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The new UTMB points system explained

by Majellb
Thursday 9th June 2016
There are three things that stand out about the sport of ultra distance trail running and its dedicated following:
  • each athlete, fast or slow, is passionate about ultra distance trail running
  • these athletes are even better at talking about ultra distance trail running 
  • it's an accepted fact that some events are on everyone's dream list
So much so, that these events can even shape an ultra trail running enthusiast's lifetime race schedule. I'll list a few and I am 60% sure you will agree with 100% of them: UTMB, Western States, Hard Rock, C2K, TDG, UTA, Kima Trophy, HURT100, TCC, Matterhorn Ultraks, B2H, Kepler Challenge, Tarawera Ultra, Zolkan 4 Days…. the list is ultra long and it's growing.

Ultra 6

The demand to gain entry into these events is rapidly increasing, and this in turn forces the original entry criteria to change also. Western States, for instance, previously used 50 milers as qualifying races, but now it's pretty much only 100km and 100mile races that are classed as qualifiers. Similarly, an application to the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) ballot was previously a possibility with only 7 UTMB points, now it is 9.
With many events now associated with the SkyRunning Federation, The Ultra Trail World Tour or even The Asia Trail Masters Series the opportunity for an easy, non-time restricted, ‘sign up on the day’, race entry has long gone.
How is this a good thing?
With popularity growing in this niche sport, which is often considered by some as too extreme, it is evident that there is also a growth in the notion of personal discovery, a growth in belief and commitment towards completing ultra marathons and also growth in the enjoyment of the sport. The other benefit to this is the increase in new races opening up, in all corners of the globe, allowing athletes to expand their playground boundaries, explore and experience. 
The UTMB, 9 point equation- how it works
Race organisations can apply to be a ‘Qualifying Race’ for UTMB. The UTMB Organisation will then evaluate the event based on its distance, elevation gain & loss and the amount of on-course assistance provided to participants.  Events will be  awarded a minimum of 1 UTMB point or maximum of 4 UTMB points, based on their evaluated difficulty.
Upon completing a sanctioned UTMB Qualifying Race, a participant will be awarded the corresponding UTMB Points, which can then be used when applying for a ballot entry to one of the 5 events hosted during the yearly UTMB festival.
Ballots are now in place for all of UTMB’s associated events and entry is only possible if a participant holds the following amount of UTMB points (2016 edition). And to complicate things a little further the UTMB point required can only come from a set number of events.
UTMB (170km-10,000m elv.): 9 points (15 new points) acquired between 2014/01/01 and 2015/12/31 (in 3 races maximum)

CCC (101km- 6,100m elv.): 3 points (7 new points) acquired between 2014/01/01 and 2015/12/31 (in 2 races maximum)

TDS (119km- 7,250m elv.): 3 points (7 new points) acquired between 2014/01/01 and 2015/12/31 (in 2 races maximum)

OCC (55km- 3,500m elv.): 1 point (3 new points) acquired between 2014/01/01 and 2015/12/31 (in 2 races maximum)
PTL (290km- 26,500m elv.): entry only granted after a team review for capabilities from the PTL committee
For instance, obtaining 9 points for UTMB, can be done by completing 3 events with the following amount of awarded UTMB points:
4 + 4 + 1 = 9
4 + 3 + 2 = 9
3 + 3 + 3 = 9
But do not get too comfortable with this equation, just yet. As I said, this sport is growing fast! The UTMB points system is already set to change, again!
In conjunction with the International Trail Running Association (ITRA), the organisation of UTMB has now introduced a new evaluation criteria for Ultra distance running events and it goes like this:
Evaluation Criteria
Scale of 1 to 6 Points
Derived from the formula and scale of: 
Distance (km) + Vertical Gain (m) / 100
With the resulting figure being scaled as follows:
Former UTMB Points Scale (1-4)
New UTMB Points Scale (1-6)
Mountain level
Scale of 1 to 12 points. 
Equated from the evaluation of the event's percentage of slope, the longest continual ascent and the average altitude of the course. In other words, the ‘Mountain Difficulty’ of the course.
Finisher criteria
This is linked to a participant's individual ITRA Performance Index value and the event finishing cut-off time.
This new evaluation field will help participants understand their chances of successfully finishing the event, within the allowed cut off times. The finisher criteria will be in the form of a calculated ITRA Performance Index value. This value is the minimum ITRA performance index value, required to be able to finish the race within the event cut-off time. Participants can compare their own current ITRA performance index, to the finisher criteria value and use this to  gauge their ability to finish the race within given time limits.
This however, is a calculated value, which should not deter people from the challenges of pushing personal boundaries. But it should be used as an aid to help progression in the sport.
How does this affect the UTMB 9 point system?
When the new evaluation criteria is introduced, points required for the UTMB festival of events, will be as follows:
UTMB: 15 new points (from 3 races maximum)

