Known as “the race of all the superlatives,” according to its official website, the North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is, indeed, an epic journey.
Along the 168K (104-mile) course, runners traverse 71 glaciers, seven valleys and 400 summits, climbing a total of 9,600 meters (31,500 feet). As they make their way across the Mont Blanc mountain range, they also pass through three countries: France, Italy, and Switzerland.
This year’s 11th running, which wrapped up on Sunday (September 1), saw a pair of extraordinary performances, as both the men’s and women’s winners set course records.
Topping the men’s field was France’s Xavier Thevenard, who finished in 20:34:57, besting the previous course record by just under two minutes, IRunFar.com reports.
Thevenard broke out from the lead pack around the 100K mark and didn’t look back; he built a steady lead that he held until the end. Runner-up Miguel Heras of Spain trailed some 20 minutes behind and finished in 20:54:08, while his compatriot Javier Dominguez nabbed third with a time of 21:17:38.
“I didn’t pay attention to the other runners,” Thevenard said in a post-race interview. “Heras, [America’s Anton] Krupicka, [France’s Julien] Chorier—they are runners. I would like to stay in my race. It’s important to stay in my race and to enjoy running.”
It’s also important, he claimed, to eat potatoes and bananas during the race, and to spend a long time mentally preparing for the daylong run.
On the women’s side, a 29-year-old American, Rory Bosio, obliterated the previous course record, improving on her countrywoman’s Krissy Moehl’s 2009 mark of 24:56 by nearly two hours and 20 minutes. Bosio also became the first woman to crack the top 10 with her seventh-place overall finish.
With “a smile on her face the whole way,” according to IRunFar.com, Bosio led the way from the marathon mark onward and finished nearly two hours ahead of her closest competitor, Spain’s Nuria Picas, who came in at 24:32:20. Rounding out the top three was Spain’s Emma Roca, who crossed in 24:48:14.
“It was a butt kicker, but I had a lucky day,” Bosio said afterward, according to AthleticsWeekly.com. “I felt really good, and we had really nice conditions.”
“Beating the course record,” she added, “is just the cherry on top of the sundae.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg