2015 Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) Results

Ultra-Trail du Mont-BlancXavier Thevenard and Nathalie Mauclair took away victories at the 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. Xavier by working the rest of field to bits until there was no one left at the front but him, and Nathalie by simply being nearly untouchable from the start.

In addition to this article, you can find our full play-by-play of the race as well as a collection of our pre-race interviews and previews on our UTMB live-coverage page.

As usual, we’ll be updating this article with additional results as well as links to UTMB-related articles, photo galleries, and race reports. Check back!

FloraThanks to Flora for making our UTMB coverage possible.

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2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc start

The 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc start. Photo: iRunFar/Kirsten Kortebein

2015 Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc Men’s Race

This is the kind of race that makes fans. Entertainment, stout racing, and a changing plot from beginning to end. You can’t not love our sport when a race goes like this one did.

First, let’s begin with the guy at the front who ran out of his brains and showed us all the capabilities of the human mind and body. Cue Xavier Thevenard (post-race interview). He’s the young Frenchman who was at the front or with the front runners for more than half the race, until after the 100k point. He was the same guy who was still there when, runner by runner, the lead pack fell off pace. By the 124k aid station, he was all alone by several minutes. And he was there as the race closed out, setting for himself a different standard, building a big lead over everyone else, and finishing almost 50 minutes ahead of every other man. That is to say that he worked it, but by the time it was said and done, this race had worked him, too. On the final climb and descent, Xavier was quiet and a bit hollow looking, though he never deviated from his steady, forward progress. This effort marks Xavier’s second UTMB win.

Xavier Thevenard - 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Champion

Xavier Thevenard, 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Champion. Photo: iRunFar/Kirsten Kortebein

I’m guessing Luis Alberto Hernando (pre-race and post-race interviews) was bound and determined to finish this year’s race, after dropping from the UTMB last year past the 100k mark. In the race’s first half, Luis looked like typical Luis, there at the front and with the lead pack, totally calm, confident, collected. But the UTMB course blows just about everyone apart in some way, and a runner as talented as Luis is not exempt to this reality. There were times in the second half of the race–starting around the 96k mark–where Luis looked rough around the edges. The thing is, once you could tell he was straining to put out a good effort, it’s not as if his performance declined. In fact, for more than a marathon distance, he fought against the persistent attacks of the runners behind him–first from Seth Swanson and lastly from David Laney–to ultimately finish in second place. He had gas in the tank to rev the gears when challengers approached.

Luis Alberto Hernando - 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc second place

Luis Alberto Hernando finishes second. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

David Laney (post-race interview). Just, what the heck? And where can we all learn to close out our own races like he does? The guy is like a nice French wine in that he and most of them get better with age (or race experience in this case). Let’s just run his numbers. He was in something like 45th place at the half-marathon mark less than two hours into the race. And he wasn’t inside the top 10 until there was about a marathon to go. And he clawed his way over the race’s final climb and descent into his final podium position. With four kilometers to go, he was running just a hair in front of fourth-place Seth Swanson. In the end, the pair finished just under 30 seconds apart with David the victor. What a race! Wasn’t this chap an ultra upstart just 2.5 years ago? His 2015 has been insane, and he’s proven himself at many distances and terrains.

David Laney - 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc third place

David Laney cruising to third place. Photo: iRunFar/Kirsten Kortebein

If I were a betting woman, my money would have been on Seth Swanson (post-race interview) for a top-five finish. Twice second at Western States, the course-record holder for the Cascade Crest 100 Mile, the slayer of mountain trails around his Montana home. Yep. Seth hovered at the back of the top 10 early, then made his way up toward the middle of the race’s top five by about the distance midpoint on the course. He held strong–and may I say both mentally and physically–carrying his body and spirit through the later kilometers of the race with lightness and what appeared to be contentedness, two characteristics that were missing in some of the other top runners whose faces had gone blank some 18 and more hours into the race. It was a true pleasure watching Seth manhandle the UTMB course’s offerings, and it’ll be an even bigger pleasure to see what he does next with his running.

Ecuadorian Gonzalo Calisto rounded out the men’s top five, Fabien Antolinos was sixthfifth, Erik Clavery seventhsixth, Francesc Solé Duocastella eighthseventh, Ryan Smith nintheighth, and Alex Mayer 10thninth and Piotr Hercog 10th.

