[Editor’s Note: This article was written by iRunFar correspondent Koichi Iwasa of DogsOrCaravan.com.]
Chamonix is known for hosting the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in August. This French town in the center of mountaineering and trail running has played host to another big mountain running event, the Mont-Blanc Marathon, since its original Mont-Blanc Cross (23k) which started in 1979. This weekend, the Mont-Blanc Marathon (42k), Mont-Blanc 80k, and Vertical KM will take place on Friday and Sunday, June 27 and 29. These three races also represent quadrennial Skyrunning World Championships with many competitive runners, champions of past Skyrunning World Series, and national champions from all over the world.
Races in Chamonix Valley
These three races will start from Place du Triangle de l’Amitié, the center of Chamonix, and go through Chamonix valley on both the Mont Blanc side and Aiguilles Rouges side. The event will start with the mountainous ultramarathon, the Mont-Blanc 80k, at 4 a.m. CEST on Friday, June 27 (8 p.m. MDT on Thursday, June 26 in the U.S.). The Vertical KM will follow in the afternoon at 4 p.m. CEST (8 a.m. MDT on Friday, June 27 in the U.S.). The event climaxes with the Mont-Blanc Marathon, which kicks off at 7 a.m on Sunday, June 29 (11 p.m. MDT on Saturday, June 28 in the U.S.).
iRunFar will provide live coverage of the Skyrunning World Championships!
The Mont-Blanc 80k will depart from Chamonix and go straight up to Brevent (8.5k/altitude 2,500 meters), gaining 1,500 meters. Runners will go down to the first aid, Planpraz (10.8k /2,000 meters), then follow the Tour de Mont-Blanc route to the second aid, Le Buet (25.9k/1,330 meters).
The technical and snowy mountain starts from Le Buet. Runners will climb up the highest point of course, Col de la Terrasse (2,643 meters). It turns to snowy downhill to the Col du Passet (39.4k/1,970 meters) and faces the magnificent montane lake, Lac d’Emosson. Last year, the inaugural 80k run took an alternative route in this part due to thick snow.
Down to the third aid at Vallorcine (46.6k/1,260 meters), up to Aiguillettes des Posettes (2,201 meters), then runners will move on the Mont-Blanc side of Chamonix valley. Runners will cruise to the fourth aid at Les Bois (66.8k/1,083m), then the final uphill work begins. Runners enjoy the breathtaking view of the glacier, Mer de Glace, and run through the Le Montenvers (72.0k/1,913m) mountain-railway station. The last two miles are brutal steep downhill from 2,200 meters to Chamonix.
The Mont-Blanc 80k is 83.7k with 6,026 metes of vertical gain, four aid stations, and five liquid-only supply points.
Mont-Blanc Marathon 42k
The Mont-Blanc Marathon also runs through the valley but finishes in Planpraz (2,016 meters), 1,000 meters above Chamonix. This is basically an ascent race. Starting from Chamonix, runners go the Mont Blanc side of the valley and cruise runnable trail to Argentiere (10.31k/1,260 meters). It gradually turns to uphill, and Vallorcine (18.21k/1,260 meters) is the first aid, and the start of long steep grade.
Runners will climb 1,000 meters in 6k to Aiguilette des Posettes (24.06k/2,201 meters), then cruise down to Tre-le-Champs (31.15k/1,385 meters), the second aid. The route looks like a figure eight, so runners will go through the section near Tre-le-Champs again but the opposite way.
Leaving Tre-le-Champs, the route follows the Aiguilles Rouges side of the valley and keeps moving up until the finish line. After the fourth aid, La Flégère (36.94k/1,865 meters), the trail gets rocky and technical with small up and downs. After the final steep 1.5 miles, runners finish the marathon at Planpraz (2,016 meters).
Mont-Blanc Marathon is 42.2k and 2,016 meters of vertical gain with three full aid stations and two fluid-only points.
Mont-Blanc Vertical KM
This is the fourth edition of Mont-Blanc Vertical KM. The route is as simple, as other vertical k races, climbing up from downtown Chamonix to Planpraz, 1,000 meters of vertical gain in 3.8k. Runners will follow switchbacks under the cable car. Observers will see 400 runners move up in line from downtown Chamonix.
