10 takeaways from the 2022 UTMB
By Henry Howard
In the ultra running world, eyes were glued to the live coverage of the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc series of races this past weekend. The athletes and the live feed did not disappoint.
Every year, UTMB presents a certain draw throughout the ultra world. This year was no different. Perhaps it was elevated, given the anticipation of Jim Walmsley’s race due to extended training in Europe, the return of Kilian Jornet and the highly competitive women’s field, even without Courtney Dauwalter, who won the past two races.
The finishers have been applauded, the DNF runners consoled and the fans appeased for another year. Here’s a look at what we learned from this year’s race and what it might mean going forward.
1. What’s next for Kilian? His course record was, of course, impressive. And even more so when you consider the context that David Roche laid out in a tweet, “Kilian Jornet may have had one of the most impressive 6 weeks in sports history. July 15: Hardrock 100 CR August 13: Sierre-Zinal 5th August 26: #UTMB22 CR And it sounds like he got COVID sometime in August. I doubt we see anything like that ever again.”
2. What’s next for Walmsley: He trained for months on the UTMB course. After his successes at Western States, Walmsley set out to exorcise similar demons (aka DNFs) at UTMB. He accomplished that goal with his best performance, following a fifth-place finish and two DNFs previously. After finishing fourth in this year’s race, where will his focus turn to for next year and beyond? I would bet that he will return to UTMB with even more determination and the knowledge on how to improve on a solid performance that just didn’t quite achieve his goal.
3. Miller time: It’s well known an American male has never won UTMB. If Walmlsey doesn’t do it first, Zach Miller may be the one. Following an extended absence due to surgery and recovery, Miller has picked up quite nicely from where he left off. He finished just 15 minutes behind Walmsley in fifth place. And their UTMB histories are incredibly similar. Previously, Miller finished sixth and ninth at UTMB in 2016 and 2017, respectively, while taking DNFs the following two years. Miller, who won CCC in 2015, also took first in the Trail 100 Andorra by UTMB 100K about two months ago.
4. On the women’s side: Katie Schide nearly led the entire way, briefly relinquishing the lead due to some stomach issues. Her sub-24 hour time (23:15:12) was roughly 75 minutes ahead of second place. It was a commanding performance, putting it all together after previous solid races. In the past, Schide took second at CCC, along with two top 10s at UTMB. Perhaps part of this year’s success was coming into the race well rested since a variety of factors led to her only running at 38K and 100K thus far this year. Whatever the secret sauce was, it worked well for Schide.
5. Podium again: Marianne Hogan completed one of the most impressive summers for an ultra runner this year. Following her third place finish at Western States, the Canadian runner took second at UTMB, finishing ahead of third-place Kaytlyn Gerbin by more than a half hour. Unlike Schide, Hogan had a full racing season under her belt before UTMB. Earlier this year, she won the Bandera 100K and placed second (behind Dauwalter) at Ultra-Trail Cape Town.
6. American women: Schide, a U.S. citizen living in France, led a contingent of American finishers. Gerbin and Hillary Allen who finished in 14th are also Americans. For Allen, it was a tremendous performance, illustrating her comeback from her near-fatal fall at a race a couple of years ago.
7. A COVID cancellation: Instead of going for her third title at Hardrock, Sabrina Stanley opted to stay in Europe, learn every centimeter of the course and be ready for race day. Unfortunately, she and partner Avery Collins came down with COVID in the days before the race. Pulling out was a wise decision. Here’s hoping they recover fully and get back to racing competitively soon.
8. Shorter races: Most attention is paid to the 171K UTMB race but there are others held in late August as part of the overall UTMB series. The performance by American males was not as strong in these races. No American man finished in the top 10 in CCC, TDS or OCC. Caleb Olson’s 13th-place finish was the best in CCC for the U.S. men. American women, on the other hand, performed well with three top 10 finishers in CCC. Grabbing a spot on the podium was Abby Hall, who took third a year after her second-place finish in the race. Joining her in the top 10 were Erin Clark in seventh and Taylor Nowlin, who took ninth place.
9. “I won”: As ultra runners, we are all on our own personnel journeys. Winning does not necessarily mean the one who broke the tape at the finish line. Take for example, Jason Schlarb, who worked his way back from a torn ACL and meniscus 18 months ago. Before the race, he made an Instagram post that perhaps perfectly captured his victory. In part, he wrote, I'm here, I'm in fantastic elite 100 mile shape, I'm loved & I'm happy. Now it's time to celebrate by racing UTMB!”
10. Live coverage: In the past several years, the advancements in live coverage for premier ultras like UTMB have been vastly improved. Fans are no longer limited to a handful of tweets and photos at random aid stations, or nothing at all. Thanks to iRunFar and others, viewers can keep tabs on their favorite runners, watch the competition unfold with amazing video and feel they are part of the action.
Note to readers: Thanks for taking the time to read this analysis. If you liked it, you may also enjoy similar recaps of the this year's Western States, Hardrock Endurance Run and the Leadville 100. I enjoy sharing stories about the trail running and ultra running community via RunSpirited.com.
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