2017 UTMB Men’s Preview

I don’t like hyperbole. Period. With that in mind, I think it’s entirely fair to say that this year’s men’s field at UTMB will be the best field ever assembled for a trail ultramarathon. Full stop.

For some years now, UTMB has been the world’s most competitive trail ultra, and this year’s race will feature three men who’ve combined to win seven of the previous nine UTMBs. You’ve also got runners who’ve filled many of the race’s previous podiums and an American contingent that represents the strongest U.S. men’s field we’ll see anywhere in the world this year along with the usual stellar global cast. In short, this year’s UTMB promises to be spectacular!

2017 UTMB - CamelbakNot only is the talent at the very front of the field unlike anything I’ve seen before, the field’s depth is remarkable. The International Trail Running Association’s (ITRA’s) recent ranking show 120 men with ITRA scores at or above 750. Those rankings aren’t perfect, but they’re good enough and they show something special. With that in mind, below I’ll try to highlight those who have the best chance to finish in the top 15 or 20. That means, I’ll leave some tremendous runners out of this preview. That’s not meant as a slight of anyone in particular, but, instead, should be seen as a testament to this tremendous field. It’ll also be a blast to see who surprises the world by rising from relative anonymity to a top finish at UTMB.

GU EnergyAltra logoA special thanks to Camelbak for making our coverage of UTMB possible!

Thanks also to GU Energy and Altra for their support of our UTMB coverage.

As you’d expect, we’ll be covering the UTMB live starting at 6 p.m. CEST (10 a.m. MDT in the U.S.) on Friday, September 1.

Read our in-depth women’s preview to learn about the race’s other exciting field!

Recent UTMB Champions

Kilian Jornet - 2015 Hardrock 100 champion

Kilian Jornet

Until someone beats him, I’m convinced every trail race he runs is Kilian Jornet’s race to lose. I don’t believe he’s lost a trail race since post-Himalaya stomach issues hit him at Zegama in May 2015. Since then, he’s won the Hardrock 100 three times (2015, 2016, 2017), Sierre-Zinal twice (including this August), Ultra Pirineu in 2015, and the Marathon du Mont-Blanc this June. Years ago, he won UTMB in 2008, 2009, and 2011. (Kilian was also leading UTMB in 2010 when it was canceled for weather, and he opted to race elsewhere later that weekend rather than to resume the race.) Despite a late start to his running season following his standard skimo season and, then, his double ascent of Everest, Kilian’s win at the Marathon du Mont-Blanc, Hardrock, and Sierre-Zinal this summer show he’s still the man to beat.

François D'Haene - 2014 TNF UTMB Champ

François D’Haene

While there are far flashier folks in trail running, the most likely threat to Kilian’s dominance is France’s François D’haene (pre-race interview). François is simply amazing when it comes to mountainous races longer than 100k. Let’s take a look at his performances in this realm since he won UTMB in 2012: 1st 2013 Diagonale des Fous, 1st 2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji, 1st 2014 UTMB, 1st 2014 Diagonale des Fous, 1st 2016 Diagonale des Fous, 1st 2017 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail (MIUT), and 1st 2017 MaxiRace. (He was 14th at the Western States 100 in 2015, but that’s not mountainous to the degree of which I speak with regard to D’haene’s sweet spot.) Now that I’m looking at his compiled results, there’s no doubt that François is the most accomplished mountain 100-mile runner of the past half decade.

2016 Hardrock 100 - Xavier Thevenard

Xavier Thévenard

France’s Xavier Thévenard (pre-race interview) has won all of the solo races that make up the UTMB festival. (He’s not run the PTL.) In order, he’s won CCC in 2010, UTMB in 2013, TDS in 2014, UTMB in 2015, and OCC in 2016. Xavier has plenty of strong results elsewhere. Just in the past three years, he was eighth at the 2015 IAU Trail World Championships, second at the 2016 Marathon du Mont-Blanc, third at the 2016 Hardrock 100, eighth at Les Templiers, third at MIUT, and first at the Mont-Blanc 80k. However, these results all highlight Xavier’s particular and peculiar success specifically at the UTMB family of races in comparison to his other results. Whatever his Chamonix secret is, it’s a good one!

Recent UTMB Podium Finishers

Behind the three recent winners, we’ve got six guys who’ve who’ve been on the podium over the past four UTMBs. (Add to that the three wins in the past four years from Thévenard and D’haene and nine of the past 12 UTMB podium spots will be represented. Only Luis Alberto Hernando, Ludovic Pommeret, and Iker Karrera are missing.)

2016 UTMB - Gediminas Grinius

Gediminas Grinius

Gediminas Grinius (pre-race interview) of Lithuania will be back after finishing runner-up at last year’s UTMB, just two years after placing fifth in his breakout ultra performance. Later in 2014, he took fourth at Diagonale des Fous before winning both Transgrancanaria and Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji along with placing fourth at Western States in 2015. Last year, he was second at Transgrancanaria and Lavaredo in addition to taking second at UTMB and third at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k. Grinius hasn’t put up the same level of results in 2017 as he did the two previous years, with a fifth at Tarawera, fourth at MIUT, 12th at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, and eighth at the Eiger Ultra-Trail.

Two years ago, the U.S.’s David Laney (pre-race interview) put on a clinic in patience when he surged through the field to take third at UTMB. He showed that result was no fluke when he took fourth at the race last year. Truthfully, no American male aside from Mike Foote has seen that level of success at UTMB this decade. Since last year’s UTMB, Laney has taken third at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships (TNF 50) 2016, sixth at Chuckanut 50k 2017 , and second at the Broken Arrow Skyrace 2017. Each of the previous two years, Laney raced Western States prior to UTMB, but he didn’t race States this year.

2016 UTMB - Tim Tollefson

Tim Tollefson

When thinking about American Tim Tollefson (pre-race interview), you’ve got to remember that his third place at last year’s UTMB… was in his 100-mile debut. In fact, he’d only run two races of at least 100k at that point, his second-place finish at CCC in 2015 and his slog at Transgrancanaria 2016, where he earned his requisite points to run UTMB. So far this year, Tollefson’s been fifth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k in January, won Ultra-Trail Australia in May, and taken second at the Speedgoat 50k in July. He did stumble with a DNF at the American River 50 Mile in April, but all other signs show him ready to roll.