[Update: July 19, 2016: At the 2015 race, Ecuador’s Gonzalo Calisto finished fifth, and was honored in the men’s top 10 at the awards ceremony. On July 8th, 2016, the IAAF announced that Ecuadorian Gonzalo Calisto was serving a two-year doping suspension, beginning March 18, 2016 and ending March 17, 2018, due to an anti-doping rule violation discovered during an in-competition test at the 2015 UTMB. According to the IAAF, Calisto tested positive for EPO at that in-competition test. Here’s our article, which explains what’s publicly known about Calisto’s doping suspension.]

2015 Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc Men’s Results

  1. Xavier Thévenard (ASICS) — 21:09:15 (post-race interview)
  2. Luis Alberto Hernando (adidas) — 21:57:17 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  3. David Laney (Nike) — 21:59:42 (post-race interview)
  4. Seth Swanson (The North Face) — 22:00:10 (post-race interview)
  5. Fabien Antolinos (Mizuno) — 22:28:26
  6. Erik Clavery (adidas) — 22:45:28
  7. Francesc Solé Duocastella (Koalas Team) — 22:53:23
  8. Ryan Smith (La Sportiva) — 23:10:07
  9. Alexandre Mayer (Isostar) — 23:44:53
  10. Piotr Hercog (Salomon) — 24:10:54

Full results.

2015 Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc Women’s Race

Wow. This is a race that both met my expectations–I thought the possibility of Nathalie Mauclair (pre-race and post-race interviews) winning handily was very real–and turned what I thought also could happen into what definitely didn’t happen. I had also envisioned an intense battle for the win between Nathalie and her French countrymate Caroline Chaverot (pre-race interview) that would be decided in the race’s final kilometers. However, Nathalie set herself apart from the other women from not long after the start, creating a gap that no woman could surmount. By a half marathon into the race at the Saint-Gervais aid station, Nathalie had minutes on everyone else. And Caroline got injured descending a hill in the Vallorcine aid station at 151k, which knocked her out of the race. The duel I thought might happen was not a duel after all.

Nathalie Mauclair - 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Champion

Nathalie Mauclair, 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Champion. Photo: iRunFar/Kirsten Kortebein

While this year’s UTMB was unusual in that there were very few DNS’s among the top athletes–almost everyone started who was planning to–there were loads and loads of DNF’s. Some of the other women’s heavy hitters were just never in the mix, or they sifted out real quick.

But then, there were the women who put together bang-out races, such as second place’s Uxue Fraile (post-race interview). Her racing attitude is one that many people could or perhaps, should, emulate. Chill, chill, chill, not affected by hype, other women’s pacing, nothing. In fact, her relaxed attitude rubs off on even me as I document her progress during races. Because this was a race with shake-ups all the way to the finish, I’m just not surprised that Uxue rode all the highs and lows and came out in second place. Uxue ran

Uxue Fraile - 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc second place

Uxue Fraile runs toward second place. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Denise Zimmermann (post-race interview), this year’s third place finisher, ran a tempered race start to finish. After running the first part of the race quite a distance back, she gradually worked her way through the field and up the women’s rankings. Her finish here, on a hot day on a tough course, represents her ability to succeed in tough conditions.

Denise Zimmermann - 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc third place

Denise Zimmermann after taking third. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Silvia Trigueros, Darcy Piceu, Luciana Moretti, and Bernadette Benson were the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh finishers. The top 10 was rounded out by Stephanie Howe, Melanie Rousset, and Manuela Vilaseca.

2015 Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc Women’s Results

  1. Nathalie Mauclair (Mizuno) — 25:15:33 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  2. Uxue Fraile (Vibram) — 26:29:35 (post-race interview)
  3. Denise Zimmermann (Salomon) — 27:33:51 (post-race interview)
  4. Silvia Trigueros (Land) — 27:39:36
  5. Darcy Piceu (Hoka One One/Smartwool) — 28:38:30
  6. Luciana Moretti — 28:40:11
  7. Bernadette Benson — 29:40:11
  8. Stephanie Howe (The North Face) — 30:16:28
  9. Melanie Rousset — 30:17:01
  10. Manuela Vilaseca (The North Face) — 30:19:21

Full results.

