How the ultra marathon around Mont Blanc turned trail running into a mega sport
Twenty years ago, a small band a runners came up with an idea: hold a race around the Alps’ highest peak, covering more than 100 miles through Italy, France and Switzerland. They expected a few crazy souls. Instead more than 700 runners showed up. Running was changed forever.
This is the improbable story of how Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) became one of the world’s great sporting events even as it set new limits of human endurance. It is a story of how world’s best runners, in the historic home of mountain adventures, brought about a revolution in running that has been felt across the globe.
For this unbiased and inside look at the past, present and future of the UTMB, author and trail runner Doug Mayer, was given unfettered access to the UTMB archives, and spoke to more than 100 people, from race organizers and winners, to experts and scientists, to those who love the UTMB, and even those who hate it. The result is a book with more than 200 photos, maps and infographics that is the most comprehensive perspective into trail running’s greatest race.
Run the Alps was founded in 2012 over pizza in the Swiss mountain village of Champéry. Initially conceived as a tour company, today Run the Alps endeavors to share and celebrate trail running, offering guided and self-guided trail-running tours throughout the Alps. Run the Alps also creates and publishes a wide range of running content, including stories, films, and a comprehensive online race finder. The Chamonix based company partners with major trail-running brands and top athletes, working to foster inclusivity and to challenge itself and its guests. The French organization’s staff and guides are all avid trail runners who believe in the power of camaraderie and working hard to have a net positive impact on the people they come into contact with, the environments in which they run, and the communities in which they operate. Learn more at runthealps.com.
Charlie Edwards has been running since she was a child, first inspired by her mother–and spurred on by sibling racing competitions during family holidays in Montroc. Charlie moved to Chamonix in 2013 and began writing content in 2023 for two guiding companies: Run the Alps and Happy Tracks. She has completed a number of ultra-marathons, including the Transgrancanaria (80km), the Lago D'Orta (100km), and the Grand Trail du Courmayeur (75km).
Doug Mayer is an author, journalist and founder of the trail running tour company, Run the Alps. He has co-authored two other books with Helvetiq, Trail Running Illustrated and Run the Alps Switzerland: 30 Must-Do Trail Runs. Doug lives in Chamonix, France, with his partner, English Knowles and their trail running labradoodle, Izzy. Doug is a past producer of the Peabody-Award winning show, Car Talk, and has run the UTMB race twice.
Kilian Jornet is a Spanish professional long-distance trail runner and ski mountaineer. Widely regarded as one of the greatest trail runners of all time, he has won some of the most prestigious ultramarathons, including the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, Grand Raid, Western States and Hardrock.
“Mayer’s book gave me a complete understanding of what UTMB is all about, and why trail running will continue to thrive in every corner of the planet. Pick up a copy as soon as possible.” - Brian Metzler, Trail Runner Magazine
"In a word: noteworthy. The Race that Changed Running will be added to my and many other runner’s libraries of "keeper books" that we refer to again and again in our bedside drawer, alongside the greats of Lore of Running, Once A Runner, Born To Run, and Running With the Buffalos. Thank you to Doug Mayer for the tremendous care and effort he dedicated to the topic, and thank God for his talent." – Bob Crowley, Former President of ITRA (the International Trail Running Association)
“Doug is passionate about trail running and the history of our sport. That passion fills these pages. His words about the UTMB experience will be of interest beyond those who toe the start line.” – Krissy Moehl, Winner of the first edition of UTMB
“Doug Mayer leads us along the UTMB’s magical trail.” – François D’Haene, Four-time UTMB Winner
“Doug Mayer recounts the history of the most important trail race in the world, which is changing running itself. This is a book I highly recommend.” – Meb Keflezighi, Winner Boston and New York Marathons, Olympic Silver Medalist
“Doug understands the very depths of this sport, from the inside out, and the trail running world is fortunate to have him documenting our most important moments.” – Katie Schide, Winner 2022 UTMB
"A new book to mark the 20-year anniversary of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) highlights the human story behind the event...[Mayer] did not shy from asking controversial questions." – South China Morning Post
The definitive book on the event ... Doug Mayer is the closest the race has to an oracle.' - Runners World
"No writer is better qualified than Mayer to write such a book...Packed with more than 200 photographs, as well as charts and graphics, The Race that Changed Running should appeal not just to hard-core competitors who push the envelope, but also to joggers lacing up their training shoes for the first time." –Appalachia