Javi Dominguez is passing on running UTMB in favor of running the Tor des Geants. [Updated August 29] Ultrarunning is full of likable people, but Basque runner Javi Dominguez has got to be one of my favorites. He shocked many by taking third at UTMB in 2013 and, then, showed that was no fluke by taking fifth at the race last year. Why is he one of my favorites? Because Javi’s run the Zegama Marathon each of the past six years and has never finished better than 24th with results evenly spread down to 58th. Despite his lack of top-end speed, he’s an unassuming beast in longer ultras. Aside from UTMB, the past two years he’s been third at Lavaredo and the BUFF Epic Trail in 2016 (when it was the Skyrunning World Championships), won the most important 100 miler in Basque Country at Ehunmilak in 2016 and 2017, and taken third at Diagonale des Fous last year.

Tofol Castanyer - 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

Tofol Castanyer

Tòfol Canstanyer tied with Iker Karrera for second at UTMB in 2014. Since then, he’s followed up with his fair share of top finishes including fourth at the TNF 50 in 2014, third at Les Templiers in 2015, second at MIUT in 2016, and eighth at the 2016 IAU Trail World Championships. On the other hand, he’s had two rough goes at Western States in the same span, finishing 12th last year and 11th this year and he did drop out of last year’s UTMB.

I feel like I always write the same thing about Miguel Heras: basically, he’s either really on or really off at any race. While I don’t have a good log of his possible DNFs, it looks like Miguel has had a consistent on phase over the past year. Last autumn, he won both Ultra Pirineu and Les Templiers, while he’s taken first or second at a handful of races in Spain so far this year. At his best, Miguel has been second at UTMB (2013), has twice won Transvulcania (2010 and 2011), and has twice won the TNF 50 (2010 and 2012). With his recent wins at Ultra Pirineu and Les Templiers, there’s no reason to think that he couldn’t pop another top performance at UTMB.

The Rest of the Top Americans

I admittedly feel awkward in writing an American-centric section in a UTMB preview, as we rarely include country-specific sections outside of world-championship events. Here, I do so for a few reasons. First, regardless of how the American men fair at this year’s UTMB, it’s quite likely the strongest assembly of American ultrarunners anywhere this year, i.e., you could consider it the de facto American championship… that just happens to be the in the Alps. Second, with Luis Alberto Hernando out and Jason Schlarb in, ITRA rankings show six Americans in the top-11 spots. (Notably, with three of the top-11 spots and four runners already listed above, Spain would be the next logical candidate for its own section, but, well, I’ve already listed four of the five runners ranked in ITRA’s top 20.)

2016 UTMB - Zach Miller

Zach Miller

For better and worse, Zach Miller goes dang hard from ‘go.’ When he keeps himself together, he wins big races like he did at the TNF 50 in 2015 and 2016 and the CCC in 2015. Other times, he blows up like at last year’s UTMB or Transvulcania a year earlier.  That said, when Zach does blow up, he tends to fight on to a respectable finish such as sixth at last year’s UTMB or fifth at that Transvulcania I just mentioned. I suspect that once again this year, Zach won’t hold back. It’s hard to tell if he’ll be fit enough to pull off the perfect day given that an early season slip and fall has kept him away from racing.

Just three years ago, Jason Schlarb took fourth at UTMB. That’s sandwiched by wins of the Run Rabbit Run 100 mile in 2013 and 2015 and followed up by a win alongside Kilian Jornet at Hardrock in 2016. That means Schlarb’s put down a top performance at a 10o-mile race each of the previous four years. He DNFed at Hardrock in July and immediately shifted from the TDS into UTMB, which means he’ll have another crack at a top 100-mile finish this year. Schlarb did drop from last year’s UTMB.

Jim Walmsley 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon champion sq

Jim Walmsley

Dear Jim Walmsley, you’ve shown that you can blow course records at races up to 100k in length out of the water. That’s awesome. You are capable of winning the biggest races in the world. That’s awesome, too. Now, do it. When you do, no one can ever take that away from you. Sit with whomever of Kilian or François or Xavier is closer to the front until Champex-Lac. If that means you’re in the lead group, stay there until Trient or, better yet, Vallorcine. Then, try to win the most competitive trail ultramarathon ever. Sincerely, Bryon.

I think of Dylan Bowman first and foremost as a 100-mile runner. That said, he’s finished exactly one since he took third at Western States back in 2014. Since then, he dropped out of Western States in 2015, saw last year’s Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji shortened to 47k due to weather (he won), and won the Istria 100 Mile this April. Bowman’s raced sparingly this year, taking fourth at Speedgoat in late July in addition to his win at Istria. He’s been crushing his training out of Aspen, Colorado this summer.

Sage Canaday Pre-2015 UTMB sq

Sage Canaday

Sage Canaday made his first attempt at 100 miles at UTMB 2015. He took a bad fall in the first half of the race and later withdrew. Last year, he ran Western States and finished off his potential in 11th. So far in 2017, he’s had a reasonably strong year. He won the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile back in April, but was later seventh at the Marathon du Mont-Blanc. Surrounding those finishes are a trio of third places at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, Chuckanut 50k, and Speedgoat 50k. I don’t think Sage would benefit from going out in the lead group in this year’s race. Instead, I think he might earn his best finish from going out with someone like…

Jeff Browning is a brilliant racer. Why? Because he runs his own damn race, and a smart, even one at that. Every time. He’s run five 100 milers since the start of last year and, in order, won the HURT 100 2016, took third at Western States 2016, fourth at Hardrock 2016 three weeks later, fourth at Run Rabbit Run 2016, and fourth at Western States 2017. That last one was a master class in patient racing. Do I think Browning will finish on the podium on September 2nd? No. Could I see him coming into Les Contamines at 31k outside the top 50 and, then, finishing inside the top 10? Yup!

