Runner Dies in Fall in 2021 TDS, Race Partially Halted

At 12:25 a.m. Central European Standard Time (CEST) on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, a yet-to-be-identified runner from the Czech Republic died after falling during the TDS race, which takes place in the Alps of Italy and France.

The TDS is one of the several UTMB festival of races taking place the final week of August in the vicinity of Mont Blanc in the Alps. The TDS is a 145-kilometer (90-mile) event with 9,100 meters (29,855 feet) of climb which starts in Courmayeur, Italy and ends in Chamonix, France. The 2021 edition began on Tuesday, August 24 at 3:30 p.m. CEST. In the race’s last edition, the first man arrived at the finish in about 18 hours and the top woman in 21 hours.

2021 TDS start line in Courmayeur

The start of the 2021 TDS race in Courmayeur, Italy on Tuesday, August 24 at 3:30 p.m. Photo: UTMB

A UTMB festival race organization press release at 5:30 a.m. CEST on Wednesday, August 25 reads:

The UTMB® Mont-Blanc organization’s race headquarters has been informed of the fall of a Czech TDS® runner on the descent of the Passeur de Pralognan at km 62.3 at 00:25. The rescue team present at the top of the pass intervened on the spot immediately after the fall. The intervention was completed by a helicopter rescue.

The runner’s emergency contacts have already been informed.

As a result of this accident and the rescue services deployed, the race was halted at the Passeur de Pralognan. The runners located at the Passeur de Pralognan, and further back, have been instructed by the race committee to turn around and go back down to Bourg Saint-Maurice where they will be met and transport has been organized.

A press briefing will be held in Chamonix on Wednesday, August 25 at 9:00 a.m. at the Majestic (241 Allée du Majestic, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc).

2021 TDS - Course profile with accident site labeled

The 2021 TDS course profile with the accident site labeled. Image is a screenshot from the UTMB website with modification by iRunFar.

In a press briefing held around 9 a.m. CEST on Wednesday, August 25 in Chamonix, France, the race organization confirmed that the Czech Republic runner has died as a result of injuries sustained in the fall and extends its condolences to the runner’s loved ones and all those affected. The race organization also confirmed that the TDS race continues for the 293 runners who passed the location before the accident occurred.

The descent from Passeur de Pralognan is generally technical and steep, parts of it are very narrow and rocky, and exposure exists in a few spots. Reports from runners on the course state the terrain was also wet due to rain.

According to Livetrail, the live tracking application, this year’s race saw 1,573 starters. At the time of this publishing and according to Livetrail, it appears that 249 runners remain on course, making forward progress toward the finish line. Livetrail marks 1,105 runners as DNFs, and there appear to be 221 runners not marked as DNFs but whose trackers have not updated since the night. We presume that those 221 runners are those who were turned around by the race organization before they reached the accident site near Passeur de Pralognan and told to return to Bourg Saint-Maurice.

The iRunFar family extends its condolences to all those affected by this tragedy.

This is a developing story and we’ll update this article as more information becomes available.

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.