Depth of Field
3,400 runners from 38 countries will run the three Skyrunning World Championships races: the 80k, Marathon, and Vertical KM. Runners hail from Spain, France, Italy, U.K., New Zealand, USA, Andorra, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Greece, Poland, Russia, Australia, China, Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, and more.
When it comes to notable elites, nine world champions from previous Skyrunner World Series will join this event. Let’s look in to Top 20 of 2013 World Rankings by ISF; the three races include 15 athletes in the Marathon (Sky), 14 in 80k (Ultra), and 17 in Vertical KM from those top-20 rankings.
There have been many, many runners who have been added, have withdrawn, and who have switched events since early press releases. The following is the most up-to-date elite starting list. We will make updates to it if additional changes occur before ‘game days.’
Mont-Blanc 80k Top Entrants
François D’Haene (France) and Xavier Thévenard (France) are the favorites for 80k this weekend. François finished last year’s inaugural 80k with his Salomon teammate Michel Lanne and won the race. His win at Diagonale des Fous on Réunion Island in fall and Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji in spring with several hours lead proved that he is the one of the very best mountain ultrarunners in the world. Xavier drew attention at the 2013 UTMB. This 23-year-old UTMB champion was third place at the Mont-Blanc 80k last year, a sign for his success later in summer. Recently, he dropped from Transvulcania and last weekend he ran on a relay team for Outrun The Sun by ASICS, a challenge to run around Mont Blanc in daytime.
We can not miss Spaniard Luis Alberto Hernando when we predict the winner. Hernando has been the constant leader in Skyrunning races in Europe of late. He recently won Transvulcania, beating Kilian Jornet, and was third at Zegama.
Other athletes who have top-10 potential are as follows:
- Mike Wolfe (USA) – For U.S. people, Wolfe must be the favorite for this event. 2011 was stellar year for him with a second in Western States and a win at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in San Francisco. In 2014, he was third at the Sean O’Brien 50 Mile in February.
Jason Schlarb (USA) – Third place 2013 Speedgoat 50k, winner 2013 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile.
- Philipp Reiter (Germany) – The young German is noted by his performance in many races like winning the Zugspitz Ultratrail (100k) last year. Must be hungry for stellar results this weekend.
- Jason Loutit (Canada) – Two straight wins at the H.U.R.T. 100 Mile in 2011 and 2012.
- Javier Dominguez (Spain) – Third 2013 UTMB.
- Franco Colle (Italy) – Fifth in Tor des Géants 2012 and third in 2013.
- Martin Gaffuri (France) – Seventh at 2013 Ice Trail Tarentaise and eighth at 2013 UROC 100k
- Xavier Teixido Marti-Ventosa (Andorra) – Xavier and his brother Ferran (who is racing the Mont-Blanc Vertical K) finished together in sixth and seventth in Andorra Ultra Trail/Ultra Mitic (112k) in 2012.
[Editor’s Note: Ricky Lightfoot remains on the Mont-Blanc 80k entrants list but he isn’t racing due to life commitments.]
Three talented female athletes will toe the line: Núria Picas (Spain), Anna Frost (New Zealand), and Emelie Forsberg (Sweden). Picas keeps us impressed with her significant results so far, second 2013 UTMB as well as wins at the 2014 Transgrancanaria, UTMF, and TNF 100k – Australia. After lots of patience with her health, Frost has come back to the scene with her win at Transvulcania in May. Forsberg is the Ultra Skyrunning champion of 2013. This women’s 80k must be the epic race of this year with these three top ladies in the field.
Other names who could get spot on the podium:
- Fernanda Maciel (Brazil) – She is racing aggressively with results this season, third at Transgrancanaria , second in UTMF, and 3rd in TNF 100k – Australia.
- Caroline Chaverot (France) – Winner 2013 CCC and 2013 Endurance Trail des Templiers.
- Maud Gobert (France) – Champion of IAU Trail World Championship and Grande Course des Templiers in 2011, third in TNF EC 50 Mile in 2012.