2016 Western States 100 - Andrew Miller - Finish Line Interview

Andrew Miller

We’ve confirmed that Andrew Miller isn’t running UTMB this year. [Updated August 31] While it’s true that you’ll never know if aggressive racers like Zach Miller or Jim Walmsley will nail it or blow up, I’d consider Andrew Miller to be the biggest mystery of the American men’s contingent. Last year, he jumped from running very well at more regional races to winning at Georgia Death Race to get an entry into Western States, which he then won. Being cognizant not to over race, he didn’t jump into anything right after States. This year, injuries caused him to miss some spring racing and, then, Western States, although he did take second to Mike Foote at the Old Gabe 50k in mid-June. He’s been running, but another injury kept him from running the Bridger Ridge Run in mid-August. How he’ll do at UTMB is anyone’s guess.

The Rest of the Favorites

Pau Capell - 2017 Transgrancanaria

Pau Capell

Since the start of 2016, Catalan runner Pau Capell has been one of the best trail ultrarunners on the planet. In 2016, he was fourth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, third at Transgrancanaria, first at Ultra-Trail Australia, was sixth at Lavaredo, won TDS, was 11th at the IAU Trail World Championships. This year, he won Transgrancanaria and was second to D’haene at MIUT. The lone down spot I can recall is his DNF at Lavaredo this year. Capell only has one 100-mile-or-longer race to his credit, a third at the 183k Cami de Cavalls in 2014, but he certainly has the potential to run in the top five and maybe onto the podium.

Last year, I included Norway’s Didrik Hermansen among the ‘headline acts’ of UTMB on the outstanding strength and upward trend of his 2015 and early 2016. However, that must be tempered a bit now, as he dropped out of last year’s UTMB and this year’s 117km Penyagolosa CSP and is running well but slightly behind his previous results in taking fourth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100 in January, third at Transgrancanaria in February, and sixth at Lavaredo in June.

Andy Symonds - 2016 UTMB

Andy Symonds

An Englishman living in France, Andy Symonds made a generally successful step up in distance last year, winning Laveredo as well as taking second at the Skyrunning World Championships in the Ultra category at the BUFF Epic Trail, fourth at Transvulcania, and fifth at Transgrancanaria. He made his first attempt at 100 miles at UTMB last year, but dropped out late in the race. Since then he’s placed ninth… at last year’s IAU Trail World Championships and, this year, at Transgrancanaria and the Marathon des Sables. Anyone know how Andy’s faired over the past five months?

Diego Pazos of Switzerland had an enviable 2016, when he won the Mont-Blanc 80k and Eiger Ultra-Trail, was third at Transgrancanaria, and was sixth at the IAU Trail World Championships. His performances haven’t been quite as strong this year with his best performance being perhaps his eighth at Transgrancanaria in February. He’s already seen success at the UTMB festival races with an 11th-place finish at UTMB in 2014 and a fourth at CCC in 2015.

Julien Chorier

Julien Chorier

When I first started covering UTMB at the start of the decade, I would have talked about France’s Julien Chorier as a possible champion. That’s just not going to happen today. Going back some years, he was third (2008) and fourth (2010) at UTMB, won CCC (2007), won Diagonale des Fous (2009 and 2011), won the Hardrock 100 (2011), won Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji (2012), and so on. Now, Chorier is the smart, experienced racer who can will himself into the top 10. Over the past two years, he’s been seventh at Transgrancanaria 2016, 10th at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k 2017, and 10th at Lavaredo 2017… yet, he was eighth at last year’s UTMB. He was also sixth at UTMB in 2013.

I don’t think we know what Vaidas Žlabys’s potential is yet. Only back in 2015, he was 33rd at Transgrancanaria and 60th at the IAU Trail World Championships. In 2016, he was improved to 20th at the IAU Trail World Championships and was eighth at Transgrancanaria. This year, he was second at Transgrancanaria, but also only 15th at MIUT and dropped out of Lavaredo. It’ll be interesting to see how this Lithuanian performs against this strong a field in what I believe will be his first 100-mile race.

Jordi Gamito - 2017 Transgrancanaria

Jordi Gamito

Spain’s Jordi Gamito has consistently improved over the past few years, and that’s from, say, 2015 when he was 11th at Transgrancanaria, 12th at UTMB, and sixth at Diagonale des Fous. From just 2016 to this year, he went from 10th at Transgrancanaria and 12th at MIUT to fourth and fifth, respectively, at those events. Aside from his strong UTMB in 2015, he was fifth at TDS in 2014 and 2016, so he’s plenty familiar with the terrain. Jordi was third at the Eiger Ultra-Trail last month.

Skimming through his results, at first glance, France’s Sébastien Camus seems to be an inconsistent racer. Last year, he was seventh at UTMB just a year after finishing 43rd at the race. At CCC, he’s been second (2013), fourth (2012), seventh (2011), and 21st (2010). Ah, but look at it another way… Seb consistently improves when he repeats major races. See also his seventh at Diagonale des Fous in 2013 and second in 2015. So far this year, Camus has taken 18th at Trail du Ventoux, 16th at MIUT, and 16th at the Broken Arrow Skyrace.

Giulio Ornati of Italy ran far above and beyond his other results in taking ninth at UTMB last year. At major events in 2017, he’s been 17th at Transgrancanaria, eighth at MIUT, and 18th at Lavaredo, which are on par with many of his results from past years. Still, course-specific performances count, and Giulio’s great UTMB last year followed his fifth place at CCC in 2014.

Catalan runner Francesc Solé’s seventh place at UTMB in 2015 is certainly his standout performance on a world stage, but he’s had great success in Iberia. For example, he’s twice won Andorra’s Ronda dels Cims (2014 and 2015) and taken second (2014) and sixth (2015) at Ultra Pirineu. So far in 2017, his results aren’t up to his high standard.

Over the past three years, the biggest performance we’ve seen from Portugal’s Carlos Sá (other than organizing last year’s IAU Trail World Championships) was his eighth place at last year’s Marathon des Sables. Still, it’s hard to discount a man who was eighth at UTMB in 2014, as well as fourth in 2012 and fifth in 2011.

