With two finishes to the UTMB to date, 2016 was to be my third and final run of this iconic race. It did not happen for me last night, and I don’t feel depressed, deflated or disappointed, but content that I did the right thing. I ran to St Gervais, handed in my number, then turned away from the course track and kept on running. As I picked up speed and ran down the road to Le Fayet, I could hear the noise and pomp fading behind me in the distance. Soon all I could hear was the noise of insects buzzing, and the patter of my feet. I felt the warm evening air against my face, and a growing sense of contentment.
Why did I run away from the UTMB? It never connected with me this year. The hype and hysteria at the start felt hollow, and having TV cameras constantly pushed in my face really got to me. The photo above shows the moment that broke the camels back, as I reached St Gervais, being nagged for an interview. I said ‘No’ and was promptly asked ‘Why?’. My decision to escape was made at that very moment, and I handed my number in. I wasn’t racing this for myself to enjoy the mountains. I was running to fuel a huge publicity machine, and felt there was no escape from it. Personal use of social media is elective and selective. This was intrusive and spoiled the running. As a ran downhill away from the UTMB, it felt right. My legs felt good, I’d been up on time in the race, but finally I was running for me.
I’ve got many friends still out there running the UTMB, and I wish them all the best, and desperately don’t want my experience or choice to detract for one second from their huge efforts and achievements. My decision to literally run away from the UTMB was right for me alone, and I’m writing this blog before they finish, to remain unswayed by their experiences. Deep down I think this decision had been a long time coming for me, with a growing recognition that my mountain running is fuelled by being immersed in nature.
“No sound, no human voice
was breaking that silence, and the nature,
always the same since the world was born,
I know that I owe the UTMB a huge amount for how it has motivated me, what it has taught me and given me over the years, but for now our paths must part. They did literally last night. I look forward to trail running alone in the mountains in the coming days, reconnecting with nature and the landscapes. Are races over for me now? I really don’t know yet, but the lure of the mountains I experienced on the Tor des Geants last year, are a very strong draw. Whether I race in them, or run them just for me, I don’t yet know. Time will tell, but for now I’m very content to run away from commercialism in the mountains…
My photos from the UTMB 2016…