Xavier Thévenard Pre-2021 UTMB Interview

France’s Xavier Thévenard returns to the UTMB after three previous UTMB wins and five participations in UTMB over the years. In the following interview, Xavier talks about why he comes back to the UTMB festival almost every year, his health struggles of the previous year plus, his training since recovering his health earlier this year, and his commitment to decreasing the environmental impact of his racing and life.

Check out our men’s and women’s previews before following our UTMB live coverage starting on Friday.

Xavier Thévenard Pre-2021 UTMB Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Xavier Thévenard. It’s a couple of days before the 2021 UTMB. Hi, Xavier. How are you? We have Daphne translating for us today.

Xavier Thévenard: [through translator] I’m doing fine. Looking forward to my sixth participation to the UTMB this week. Super happy to be with us this week.

iRunFar: So that is my first question for you. This is a race in a festival you keep returning to. Does your heart draw you here? Does your soul bring you here? What brings you to Chamonix each year?

Thévenard: It’s a celebration day for me. It’s like New Year. It’s like Christmas. And then you have three, three different highlights in the year and UTMB is obviously one of them as well. It’s super close to where I’m living so it’s kind of a, it’s a go-to every year.

iRunFar: In the iRunFar headquarters we often say, “When will Xavier run PTL, and get a championship at PTL?” Is that someday in your future?

Thévenard: It’s not in the plan for the future. I really like the fact that you have a 24 hours race with the UTMB and I would prefer to stick to this in the future as well.

iRunFar: You’ve won all the big races at the UTMB festival. I had to ask that.

Thévenard: It’s environmental, I love, doesn’t matter the victory, doesn’t matter the place on the podium or just in a ranking list. The most important is to be here, to be in Chamonix, to be with the people here and surrounded by this by the nature here.

iRunFar: You wrote publicly on your social media maybe a few months ago about some health challenges you experienced in 2020 and 2021. Do you care to share a little bit about, yeah, what has been happening for you?

Thévenard: Last time I got COVID-19 first and then a few weeks later I got Lyme disease. I was pretty lucky to detect this soon enough so that I could, I could treat the bacteria with the essential oils mostly. COVID was a thing of a few weeks but of course I had caught some challenges thereafter, as well. It’s still the case with the Lyme as well but as I said I am very confident with the fact that I could treat this and I’m still constantly treating this with the essential oil. It’s the first time I’m going to race such a long, long race, long distance. So yeah, I’m preparing for it. Got everything. Got everything ready but it’s obviously still a bit of a question mark how it’s, how it’s going to work.

iRunFar: How has your training been in the months before UTMB? Have you had similar training buildups this time as the last previous times that you ran UTMB or different types of training?

Thévenard: So of course it has been a bit of a roller coaster, not the first time, not knowing really where I’d come from and what, what it was, if it didn’t, didn’t feel that good. At the very beginning of my preparation had of course some challenges. The beginning of the season in spring and beginning of summer, which also included the fact that I couldn’t race as much as I wanted. The first race I had was four weeks ago now. So, obviously it’s not the best preparation you could hope for. But I also think that the UTMB is not only about the race. It’s about the whole, the whole experience you’re having here. It’s a 24-hour race so you also have time to see what’s, what’s going to happen throughout, and manage your pace, manage your race. So I’m confident still.

iRunFar: To ask you one last question, we were talking off camera about your environmental commitment and that you weren’t going to get on an airplane anymore, and how that was important to you. I’d just like to learn a little bit more about that.

Thévenard: So that was something, the environment is something I was really always concerned about from my childhood already. I think it goes in the right direction, is always trying to do what’s right environmental-wise, in terms of consumerism. And my trip is also not committed from my partner to travel, or hopefully I don’t have any obligation to travel from his partner so that’s also something which is kind of simple for me to say, “I’m not taking, I’m not taking the plane.” for instance. Looking at the reports, also, it’s really something we all should take care of and then consider a little bit more.

iRunFar: Good. I admire that and I wish you the best of luck on your sixth journey here at UTMB and the festival.

Thévenard: Thank you.

iRunFar: Thank you.

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.