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Ultra-Trail® Courses - A passport for running in the mountains

by Press Release
Thursday 30th May 2013

In addition to qualifying races, the organisers of the The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® are developing Ultra-Trail® Courses that will enable runners to gain the necessary qualifying points

For the first time since the establishment of qualifying points in order to register for one of their events, the organisers of the The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® envisage that training courses can earn qualification points, in the same way as a race, with a new label: stages Ultra-Trail ®.

Qualification points: control, equity and safety

Since the first UTMB®, in 2003, it has been an amazing success with 700 registered runners the first year, then 1600 for the second year. From 2005, for safety and environmental reasons, the number participants for the UTMB® have had to be limited to 2000 runners. A paroxysm occurred in 2008, with registration completed in less than eight minutes.

So, firstly to avoid an excessive number of runners on paths which are sometimes single-track, with respect for trail-runners who have crossed oceans to come to and run without finding themselves in 'bottle-necks', also for safety and environmental reasons the participations for the UTMB®  has had to be limited to 2300 runners.

Faced with this influx, the organisers chose to resort to the system of qualifying races which was established for the first time in 2007. The qualifying points system contains around 1200 events from the five continents and limits the number of runners without resorting to a monetary or elitist selection criterias, which would be against the spirit of the race. They allow runners to gain the necessary points to participate in one of the three races: UTMB®, CCC® or TDSTM.

Some race organisers see it as an opportunity to increase the number of entries for their races and at the same time their notoriety, and for some the qualifying points system is an example to follow when confronted with too many entrants.

Today this entry criteria is accepted by all because it is without doubt one of the fairest methods and it ensures that all those on the starting line have the minimum of experience.

Today the organisation is going further by testing the creation of a mark, which will allow training courses to be a source of points, according to very strict criteria. This first course is organised this year in partnership with WAA (What An Adventure).

Qualifying courses with WAA

WAA, (What An Adventure), an enterprise which focuses on two activities: training and sports merchandise.

WAA Ultra Training has, for several years been organising courses in collaboration with, amongst others, Vincent Delebarre - winner if the UTMB® - for the mountains and Laurence Klein - multiple winner of the Marathon des Sables - for the desert...

WAA Ultra Equipment offers ranges of products in the colours of the partner races such as Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®, the Marathon des Sables, or even the Eco-Trail de Paris.

This year the WAA, for  several years a partner of the  UTMB® are, together with the organisation, setting up a new concept of training courses for preparation for the UTMB®, CCC®  or TDS™, valid for any long trail race which is run in the mountains.

The mountains as well as being beautiful can be hostile, difficult and changeable. The potential risks are numerous but it is possible to anticipate them when they were identified and when one is ready for them. So, the Ultra-Trail ® course will offer not only a reconnaissance of the terrain, but also physical training and real 'mountain' environment training: "Safe" behaviour, good practise with respect for the environment, race management to optimise performance allowing the runner to be in control his own safety.

Vincent Delebarre's testimony: "For eight years I have organised around fifteen courses each summer which allow me to judge the physical condition and above all the knowledge of the activity and the participants' environment. And there is still a lot to be done. The qualifying races show the level of experience relating to trail-running but for all that do not confer the minimum  knowledge of good management and comportment in the mountains: knowing what to do, how to react in case of injury, or storms, how to help a wounded person in the cold or under the sun... These courses offer the training necessary for a trail runner to become autonomous because trail-running is not just simply running but also integrating into the surrounding environment."

The courses earn up to 3 qualification points

The Ultra-Trail® courses allow for the possible acquisition of 3 qualifying points, awarded jointly by the leader and an external jury. But following the example of «Mont-Blanc courses» in the mountains (courses of 5 days preparation and acclimatisation, aiming at the ascent of Mont-Blanc), the awarding of points, same as the arrival at the summit of Europe, is not guaranteed! Bad weather conditions, limited physical condition or insufficient technique can lead to an absence of points. Participation in the courses does not mean automatic acquisition of points.

These courses in the absence of the competetive element of a race, the physical and mental load imposed is still equivalent to a trail-running event worth 3 points. To obtain this qualifying recognition, the level of these training courses is very high and the skills required to participate in them are important: being capable of doing the UTMB ® route at the speed of the official time barriers, having the endurance required for each of 4 stages, of having a minimal experience of the Mountain environment...

