The UTMB festival is back after a year-long hiatus due to COVID-19. This year’s women’s race is stacked with some of the most talented mountain ultrarunners in the world from a variety of disciplines. With former UTMB champions Courtney Dauwalter and Francesca Canepa, quick-footed Beth Pascall, competitive Sabrina Stanley, and mountain goat Maite Maiora, this year’s run around the Alps is sure to be one of the most competitive and exciting to date.
Climbing mountains and crossing valleys in France, Italy, and Switzerland, runners will traverse 171.5 kilometers (106.5 miles) on a course with over 10,000 meters (32,800 feet) of climbing. The level of competition as well as the amount of coverage surrounding the multi-race week makes UTMB one of the most prestigious mountain ultramarathons in the world.
A special thanks to Altra for making our coverage of UTMB possible!
Tune in to our live coverage of UTMB starting at 5 p.m. CEST (9 a.m. MDT in the U.S.) on Friday, August 27. You’ll be able to follow all the action right here on iRunFar!
Also, check out our comprehensive men’s UTMB preview.
Former Champions and High-Profile Racers
While the previous UTMB champion had a hard go at the 2021 Hardrock 100, dropping out due to stomach issues, Courtney Dauwalter (pre-race interview) remains one of the most dominant female American ultrarunners of our time. She has more wins than most people can count, including at the 2019 Tarawera 102k, the 2018 Tahoe 200 Mile, and the 2017 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile. As the defending champion, with her previous win in 2019 as well as plenty of grit to push through tough situations, Dauwalter is a lead contender for the top spot.
The great Brit, Beth Pascall (pre-race interview), has had an incredible past two years. In 2020, she set the women’s supported speed record for the Bob Graham Round, one of the premier fell-running routes in the U.K. After breaking the previous women’s record at the 2021 Canyons 100k by nearly an hour, Pascall went on to dominate and win the 2021 Western States 100, running a smooth and controlled race during a hot year that took many people out of the running. Pascall has previously been fourth and fifth at UTMB in 2018 and 2019, but with her fitness this year, she definitely has the capability to win.
Katie Schide (pre-race interview) has some home-field advantage as an American living in the mountains of France. Schide looks fit and ready on her socials, she’s come in the top 10 at this race before, taking sixth at the 2019 UTMB, and she was recently second at the competitive 2021 Lavaredo Ultra Trail 120k. With her training in the French mountains she calls home, Schide should be ready to take on the competition for a top spot.
Previously third at the 2019 UTMB and second at the 2017 CCC, Maite Maiora (pre-race interview) of Spain has been racing – and winning – a lot this year. Most recently topping the podium in July of 2021 at the 68k Vall de Boí Skyrunning World Championships, Maiora looks fast and enthusiastic. Will she be able to hold her own once again in this year’s extremely competitive field?
Sabrina Stanley has decided not to run UTMB following her win at Hardrock. [Updated August 20]
Most people know American Sabrina Stanley as the two-time winner of the Hardrock 100 in 2018 and 2021 as well as the women’s supported FKT holder of the Nolan’s 14 (twice). With overt competitiveness and intense drive, Stanley has proven her chops at tough international mountain races as well, evidenced in her win at the 2019 Diagonale des Fous. Sabrina does very well at high-mountain races, but with the amount of competition at this year’s UTMB, it will be interesting to see how she stacks up.
Dutch runner Ragna Debats (pre-race interview) has had big ups this year. Prior to finishing third and smashing the female masters record at the 2021 Western States 100, she won the 2021 79k Ultra Montseny and placed second at the shorter but punchy 2021 Trail Costa Brava. Debats did drop out of the 2021 Transgrancanaria, but looks strong in her training and other race performances. She is also the 2019 CCC champion, so she knows these mountains well.
Audrey Tanguy (pre-race interview) of France hasn’t been active on her social media since early July, so it’s hard to tell what she’s been up to since her great sixth-place finish at the 2021 Western States 100. She ran a smart, solid race, and won TDS in 2018 and 2019, so it’s likely she’ll do well on the UTMB course. Tanguy was third at the 2021 Canyons 100k, second at the 111k Montreux Trail Festival in 2020, and fourth at the 127k Transgrancanaria in 2020, so she’s got some solid race credentials.
