Alyssa GoodmanComment

Pushing endurance beyond limits at Ultra Trail Mont Blanc

Alyssa GoodmanComment
Pushing endurance beyond limits at Ultra Trail Mont Blanc

Since its maiden edition was held in rain, cold and hail back in 2003, the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc has gained legendary status in the runners' community. 

Set up in a breathtaking setting in the heart of the Mont Blanc massif, the 170-kilometer race with a total vertical gain of 10,000 meters — a height greater than Mount Everest — is regarded by many as the world's most difficult ultra-endurance event. Just finishing it is considered a victory by the legion of amateurs competing alongside the elite runners. 

 Competitors run next to the Combal lake as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Competitors run next to the Combal lake as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

"Each person manages the emotions of experiencing one of the most incredible adventures of their lives and, at the same time, the fear of knowing if they will be capable of getting to the end," three-time winner Kilian Jornet wrote in his book "Run or Die." 

 Rishman Lauret of France prays at the Saint Michel church in Chamonix, French Alps, before taking the start of the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race around the Mont-Blanc, crossing France, Italy and Switzerland, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Rishman Lauret of France prays at the Saint Michel church in Chamonix, French Alps, before taking the start of the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race around the Mont-Blanc, crossing France, Italy and Switzerland, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 Competitors wait in the rain for the start of the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race around the Mont-Blanc, crossing France, Italy and Switzerland, in Chamonix, French Alps, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Competitors wait in the rain for the start of the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race around the Mont-Blanc, crossing France, Italy and Switzerland, in Chamonix, French Alps, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Starting and finishing in Chamonix, the annual high-altitude race takes a pack of about 2,300 runners through three different countries (France, Italy and Switzerland) and across rivers and glaciers. Last weekend, the weather was so cold and windy that runners had to deal with temperatures that felt like minus-10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees F). 

This year's winner in the men's event was Xavier Thevenard, a Frenchman who covered the distance in 20 hours, 44 minutes, 16 seconds. The last finisher crossed the finish line more than 26 hours later.

 Competitors run along the Voza path as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Saint Gervais-les- Bains, French Alps, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Competitors run along the Voza path as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Saint Gervais-les- Bains, French Alps, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 Competitors run along the Voza path as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Saint Gervais-les- Bains, French Alps, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Competitors run along the Voza path as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Saint Gervais-les- Bains, French Alps, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 A competitor runs in the night on the Balmes path as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Les Contamines Montjoie, French Alps, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

A competitor runs in the night on the Balmes path as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Les Contamines Montjoie, French Alps, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 Competitors take some rest in the middle of the night at a refreshment post as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Competitors take some rest in the middle of the night at a refreshment post as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 A competitor takes some rest in the middle of the night at a refreshment post as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

A competitor takes some rest in the middle of the night at a refreshment post as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 Competitors warm themselves up in front of a fire at the Combal lake as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Competitors warm themselves up in front of a fire at the Combal lake as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, in Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 A competitor runs up the Grand Col Ferret as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Courmayeur, Italy, Saturday, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

A competitor runs up the Grand Col Ferret as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Courmayeur, Italy, Saturday, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 A competitor runs at the Grand Col Ferret as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

A competitor runs at the Grand Col Ferret as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 A competitor runs at the Grand Col Ferret as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

A competitor runs at the Grand Col Ferret as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 A competitor runs up the Grand Col Ferret as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

A competitor runs up the Grand Col Ferret as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 A competitor walks over a bridge on the Grand Col Ferret as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

A competitor walks over a bridge on the Grand Col Ferret as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Courmayeur, Italy, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 Supporters wait for the arrival of Xavier Thevenard, the winner of the 170km Ultra-Trail Mont-Blanc (UTMB), in the center of Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Supporters wait for the arrival of Xavier Thevenard, the winner of the 170km Ultra-Trail Mont-Blanc (UTMB), in the center of Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 A competitor runs in the night in Trient, Switzerland, as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

A competitor runs in the night in Trient, Switzerland, as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 Xavier Thevenard, of France, reacts as he crosses the finish line to win the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB), in the center of Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Xavier Thevenard, of France, reacts as he crosses the finish line to win the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB), in the center of Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 Competitors take some rest in the night at a refreshment post in Trient, Switzerland, as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Competitors take some rest in the night at a refreshment post in Trient, Switzerland, as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 A competitor runs as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

A competitor runs as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 Competitors run as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Competitors run as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 Competitors run as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Competitors run as they compete in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 A competitor approaches some goats as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

A competitor approaches some goats as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 A competitor walks past Mont Blanc in background at La Flegere path as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

A competitor walks past Mont Blanc in background at La Flegere path as he competes in the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

 Abdennour Benmammar of France, the last finisher, is congratulated after crossing the finish line at the end of the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Abdennour Benmammar of France, the last finisher, is congratulated after crossing the finish line at the end of the 170km Ultra-Trail of Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race, near Chamonix, French Alps, Sept 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)


Text from the AP news story, Pushing endurance beyond limits at Ultra Trail Mont Blanc.

Photos Laurent Cipriani