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Thank You

Wow! So many people helped bring iRunFar’s UTMB coverage to the world. We appreciate the field assistance of Kirsten Kortebein, Tim Peeters, Ian Campbell, Paul Charteris, Lucho Viani, Donielle and Chris Wolfe, and Francois Satier. We’re also grateful for the office assistance of Travis Trampe, Mauri Pagliacci, Aliza Lapierre, Jon Allen, Tom Caughlin, Nick Pedatella, and Rodri Lizama.


Meghan Hicks

is the Managing Editor of iRunFar and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

There are 33 comments

  1. @NicoDelon

    Anyone cares to comment on all those DNFs? They seem highly problematic to me, especially given the very bright pre-race spotlight the elites receive. Heras, Castañer, Sandes, Canaday, Chaigneau, Browning, Sproston, Picas, among many others: can you be an elite and choosing to DNF from a major race just like you would decide to go have brunch? Or: do you *have to* DNF to be counted among the elites now?

    1. @AndyKovacevic

      Your comment implies that elite runners drop without justification and are totally unaffected by their decision to do so. I'd imagine it's quite the contrary, considering the long and intense hours of training and the considerable life sacrifices they've had to make to compete in this event.

      1. @NicoDelon

        My comment does not imply that, or anything for that matter, since it was a set of questions. I'm looking for explanations, not providing any. And for what it's worth, I have the utmost respect for most of these runners.

        I'm actually inclined to believe (and hope) elite runners drop *with* justification and *are* affected by their decision, and I felt for most of them when they did, especially guys like Chaigneau whom we've seen struggling a lot these last two years. However, I'm also inclined to suspect many elite runners decide to drop out much more quickly (and earlier) than most other runners. Because the latter have also trained very hard, without sponsoring and quite often another shot at a major race in the year, DNF is not really an (acceptable) option for many.

        I don't know the figures, but it'd be interesting to compare percentages of DNF among elite runners and among non-elite runners. I may be wrong. I'm also not alone thinking DNF has become to easy (and tempting): AJW has long been an opponent of DNF. And I'm all the more impressed by elites who do not drop when they could (or should) (I'm sure Kilian Jornet has dropped a number of times but I just can't remember them; what I remember is finishing 2013 Diagonale des Fous with tendinitis waiting for his partner or finishing 2015 Zegama with stomach issues.

        1. justinmock1

          Kilian – You got me thinking, similar to the examples you laid out, he finished UROC one year off the lead pace, and his first Western. A few years back he did drop at Cavalls del Vent is the only DNF I can think of though.

          I agree there are a high number of drops at UTMB. I haven't looked at the numbers closely, but my thought was that percentage-wise, the elite drops likely aren't that much more frequent than other races. Perhaps it's just that the elite field is so large that the number of elite drops also looks outsized?

          1. @NicoDelon

            Good points.

            Maybe not more frequent than other tough races (e.g. Hardrock). But maybe more frequent than non-elites? I'm just wondering. Of course, there are (potentially sound) reasons why elites would drop more easily/often than others: among other things, because they're putting their very own career at risk. Another (compatible) explanation (though not a justification per se): they train and race so much and so hard.

      2. @NicoDelon

        (Just to be clear: I'm not saying one doesn't have reasons to go to brunch and cannot be affected by it! Also, this was simply meant to suggest *some* elite runners may be dropping on a whim. I'm wondering what the list of reasons for elite DNFs is)

        1. footfeathers

          I think your questions are valid ones. It's been suggested before that, oddly, DNFs don't seem to carry the stigma for elites that they should. It's almost like the race didn't happen for that person. What's worse for an elite's image, a DNF or getting beaten soundly, coming in 20th place 6 hours behind the winner? Non-elites likely don't feel the same pressure to perform against peers but rather just finishing is the goal; doesn't matter if it takes them 40 hours.
          Edit: I'm not implying fragile egos are at stake, I'm saying it seems that DNFs are not considered in a negative light, nor given the weight they should be given in this sport, so it's a better (professional) choice for a sponsored athlete to drop when performance is low rather than scrape to the finish line well down the standings and risk criticism for being beaten.