The first Italian woman to win UTMB back in 2018, Francesca Canepa has been busy in 2021! She has at least seven races under her belt since April 2021, with mixed results. She won the Ultra Trail Li Foj, came second in the K42 Italia, but DNFed the Trail Delle Stelle — all races in Italy. Can she make her way back onto this podium? She dropped from the 2019 UTMB, so it’s almost certain she’ll fight to regain a top position once again.
With a second-place finish at the 2019 Western States 100 and a smart race leading to fourth in 2021, Brittany Peterson of the USA has proven she’s got speed. She also lives and trains in the mountains of Idaho, and placed fourth at the Tromsø Skyrace in 2019, so she obviously has a handle on big mountain terrain as well. However, she placed 19th at the CCC in 2019. She’s fit and smart, so it will be interesting what kind of race she’ll put together back in Chamonix.
Camille Bruyas also looks in excellent shape. She topped the podium at the 2021 Lavaredo Ultra Trail, and being French, has a home-field advantage similar to Schide. While this is her first time at UTMB, her previous third-place finish at CCC in 2019 proves she knows how to move in these mountains.
More with Potential for Top-10 Finish
Another runner from the 2021 Lavaredo Ultra Trail podium, where she took third, Mimmi Kotka looks ready to roll. However, the Swede living in Chamonix has had a mixed bag of results: she won CCC in 2016 and TDS in 2017, but on the UTMB course itself, DNFed in 2018 and came in 20th in 2019. Remembering her previous wins, and considering she’s now strong after recovering from time dealing with Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S), Kotka definitely has the potential to make the podium this year.
This year will be Uxue Fraile’s sixth running of UTMB! The Spanish runner has finished in the top five each time except for one DNF in 2019. Over the years, her top UTMB results have been second, third, and second in 2018, 2016, and 2015. Her social media has been quiet since spring, where it showed her very active in ski mountaineering, so it’s a bit of a mystery what she’s up to right now. But she is very familiar with the UTMB course, so she will absolutely be a contender. She doesn’t have any race results listed online since her 2019 DNF at UTMB.
Kaori Niwa was the first Japanese woman to break into the top 10 at UTMB back in 2016, and she’s finished as high as fourth place in 2017. She seems to do well at the “by UTMB” races as well. She placed second at the 2021 Val d’Aran by UTMB, first at the 2019 Oman by UTMB, and second at the 2018 Gaoligong by UTMB. She’s spent some time in July training on the UTMB course itself, which will hopefully prepare her for a return to the top 10 again.
Azara García isn’t running UTMB this year while she recovers from an injury. [Updated August 26]
Prior to 2020, Azara García of Spain trended toward shorter races – nearly all of her success was at under 100k. However it looks like she is really getting ready for UTMB, as in 2020 and 2021, all of her races are above 100k, and she’s done well at all of them. Third at Transgrancanaria in 2020, as well as first at the same race in 2021 and 2017, and fourth at Lavaredo Ultra Trail this year. She also placed second at OCC back in 2019, so she’ll have some familiarity with the course at UTMB.
Emily Hawgood is relatively young and early in her career, by ultrarunning standards. However, if this last year proved anything, it’s that she has drive. Originally from Zimbabwe, she has been living and training hard in the United States for the past few years. In 2021, she competed in three 100k races (Bandera 100k, Black Canyon 100k, and Canyons 100k) in a very short time period to earn a golden ticket to the 2021 Western States, where she placed seventh. While none of those races are in terrain like UTMB, she also won her first 100-mile race, the 2020 IMTUF in Idaho, notorious for its elevation gain and mountainous terrain.
Hillary Allen may be coming back from another foot injury, but with how active she’s been on her socials, she doesn’t let that show. With multiple bike races this spring, completing a Softrock, and pacing Dylan Bowman at the Hardrock 100, the American is poised to get back to her roots. While this is her first 100-mile race, she was second at TDS in 2019, which is only 10 miles shy of the distance. Other recent accolades include first place at the Cortina Trail 48k in both 2018 and 2019, and first at The North Face Endurance Challenge 80k in Chile in 2018 and 2019.
Kelly Wolf of the U.S. recently posted that she hit 100,000 feet of climbing for the month of July. With that amount of vert in preparation, it would be hard not to include her as a contender. It looks like she hasn’t raced since 2020 when she placed third at the Speedgoat 50k, but she’s regularly out there on high-mountain terrain across the Colorado Rockies. Wolf trends toward dominance in shorter, punchy races, and indeed this is her first 100-mile race. But with wins at Lavaredo Ultra Trail and the Tarawera 102k in 2018, she’s well prepared to compete.
