technical hence slow going and frustrating but we hit the summit eventually before going downhill which was an absolute nightmare! It was super frustrating as the rocks kept moving and there was no trail, after finding our route down, the trail smoothened out at certain bits but it was generally very rocky underfoot. The descent is quite steep and has lots of switchbacks but we could spot lac combal in the distance, we had to pass refugio elisabetta, which is where I stayed during a recce last year, and have fond memories of it. We kept going downhill from there all the way to the checkpoint passing through a couple of stream crossings. The checkpoint had all the essentials so it was good to fuel up before the next climb; I filled my bottles and marched out.

The nasty descent into lac combal. The talus boulder field was a nightmare to descend – Photo by Nick Ham

The route goes around the lake before starting the super steep climb, we eventually hit the trail head to start the ascent. The climb was fully exposed under the hot sun so it was very draining and did I mention it was STEEP? Took a few rest breaks on route as the climb is quite drawn out as you summit three mountains before hitting arête du mont favre and a helicopter was filming us here which was surreal as it was quite close to the summit! The view of the glacier and Mont Blanc was spectacular on this side, there was a lady giving out water at the summit and we started our traverse across the mountain to reach col checroit. The sun was baking so I took the chance to wet my hat and buff in every stream to cool off. After a period of run/hiking we eventually started the long downhill to col checroit. Got to the CP, sat down and had a plate of pasta with live music playing. There were crowds here and it was cool to be at the CP. I moved out of here soon after I ate my plate of pasta and started the long descent into the capital of the Aosta valley, Courmayeur – dolonne and the heat was getting to me as it was getting warmer as we descended. I’ve only known this descent to be muddy and slippery but this time around the mud was completely dry so it was quite dusty but still very steep. I was passing people and eventually settled into a rhythm with a couple of Portuguese runners as we moved well. The descent is never ending with lots of tight switchbacks, I was quite mindful of not trashing my quads so early on as the race only starts in the second half. The stifling heat and humidity was amplified as we got closer to the valley.

Summit of Arete du mont Favre, two lovely volunteers giving us a drink in the hot hot sun! – Photo by Nick Ham

The descent went by without any major incidents apart from a few slips, we eventually exited the trail as we hit the tarmac to enter the cobblestones of courmayeur. I had a funny moment with the photographer who was eating and she stopped midway to take my pic, I almost broke into a laugh feeling sorry for her. She was sweet and I apologized for running in! After a quick pose I ran in to the checkpoint where I met Chris and Nikkis Mills, after a quick chat with them I bumped into Donielle and Vanessa Wolfe who were waiting for Chris. I was glad to hear he was still out there. The heat was getting to me so I swiftly got my drop bag and walked into the checkpoint, it was very busy as crews were allowed here. They had a decent amount of food so queued to get some pasta before taking my shirt off and having a sit down. It was a welcome break away from the oppressing heat. The Italian side was certainly hotter! I changed my tee, shoes and restocked supplies that will hopefully take me all the way to the finish as you’re only allowed one-drop bag at this race and since I was without a crew this was my last chance to pick up stuff. I wanted a toilet break but due to the lines at the toilet I skipped it and went out. We had to walk through the whole building before exiting the sports complex.

Descending into Courmayeur

Courmayeur (80km) to Champex-lac (124 km)

Entering Courmayeur, still smiling 🙂

We walked through the whole town; they had some cool tunes playing in the center with an MC announcing our names to the crowds. Then the climbing started as we headed out into the trail, there were several points to fill up our bottles so I dunked myself into the water tank before heading out in an attempt to keep myself cool. The climb was steep and the stifling heat did not help, I was running with an Aussie runner and we were cracking jokes about the heat. Eventually the climb got steeper and steeper but I knew it was a relatively short climb to Refugio Bertone (85km), which is officially the half way point of the race. On route while taking a break from the relentless climb I bumped into Paige again. We decided to run together as we both felt pretty awful at this point, at least she got to nap at Courmayeur while I was faffing around trying to get some calories down. We were chatting about our experience so far and eventually made it up to the Refugio. We sat under the shade after filling up our bottles as the heat was getting to us. Eventually after some coaxing I got her to run, this section is supposed to be the most beautiful part of the UTMB called the “val ferret” as you can see the glacier and the rocky side of the Mont Blanc massif. Also this bit is probably the only runnable section in the second half of the race before Refugio Bonatti so we jogged and tried to run as much as possible while chatting away.

Running with Paige through the beautiful Italian Val Ferret section

We made some friends and kept progressing, there were sections where we could see the other side of the trail and people making their way up, just the whole vastness and scale of this mountain makes you feel tiny in comparison. After some patient movement we made our way to Refugio Bonatti. It was at the top of a short but steep climb, after cooling ourselves off and topping the bottles we headed out. There was more undulating terrain before the descent into Arnuva. I was keeping a track of the time and cut-offs and since we wasted a lot of time cooling off at checkpoints we were cutting it a little close to the cut-off so I encouraged Paige to run the descent into the checkpoint so we could spend more time fueling before the big climb ahead. This is where course knowledge is so crucial as it’s easier to plan your strategy and change it on the go when you have a clear idea of what to expect on the next section.

