UTMB v UTLD Preview

Report by Paul Vousden
Thursday 18th July 2013

Two big races are looming on the horizon for many Ultra Runners right now. The Lakeland 100 (UTLD) an the UTMB. Both iconic, challenging and adventurous in their own way. We take a look at the challenges each race holds as the excitement builds. 


The facts that bind these races together are what makes them Ultra Running classics. 100 miles around the most famous mountains of each country, an atmosphere that feeds energy to the runners, and 1 qualifies the runner to attempt the other. 


They are also vitally unique in that the amatuer can test themselves on the same course on the same day as the very best professional runners. Everyone starts at the same time, and has the same race. 


UTMB Finish Line


The UTMB, Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, is ubiquitous, and for those fortunate to qualify and win a place are in for a real treat. For many trail runners it will be the closest they may come to the atmosphere experienced by professional athletes. Thousands of people will line the UTMB route this August often in the most unlikely of places to cheer on the 2300 runners. In contrast the UTLD, Ultra Trail Lake District, will see just over 300 runners take the start line in the village of Coniston next weekend (July 26th) 


We asked ourselves; which is the tougher race? And which is the most adventurous. 


The UTMB has the higher mountains for sure, but although the climbs are steeper and longer they are less frequent, and the race o features 9300m of ascent to the UTLD 6850m. Ok, so the difference is quite big by UK mountains standards, however in the alps the steepness will force you to walk, and most likely with poles for support. The passes of the Lake District are ok to run and jog, and likely to be taken on with a higher heart rate, and faster calorie burn. The rest stops are about the same for both events, so we can't compare the food/water supply frequency. We can compare the load you will need to carry though. 


The UTLD is at the height of British summer time. You will need to be prepared for heat, rain and strong winds. Wet feet are likely no matter what happens with the weather, so extra dry socks and blister preparation are important. In the UTMB it is the end of the Alpine season, when the first snows of the winter can start to fall, and the weather unsettles. You will need to be prepared for hot conditions in the valleys; and snow, hail and rain over the cols. Exposure to the weather can cause skin, lips and eyes to really suffer. So sun cream, hats, sunglasses and lip balm are the important survival luxuries. 


So because of the extra height, steeper ground, and more diverse weather we think the UTMB is the toughest, despite all the fantastic support you will have from all the spectators and runners. 


As for the most adventurous… This is easy to answer. Where the UTMB is supremely well way marked every few meters, not to mention the constant stream of other runners around you, the UTLD is the polar opposite. You must navigate yourself, so you will need to stay alert, and keep you map to hand, and dry! You will also face hours of lonely running as the field spreads out, making it harder to push your pace, and motivate yourself through the night and the pain. 


To complete the UTMB you must be fit, and experienced enough to look after your body, for the UTLD you must do this, and be a skilled navigator with enormous strength of character. Good luck to all the runners, we salute you all. 





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