Other Top Runners to Watch

  • Manuel Anguita (Spain) — 10th Transvulcania 2017; 4th BUFF Epic Trail 2016 (Skyrunning World Champs in the Ultra category)
  • Majell Backhausen (Australia) — 6th TDS 2016; 21st UTMB 2015
  • Victor Bernad (Spain) — 13th UTMB 2016; 6th, 3rd, 1st Penyagolosa CSP 2017, 2016, 2015; 23rd UTMB 2014
  • Jordi Bes (Spain) — 13th UTMB 2012; 3rd TDS 2014; 1st CCC 2013
  • Stéphane Brogniart (France) — 10th UTMB 2014; 7th TDS 2015; 13th UTMB 2013
  • Sebastien Chaigneau (France) — 8th Lavaredo 2017; 9th Mont-Blanc 80k 2016; 1st Hardrock 2013; 3rd UTMB 2011; 2nd UTMB 2009
  • Kim Collison (U.K.) — 9th BUFF Epic Trail 2016 (Skyrunning World Champs in Ultra category); 24th UTMB 2015; 20th IAU Trail World Championships 2015
  • Takashi Doi (Japan) — 11th UTMB 2015
  • Yeray Duran (Spain) — 2nd Penyagolosa CSP 2017; 2nd TDS 2016; 6th BUFF Epic Trail 2016 (Skyrunning World Champs in Ultra category); 3rd Lavaredo 2015
  • Luís Fernandes (Portugal) — 11th, 7th, 1st MIUT 2017, 2016, 2015; 3rd Ultra Skymarathon Madeira 2016; 13th Transgrancanaria 2017; 8th BUFF Epic Trail 2016 (Skyrunning World Champs in Ultra category)
  • Anthony Gay (France) — 6th Transgrancanaria 2017; 9th Lavaredo 2016; 3rd CCC 2014
  • Ryan Ghelfi (U.S.) — 7th Istria 100 Mile 2017; 9th Broken Arrow Skyrace 2017; 1st Pine to Palm 100 Mile 2016
  • Robert Hajnal (Romania) — 5th Lavaredo 2017; 8th CCC 2015
  • Damian Hall (U.K.) — 7th Lavaredo 2017; 13th Marathon des Sables 2017; 19th UTMB 2016
  • Yoshikazu Hara (Japan) — 4th Tarawera Ultramarathon 2016; 3rd Tarawera 2015; 1st Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji 2013; 285.366k (177.318 miles) 24-hour best (2014); 6:33 road 100k (2012)
  • Scott Hawker (New Zealand) — 5th Eiger Ultra-Trail 2017; 5th Lavaredo 2016; 4th Lavaredo 2015; 2nd Ultra-Trail Australia 2015
  • Nate Jaqua (U.S.) — 7th Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile 2016; 1st San Diego 100 Mile 2016; 1st Pine to Palm 100 Mile 2015
  • Zednek Kriz (Czech Republic) — 5th BUFF Epic Trail 2016 (Skyrunning World Champs in Ultra category); 12th Lavaredo 2015; 12th CCC 2014
  • Juan-Jose Larrotcha (Spain) — 15th UTMB 2016; 10th TDS 2015
  • Mikaël Pasero (France) — 12th Diagonale des Fous 2016; 5th Mont-Blanc 80k 2015; 2nd CCC 2012
  • Petter Restorp (Sweden, living in France) — 6th CCC 2016
  • René Rovera (France) — 12th Trail du Ventoux 2016; 5th Lavaredo 2015; 4th CCC 2014
  • Sebas Sanchez (Spain) — 12th Transgrancanaria 2017; 1st Penyagolosa CSP 2016; 6th Ultra Pirineu 2016; 7th BUFF Epic Trail 2016 (Skyrunning World Champs in Ultra category); 1st BUFF Epic Trail 2015
  • Andrew Skurka (U.S.) — Tie for 1st Bighorn 100 Mile 2017; 3rd Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile 2016; 2nd Leadville 100 Mile 2008

Entered, But Not Running

  • Patrick Bohard (France)
  • Luis Alberto Hernando (Spain) — Two-time defending IAU Trail World Champ and 2015 UTMB runner up will pass on UTMB to run The Rut and Ultra Pirineu.
  • Dani Jung (Italy) — Switched from UTMB to CCC.
  • Chris Mocko (U.S.) — Regrouping after Western States and before the TNF 50 in November.

Call for Comments

  • Is this the best trail ultramarathon men’s field you’ve ever seen? If not, what’s your pick?
  • Who’ll win this one, and who else will end up on the podium?
  • Which runner do you think my be the biggest surprise in this year’s UTMB?
  • Care to give a shout out to a possible top contender that didn’t make our preview?
  • Know of anyone in our preview who’s definitely not racing? Leave a comment to let us know.

There are 145 comments

  1. Bethany Patterson

    Yes, Jim, if you read this, we all want you to do well and nail a 100. You definitely have the talent, just run smart! I can’t wait to follow this race. What a field!

  2. Roman

    Hi, it seems that Zdenek Kriz will not race due to his injury.
    Nevertheless this is the dream team of elite ultra runners. I can’t wait to see it in Trient and Vallorcine. Just after finishing the CCC :)

  3. Jon

    Looking over the “others” list…Is that Nate Jaqua, the former US Men’s National Team (soccer) player? If so, pretty cool he has had success in trail running, as well.

    1. Earl Towner

      Forecast for August 31:
      Chamonix 67/46 – 80% chance of rain .49 or about half an inch
      Courmayeur 69/50 – 60% .43
      Trient 67/46 – 60% .52

      Will see forecast for race day tomorrow. Rain likely to continue.

  4. WeiDe

    Awesome, cant wait to see it unfold. Hard to bet against Kilian. I read so many comments over the years at different race previews about someone going to push him and win, or him not having put in the work in comparison to others…and he always won. Stilö, its gonna be exciting to watch, not even top 3 but top 20 or so finishers coming in :-)

  5. Mark W

    Great group of runners, will be really interesting to see how the tactical part of the race unfolds. Does Zach and Jim go out really hard along with several Europeans or do they try to play it smart for the 100 mile distance. I agree Kilian will be the one to beat. Doesn’t seem as though he has ever been pushed in a long race will be exciting.