A picture of focus on the descent into Arnuva

After a quad throbbing descent, we entered the checkpoint at Arnuva and sat down to get some food in as the next checkpoint was 10 miles away. I sorted myself out and waited on Paige before heading out. I knew this was the steepest climb in the entire race and mentally was prepared to grind it out. But boy was it crazy steep and unrelenting, we kept putting one foot in front of the other and there were points were it was so steep that you had to keep moving to balance yourself. As with everything we slowly but surely made our way up the climb to see the summit after what took an eternity. It was quite exposed here and the weather was turning so we put our jackets on before heading down the long descent to La Fouly. The vastness and scale of the mountain was spectacular on this side, we were also going to enter Switzerland soon, which was exciting as we were getting closer to the business stage of the race.

Strong posing game on the super steep climb up Gran col Ferret, I got mountains growing out of me!

After descending for a few kilometers on narrow single track we hit a small checkpoint where they gave water before encouraging us to put our waterproofs on as they told us there was going to be a storm tonight. I must say I was quite excited about it as rain would add a different dimension to the race and the looming lightning strikes were spectacular to watch but the others around me didn’t quite share my enthusiasm! Paige was a little worried but we quickly headed out and slowly made our way down as this bit had some technical sections. Bumped into a German who was taking a break and encouraged him to move but he wanted to drop, after a quick chat with him we kept moving. I did practice my German on him and found out he was Bavarian!!! 😀

It went upppp and then it went downnn! I got a hang of this by the time we hit Switzerland 😉

We could hear a familiar voice on the way down and it was Stephanie!!! She was shouting out the exact kilometers in her all too familiar accent. After a quick hug, I asked her about Belinda whom she was crewing before running off. We had about 5k to the checkpoint and we could see the lightning and thunderstorms were getting stronger. The wind and rain got to us; we ran this bit well before we hit La Fouly. The checkpoint was in the middle of the town, we got in and the rain was bucketing down. Decided to spend some time here as we had some time for the cut-offs, got some food and decided to wait. After Paige put all her waterproofs on and I put my jacket on we set off with a few others for the next checkpoint. After some heavy downpour it eventually settled and the weather cleared up, met lots of people in this section as I wouldn’t shut up 😉 We were chatting away and moving well, the lack of sleep going into the second night was affecting Paige as she became silent so I told her she can have a nap at Champex-lac as it’s a bigger checkpoint with beds.


She ran this section well leading us and we chatted away about our lives as we both were lawyers and our past adventures. It was cool to run with someone as in such an international race you can get awfully lonely at times when you’re surrounded by people not speaking your language. We enjoyed each others company and kept moving well, I was keeping track of the cut-off times and planning for the next sections while she worried about maintaining a good hiking/running pace. We ran past Praz de fort which was a beautiful town, a lovely family had water and coffee for us which was awesome, more caffeine please!! We moved well after taking a short coffee break.


After hitting champex we got to a steep climb up the forest that kept going forever, bumped into Stephanie and Mika who were hiking the other way to catch Belinda. She assured us the next checkpoint is not far. We hit Champex-lac checkpoint after awhile and bumped into Johnny who was crewing his friend. Paige went to take a 10 min nap as they had beds there; I kept time and was chatting with Mika while eating salted crisps as they had something different to the usual aid station fare. It was good to chat with Steph and Mika here and my plan was to not sleep for the whole race if I can help it as this will help me gauge my tolerance for future adventures.


Champex Lac (124 km) to Vallorcine (151 km)



Being oh so excited to see Stephanie again at Champex-Lac! Photo by Stephanie

After spending some time here we eventually made our way out, it was freezing outside and yet I knew I would overheat once I start moving so decided against wearing my jacket, I’m used to cold weather and it wasn’t biting cold. After about 10 minutes I warmed up while we hiked up to the next climb. We chatted for a bit while running with one of Paige’s Belgian friends who kept catching up to us while we faffed at each checkpoint. So we ran with him and after awhile we started the climb. We could see headlamps on the other mountain, which was pretty cool, my memory of this section is a little hazy as I was sleep deprived and went into auto pilot. There are only certain fleeting moments that I remember being awake but was still moving, I don’t quite know what I spoke to Paige in this section, all I remember was the climb to Bertone took FOREVER and once we hit the summit I was so sleepy I was struggling to stay upright. I kinda feels like I was dreaming with few moments of being lucid. I didn’t sleep at all since the start of the race and it caught up to me on the second night. We pressed on and hit la gieté which I have very little memory of crossing! I remember it was super muddy here after the rain and started the descent to Trient. On the way down I told Paige to keep running while I sat down to remove dirt from my shoes, I had a blackout here for around 10 minutes where I had a vivid dream which involved me volunteering two years ago atop this same mountain while tracking the elite runners, it felt so real that it was hard for me to snap out of it as my mind was playing the memories of what happened two years ago before I snapped out of it and started questioning if THIS was real or if I was dreaming. I slowly got back to my senses as people passed me, I looked at my Bib and realized I am in the race and not volunteering! Slowly got up and started running, I had a vague recollection of running with Paige but couldn’t quite remember her name so thought I could possibly catch up at Trient so ran down.

