Last day before ERYRI 25k at Ultra Trail Snowdonia. Sara and I are at the event village. I’m doing what I shouldn’t do on the day before a big race; spending a lot of time on my feet. But it’s fun to be here. This is the biggest race we’ve been to so far, and this is the race that will give me the first of my UTMB Running Stones that hopefully will lead to a place in the UTMB finals next year.
If you’re like me, pretty new to all this trail and ultra running, there is one race that’s the pinnacle of all races: Ultra Trail Mont-Blanc or in short UTMB. Okay, to make it complicated, there is actually UTMB and UTMB Mont-Blanc.
Let’s start with the last one. UTMB Mont-Blanc is probably the most crazy ultra run in the world. Not for the distance, but for the crowd and set-up. It’s a 171 kilometers long trail run, with 9.963 meters of elevation gain that starts in Chamonix, France and goes around the Mont-Blanc, through Italy and Switzerland, and finishes back in France.
By now, I think almost every ultra runner in the world wants to run it, or one of its little brothers. That’s why the organisation created the UTMB World Series circuit, a series of ultra trails you have to run to qualify for the UTMB Mont-Blanc. Well, not all of them. But the more the better.
See, there still is a lottery to get into UTMB Mont-Blanc and to enter you need Running Stones. You collect those Running Stones by finishing one of the races of the World Series. The more Running Stones you have, the more lottery tickets you hold.
But that’s not all. You also need a UTMB Index registration. Okay, finishing one of the UTMB World Series races will give you a Running Stone and a registration, so why do you need both? Simple; you need one Running Stone to participate in the lottery. Doing a UTMB 20 kilometers race already gives you that one Running Stone. But you can’t participate in the UTMB Mont-Blanc 50 kilometer race with a 20k registration. For that you have to actually run a 50 kilometer race.
UTMB Index Races
There are a limited number (36 in 2023) of UTMB World Series races. The Netherlands for example doesn’t have any. Neither does Belgium, nor even Germany. Luckily there are a lot of UTMB Index races in which you can qualify for the distance you want to run during the UTMB Mont-Blanc: 50 kilometers, 100 kilometers or 100 miles.
Okay, let’s give you an example to make it more clear. Tomorrow I will run the ERYRI 25 kilometers at Ultra Trail Snowdonia, a UTMB World Series race. If I finish, I get 1 Running Stone and a registration in the UTMB Index for 20 kilometers (there is no 25 category, only 20, 50, 100k and 100 miles). However, if I want to run the 50 kilometers at the Mont-Blanc finals, I can’t, because this race doesn’t give me an Index registration for the 50, only for the 20. So I have to run a 50 kilometers somewhere at a UTMB Index race.
To sum it up
In my case I did that earlier this year in Sussex (England), Geraarsbergen (Belgium) and Leende (The Netherlands). So I actually have a registration in the 50 kilometers UTMB Index. But without Running Stones a registration is worthless. It only allows you to register for upcoming events 48 hours before general registration opens.
So to sum it up: to run in the UTMB Mont-Blanc finals you need and a minimum of 1 Running Stone and a UTMB Index in the category in which you want to run.
Okay, there is one more thing. There always is, isn’t it? The amount of Running Stones you get, depends on the category you race in:
- 20 kilometers – 1 stone
- 50 kilometers – 2 stones
- 100 kilometers – 3 stones
- 100 miles – 4 stones
A fair system
Okay, it sounds a lot, but I do think there is a fairness to it. There are so many people who want to start that I think it’s great that only those who have shown they can finish a race are actually allowed to join. Otherwise you get too many people joining for fun and pulling out half way the race. If they even make it halfway.
And yes, it’s a financial effort to get to one of the World Series races and to the final. But again if you make that effort, you show you’re really willing to invest in a place in the final.
For me that effort has led me to Llanberis, where I hope to collect my first Running Stone tomorrow. Later this year I hope to add 2 more Running Stones when I run Kullamannen in Sweden.