  6. Will Harmon

    I would definitely place Andrew Skurka higher on that list of notables. Not only has he come from those three listed accomplishments but he recently took set a new FKT for the Pawnee-Buchanan Loop. He beat Anton Krupicka’s time, which was set at the time of his CR at White River 50-miler (since broken only by Sage Canaday) and second place finish at Western States, by roughly 3.5 minutes. He also took first at the Silverheels 100 and Indian Creek Fifties 50-miler last year. I don’t think he is likely to podium but I could definitely see top 10.

  7. Phillip

    Love it. Can’t wait to be lining up with them (and then watching them all disappear out of view within 5 minutes). From back of the packer toeing the line with these guys. Excited doesn’t even begin to describe it.

  8. Jeff Valliere

    Yeah, I would put Skurka higher up on the list, he has great form right now and will run really smart. Top 10 for sure, maybe top 5.

    1. Nelson

      I don’t know about the times (sub 19!?), but that’s a very likely podium indeed. Hard not to pick Killian for the win, François for the podium, and Tim for top American.

      By the way, Bryon, there’s nothing wrong with a section on American runners. I was expecting it anyway, and appreciate it.

  9. ha!

    Bryon if you read the comments, and you probably shouldn’t, high fives for a very well written bit with excellent balance. You’ve got me pumped (even more than I was). Here’s to hoping that Jim can follow your advice.

  10. Dainius B.

    Gediminas Grinius I hope to see You on the podium. Vaidas Žlabys keep going with Gediminas. I wish You wonderful racing and strong impressions.

  11. JB

    Benoit Outters might place top 20 or even top 10. 1rst place UTCAM 2015, 2nd place redbull X-alps 2017. Ok, he’s not able to fly on Sept. 2, but still…

      1. Brock

        You can safely order party hats, USATMB2017 and this top 5 is a certainty. Bet: ANY other top 5 than this -> $25 to iRunFar on top of race coverage support.

        1. Brock

          irf, I was wrong, iou and will transfer soon (I’m a student at the moment). But really cool that three top americans (Amanda, Kaci, Magda) finished together :D UTMB has truly been a blast. And as always, irf coverage was great! Loved #mandogtory! Peace out, The bRock.

  12. Pierre

    No first place for Kilian this year (then again, he might read this and decide to run his own race instead of chatting with the leaders or waiting for them as he likes to do) ….. Symonds surprises everyone with a podium.

    1. Thévenard
    2. D’haene
    3. Symonds
    4. Jornet
    5. Grinius

  13. Jorge

    Bryon, Jim running with Kilian until Vallorcine, really?.

    From there only 8k uphill and then a long downhill to chamonix. Seriously you think Jim can beat Kilian in the downhill?

    I think, we like it or not, his chances are in doing his race from the beginning and trying to keep enough advantage until Chamonix….

    1. Nelson

      Walmsley seems pretty good running downhill, and the trails aren’t technical, which is where Killian does have the clear advantage. Although I think Jim has no business yet trying to race Killian at UTMB, but I may be in the minority.

      1. Jorge

        Good point. That trails aren’t too techical, but look at what he did in his last race in Sierre-Zinal. It is a pretty fast race, full of very fast runners (even some sub 2-11 sudafricans marathoners) and it is in no way a technical race.

        He lost up to 1 minuto in the last up/flat section but then, in a non-technical and long descent, he overcame all of the front runners.
        I mean, the sensation is that he does whatever he likes, but specially in the downhill. If it is a technical downhill then there is not even chance to try, but even with no so technical descent, he rocks.

        1. Nelson

          I’d like it if Killian went for the CR instead of just the race at UTMB. I don’t know if that motivates him, but it sure would be something special.

          1. Jorge

            Yes, it would be spectacular. I think there is a chance as he has not the current record and this race is suppoused to be a very fast race.
            This guy needs people pushing him for not being talking with volunteers in the aid stations, waiting for other runners or taking photos…

      1. Emerson Thoreau

        He over trained into Western States, too. Not good for the short term — UTMB — or long term (e.g. Geoff Roes and the litany of folks that have destroyed their bodies/minds with over training).

    1. Ling

      If you believe the son of God came down to earth 2,000 years ago, and he killed himself for our sins, and he can walk on water, and there’s a God up there looking after ourselves, and if you get on your knees and pray to him that things will change… If you can believe that, then you can believe that Jim Walmsley can win UTMB next Saturday.

      1. Alfredo

        Is that tongue in cheek or are you serious? I’m siding with more tongue in cheek, but maybe because I’m not a believer in omnipotent beings and such.

        1. Tim.I.

          put (someone) to death by nailing or binding them to a cross, especially as an ancient punishment.

          suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. “he killed himself”

  14. Brad Guthrie

    Thanks for the in-depth and unbiased preview! It is hard to find unbiased opinions on American runners at international races…

    On another note, any news/updates on the irunfar stickers? :)

  15. JKL

    Come on, Bryon, why on earth would you try and give advice to Walmsley? He doesn’t race to participate. He races to be great. Huge distinction. Just like Bowerman tried to change Pre and failed. Walmsley is who he is and when he puts it together and has his day, it is memorable. Imagine if we tried to tell Killian how to race WS100 when he lost.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Mostly, I’m paraphrasing Jim’s pre-WS100 words back to him, when he said he’d choose securing a win over the chance at a transcendental time or course record if he had to make a choice.

  16. Alfredo

    Personally, I really like Jim and want to root for him because he is such a fiercely strong and talented runner. HOWEVER his big blowup at Western States 100, a huge effort at Speedgoat and all the massive training with virtually no taper are all quite worrisome. He’s not Superman. These gargantuan efforts and chasing Strava crowns combined with a lack of proper rest take a huge toll on the body, even if you’re an amazing athlete who’s only 27. Many of us have heard this broken record before with so many crazy talented ultra runners in the past (Roes, Skaggs, and many others), and we know the potential outcome.

    1. Eli

      Jim has said many times he doesn’t care if he has a short career that burns out fast like those guys. And until then he is going to race from the start for the win (and usually the CR) at every world class ultra he can.