          1. djbleakman

            I've looked at it and am writing an article for Ultra168 on it. The DNF rate among the male favourites was 58% (if you take out the DNS')… that's massive. Some have very valid reasons for sure, but I do think there are other pressures too. I've consulted a number of elite runners here in Australia as to why they think it's happening and some have some very insight views. Article coming soon.

  2. Jsshannon

    I similarly find the details of prominent DNFs more interesting as well. I'm always curious what aspect of the race breaks down for the top runners in particular. I agree that the elite runners seem to DNF more readily than unsponsored runners (though I don't suggest anything about this particular race). An attitude of 'if I can't do well, I'll just drop rather than suffer or 'look weak'' is always a risk when you have athletes worrying about their public image.

    I think that is not a common event, but it surely happens. That's why I'm just very impressed when I see a big name like Francois d'Haene suffer badly at Western States but still push through for a (relatively) low 14th place finish.

    If you want circumstantial evidence, look at how often runners expected to finish very high actually do finish further back in the pack. The temptation to DNF instead of finish further back in the pack must be strong.

  3. ajoneswilkins

    @NicoDelon I wish to clarify a comment you made in one of your comments that I have long been an opponent of DNFs. That is not quite accurate. While many joke with me that people who DNF don't get Christmas cards from me it is not true that I adhere to a finish at all cost approach. Quite the contrary. I believe finishing an ultra is an outstanding achievement and takes discipline and focus both in training and on race day and some days things just don't go well. My original comments on this issue (made over 5 years ago) http://ajwsblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/dnfs.html
    were intended more as an attempt to include DNF data in the Ultrarunner of the Year voting. That said, DNF data continues to be very difficult to gather as most Race Directors do not report DNFs to Ultrarunning Magazine. Of course, high profile races like UTMB are so heavily watched it doesn't really need to be reported to anyone. That said, now, each year John Medinger asks Bryon and I to submit a list of notable DNFs that the committee can use in their rankings. However, that part is really more art than science as there is not any sort of point system for considering DNFs as part of the calculation. So, as with may of these things, it's rather selective. Again, I just wanted to clarify that I am not an "opponent" of DNFs rather an Ultrarunner of the Year voter who believes DNFs should be considered as part of a runner's body of work when being considered for Ultrarunner of the Year.

  4. @NicoDelon

    Thanks Andy, this is useful and makes lot of sense. I stand corrected (I seemed to remember saying something along the lines of being a long time opponent of DNFs in a recent TRN podcast but I should have put it in context). I did not say you endorsed a finish at all cost approach, however. Neither did I suggest anyone should finish at all cost. My suspicions about DNFs actually track yours and DNFs for inappropriate reasons are the ones I was targetting, obviously. Now the question is whether there's a trend in elite DNFs (whatever the explanation) and what kind of DNFs, etc.

  5. @Baristing

    So, let's assume elite runners are more likely to DNF than the rest of us. It's a dubious assumption – I really doubt it's true, honestly – but whatever. Elite runners make a living by racing relatively often and well. DNF'ing a race when continuing on compromises their ability to do these things makes perfect sense. Especially when there's so much recent discussion about the – potentially permanent – deleterious effects of racing ultra distances, this approach seems even more wise. Why risk future earning potential and long term health to meet some arbitrary standard of toughness?

  6. @mackeydave

    I am not sure I understand the "problematic" adjective, as the only person to whom the drop should be problematic is to the runner who DNFs. When someone DNFs, their reasons are purely subjective and you'll have to ask them individually why they dropped. As a former/current elite, I have dropped for reasons including about to fall off the trail down a steep hill from dizziness (WS 13), having zero gas in the tank (WS 2009) at rucky chucky, to coming in overtrained/over raced and probably shouldn't have started the race to begin with, to not having the courage to keep going when I got off course (Zane Grey 2003). I have dropped before to save it for another day for an upcoming race because the calendar was packed, but this was rare. The high number of drops this year is anyone's guess; some are clear like Sage and Jeff Browning having mechanical issues, like busted knees on rocks and ankle sprains.
    It is hard as an elite to win big races, and it just gets harder every year. Top 20 is the new top 10. To run near the front and have a shot at a W you have to push limits close to failure with a higher chance of failure. And I'd guess there is a higher drop percentage in elites at UTMB because to have a shot at a podium place it is that much harder you have to push. Natalie Mauclair dropped from UT Mt Fuji from going out too hard last year; this year she nailed UTMB. Thevenard hasn't won big since 2013 right? Win some, lose some. Of course it's smarter to pace well and "run from behind", but Zach Miller won big at CCC running in front; last year he cratered right before the finish at Les Templiers. Hard to say what will happen any given race day.