CCC: 7 new points (from 2 races maximum)

TDS: 7 new points (from 2 races maximum)

OCC: 3 new points (from 2 races maximum)
Keeping in mind official qualifying events will be scaled from 1 point to 6 points.
Obtaining 15 points for UTMB, can be done by completing 3 events with the following amount of awarded UTMB points:
6 + 6 + 3 = 15
6 + 5 + 4 = 15 
5 + 5 + 5 = 15 
As an example, if we take The MesaStila Peaks Challenge in Central Java, Indonesia, an event with serious bite, the associated UTMB points for the events, offered by the organisation are:
100km event 
Distance = 100.9 km
Elevation gain/loss = 7900m / 7900m
Old points = 4
New points = 5
65km event
Distance = 65.3 km
Elevation gain/loss = 4610m/ 4610m
Old points = 2
New points = 4
42km event
Distance = 43.5 km
Elevation gain/loss = 2730m / 2730m
Old points = 1
New points = 3
Therefore, all of the MesaStila Peaks Challenge races can be used as one qualifying race for UTMB, or the CCC, TDS or OCC.
This is the case for the MesaStila Peaks Challenge because it is a race not for the faint-hearted. The 100km course summits 5 peaks, all of which are volcanoes, while traversing some incredibly steep and technical terrain.
Why does the UTMB organisation demand such standards?
The UTMB organisation are taking responsibility for the participants it allows into its events. The UTMB point system, put simply, ensures participants can justify their level of experience and capability to the organisation, in order to qualify for participation. This is all in an effort to keep participant safety as the number one priority of the event. 
Pushing personal boundaries is a very common reason for people to participate in event like UTMB, however, it must at all times be attempted in safe conditions. The UTMB organisation is setting a standard that will ensure steady growth in the sport's participation numbers and the success and enjoyment experienced by everyone, new and old to the sport.

UTMB finish Majell

Looking at the big picture
The UTMB organisation is keeping ahead of the game, encouraging you to plan a race calendar over several years, to prioritise goals and understanding the requirements for entry into these epic events will ensure you can enjoy them all at some point in your ultra running career. 
Having the knowledge, or seeking the advice of someone who does, about what alternative options are available if a preferred race is out of reach for the year can keep you motivated, on track, and in prime position to toe the start line the following year. It may also lead towards unexpected opportunities, meeting new friends, experiencing a a new location or culture, learning about yourself. The list is endless. 
The sport of Ultra Distance Trail Running is growing. In order for it to be successful it must be managed carefully. It's the same with the growth of your own personal expectations and goals in the sport. Training to a personalised plan, recovering well, working on strength & conditioning, being consistent and always enjoying your time on the trails, is important to your personal success.
Majell Backhausen is an athlete of Team Salomon, Suunto and Compressport. 
Coaching people via smarter training processes and cultivating more enjoyment. Always available at majellb@gmail.com or on Instagram @majellb
A advocate for the simplicity and enjoyment of trail running and outdoor pursuits.
Placing 23rd at UTMB 2015 and becoming a member of the Australian International Ultra Trail Running Team are considered some of his running highlights.

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