  17. ser13gio

    In entry list is Wataru Lino, winner of Badwater 17, let’s see how he performs in the mountains.

    And Miguel Heras broke a toe in Ultra Sierra Nevada, 14/07, in some way it has to challenge his preparation.

  18. William

    All things point to Jim being cooked at the starting line. Doing back to back 30 milers 10 days out is not going to make him any more fit on race day. It’s an unnecessary risk. When you do runs like that so close to race day you are in your own head to much and questioning your fitness. I hope he has a great race though. This is going to be fun to watch.

  19. Nick

    The other question is of course how many of those will DNF. A lot for sure, as we’ve seen in previous years, both among men and women. This is all the more likely with such a stacked field. This is why predictions are moot: I’d wager between 20% and 50% of the ‘elite’ field is likely to DNF.

  20. Will

    I’m super excited to be running this year but just a bit bummed I won’t be able to follow along! I think Francois will be right at the top. Solid races this year but didn’t burn himself out and seems to be peaking right in time. I think Francois and Kilian will be on top.

  21. Nick

    Probabilities of win:
    – Kilian: 95%
    – someone who has podiumed at UTMB: 90%
    – someone who been top 5 at UTMB: 95%
    – someone who been top 10 at UTMB: 99%
    – someone who has podiumed at CCC: 85%

    In any event, I wouldn’t bet serious money for the podium on anyone who has never run UTMB or CCC.

    1. Mark

      There are a lot of very accomplished runners in this race who haven’t finished UTMB in the top 10. Giving Walmsley, Bowman, Capel, Miller, Gamito, Symonds, etc. a combined 1% chance of winning this is underestimating them, in my opinion. And I think you’re overestimating Kilian as well. He has lost difficult, competitive races before and this one is both challenging and extremely competitive.

      1. Nick

        Fair enough. But I wouldn’t give them such a low probability of winning if the field wasn’t so stacked, including with lots of former UTMB winners, podium, top 5 and top 10 runners. In these conditions, perhaps they have a combined 5% chance at a podium place, but not much more.

    2. Ogden

      Your probabilities are mathematically inconsistent. Kilian has podiumed at UTMB, and since you have him at 95% FTW, then the probability of someone who has podiumed before winning must be greater than 95% (or equal, which would imply that you think any previous podium finisher other than Kilian has a 0% chance of winning).

  22. Tim.I.

    It’s amazing to watch an athlete like Kilian. He’s been the best trail runner and ski mountaineer for years now. Whether he wins or not at UTMB, the diversity of his mountain exploits are unparalleled.

  23. Sam

    Jim will probably not win. He has the distinct disadvantage to racing very talented past UTMB champions. I predict either going off course or blowing up after spending a considerable amount of time in the lead. I would really like to see an American finally win the race, but, I think it’s more likely to be someone like Laney making a spectacular late push as opposed to Jim. The best race for Laney would be if Jim sets the pace early on and the other, more eager, top contenders give chase to then only fade away – that would be Laney’s chance. If Jim is really confident in his fitness he would stay with the lead pack until the later stages and then make his surge – but the question is, who would have more to give in the last moments? Killian or Jim?

    1. Nick

      and I should say, the probability of seeing an American win is high: Schlarb, Laney, Tollefson have all had stellar performances there. Miller is a more complicated chance, given his temperament, but having won CCC and placed 6th last year, he has more than a decent shot at it.

  24. Fernando

    I mean no disrespect to any of the runners at UTMB this year, theres tons of talent at this years race, but everyones running for second. Kilian is just the best in this type terrain, period. People keep mentioning Mr. Walmsley, a super fast contender no doubt, but this is a 100 miles…in european terrain. Even in shorter, true mountain terrain, Kilian is simply unmatched. We all want to see an underdog win, but its highly unlikely unless Kilian falls off a cliff, gets lost, or breaks a leg, but this is highly unlikely as well. What will likely take place, is Kilian will chit chat with the front runners for quite some time, then in the later stages of the race win in a Kilianesque fashion, bolt it to the finish. It happens everytime.

    San Antonio, TX

    1. pumpernickel99

      Fernando, your point is well-taken. Kilian truly is the best. But let me be clear- everyone is so excited about this race because it really is just unbelievably stacked with talent. This is the kind of race where Kilian’s win is far from definite. When I read your comment I was like, “Fernando needs to take another look at this race preview!”

      He is the greatest of all time, but I don’t think he can “chit chat with the front runners” and then “bolt to the finish” as you put it. He will be truly challenged. Racers like Walmsley and Miller will go off the front and cause all sorts of chaos, more experienced racers like D’haene will be steady and precise with their UTMB expertise, others will do the come-from-behind at mile 85 late stage attack… It’s going to be happening at all angles. And there will be DNFs, for sure. Maybe the chaos is one of the few definites about this race… people who keep their heads will prevail. However, Kilian does keep his head!

      I am just so stoked to watch this go down. Next Friday can’t come soon enough!

      PS: if I’m wrong and Kilian casually eviscerates the competition… I owe you a beer.

      1. Sam

        Honestly the best case for Killian would be if Jim and Zach go out hard from the get go. Killian will just stroll by at mile 60 or so and wave as the both drop.

    2. Chris

      Max king has been close to kilian in short races recently, and jim has been faster than max mostly, so jim does have a chance there…

  25. Dave Evans

    I find Jim arrogant, with nothing to base this arrogance on when it comes to 100 milers. Anyone who would rather try to take down a record rather than winning a race needs to catch themselves on. I just read an interview with him in a French magazine about the UTMB and he seems to think he will only be running for 20 hrs. He won’t finish as he will blow up and as he has shown he does not have the bottle to keep going and would rather dnf

    I can see the Salomon boys all running together for the first half of the race, then Killian and Francois to break away, with Killian eventually coming out on top. It’s not certain that Killian will win and Francois is a master of pacing 100 milers but Killian just seems to be in such amazing form that i feel he will have the edge

    1. Mike D.

      If you think Walmsley is arrogant, you should re-listen to Killian’s pre-hardrock interview. At one point when asked about his casual approach to training, basically said he doesn’t really need to train to compete. While it is incredibly frustrating to see Walmsley continue to train as if the race were a month away, I believe he honestly thinks it will improve his performance. Perhaps it will against all conventional training wisdom, or perhaps he will burn out like a shooting star. Talent is a gift and many accomplished runners fail to recognize until too late they can burn it permanently out completely if not careful.