    1. @NicoDelon

      Thanks Dave, this is very valuable feedback. I realize my initial comment was too terse not to convey false impressions. Let me be clear: I did not mean to criticize anyone in particular. The punctuation itself was confusing and it's too bad one can't edit one's comments: the list of names was a simple (and incomplete) reminder of notable DNFs, and the question that followed was clearly a bit too provocative.

      Anyways, you provide exactly what, and all I was asking for: insights into why elite runners DNF — and why they may be doing so more than they used to. Most of the time reasons are perfectly acceptable. The problem, if any, is what causes so many elite runners to come to a point where they have to drop out. I'm sorry to insist, but the proportion of DNFs among the two dozen or so top runners featured in each of iRunFar's preview this year is astounding. That means something about the sport and needs to be acknowledged and, perhaps, discussed. Whether it's increased competition, overtraining, or simply random, I think it's worth pondering. And if the proprotion is not unique to UTMB, it's big nonetheless and all the more worrisome.

      My initial comment clearly hurt some people's feelings, and I'm sorry about that. I never meant to disparage anyone, especially given the level of admiration I have for all these people, none excepted. I just wish race reports featured DNFs much more centrally insofar as they often play a significant role in accounting for final results. Fortunately, iRunFar does a great job of covering these details during its live coverage. I understand this is difficult to fully report in a race summary. (Thanks iRunFar, thanks Meghan and Bryon, and congrats to all!)

    2. @SageCanaday

      +100 for what Dave said. You push yourself to the edge..you're likely to totally blow a gasket at times. Increased competition and runners pushing harder and harder leads to more epic disasters.

      But a DNF is not something I take lightly. I really wanted to finish UTMB…I simply couldn't. It was a "no-choice" DNF (trust me, they don't bring up the rescue helicopter onto a mountain only 4-miles away from downtown Courmayeur unless you seriously can't move downhill anymore!).

  7. Jsshannon

    @NicoDelon I agree. These races are interesting in large part because of the high potential for failure. It's just not that entertaining to read how the winner ran steadily all day, didn't have any big problems and then crossed the finish line. The DNFs, the near DNFs, the low points and the recoveries etc. are where the story is.

  8. amyspro

    I'd like to see some stats on top runners DNFing more readily than the rest of the field. This comment has long annoyed me. One time I even went to the trouble of looking at results one year at WS to see if this was true, and from what I tallied, "elites" (I used a UltraSignup % over 90) had a lower drop rate than the other 90%. Drop rate at UTMB was something over 930 out of around 2500. Lots of drops and not just those delicate elites. No we don't take It lightly and personally when I do drop it has nothing to do with public image. Personally I'd been vomiting since about 50K and a nagging cough I've had for 5 weeks made it such that I was gagging myself whenever I coughed. I tried to get it to turn around for 70K and couldn't. I didn't think I could make it up the last 4 climbs on zero nutrition.

    Also (and I despise the use of the word "elite"), the "elites" are just runners, too. All people who love to run, who do this for similar motivations as the rest. That said, we are all motivated for different reasons. Some people think a finish at all costs is the end-all goal. We don't all share this mentality. We all do it for our own reasons. I respect people who grind it out for a finish, but respect people who make their own decision to drop, no less. You have no idea what their long or short-term goals are so really aren't in a place to judge.

    There were 930+ DNFs. That you question only why a few top runners DNFed I find interesting.

    1. @NicoDelon

      Hi Amy, I'm really sorry if you felt hurt by what I said. My mistake. I obviously should not have crafted my initial comment like I did and I regret it. I do respect all runners, I don't endorse the finish at all costs mentality, and I did not judge anybody.