Kathrin Götz of Switzerland has a long history in a variety of sports, qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in 2003 and 2004. She’s also been great in the ultra world. Götz has had an extremely successful 2018 through 2020, coming in first, second, or third in nearly all her races, with only a couple outliers. Though she trends toward shorter races as well, Götz placed third at TDS, and won Lavaredo Ultra Trail and Eiger Ultra Trail, all in 2019. As long as her day comes together right, she’ll likely do very well.
Adding to the list of multi-year UTMB veterans is Mariya Nikolova of Bulgaria. This year will be her sixth running, and other than a DNF in 2019, she’s improved in either place or time in each running, her best being ninth place in 2018. Let’s see if she can come back and move up even further in the top 10.
The Finnish runner Maija Oravamäki posted plenty of photos on social media this winter of her running across snowy landscapes and skiing with what looks to be a very heavy sled – great for strength training, right?! She too, trends toward shorter races, but has done relatively well in the Alps, placing 13th at UTMB in 2019 and fifth at CCC in 2018, it will be interesting to see how she can improve relative to this competitive field.
Delphine Avenier of France flies mostly under the radar, with no social media to speak of and minimal online presence. But when she shows up, she really shows up. While it looks like she hasn’t raced since 2019, her last showing at UTMB was 10th place that year. She DNFed at UTMB in 2018, but she did finish in sixth at CCC in 2018, and won TDS in 2017. What will she show us this year?
The former Olympic Marathon runner is back. The USA’s Magdalena Boulet has many high-profile performances in the trail world, including a first place at the 2019 Leadville Trail 100 Mile, first at the 2018 Marathon des Sables, and second at the 2017 Western States 100. This year will be her fourth running of UTMB, and despite her accolades, she’s generally had a more difficult time on the UTMB course itself: fifth in 2016, 19th in 2017, and a DNF in 2018.
Camille Herron is not racing UTMB this year. [Updated August 16]
Camille Herron, an American ultrarunner, has a number of world records on the road and track, including the 50 mile, 100 mile, 12 hour, and 24 hour distances and times. The catch is, those are all on the road, track, or partial trail, and she hasn’t yet demonstrated similar ability on some technical courses or those with more vert. She’s won Tarawera 100 Mile in 2019 and Black Canyon 100k in 2020 and this will be her first time on the UTMB course, so it will be fun to watch what she can pull off this time around.
More Women to Watch
- Alessandra Boifava (Italy) – 25th 2019 UTMB
- Lisa Borzani (Italy) – 1st 2017 & 2016 Tor dés Geants
- Anna Carlsson (Sweden) – 1st 2021 Val d’Aran by UTMB; 4th 2019 TDS
- Marion Delespierre (France) – 2nd 2019 Diagonale des Fous
- Lucie Jamsin (France) – 4th 2021 Transgrancanaria; 4th 2018 OCC
- Ailsa Macdonald (Canada) – 1st 2020 Tarawera 100 Mile; 6th 2019 CCC
- Jo Meek (U.K.) – 5th 2020 Black Canyon 100k
- Maryline Nakache (France) – 5th 2019 CCC; 3rd 2019 Mont-Blanc 90k
- Sabrina Solana (Andorra) – 8th 2019 TDS
- Eva-Maria Sperger (Germany) – 9th 2019 Transvulcania
- Claudia Tremps (Spain) – 2nd 2021 Transgrancanaria
Previously Entered, But Not Running UTMB
- Lucy Bartholomew (Australia) – Unable to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions
- Kristin Berglund (Sweden) – The women’s runner up of the 2019 UTMB is not listed as running this year
- Rory Bosio (U.S.) – The two-time UTMB champ is running TDS this year
- Naomi Brand (South Africa) – Unable to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions
- Lou Clifton (Australia) – No longer listed on the entrants list
- Elise Delannoy (France) – No longer listed on the entrants list
- Kaytlyn Gerbin (U.S.) – Not running due to injury recovery
- Corrine Malcolm (U.S.) – Not running due to injury recovery
- Stephanie Howe (U.S.) – Not running due to maternity leave
- Fu-Zhao Xiang (China) – Unable to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions
- Mei-Ling Xu (China) – Unable to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions
Call for Comments
- What are your predictions for the women’s field at this year’s UTMB?
- Who do you see as potential champions and who are your picks for the podium?
- Do you think there will be any upsets?