      Personally, if given the choice, I would rather be like Jim and push myself to my limits and maybe fail and burn out, than like Killian and rarely train (he has averaged 44 miles and 9 hours per week over the last 4 weeks, less than 700 miles in 2017). Either way, I have a feeling both types of athletes will look back and say what if…

      1. Dave Evans

        Would like to read this interview mike as he has never said anything like that before

        Also the reason he has done few miles is because he only started running in june after Everest and if you look closely at his training at present it consists more of big mountain days, with fewer miles and much much more vertical

      2. Dave Evans

        Also Killian may have an innate talent but have you looked at his training from 2011-16 – hundreds of thousands of metres of vertical consistently each year and thousands of running miles. That’s someone who works hard – dam hard to improve their level

      3. Cam

        That’s not what he said at all. He said he doesn’t train specifically right now because alpinism, skimo and mountain running are largely complementary and being less focused is currently working ok.

        1. Mike D.

          I’m not arguing that Killian spends a lot of time on other things and they may be complementary to a certain extent. But he also clearly states he is not really training to his full capacity nor cares to…

          iRunFar: Now on the performance side of Hardrock, do you have any desire to go as fast as you can to maybe go for a record that no one can touch for 10 years…?
          Jornet: No, I’m not this kind of runner. For me, it’s really hard to focus on training for one race for more than one week. I like to do things. …maybe 10 years ago I could focus and train and start the race full gas, … So, I’m not the kind who focuses on one race and gives it everything.

          1. Cam

            Full capacity specifically for a given race, sure. But c’mon! The guy trains 1200 hours a year! :`D

            Read down 4 more questions. Granted, he’s not speaking American, but it’s all there in black and white.

            Arrogance my foot.

      4. Chris

        Mike you are mistaken kilian trains like crazy, just not all running. He has proven his training does transfer to mountain runs already.

      5. EZ

        I am guessing you’re just looking at Strava for Kilian’s training? I am sure he doesn’t put everything up there. For one, he said he is training 1,200 hours per year these days (23 hours a week, every week, on average), up from 1000 hours in previous years.

  26. Dave Evans

    Jim not the only one overtraining, lots of the top runners seem to overtrain for utmb every year and leave their race out there a few weeks beforehand. Sage Canaday is another one who has overdone it in the leaduo to utmb. Then you look at what Francois has done this last couple of months – his training has been absolutely bang on

  27. Stephen Patterson

    Personally, I find the comments section here, especially with regards to the naysayers on Jim Wamsely and how he dosn’t know how to “train properly” excellent pre race
    entertainment lol.

  28. Jadan

    This is obviously one of the most competitive mountain trail ultras ever, but with all the discussion about the blistering pace capability of some of the leading contenders it is easy to forget that this race was won twice by a 58 and 59 year old Marco Olmo in times comparable with recent wins. Olmo’s strength was the ability to continue to move forward at 10k per hour no matter the course and conditions, and it is a reminder that specific preparation, careful pacing and mental fortitude have more impact on this race than outright physical ability. Unless something goes wrong the race is likely to be won by Jornet, D’haene or Thevenard who have proved they have all these factors in abundance, but don’t rule out the chances of lesser known runners who get these things just right for this one and make a breakthrough.

    1. John Vanderpot

      I’d never heard of this guy but have a huge place in my heart for the tough ol’ guys — did a quick google search, worth the few minutes it takes to read up on him…

      It would appear he beat some guys named Jurek and Meltzer?

      Them I’d heard of!



  29. Rudy Rutemiller

    Nobody giving love to Dbo? He’s been shred-monking it in Aspen for the past couple of months, full blown training camp style. Top US guy!

  30. Ally Beaven

    Am I right in thinking that Jornet, D’Haene and Thevenard have never lost a race at UTMB? For Xavier that’s 5 races, 3 for Kilian and 2 for François. At least 2 perfect records will he trashed in ten days time.

  31. Punditry

    Walmsley’s final standing at utmb is binary. W or dnf. I don’t think it makes any sense to predict him in 2nd or 3rd place. Not at this point in his career anyways. I see his huuge training volume these last few months as evidence that he misunderstood his dnf at western, thinking that he needs more fitness rather than more chill.

  32. Withro

    Ran a 50k run today for training. 100 miles is a God awful long way and things can go really wrong over that distance for anyone. Hats off to all the people toeing the line it’s really an amazing accomplishment just to finish a 100+ mile race like utmb. Salute

  33. Alex

    The discussion here has been really interesting, and a big theme seems to be over training. Given that, I’d be tempted to bet on Zach Miller. Yes, he’s coming back from injury, but he’s being really smart about it. Withdrawing from Hardrock was probably the right move, and it seems like he will be fresh going into UTMB. His 1st in CCC and 6th in UTMB means that he will be no stranger to the conditions. For similar reasons, I like Tim Tollefson. I follow him on Strava, and he definitely isn’t over training like some of the other guys might be. So here is my prediction:

    1. Zach Miller
    2. Killian
    3. Tollefson

  34. Stefan

    I think Kilian and D’haene will go 1 and 2 barring injury etc.,. To me Kilian just seems really motivated this year. Part of his motivation may be due to all of the new fast talent in MUT running. He believe I read in an interview that he signed up for UTMB mostly because of the talented field. I really hope though that all of this top guys like Kilian, Walmsley, Miller, TT, etc., bring their “A” game. If so, should be a helluva race!

    One other thought I had was regarding Jim Walmsley. I have mixed feelings about him. Obviously he’s a great talent but he has seemed a bit arrogant at times. One things for sure though whether your love him or hate him – he brings excitement to the sport. I envision him taking a big lead during the first 30 to 40 miles. Then it will be fascinating to watch the others (lead by Kilian) try and hunt him down.