      Again, I did not mean to target, let alone blame, anyone, which would be a very obnoxious thing to do. I am not questioning anyone's performance in particular but focussing on aggregate rates. Now, everyone has their reasons, but it's still interesting to look at trends and numbers. (See below for the latter)

      Why I ask about top runners is because they are top runners. They're the ones we read about in previews, magazines, race reports, those we try to emulate, those who share their invaluable experience and advice in columns. Setting them apart is the whole point. They are, as a matter of fact, held to higher standards. Whether it's appropriate or not, I'm in no position to say.

      It doesn't mean your DNF should be questioned rather than those of the other 930. Importantly, I was struck by how different UTMB seemed relative to other races in this respect. This is precisely because usually top runners have lower drop rates that I found it interesting.

      I wish you the best of luck in your next races!

  9. npedatella

    Instead of speculating on the number of runners that dropped, one can look at the iRunFar previews and the weekly results column. I came to the following:

    "Elite" Men (all those in the preview + 5 not in the preview that finished were in the top-20): 24 DNF out of 52 starters (46%)
    "Elite" Women (all those in the preview): 11 DNF out of 36 starters (30%)

    Combined the "elite" DNF rate would be 39%, which is only slightly more than the overall DNF rate of 37% (930 DNF out of 2500). So on the whole the elite DNF rate is fairly similar to the overall rate for UTMB this year. It is just more notable for elites since it is highly publicized.

    It is also worth noting that there were a handful of top runners that finished well below what may have been expected. Perhaps they should be given more lip service (or text service?) instead of the DNFs. After all, they did do what many commenters are saying elites should be doing.

    1. @NicoDelon

      Thanks for doing this. One preliminary remark: it's worth noting that women have a significantly lower DNF rate than men (somewhat sadly, they also accounted for only 8.7% of starters).

      I'm hesitant to include men who were not in the preview in the calculation since the point is not who finishes well, but, who finishes among those who were under the spotlight. For that same reason, I'm also hesitant to take into account the full preview list (that is, including the "other names to know"). When you focus on the top 22 male contenders (according to the preview) that did start, 14 of them did not finish (that's 63.6%). Among the top 21 female contenders (again, according to the preview) that did start, 9 of them did not finish (that's 42.8%). Combined, that's 23 out of 43, 53.4%. Arguably, these are imperfect list, and one may come up with a different list with different results, but since we're talking about those who receive the most attention, I'm following the lights of iRunFar.

      Now, the overall DNF rate is 36.3%. It doesn't strike me as very similar to 53.4%, although arguably comparing samples of such different sizes is somewhat tricky. Even sticking to your figures, the actual combined "elite" DNF rate of 39.8% is still marginally higher than the actual 36.3% overall rate. But it's not so much how higher it is that matters, it's how *not lower* it is, given that we would reasonably expect more experienced runners (pros and others with high ITRA scores) to finish more often than your average starter. Admittedly, no one is a rookie ultrarunner at UTMB given the qualifying standards, but expecting different performances from top contenders is the very point of having a preview.

      But again, my questions were never meant to disparage anyone's performance, and, as Amy said, I'm in no place to judge. That's why I'm not judging; I'm asking (and about aggregates, not specifc people). And I'm asking because seeing athletes I admire fail to achieve their goals makes me feel sorry and sad for them.

      Finally, I am not telling anyone what they should do. There's only one thing I said someone maybe should have done in all of my comments, and it's that KJ maybe should have DNFd at Diagonale des Fous.

      I don't want to do any more damage, so I'll leave it here, but in case people don't read all the comments, I apologize to anyone I may have offended. Thanks everyone for an "intense debate"!

  10. Ben_Nephew

    You are being selective in what data you select in an attempt to prove your point. If place that much emphasis on comparisons between samples sizes of 3k and 20, you should stop running more than 20 miles a week, as researchers have used similar comparisons to make bogus conclusions that higher mileage and hard training is unhealthy.

    UTMB is a European race, and the folks at irunfar, while they cover races all over the planet, will admit that it is difficult to follow international runners in such a disorganized sport. Look closely at the other names list, you could easily make an argument that several of them have results which are as strong or stronger than the featured athletes. You are placing too much emphasis on the opinion of one person.

