Mountain A CHALLENGE |

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A TTENTION snow 2000m and temperature felt -9˚C’, said the SMS message from race HQ on the morning of 2017’s Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB). Gulp.

Chamonix erupted in a gaggle of flapping hens. Runners rushing hither and thither desperately trying to source extra, warm kit.

This was my third UTMB in a row, a 171K circuit round western Europe’s largest mountain, Mont Blanc, with around 10,0000m of vertical gain. That distance may sound absurd, but the secret is that runners hike the steep bits – a comparative rest – and eat a shedload of cake and cheese. Do that, while pacing it sensibly, and you can go on almost indefinitely.

With 2,3000 runners from over 90 countries, it’s the world’s biggest trail race. Influential USbased website hailed it as ‘the best field ever assembled for a trail ultramarathon’ Kílian Jornet, François D’haene and Xavier Thévenard had won UTMB seven times between them. The big stars from America were there too; Jim Walmsley, Zach Miller, Tim Tollefson, David Laney, Sage Canaday and just about anyone who is anyone in the world of trail, ultra and mountain running.

Gulp again. I had placed 19th (and 2nd Brit) the previous year, but some three hours behind the winner. I didn’t see myself competing with these supermen. My personal fascination was to see how close I – aged 41 (but only five in running years) with two young children and working typical self-employed hours – can get to the professional, full-time runners with sub-2:20 marathons who train regularly in big mountains.

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About Men's Running

The November issue of Men’s Running is all about training smart: whether that’s tailoring your sessions to suit your body type, learning to make the most of your urban environment or discovering the most cost-effective events, this issue is packed with content to help you reach your full potential. Elsewhere, we’ve got some stunning, run-envy inducing destination races. Run-reporter Arko Hojholt travels to the pristine Swiss Alps for the Inferno Half: a half marathon with a sting in its tail. Damian Hall, meanwhile, has been kept busy: first, trying his hand (or feet) at the quad-wrecking discipling of skyrunning, before troubling the crème de la crème of ultrarunning at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), the world’s premier trail race. Of course, we’ve also got exclusive kit reviews, tech roundups and inspiring interviews to maintain motivation this winter.