The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is a dream race for many trail runners worldwide. However, the only thing harder than finishing a UTMB World Series Final (OCC, CCC, UTMB) might be figuring out how to get into the race. This article will discuss the entry process for UTMB Mont-Blanc’s three key races: UTMB (106-mile), CCC (100K), and OCC (55K).
Let’s discuss some numbers. UTMB, CCC, and OCC have around 2300, 1900, and 1200 runners, respectively. Many more runners want to run the UTMB Finals each year, and securing your spot has become increasingly complicated. This article will help you break down the intricacies of getting into these races.
The author of this article, William Weidman, coach at Uphill Athlete, has finished UTMB (106-mile) three times and is a coach to several other UTMB finishers and many other 100-mile race finishers. Will finished 72nd overall in the 2019 UTMB, a remarkable position among 2,700 participants. He was the third American finisher at the 2021 UTMB race.
UTMB has created its own system and even its own language with Running Stones, UTMB Index, UTMB Index Categories, World Series Events, and World Series Majors. Many runners dream of the epic start line with the Conquest Of Paradise song playing in the background but are at a loss navigating the new system. Let’s figure out different ways to get an entry into UTMB Mont-Blanc.
Qualifying for UTMB
There are two prerequisites to qualify for UTMB Mont-Blanc, also known as UTMB World Series Final.
1: Running Stones
2: UTMB Index
TRAIL RUNNING TRAINING GROUP
The path to the UTMB Finals requires Running Stones earned at UTMB World Series Events, 34 races at the time of publication, and found on their website with more events being added over time. Every runner on the start line of OCC, CCC, or UTMB has to run at least one World Series Event – it’s that simple.
This is a significant departure from the previous process, where a long list of races earned you points, and you had to accumulate a certain number of points to enter the lottery. UTMB has now followed the Ironman approach, where you qualify for the Kona Ironman by running other Ironman races.
The other major difference is that your lottery odds are based on the number of Running Stones you accumulate. The more races in the UTMB World Series Events you finish, the more Running Stones you earn. In the past, more points did not increase your chances, and your odds only went up each year that you lost the lottery.
There are three important considerations when accumulating Running Stones.
1: You get more Running Stones if you run long-distance races.
For example, you get 4 Running Stones for a World Series 100-mile race vs. 1 for a World Series 20K race. You can find the number of Running Stones while registering for the races.
2: There are three UTMB World Series Majors that provide double the Running Stones.
These are continental championships:
1) Val d’Aran for Europe
2) Doi Inthanon for Asia-Pacific
3) Canyons Endurance Run in the US.
Registration is first-come-first-serve, and they sell out quickly. UTMB World Series Majors let you earn double the amount of Running Stones than any other World Series Events. Age group category winners and top 10 finishers in the male and female categories are granted direct entry into UTMB Finals in Mont-Blanc through UTMB World Series Majors.
3: Running Stones do not expire.
To enter the lottery, at least one Running Stone must have been acquired in the previous two years before entering the lottery for the respective year. Your Running Stones are cumulative, have no expiration date, and each Running Stone increases your chances of winning a lottery. If not selected in the lottery, your Running Stones are returned to you for future lotteries.
This creates a system where runners can stack the deck heavily in their favor, particularly if they are willing and able to travel across the world. For instance, if you finished the 100-mile distance at the three Majors for two years in a row, that would give you 48 Running Stones in the next lottery.
To secure your spot in the UTMB Finals, run UTMB World Series Events, tally your Running Stones, and the more you get, the better your odds.
What is a UTMB Index, and what is its importance in qualifying for UTMB Finals? Many races outside the UTMB World Series Events provide a UTMB Index. The UTMB Index is similar to an ITRA score, where you receive a score for each race based on your finish time and the route’s distance, vertical, and technicality.
There are also four UTMB Index categories: 20km, 50km, 100km, and 100M. Each race result counts towards an overall UTMB Index and a UTMB Category Index of the corresponding distance.
