The beat of race week in Chamonix closes with the last UTMB finisher. But the end of the iconic event doesn’t just fade away—it ends with a bang.
At the UTMB finish line, the energy for the last runners is on par with that for the first. The crowd swells and yells each time another runner hits the race’s final stretch; they rattle cowbells, stomp their feet, and whistle. Post-UTMB runners—many of whom have finished their own UTMB within the last few hours—are now clean, zipped up in their “UTMB finisher” vests, and cheering on their fellow racers. There are two chefs, still wearing their aprons, who come to watch, and kids who grin and high-five every single runner.
Cham is not elitist with its mountain spirit. Its wild support for UTMB runners is special, and yet here, it’s also normal. No one will ignore you on the trails; a jaunt up the mountain means roughly 50 “bonjours.” Nobody here will discourage you from trying, or try to one-up you with their own abilities. They’ll say “come with me” or “you should try this hike!” or “you could totally make it up to that refuge—plus, they sell cake!”
Thanks, Chamonix, for this week in mountain paradise. We hope that we’ve treated you as well as you’ve treated us.
Your Cham Fam
[Editor’s Note: This week, as the UTMB festival of races center around the European Alps town of Chamonix, France, we’re bringing you daily dispatches from photojournalist Kirsten Kortebein. Our goal is to document the global community that trail running brings together in Chamonix. Thanks to Jaybird for sponsoring these dispatches.]