This past weekend, one of the toughest and most demanding foot races in the world took place around Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Western Europe. That’s where the 2014 North Face Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc was run, with more than 2000 competitors from across the globe testing their strength, endurance and determination on a course that is known for its difficult mountain trails, high altitude passes, and completely unpredictable weather.
This year, the 168 km (104 mile) race was saw two familiar faces atop the podium as both the mens and womens champions are past winners. French runner Francois D’Haene, who won in 2012, set a new course record on his way to victory, finishing the race in 20 hours, 11 minutes, 40 seconds. American Rory Bosio was the fastest woman on the course, crossing the finish line in 23 hours, 23 minutes, and 20 seconds. Francois finished approximately 50 minutes ahead of the next closes competitor, while Bosio was about 90 minutes in front of the second place woman.
Competitors in this year’s race had to deal with wet, muddy conditions, which made the already difficult course even more challenging. Runners on the UTMB must circumnavigate Mont Blanc, starting and ending in Chamonix, France, but passing through both Italy and Switzerland along the route. They are also required to be self-supported out on the course, as they carry food and water with them on the run, as well as emergency supplies should they run into trouble out on the trail. In year’s past, bad weather has halted the race at times, or stranded some of the runners in the mountains.
For most of the racers, it is just about finishing the UTMB, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. The race has a 46-hour cut-off time, and many of the athletes don’t make it back to Chamonix before that point, while others simply DNF out on the course. But for those who do finish, it is a badge of honor to have completed one of the most prestigious trail running events in the entire world. Congratulations to all of those finishers, and especially to D’Haene and Bosio.
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