How I felt after Bovine 😀

After a kilometer I saw her sleeping on the side of the trail as she realized I wasn’t running to catch up. It was starting to get daylight and I was super fresh after the blackout, we ran this bit while I was explaining about this complex dream of mine and kept asking her what happened on the last climb as I had zero recollection of summiting Bovine. The memories did come back eventually but only two weeks after I finished the race! This was in the back of my mind until the finish as I kept replaying this section to put the pieces together. After a steep descent we hit Col de la forclaz which was one of the summits of a mountain stage of the Tour de France this year and then Trient, the entry into the town was super muddy and reminded me of a cross country field than a trail. Got to this checkpoint and hugged Stephanie dressed up as an angry bird. The cameras were filming me as I spoke about this vivid dream before getting some food down. We spent some time here refueling to get ourselves ready for the next climb.

Seeing Stephanie dressed up as an angry bird at Trient = Priceless!

The climb out of trient was steep (as usual!) and mostly uneventful as I kept encouraging everyone and was chatting about other races. Once the sun came out we stopped at every stream to cool off. I knew this climb wasn’t as bad as the final one so was quite comfortable with dealing with it as there are bits that are runnable before the long descent. Once we hit the descent I knew this was the last section in the shade before facing the heat so made the most of it by running a fair bit. This section to vallorcine was beautiful and I’ve explored it further so had good memories of it, we entered France again and it was slowly dawning on us that a finish was on. I never doubted it but it felt good to be just one nasty climb away from Chamonix!!


The last section of the descent was steep and fun as we ran down a field, Stephanie and Mike were dressed up in a fancy dress, Steph as a dirty nurse with fake boobs which was hilarious 😀 Perked me up as we chatted about Belinda and that she was going to make it too. After hitting the town, I gave high-five to Johnny before hugging David Hetherington and his wife. After a quick pic, we headed into the checkpoint. I filled up my bottles and got some calories down for the final climb. The final piece of the jig saw that I’ve been piecing together in my mind for the past two days. We headed out into the baking sun but the daylight was always welcome.

More shenanigans at Vallorcine, Mika and Steph in another fancy dress to cheer us on! ❤

Vallorcine (151 km) to Chamonix (171 km)

Entering Vallorcine looking chirpy again – Photo by David Hetherington

I knew the climb out until Col des montets is not steep so it was relaxing to move well in the woods before meeting more friends to chat. Had a quick drink at col des montets before crossing the road for the final climb which I knew was going to be brutal but best to get on with it. The climb was steep, narrow and had big steps. We took a few breaks near ANY shade as the climb was unrelenting. It went from steps to rocks to several false summits, I knew I just had to keep it together until La Flegre as it was all downhill from there.

Climbing Col des montets before hitting the trail head, all smiles knowing we were one climb away from #DestinationChamonix – Photo by Steph

The traverse in the heat was sapping and dehydrating, I asked people cheering past us for water and one of them gave me a bottle. This section kept going on forever as it’s a little rocky and technical, I could see a stream in the distance and aimed for that as I was getting dehydrated by this point. I sat in the stream for a little while to cool off and fill my bottles, one of the volunteers told me to run as I was close to the last cut-off point at flegere but I felt I had to top off my reserves as I knew I could run the whole descent so it wasn’t something that worried me, I’m generally a pretty relaxed person so it helps in a race like this I guess!

Race winner Ludovic Pommeret marching through Tete aux Vents – Photo by Peignes Verticale

I met Belinda here and shared a few miles with her as we made our way to Flegere, she knew the cut-off time so we stuck together until we hit that checkpoint. There were only liquids here so I drank lots before putting my headphones on for the final descent, which I dreamed about running for the whole race. I saved my quads for this moment so started running downhill with a good rhythm. It was so much fun as I knew this trail very well as I used to run up to flegere when I lived in Chamonix last summer. I kept cheering all the runners that I passed and the confidence of running that last downhill brought a lot of joy, it was like dancing and playing as the trail did get technical at certain bits. Lots of spectators were on the sides cheering us which was pretty cool, it wasn’t long before I hit La Floria and met Lachlan and Lynne Lamont who were cheering the runners in, they told me I looked fresh for someone running for two days! After a quick chat I was on my way down passing more people, since I knew the petit balcon sud well I had an idea of exactly how many kilometers were left so pushed it here to finish it a little sooner. It wasn’t long before I saw Stephanie and Mika hiking to meet Belinda, told them she’s not far and kept plugging along.