The concept of stage-running over multiple days is already known and used, as big stage-races like the Marathon des Sables, the Défi de l'Oisans, the Annapurna Mandala Trail, the Desert Oman Raid, the Transrockies run or even the Grand to Grand Ultra... are qualifying events and already carry points. The number of points from the Ultra-Trail® training courses is worked out the same way as for these races and takes into account the distances covered, positive height gain, number of stages and their difficulty, the time barriers, etc.

Michel Poletti confirms that: "Having tested the courses which Vincent Delebarre has run for several years, they demand the physical and mental engagement which is as important as that of a race in stages. They carry a qualitative education on the practice of the trail-running in the mountains (effort management, learning to be autonomous, safety, and respect for the environment...). Beyond just training they can allow the acquisition of the necessary Mountain experience, just as much as by their participation in a race."

Training courses for a veritable preparation for trail-running races in the mountains

Physical and mental preparation

  • 170km around the massif of Mont-Blanc
  • 9,500m of positive height gain
  • To be covered in 4 days at race speed
  • Around 10 or 12 hours of course each day, including refreshment stops
  • A section covered partially at night
  • Same equipment and rucksack packed as for the Ultra-Trail®

A technical and tactical training

  • Management of the first hours of the race
  • Techniques: ascending, descending, with poles, without poles, supple running, managing walking/running
  • Management of refreshments
  • Managing long descents
  • Food management
  • Navigation tools and their use
  • Managing the night
  • Micro siestas
  • Equipment, clothing, tips, the pack
  • Diet
  • Training for very long trail races in the mountains
  • Knowing how to read the weather forecasts, adapting clothing and pack

Raising awareness to the rules of the mountains

  • Life in a mountain hut
  • The dangers of the mountains and adequate reaction to them
  • Witness an accident: what should you do?
  • Taking the fragility of the locality into account
  • Cartography - altimeter

With recognized technical leaders

  • Vincent Delebarre, high mountain guide, high calibre trail-runner, winner of the 2004 UTMB® 2004, course leader for several years and coordinator of the Ultra-Trail® courses.
  • Jean-Claude Marmier: founder of the Groupe Militaire de Haute Montagne (GMHM), one of the pioneers of French and world mountaineering, several times finisher of the UTMB®, supervisor for the Ultra-Trail® courses.  
  • Professional recognised mountain leaders and specialists in trail running
  • Specialist contributors: mountain security, experts in nutrition, training, environment, trail runners of high calibre, etc .



  • 4 full days
  • 4 stages - 165 km - 9 500 m of positive and negative height -
  • Up to 3 qualifying points










Height gain

2 900m

2 300m

1 900m

2 400m

Height loss

1 400 m 

2 700 m 

2 700 m 

2 800 m 

Estimated time







  • 2 full days
  • 2 stages - 100 km - 6 000 m of height gain and 6 150 m height loss -
  • Up to 2 qualifying points






Height gain

3 255m

2 711m

Height loss

3 010m

3 140m

Estimated time





  • 3 full days
  • 3 stages - 119 km - 7 250 m of height gain and 7 450 m height loss -
  • Up to 2 qualifying points








Height gain

2 524 m 

2 364 m 

2 372 m 

Height loss

1 556 m 

2 890 m 

3 000 m 

Estimated time





A professional and economic dynamic

An information day « trail-running in the mountains » is being organised by the WAA, Vincent Delebarre and Jean-Claude Marmier with the aim of explaining the context of these courses, the stakes and the tolerated levels required by the leaders. It is aimed at to begin with around ten mountain professionals who have the specific knowledge and skills to supervise the Ultra-Trail® training courses.

The organisers are going even further, by imagining eventually a training which could deliver an additional and specific qualification of "mountain trail-running" for professional guides or leaders...who would like to organise courses themselves. A discussion is planned with the National School of Ski and Mountaineering to see if it is possible to envisage a collaboration for this training to become a recognised speciality, and offered by the mountain careers sector.

Trail-running is a growing rapidly, generating an innovative energy urging the development of the discipline and all its players. It is the vector of an economy at every level offering mountain huts, municipalities, guides and race organisers very positive perspectives.

Find out more by visiting www.ultratrailmb.com and ultratrail.tv

Facebook: www.facebook.com/UltraTrailMontBlanc - Twitter: twitter.com/TNFUTMB


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