Uxue Fraile (Spain) – Third at Transvulcania and eighth in Zegama this year.
- Ruby Muir (New Zealand) – Muir is famous in New Zealand for her two-time win of the Kepler Challenge (60k) in 2012 and 2013. She’s also more internationally known for her win at the Tarawera Ultramarathon in 2013.
- Claire Price (U.K. but living in Hong Kong) – Winner 2013 Hong Kong 100k, second 2013 TDS.
- Federica Boifava (Italy) – In 2013, she was second at Lavaredo Ultra Trail, fifth at Trans d’Havet. Ninth at Transvulcania in May.
Mont-Blanc Marathon (42k) Top Entrants
Kilian Jornet will reign the race again as he won last year. Enough said. In this season, Kilian was second in Transvulcania and champion at Zegama. His interest goes beyond racing and he just made a new speed-climbing record on Denali in Alaska a couple weeks ago. It is fair to say he comes at the top of the list in the prediction.
Other names for a possible podium are:
- Artiz Egea (Spain) – Third in Limone Extreme last year. In 2013, he was 10th at Zegama.
- Mikael Paséro (France) – Second in the 2012 CCC, and fifth in the 2013 La SainteLyon (75k).
- Michel Lanne (France) – Finished Mont-Blanc 80k with François D’Haene with a result of second. Sixth in Zegama in May.
- Jonathan Wyatt (New Zealand) – Experienced mountain runner with significant results in the world, including a win at the 2012 Fuji Mountain Race in Japan.
- Dai Matsumoto (Japan) – Matsumoto is the leading Japanese mountain runner like his win of Fuji Mountain Race last year. He was second at the Kinabalu Climbathon in Malaysia in 2013.
- Tom Owens (U.K.) – The British mountain runner’s results includes second to Kilian in Zegama 2011, third in 2012. He is on the way to recovering from injury. Recently, he was sixth in Transvulcania.
- Thorbjørn Ludvigsen (Norway) – Wildcard from Norway. The 25-year-old Norwegian just started running four year ago and was second in Vertical and ninth in the Skyrace at Limone Extreme last year. He will run Vertical KM in this weekend as well.
- Eirik Haugsnes (Norway) – Fifth in Mont-Blanc Marathon and ninth in Matterhorn Ultraks last year.
- Marc Lauenstein (Switzerland) – Winner of Sierra-Zinal 2013 (Kilian was third) and fourth at Matterhorn Ultraks (46k).
- Florian Reichert (Germany) – Winner of Brocken-Challenge (80k) in February.
- Thibault Baronian (France) – 11th at Grande Course des Templiers last year.
- Oscar Casal-Mir (Andorra) – He has results at the Pikes Peak Marathon, sixth in 2012 and 10th in 2013.
- Zaid Ait-Malek (Moroccan living in Spain) – Second 2014 Transgrancanaria 82k, fifth 2014 Zegama.
- Greg Vollet (France) – 14th 2012 TNF EC 50 Mile.
- Vlad Ixel (Australia) – Third 2014 Hong Kong 100k.
- Martin Cox (U.K) – Eighth 2013 Swiss Alpine Marathon.
[Editor’s Note: Alex Nichols remains on the Mont-Blanc Marathon and Vertical KM entrants lists but he isn’t racing due to injury.]
Our attention goes to Stevie Kremer (USA). 2013 was a stellar year for her with results like her wins of the Mont-Blanc Marathon and Pikes Peak Marathon, which led her to becoming the Sky champion. She won Zegama last month as well.
Others who will challenge:
- Elisa Desco (Italy) – Winner of Sierra-Zinal last year will be another pick. She was jusr third in Zegama, where Kremer won.
- Maite Maiora (Spain) – Second in Transvulcania and third in Zegama this year.
- Christel Dewalle (France) – Vertical k world-record holder, second at last year’s Ice Trail Tarentaise.
Megan Kimmel (USA) – Multi-time winner of the La Sportiva Mountain Cup, a series of shorter-distance trail races in the U.S.
- Stephanie Jimenez (Italy) – Also running the Vertical KM.
