The 2023 UTMB was filled with question marks about who would end up standing on the top step of the podium, both for the men and women.
On the women’s side, only a handful of the top 10 from the 2022 race were returning. If one were to ignore everything that Courtney Dauwalter (pre-race and post-race interviews) had previously done this summer, she would have been the odds-on favorite. But just seven weeks removed from setting a new course record at the Hardrock 100, which was just three weeks after doing the same at the Western States 100, no one knew how her seemingly super-human body and mind would hold up.
But really, in hindsight, it was silly for anyone to worry about how the G.O.A.T. of trail ultrarunning would handle a third 100-mile race of her summer. Dauwalter once again showed that she is in a league of her own, leading the race from 32 kilometers in and never looking back. Her runaway victory resulted in a time of 23:29:14.
For the men, with nine out of the top 10 men from 2022 returning, the depth of the field was unquestionable. And with Kilian Jornet out due to injury, it was anyone’s race.
But, truth be told, most eyes were probably trained on Jim Walmsley (post-race interview). After his second summer spent in Europe with a full focus placed on UTMB, would he finally be able to put together the race that everyone thought that he could? Would there finally be an American man who would crack the code of UTMB? It it wasn’t going to be Walmsley, could it be Zach Miller (pre-race and post-race interviews) instead?
For much of the race, it would have been difficult to discern which of the two Americans, or really any of the men running in the top 10, would come away with the victory as the lead changed hands multiple times and the gaps grew into the double-digit minutes on multiple occasions. But it in the end, it was Walmsley, the meticulous student of UTMB, who would finally be able to put all the pieces together and reach Chamonix first with a time of 19:37:43, a new course record. He becomes the first American man to win this iconic European race.
At 172 kilometers (106.5 miles) in length and with some 10,000 meters (32,800) feet of climbing, the UTMB circles Mont Blanc in the Alps on one is arguably the most iconic course in trail ultrarunning. With a start in Chamonix, France, the final race at the end of a week of all things trail running and racing, the course leaves town and climbs quickly into the mountains into France, Italy, and then onto Switzerland before returning to Chamonix to the biggest finish line in the sport.
It’s fair to say that this is the most competitive trail ultramarathon of the year, and the event serves up all the excitement that is expected of it. With its high level of prestige as the grand finale of the UTMB Mont Blanc festival, huge crowds come to watch the greats of the sport race over the rugged and wild course where anything can, and does, happen.
This year, 2,814 starters headed out from Chamonix at 6 p.m. on Friday, September 1, 2023, on a slightly modified course. Late in August, race organizers announced a change in the final segment of the race that added just under two kilometers (about 1.2 miles) to the overall distance but replaced a steep climb and technical descent with much gentler forest running, albeit still a climb. While this change suited some runners and was a disadvantage to others, in the end, it probably made very little difference in the outcome of any of the placings in the race.
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2023 UTMB Women’s Race
Was there actually any doubt that American Courtney Dauwalter (pre-race and post-race interviews) would actually win UTMB? If her performances throughout the summer were any indication, it would have been foolish to bet against her. After winning and setting course records at both Western States 100 and Hardrock 100 earlier this summer, this win might just be the cherry on the cake, or the cerise sur le gateau, as the French would have it.
The legend of the sport led from the early miles, and in typical Courtney fashion, seemed to smile and joke her way to the win with a time of 23:29:14. But the win didn’t come as easy as it may have seemed to people watching. While she continued to put on a smile for race volunteers and spectators, Dauwalter was deep in the pain cave after about 110 kilometers, sometimes wondering if her legs would actually keep her moving forward, all of the miles from earlier in the summer catching up to her. But luckily, she had just enough left in her to get her to Chamonix and the roar of the massive crowds.
While Emma Pooley, of Switzerland, led for the initial kilometers of the race, it didn’t take long for Dauwalter to move to the front. Sporting her trademark smile and happily interacting with volunteers at aid stations whenever the opportunity presented itself, Dauwalter simply makes it look good.
The top three women, Dauwalter, Pooley, and France’s Blandine L’Hirondel (post-race interview), came into Les Contamines, 32 kilometers into the race, within seconds of each other. It would be the last time we would see the front of the race together, as by Col du Bonhomme, 12 kilometers later, the gap between Dauwalter and second-place Manon Bohard Cailler, of France, was nearly 10 minutes. L’Hirondel and Chiina’s Fu-Zhao Xiang (pre-race interview) came through another two minutes later. Germany’s Katharina Hartmuth (pre-race and post-race interviews) came over the dark col another five minutes in arrears. The situation remained essentially unchanged through Les Chapieux at 51 kilometers and Lac Combal at 69 kilometers, except the gaps were growing.
