June 05, 2022
“How many UTMB points have you got?” is a questions I have been asked many times but never something that has meant anything to me. You get them by doing races and I have done a few races so had a few is probably the best answer. Why does it matter? In simple terms you need UTMB points to be able to apply for a place in one of the most coveted races of the trail running world, the Mecca if you like, the world championships where rank amateurs (myself) and the professionals line up on the same start line in Chamonix to make their way 170KM around the beautiful Mont Blanc mountain, hence the race name Ultra Trail Mont Blanc. A race that many dedicate a large amount of time and energy trying to secure a place for, a race that promises to be an experience of a life time.
Early 2021 I get a call inviting me to a new “UTMB” race in Spain which was also 100miles and offered all finishers automatic qualification to the “real UTMB 2022”. My terms were simple. I can come so long as I can bring my friends! Childish maybe but I knew how much it meant to Rob. We went, had a hell of a ride and completed the race, our prize aside from very tired legs was a ticket direct to UTMB in Chamonix, August 2022. (Race report here UTMB Val d’Aran 2021)
Monday 2nd May 2022 I sent the below mail to my parents….
Hey Mum and Dad,
I figured this was the best way to clarify my thoughts and decision on the UTMB race this summer in Chamonix.
I have decided that I will not run the 160km race in August. There may be an option to defer to next year or to change to a “smaller” race.
For a while I have being trying to answer the question as to why I am doing this race and what I like about it and I have still not found any answers. Prior to the race in South Africa Holly asked me about these 160km races and I didn’t have what I thought were very good answers, if any at all. Then of course during the race down in SA I thought even more about UTMB and why I was going to race in it and I could not find any reason. I thought how I had qualified which was as you know through the race in Spain last year which I did enjoy to a certain extent but was very hard on my body and took a lot out of me mentally both before and after the race. Completing it as you know got me automatic qualification for the race in France this year, a race people spend their lives trying to qualify for and run in. I have a number of clients who this race is all they think about and I have never understood it. I have been and run in Chamonix and it is amazing but the race itself I have never had a huge desire for, yes it is the world champs but so what. I guess I continued on the journey as I had qualified for such a celebrated race but I have realised this does not motivate me enough to put my body, my mind, my family, my business and my life through not only the 30-40 hours of the race but everything that comes before and after it.
This race gives many an identity but it does not do that for me, if you told me I had to do it I am very confident I would be able to complete it, would I enjoy it? Maybe, but right now I think not. I will run all the routes with my friends in July and I am sure I will enjoy it. I do not feel I have anything to prove to anyone by completing another 100mile race at the moment.
So what happens now? A few things. Number one I focus on my health 100% which is good, could be better and would only be strained by the training and completion of UTMB. I have a few “smaller” events and challenges coming up and I will search for another race or two or make our own challenge to keep me busy and focused and testing myself through the rest of the year. I will also hopefully be less drained and therefore have more time to focus on my business and Holly, two things that bring me an enormous amount of satisfaction. I remain focused to continue to develop my mental and physical strength in every way that I can and will test myself ongoing. I love endurance sports, I love multistage ultra running, I love running fast, I love being strong, I love working out with my friends, none of these desires have or I think will change anytime soon and these are things I want to be able to do until I am at least 93 and then I will reassess.
With the people I coach I encourage them to partake in challenges they can enjoy and have some fun with, I also encourage them to use sport to improve their quality of life. Prior to my race in SA, during it, immediately after it, 4 days after it and still now UTMB does not do these things for me so my decision stands.
As I mentioned above I will still go to train in Chamonix with Rob and our clients in July for 2 weeks and I am very excited about that. I am yet to make a decision on trying to change to a shorter race in August, to just go and support the guys or to take Holly away for her birthday. Sorry if this messes up your plans.
We will chat about it more I am sure but I wanted to get my thoughts and feelings over to you as clearly as possible so this was the easiest way.