One of the toughest ultra-trail runs in the world gets underway today in Chamonix, France, where some of the best long distance runners will set out on the North Face Ultra-Trail du Mount Blanc. The race, which stretches for 166km (103 miles) and includes 9600 meters (31,496ft) of vertical gain, runs through the Alps in the shadow of Mount Blanc, one of the most famous peaks in all of Europe.
The race will start with approximately 2300 competitors, although not all will make it to the finish. The trail actually circles around the mountain, passing through three countries – France, Italy, and Switzerland – along the popular Tour du Mount Blanc trekking route. Hikers who make the trek usually take 7-9 days to finish the entire trail, but the top runners will do it in about 20 hours, while the cut-off for the race is 46 hours.
When heading out on the course, the runners are expected to carry a minimum of safety gear with them along the trail. That includes a rain jacket, warmer clothes, extra food and water, a safety whistle, survival blanket and a head lamp. They’ll be able to resupply with food and water at stations along the course, which are spaced out about every 10-15km (6-9 miles).
The UTMB is always a challenging race to say the least, as the trail is not an easy one, and it has plenty of altitude to contend with as well. Bad weather has been a problem in recent years as well, but hopefully this year the weather will hold, and the racers will be able to run the trail safely.
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