    Your reasonable expectation that more experienced runners would have a higher finish rate only considers one side of the equation. Comparing the very front of the field with everyone else, the top runners are more competitive and more likely to take risks that may offset any gains of additional experience. The assumption that the front runners may have more experience may very well be false at a race like UTMB, similar to your assumption that they drop out at a higher rate.

    The difference between men's and women's DNF rates may be due the differnce in the size of the competitive fields and typical patterns in how each gender starts. It is common knowledge that women are smarter racers, most likely because female mammals are less aggressive, with a few exceptions, such as the hyena.

    It is sad to see so many drops, and I have to wonder about the role of the fast start in the DNF's. To some degree, the high rate may simply be a product of the duration of UTMB. It's 50 percent longer than Western States. At shorter ultras, it is a lot easier to jog it in, or turn things around enough to make it to the finish. UTMB also attracts a wide range of athletes with varying levels of expertise and experience on that type of terrain.

  11. Luke_B

    I would also be interested in seeing real data on how DNFs are spread throughout the field.

    On the faster end you have people swinging for the fences and inevitably that means you fail sometimes. But the thought is it's better to go for it and hope everything falls together for a perfect day rather than running conservatively and placing respectably but always losing to others who did take the risks that day. I also have to imagine it is pretty hard to decide to gut out a bad performance when finishing that distance is no longer the primary challenge anymore. When you've run under 18 hours a few times, a 28 hour western finish isn't going to mean the same as it would to those of us doing it for the first time. And when you consider that that effort could affect the ability to run well at a later race, and that perhaps as a sponsored athlete your food money is tied to having a good season, it begins to make more sense to decide to pack it up and try another day.

    On the slower end you have the strong motivation to just finish as a significant goal, but the 'involuntary' DNFs are increased due to cutoffs and just the breakdown associated with average athletes doing what is to them effectively an almost 2x longer run from the perspective of %effort x duration.

  12. @kdesplinter

    I happened to find myself in the awesome position of being at all of the aid stations at UTMB when a large contingent of favorites were all within an hour or two of each other and getting to see them throughout the night day and night. Joe Grant, Jesse Haynes, Dominic Grossman, Stephanie Howe, Amy Sproston, Jeff Browning, Denisse Bourassa, Nicole Studer, Sally McRae, some other excellent runners I know I'm forgetting…. none of them had the race that people expected. I can't speak for their own personal expectations, but what I can speak for is what I observed. I assure you every single one of these people was giving their 100% all out there. Some of them had to drop, some of them almost dropped, and some continued on, absolutely wrecked. Just like what was happening in the "non-elite" crowd. I felt a great deal of pride for all of them as they did everything they could to get to the finish – so serious congratulations to all!

    I'll also say this – numbers are nice, but it's really hard to interpret them correctly if you've never experienced the UTMB course and race. It's just plain HARD for a myriad of reasons, and that should be a very great indicator of why the DNF rate is so high.

  13. angryb

    There are lots of factors at play. The course is very hard. Makes Western look like a track. Facing the last 40 miles damaged at Utmb is a much bigger challange than facing the last 40 miles of nearly all American 100 mile race.

    Sure the time allowed is greater but most of the front end runners don’t really care to walk in. Really what is the point for them to? Do more physical damage just to make it around the mountain. That was never their primary goal. For most of these people the distance is not the objective. Putting together the right training and racing to do the distance quickly is the goal.

    This is just ultrarunning coming to terms with the fact that when you call something a race a certain percentage of people are going to really race it. Perhaps we need to different events. A race for those want to compete and a tour for the remaining 2000 folks who just want to walk and jog around the mountain.

  14. @UltraMorgan

    I was struck most by Dave Mackey's comment:__"I am not sure I understand the "problematic" adjective, as the only person to whom the drop should be problematic is to the runner who DNFs. When someone DNFs, their reasons are purely subjective and you'll have to ask them individually why they dropped." __In that spirit, I feel I should share the brutally reflective thoughts of Robbie Britton on his 2015 UTMB DNF:_ _http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/2015/sep/03/race-my-first-did-not-finish-dnf__

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