    1. Tess

      I completely agree on all counts. Jim will definitely try to take the lead from the gun. I think Kilian and D’haene will definitely be on the podium. I’m guessing Tim or Jim for 3rd, but who knows? Maybe Zach or David? All I know for sure is that I am stoked!

  35. Josh Bower

    It’s difficult to see past Killian. Don’t forget he used to live in Chamonix before he moved to Tromso so he will know the course better than anyone. Whatever happens it’s going to be fascinating to watch!

  36. Lightning

    I’ll pick the underdog since no one else has. He’ll nail a 100 miler one of these times.

    1. Walmsley
    2. Thevenard
    3. Jornet

  37. jason

    I liked the USA section as familiar with many of the runners names. However for runners on here predicting 1-2-3 USA are going to be disappointed.
    Many of the names in the field are unfamiliar to many of you but these european guys know the course well and love elevation. It will be very very tough for an American to win.

  38. Jan Triska

    Kilian Jornet is in a class of his own. A ultra runner, a mountainee and an expert skier. He shows no signs of slowing down. Most ordinary humans can’t even comprehend his levels of performance. I am picking him to win unless he suffers an injury. Many of the top French and American runners profiled in the article will do very well but I agree it is Jornet’s race to lose.

  39. IndigoBlind

    I’m heading out to Chamonix just to watch this, and can’t wait to see such a legendary line-up.

    Three years ago I successfully predicted the D’Haene, Karrera, Castanyer podium on here, so here’s my prediction for this year:

    1. Kilian
    2. D’Haene
    3. Thevenard
    4. Gediminas
    5. Capell
    6. Bowman
    7. Castanyer
    8. Tollefson
    9. Laney
    10. Schlarb

    I think the only way any runner is breaking that top 3 is if one of them has a bad day. Those 3 runners are all multiple, undefeated champions of this race, literally 8 attempts between them and 8 first places. None of them knows how not to win this race! Given two of them will have to, I can’t see anybody breaking into that group. As much as I would love to see Miller or Walmsley crack this race, it can’t be done. Unless you train specifically for this course, you won’t ever win it on your debut. Athletes who are internationally elite at 100 miles get caught out at UTMB every year. It isn’t like any other race out there.

    1. Tess

      Excellent point with regards to Miller and Walms. You are probably right, experience with the course will most likely determine the race outcome. However, I do think Tollefson or Laney (maybe both?) will finish in a better position.

  40. Shawn

    It’s going to be a showdown between two runners. Killian has always proven to be in another league from other runners. The only person that has the potential to compete at his level Jim. And I’m guessing Jim knows what he needs to do.

    1. Alfredo

      Shawn, I don’t necessarily agree that Jim is the only one that can compete with Kilian. Yes, Kilian is Kilian and he has stayed healthy and on top of his game for a long time. That D’haene guy seems quite incredible as well, and very consistent. Both seem to train and compete very smart. Jim on the other hand is a freak and up to 100k has had some incredible performances, but at 100 mi he is unproven and quite honestly his training regime combined with some rather poor dietary habits lend me to believe that he will likely crash in the last 1/3 of the race. I hope I’m wrong and I’d love to see him prove me wrong and kill it, but I’ve kept up with this sport a long time and have seen this play out too many times to think otherwise.

    2. Dave

      You obviously know very little about European mountain running – D’Haene will push Killian all the way , he is the master of 100 mile pacing. Miguel Heras , if fit and no issues will do the same. Walmsley has proven nothing over 100 miles and judging by the training he has been doing, has learnt nothing from his WS blowup

  41. Jovan

    What a treat this race will be, so excited. The trio Jornet, DaHaene, Thevenard has to be he podium favorite. A smart way to challenge them would be to run with them 70-80 miles and then hope to have more in the tank to pull away. These guys will pace perfectly, they won’t slow down so taking it easy early isn’t an option. Leading and opening a big gap is huge risk. You have to be really confident your fitness is on a higher level than theirs and be prepared for the huge mental pressure that will come after mile 60 knowing who is hunting you down.

  42. Chris

    Best of luck guys!
    As much as i’m bored of Kilian winning everything, he will win, and d’Haene, will, boringly, be 2nd. An american may be 3rd, and maybe even below course record, though I couldnt predict which one, and only if the weather is stellar.

  43. Diego

    Javi Dominguez will be a DNS, He will run Tor de Geants. Only D´Haene or Thevernad can beat Kilian in this race but if they do ti will be a surprise. Laney will be the best american, he knows the race very well an this year he has been training in Chamonix

  44. Jorge

    It looks like it’s going to rain from thursday, friday and saturday on chamonix.
    Umm, more advantage for kilian cause more technical paths?

  45. Warren

    I know last year there was some comment on how a lot of runners were unable to resist the playground of Chamonix and ran too much in the days leading up to the race.

    According to the Strava account of Walmsley, he ran 194km last week with 12,000 metres plus of climbing.

    That’s some week of running so close to UTMB.

    1. Alfredo

      I’m sure a lot of people have noticed that and are wondering ‘What the heck Jim?’ On one side, none of us possess the level of talent that he has, and he can get away with a lot more than average people like us. If we did that kind of mileage and climbing that close to a race of this level, we’d be hosed. He very well may be “fine” for this race and even have an amazing performance and win. I doubt it, but maybe. On the other side, he is human. The Western States overtraining, subsequent blowup, lack of true recovery, and day after day of HUGE training so close to this race may all have a cumulative effect that not only manifest in this race, but in subsequent performances. When I see how the dominant runners like D’Haene and Kilian train and recover, I understand why they are so dominant for so long. Jim unfortunately looks like he’s going to be another fast burner who won’t reach full potential and will bow out quickly, which is sad. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve seen it too much to think otherwise.

    2. Lightning

      Long tapers are overrated if you have been consistent at a high mileage. At least for some people. When I was running 100-140 mpw and in the groove, I never needed more than a few days easy to feel great.

  46. Aaron Sorensen

    Here’s something no one has discussed.
    If the course is shortened, who will win?
    100 miles (Jim), no. A shortened course (Jim), any day!!!

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