- Nuria Dominguez Azpeleta (Spain) – Fourth 2013 Trans D’Havet and third Matterhorn Ultraks.
- Joe Meek (U.K) – Fifth 2014 Comrades Marathon.
- Aline Camboulives (France) – Winner 2012 Sierre-Zinal.
- Antonella Confortola (Italy) – Multi-time vertical k winner and high-level cross-country skier. Also running the Vertical KM.
Mont-Blanc Vertical KM Top Entrants
Some athletes, like Kilian, who will run the Marathon on Sunday will challenge the Vertical KM on Friday afternoon. Of course, some specialists are tapering for Vertical:
- Bernard Dematteis and Martin Dematteis (Italy) – First and second respectively at the Transvulcania Verticak K in May.
- Urban Zemmer (Italy) – Vertical champion of 2013 Skyrunning and world-record holder of vertical KM (30:36 at Fully Vertical KM in 2012).
- Saul Padua Rodriguez (Colombia) – Winner of Mont-Blanc Vertical KM last year.
- Mathéo Jacquemoud (France) – World champion of ski mountaineering.
- Toru Miyahara (Japan) – Japanese leading mountain runner’s records include course record win of Fuji Mountain Race, third 2012 Kinabalu Climbathon, and champion of the Pikes Peak Marathon last year. He picked the Vertical KM to challenge with his speed in the uphill.
- Ferran Teixido Marti-Ventosa (Andorra) – Ferran and his brother Xavier (who is racing the Mont-Blanc 80k) have finished together in sixth and seventh in Andorra Ultra Trail/Ultra Mitic (112k) in 2012.
[Editor’s Note: Alex Nichols remains on the Mont-Blanc Marathon and Vertical KM entrants lists but he isn’t racing due to injury.]
Below are the other names who run the Marathon on Sunday after their Vertical KM on Friday.
- Kilian Jornet (Spain)
- Tom Owens (U.K.)
- Dai Matsumoto (Japan)
- Thorbjørn Ludvigsen (Norway)
- Eirik Haugsnes (Norway)
- Oscar Casal-Mir (Andorra)
- Greg Vollet (France)
- Vlad Ixel (Australia)
Here’s who we think should be challenging for the women:
Christel Dewalle (France) – The world record holder (36:48 at Fully Vertical KM in 2012), will run the Mont-Blanc Vertical KM before running the Marathon on Sunday.
- Stevie Kremer (USA) – Will push the women’s pace.
- Kasie Enman (USA) – Was the 2011 World Mountain Running Champion who has come back to the scene after giving birth. Fifth in Zegama this year.
- Stephanie Jimenez (Italy) – Will run both the Vertical KM and the Marathon.
- Megan Kimmel (USA) – Will run both the Vertical KM and the Marathon.
- Antonella Confortola (Italy) – Multi-time vertical k winner and high-level cross-country skier. Will run both the Vertical KM and the Marathon.
Allow the author to introduce the Japanese runners for this weekend. A group of athletes, the Japan Skyrunning Team, is coming to Chamonix. Other than Matsumoto and Miyahara listed above, the following names might be seen in the top 20 of the races they enter:
- Yoshihito Kondo – Constant winner of local events who has some international records like fourth at 2013 Kinabalu Climbathon, winner of Nivolet-Revard (50k) in France. He will run the 80k.
- Takuya Yamada – Regular top-10 finisher in the Hasetsune Cup, runs the 80k.
- Mont-Blanc Marathon official site
- Interactive online course maps (80k,Marathon), with detailed course map, GPS log, and more.
- Live updates by the race administration
- 2014 Skyrunning World Championships by International Skyrunning Federation
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- While we believe the above listings were accurate as of the time of publishing, with this many elites to start three races, things are bound to change before go time. If you have information about the starting or non-starting of any runner on these lists, be sure to let us know and we’ll update the article!
- Who do you think will win each of the three races, the 80k, the Marathon, and the Vertical KM?
- Who do you think is particularly fit and prepared for this weekend? Who is injured or not quite ready? If you have insight into anyone’s preparations, let us know that, too.
- Where will we see some surprises/breakout races? Who is primed for stepping up to international competition?