Nearly 10 hours into the race, Dauwalter came through Courmayeur at 81 kilometers, not even bothering to stop at the aid station. Bohard continued to keep the gap manageable at 18 minutes, but it was really starting to look like another runaway victory for the American for the top step of the podium. But the race for the rest of the top spots was just starting to get interesting. L’Hirondel and Xiang remained close in third and fourth, just a few minutes back of Bohard, and Hartmuth continued to lurk another 20 minutes back. This early in the race, there were still many within striking distance.
Coming through Refuge Bertone at 86 kilometers, the top five remained unchanged and Canada’s Ailsa McDonald, Poland’s Katarzyna Solińska, the U.S.’s Sabrina Stanley and Leah Yingling, and Claudia Tremps of Spain filled out the top 10.
Somewhere before Arnouvaz at kilometer 99, Bohard took a fall that would ultimately take her out of the race. She entered the aid station walking gingerly, but was determined to keep going. This development opened up podium possibilities even further, and Xiang and L’Hirondel continued to run together at Grand Col Ferret, 50 minutes behind the ever-steady, smiling, and happy Dauwalter. Hartmuth was just 15 minutes off a podium position.
With the arrival of Saturday morning came renewed spirits for many. Dauwalter arrived to sun at La Fouly running 26 minutes under her own course-record pace. L’Hirondel and Xiang came in just under 50 minutes back, but now there was daylight, in the form of a couple of minutes, between the women. Hartmuth remained in fourth, 65 minutes down, Solińska in sixth, Yingling in seventh, and Spain’s Maite Maiora came through in eighth looking relaxed and focused. Stanley remained in the top 10. Bohard finally succumbed to injuries from her fall and would withdraw from the race.
By La Giète, 130 kilometers in, the gap between Dauwalter and second place was over an hour, but the fight between the rest of the top five remained tight. Xiang moved into second and Hartmuth third, just minutes apart, as L’Hirondel began to feel the distance and time in her legs and dropped back to fourth place. Solińska and MacDonald continued in fifth and sixth, running together almost two hours behind Dauwalter.
Things remained relatively unchanged at Trient at 144 kilometers. Dauwalter looked good, Xiang was 66 minutes back, Hartmuth was a mere minute behind her, and L’Hirondel following next in fourth. Solińska and MacDonald followed another 50 minutes back, with Maiora trailing them by 15 minutes.
With victory seemingly all but assured for the American, the battle for the other two podium spots started to get heated on the closing climbs and kilometers. Through Vallorcine at the base of the final major series of climbs, Hartmuth moved up into second after biding her time the entire race, now seven minutes ahead of third-place Xiang and fourth-place L’Hirondel, a further nine minutes back. Maiora led Solińska in fifth and sixth just under two hours behind the leader.
Near the top of the final climb at Tête de Béchar, 161 kilometers in, it was Hartmuth in second, 56 minutes down. L’Hirondel moved into third 15 minutes back and Xiang kept the pressure on for the final podium spot, trailing by just four minutes. The next gap to Maiora remained about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, Dauwalter made short work of the final descent to the finish line in Chamonix, finishing in 23:29:14 and completing the ultimate trifecta of ultrarunning, winning the Western States 100, Hardrock 100, and UTMB all in one year. “Anytime you have a chance to take on a crazy challenge, I think we should,” she said afterward.
The battle for the final two podium spots didn’t let up until the very end. Coming through La Floria, just four kilometers from the finish, Hartmuth led L’Hirondel by a mere nine minutes, and both women looked strong all the way to the finish. They would finish just over 40 minutes behind Dauwalter, Hartmuth in second at 24:10:52. L’Hirondel, the multi-time trail world champion, finished in third at 24:22:50 for her debut 100 miler.
Xiang would fade away from podium contention in the final kilometers but held on for an incredible fourth-place finish, improving on her seventh place in 2022. But really, the excitement of her race finish was only added by receiving a marriage proposal on the finish line. Having met her now-fiancé — she said yes! — four years ago at UTMB, the proposal really was a perfect ending to her race.
Maiora finished fifth, an impressive result after her DNF in the race in 2021.