Soon we exited the trail to hit the road junction as we entered Chamonix, it was so emotional as I saw the crowds lining up the streets and everyone was going crazy as I was moving very well at this point. I did call Chamonix my home last summer and it felt great to be back home! I saw Johnny waiting for his friend and told him that I just passed her and kept running well, saw Dave and Tracey before meeting Jon and Natasha. It was awesome to have so many friends out here that made it very special, I was sprinting to the town before crossing the pub where Helen gave me the flag and all my lovely Scottish friends gave me a huge cheer. I didn’t want to stop here, as I knew I’d get emotional and start crying so decided to keep the momentum going and sprinted through town. It was a beautiful moment to run across the town with the huge crowds before finishing at the center of town in a time of 45 hours and 43 minutes. It was so special and emotional to cross the finish line, I felt super fresh and was chatting away at the finish while my friends said I didn’t look like I ran a 100 miles!


Running the UTMB was a beautiful experience and all the training made it even more pleasurable, I had a certain plan and it went well. Training for this race was never hard work unlike road races because it was a great excuse to travel to new mountain ranges so I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. Sure I could have gone a lot faster but I got to experience it better this way as I made lots of friends and I could almost guarantee a finish by running it in this manner. I have so much appreciation and respect for everyone finishing or the ones who attempted it, as it’s a massive challenge. Life’s Tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late, I feel my experience counted for A LOT as I knew what was happening and could deal with problems swiftly without panicking. Yiannis Kouros said that an ultra is not about running a 100 miles or 50 miles, It’s about “going beyond” or “transcending”. That is real ultra running and I felt that this race gave me that and it was beautiful, took me two nights of no sleep for all the layers and mental conditioning to fall away so that I could peer into my soul and find genuine happiness through the process. While some may find this through running around a track or road running, for me the mountains play a massive part in giving me that experience.

Still smiling at the finish line – Pic by Jon Fielden

Thanks to my sponsors WAA Ultra who have provided me with some wonderful gear specifically designed for a race like UTMB, it worked really well in the heat and kept me warm in the cold. They had the whole team out at Chamonix to support us, which was very special. Thanks to Unived Sports for providing me the nutrition for this race, they made a couple of nutritional products specifically for this race and their drink mix worked really well in the heat as it was designed for the heat and humidity of India. I didn’t have any major stomach issues and could eat well right until the end, which is a massive bonus at a race like the UTMB. Both these brands get Ultrarunning and go out of their way to design and support products that help us to achieve our goals so it’s been great to work with them and help them create or refine things to better suit our needs.

Meeting friends from all over the world is the best thing about racing at the UTMB – Photo by Yvonne Chan

Thanks to my amazing coach Paul Giblin who finished 17th overall after a minor incident 20 miles in. He’s made a massive difference after I got back from a major injury at the start of last year, just my mind set and training has been very different and it’s made a big difference. Thanks to my wonderful friend Alexandra Yule who’s a dietician, she had a look at my nutrition plan and tweaked things to make it work on race day and also helped me plan incase of any GI issues. Thanks to my loving parents and friends who tracked me and were willing me on from near and far. I will write another blog about my gear and nutrition but this is purely my experience of the UTMB and why it is such a special race despite being CRAZY HARD! I called it a song of ice and fire to get a GOT reference in somehow and also because you need to be patient and cool while the race throws a lot of variables at you while also possessing the fire to run or make a move when you have to but without overdoing it, it’s a balance very much like life. Thanks for your patience!

With love,


Photo by Ultra Lovers



12 thoughts on “Ultra-Trail Du Mont Blanc 2016 – A Song of Ice and Fire (UTMB 2016)

  1. This is such an amazing feat Ashok.. And so well written.. I could go feel the flow and felt fatigue and pleasure simultaneously as your race report took me through this monster of an ultra runners’ paradise ..
    Congratulations for an a strong finish and thanks for sharing.. #RunStrong

  2. Ashok..Congratulations. You have done something unimaginable and being so cool. I could never dream of trying this, though i have done marathons and triathlons, these must be peanuts for you :). This is a great write up as I could feel those moments that you experienced. Also, you remembered all those minute details that u narrated it later. Awesome and I feel lucky to have seen and read this article.

  3. A great write up Ashok. It’s takes oodles of courage to even think about something as challenging as UTMB and you went and completed it with no stress.
    Keen to read about your blog on nutrition and gear for the race.
    Best of luck for future mountain adventures of yours.

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