To enter the UTMB Finals lottery, you must have a valid UTMB Index in the appropriate category and the Running Stones you have collected.
Why does the UTMB Index exist? If you are still confused like the rest of us, the UTMB Index ultimately serves two purposes in qualifying for the UTMB Finals.
1: It ensures you have run a recent enough race.
Your UTMB Index for a given race expires after 24 months. Running Stones do not expire, so the UTMB Index ensures you have run a race in the past 2 years.
2: It ensures you have run a long enough race.
You must have a UTMB Index from one category below the distance you are running or higher. For example, to run CCC (in the 100K category), you must have a UTMB Index in at least the 50K category. This would prevent someone who has only run a 20K from being on the start line of the UTMB 106-mile race.
If your Running Stone was earned in the past two years from one category below your target race distance or higher, you would also have the required UTMB Index. If not, you will need to run an additional race to secure your UTMB Index for a particular distance you wish to qualify for at the UTMB Finals.
UTMB Index Races - Are They a "Qualifier?"
Many races not in the UTMB World Series advertise that they are a “UTMB Qualifier”, which can be misleading. The old system had qualifying races, which were your ticket to the lottery. Any race outside the UTMB World Series can only provide a UTMB Index and will not give you Running Stones. While a valid UTMB Index is a prerequisite, it is not enough, and you need Running Stones to enter the lottery.
Many runners are disappointed to finish a race branded as a “UTMB Qualifier” and find they cannot even enter the lottery. The bottom line to qualify for the UTMB Finals lottery is:
- Make sure you have a valid UTMB Index (i.e., you have run a race in the last 2 years whose distance is at least one category below your planned distance for the UTMB Finals at Mont Blanc)
- Run UTMB World Series races, accumulate Running Stones, and enter the lottery with odds corresponding to your number of Running Stones.
Other Paths to UTMB
As with most race lottery systems, there are a few exceptions and back doors. For the super speedy, there is an elite entry qualification similar to the Golden Ticket races for the Western States. Top 3 male and female runners from each World Series Event auto-qualify. The three Majors go 10 deep and include 55 Age Category qualifiers across male and female age groups.
Finally, you can guarantee entry by purchasing a Charity or Solidarity Bib for 2000 Euros, with proceeds going to an organization you select at the time of entry. While you bypass the lottery, it is important to note this still requires a valid UTMB Index and at least 1 Running Stone earned in the past 2 years.
What Should You Do, as Explained by Coach Will Weidman?
This is a new system, but I expect you will need 10+ Running Stones to have reasonable odds of getting into UTMB and 6+ for CCC or OCC. That means multiple qualifying races and potentially a lot of travel, given the geographic distribution of races.
If you plan to travel for a destination race or are lucky to live close to a World Series Event, think about planning your race calendar around the UTMB World Series well in advance. Many of these races also fill up well in advance or have their own lotteries. I also firmly believe it is important that any race you enter is meaningful and motivating to you. Fortunately, there are many incredible races in the World Series.
If you are less interested in these races or jet-setting around the world, the Charity / Solidarity entry process is worth thinking about. 2,000 Euros is a lot of money, but traveling to multiple races in different countries can easily cost more.
A big downside to this new system is that any way you cut it, the UTMB Finals are now less accessible for many people. I sincerely hope that can change over time, and in the meantime, many great races are much more accessible.
What is Coach Will Weidman Doing for UTMB 2023?
Will says, “My finish at the 2021 Val d’Aran provides me guaranteed entry to TDS, CCC, or OCC and high odds of getting into UTMB. But after finishing UTMB three times, I will sit this year out and prioritize events I have not run before that excite me – Canyons 100M, Fatdog 120M, and Bear 100M. That said, there truly is nothing like the UTMB Finals, and I do hope to go back again someday. In the meantime, I plan to be in Chamonix this year, supporting athletes I coach, and I hope to see you there. I’ll also hang on to my Running Stones and keep my UTMB Index updated.”
Is the UTMB race on your goal list? Let us help you navigate it and help you toe the line.