2023 UTMB Women’s Results
- Courtney Dauwalter (Salomon) – 23:29:14 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Katharina Hartmuth (Hoka) – 24:10:52 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Blandine L’Hirondel (Kiprun) – 24:22:50 (post-race interview)
- Fu-Zhao Xiang (Hoka) – 24:50:33 (pre-race interview)
- Maite Maiora (Vibram) – 25:02:26
- Katarzyna Solińska (On Running) – 25:20:23
- Ailsa MacDonald (Saucony) – 25:48:54
- Leah Yingling (Lululemon) – 26:21:24
- Sabrina Stanley (adidas-Terrex) – 26:58:53
- Lucy Bartholomew (Salomon) – 27:39:23
- Claire Heslop (Salomon) – 28:05:39
- Martina Klančnik Potrč (Slovenia) – 28:21:05
- Emily Vaudan (Salomon) – 28:34:53
- Alice Coquard (Fartleck) – 28:52:26
- Kimino Miyazaki (Hoka) – 28:53:08
- Claire Bannwarthh (Raidlight) 1 29:12:-
- Man Yee Cheung – 29:14:31
- Katie Wright (La Sportiva) – 29:26:54
- Amanda Basham (Altra) – 29:29:57
- Alexis Crellin – 29:38:23
2023 UTMB Men’s Race
After a history of struggling with UTMB, the American men showed up this year with Jim Walmsley (post-race interview) and Zach Miller (pre-race and post-race interviews) taking the top two-spots on the podium. Two vastly different racers with different approaches to the event, the two were able to push each other from start to end, with Walmsley’s ever-consistent pace finally winning out in the end with a new course-record time of 19:37:43. But with a stacked field, with nine of last year’s top 10 back for another crack at the race, and last year’s champion Kilian Jornet out with injury, it was anyone’s bet throughout most of the race of who would come out on top.
There’s never a non-chaotic start to UTMB, and this year was no different. With nerves and excitement running high, it was France’s Arthur Joyeux-Bouillon (pre-race interview) who led at Saint-Gervais, 21 kilometers in, with the entire rest of the field hot on his heels. But as darkness fell on the race and the kilometers ticked by, several distinct groups began to form. Coming into Les Contamines, 32 kilometers in, it was Zach Miller, Jim Walmsley, and the U.K.’s Tom Evans (pre-race interview) bunched up and running together. It looked like there would be the potential of a repeat of the Miller-Evans bromance from 2022, with the addition of Walmsley as a third. Frenchman Mathieu Blanchard (pre-race interview) and Petter Engdahl (pre-race interview), a Swede who lives in Norway, teamed up just a minute behind the leading trio, and the rest of the top-10 men came in within five minutes of the leaders.
By Col du Bonhomme at 44 kilometers, it was clear that Walmsley was there to put his mark on the race. Miller doggedly hung on 30 seconds back, and Evans came through another 30 seconds in arrears, looking decidedly worse than the two men in front of him. France’s Germain Grangier (pre-race and post-race interviews), Blanchard, Engdahl, and Joyeux-Bouillon continued to run together just eight minutes off the lead.
The head of the race remained amazingly consistent over the coming kilometers to Courmayeur, 81 kilometers into the race. Walmsley led Miller by a handful of minutes, Engdahl and Grangier followed, running close to each other in third and fourth, at under 20 minutes back after Evans decided to call it a day. Joyeux-Bouillon and Blanchard stayed within half an hour of the leader in fifth and sixth.
Ever the aggressive racer, Miller made his move before Arnouvaz, 99 kilometers in. He came through the checkpoint leading a fatigued-looking Walmsley by two-and-a-half minutes. Many wondered if this was just another instance of Walmsley taking the early race out too hard and paying for it later. Grangier, Joyeux-Bouillon, and Engdahl all came through the checkpoint within 30 minutes of Miller, still well within striking distance if either of the two Americans fell back. The rest of the top-10 men also remained close, with a large group containing New Zeakland’s Scotty Hawker, France’s Thibaut Garrivier, Blanchard, Switzerland’s Jean-Philippe Tschumi, and Germany’s Hannes Namberger coming in hot and fast.
Coming over a dark and foggy Grand Col Ferret at 103 kilometers, Miller extended his lead to nearly four minutes, but Walmsley looked determined and seemed to have found a second wind. Grangier continued to hold strong just 12 minutes behind the leader, and the chase pack of the rest of the top 10 remained relatively unchanged with several of the men teaming up to run the final kilometers to daybreak together.
It’s always a question of when the actual racing at UTMB starts. That is, when do runners make their move and hope that it sticks? Coming into Champex-Lac at kilometer 126 on Saturday morning, it was starting to seem like perhaps Miller’s early move might be the one that worked for the American. With an 11-minute gap over Grangier and Walmsley, who were now running together, Miller looked strong and focused. But there was still a lot of racing to do, and a lot of mountains between him and the finish.
Whether Walmsley was actually in a spot of bother in the later hours of the night, or if it was all part of his strategy to hold back until daylight, everything changed when the sunlight lit up the Alps. By kilometer 139 at La Giète, he’d whittled his gap to Miller down to two minutes, and by Trient six kilometers later, he’d moved back into the lead of the race, a position he wouldn’t relinquish. Grangier continued to run in third, with fourth, fifth, and sixth place, Joyeux-Bouillon, Blanchard, and France’s Ludovic Pommeret, all moving together 44 minutes back from the battle up front.
With the kilometers ticking by, Walmsley’s lead only continued to grow. At kilometer 154 at Vallorcine, he was more than 13 minutes ahead of a struggling Miller. Seven kilometers later at Tête de Béchar, the gap was up to 16 minutes. From here, it would be just one more climb up to La Flégère before the course tipped downward to Chamonix. Grangier maintained his third place up the final climb, with Blanchard in fourth and Pommeret in fifth, more than an hour back on the leader. Garrivier ran in sixth, while Hawker and Joyeux-Bouillon were seventh and eighth, 92 minutes back from the lead.
Once on the final descent, there was no touching Walmsley, and one can only imagine the thoughts and emotions that must have been going through his head. After five attempts at the race, the ultimate student of the course had finally figured out how to put together the race everyone thought he was capable of. He crossed the finish line to huge cheers from the crowd with a time of 19:37:43, breaking Kilian Jornet’s course record of 19:49:30. Wiping away tears while receiving congratulations from past UTMB champion François D’Haene, it was clear how much this victory meant to him.
Fellow American Miller came across the line in second with a time of 19:58:58, looking completely spent. This was his best finish during what can only be called an extended relationship with UTMB starting in 2016. Granger completed the podium with a 20:10:52.
Blanchard, last year’s second-place UTMB finisher, ended just off the podium in fourth. Maybe one of the more impressive results of this years race was of Pommeret in fifth. The 48-year-old masters athlete, who was the 2016 UTMB champion and 2022 TDS winner, showed that age really is just a number. The other surprise in the top 10 has to be Tyler Green, the American who made a late race move to finish in seventh. He didn’t move into the top 10 until Tête de Béchar, 161 kilometers in.
Race favorite Petter Engdahl withdrew at Champex-Lac, 126 kilometers into the race.
2023 UTMB Men’s Results
- Jim Walmsley (Hoka) – 19:37:43 (post-race interview)
- Zach Miller (The North Face) – 19:58:58 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Germain Grangier (The North Face) – 20:10:52 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Mathieu Blanchard (Salomon) – 20:54:25 (pre-race interview)
- Ludovic Pommeret (Hoka) – 21:00:54
- Thibaut Garrivier (Hoka) – 21:10:38
- Tyler Green (Nike) – 21:19:21
- Hannes Namberger (Dynafit) – 21:20:46
- Arthur Joyeux-Bouillon (On Running) – 21:31:22 (pre-race interview)
- Baptiste Chassagne (Sidas-Matryx) – 21:38:11
- Joaquin Lopez (Kailas) – 21:47:12
- Daniel Jones (Asics) – 21:55:59
- Santos Gabriel Rueda (Columbia) – 21:59:01
- Ji Duo (Hoka) – 22:07:10
- Scotty Hawker (Vibram) – 22:13:58
- Thomas Joly (Hour 7) – 22:25:20
- Rod Farvard (The North Face) – 22:32:59
- Raul Octaviu Butaci (BigK) – 22:38:02
- Yan-Qiao Yun – 22:41:09
- Sergio Gustavo Pereyra (Scarpa) – 23:01:30
Thanks so much to the field team of the following individuals who helped iRunFar cover this race: Ellie Greenwood; Lance Hartzler; Marissa Harris; Olivia Rissland; Ashley Saloga; Tim Peeters; Kirsten Kortebein; Simon Mawby, Gina and Greta Atwood; Donielle Wolfe; Andrea Pedroni; Fabrice and Tom Van De Cauter; Monique Stuut; Ian McFarlane; Nina Birkl; Jaja and A.J. Ferer Capili; Anthony Ellison; Alan Risk; Helke Seitz; Elise Huttenga; Michael Jones; Cora Ang; and Simon Booth. Our race production is a community production!