A Sportsshoes x HOKA Guide to the Mont Blanc Ultra-Distance Trail Race
Written By: SportsShoes
The ultra-distance race around Mont Blanc is widely recognised as the greatest trail running spectacle on the planet.
In collaboration with HOKA, this year's official sponsors, we help to explain what this magical event is all about.
Photo credit: David Miller Photography
WHAT IS THE MONT BLANC TRAIL RACE SERIES?
It's the biggest global trail running series, which brings together the world's best trail running athletes to international races in the most stunning locations. In total, 25 events take place across Asia, Oceania, Europe and the Americas. These races allow athletes to begin their quest to Mont-Blanc, where the prestigious World Series Finals are always held.
Chamonix is the home of the World Series Finals, an event widely regarded as THE biggest stage on the trail running calendar.
It's a week-long celebration of trail races, which begins with races on Monday 22nd August 2022 and culminates with the main event - an ultra-distance loop around Mont Blanc on Friday 26th August 2022 (winners expected around lunchtime of Saturday 27th August 2022).
There are now 9 official races in total, each a different distance and with varying amounts of elevation. The shortest race is 15km and 1300m of ascent, right up to the Mont Blanc race which is 170km, with over 10,000m of ascent. The only thing that remains consistent throughout is the type of terrain, alpine trails – rocky but runnable, and both challenging and technical in parts. Competitors can expect all kind of weather – sun, wind, rain and snow. It could be 30-degrees or below zero, a contributing factor towards making this one of the hardest ultra-distance trail races on the planet.
Check out the full event schedule here
HOW CAN YOU ENTER THE RACES?
Essentially you need points, now more commonly known as running stones, to qualify for the major events. The greater the distance and climb, the more points you’ll need to enter – for example you will need 15 points/stones for the biggest race, or 6 for one of the smaller distances. There are a huge number of other supporting races (all over the world) that are classed as official qualifying events. So, by taking part in this qualification process, you’re ultimately proving that you have the ability to run in an official Mont Blanc event. You have 2 years to amass the points, which gives you plenty of time to train and prepare for your respective race.
On top of qualification points, you also need a medical check and certificate signed by a medical professional, which proves that you’re in the physical condition to compete.
Click here to find out more about how athletes gain qualification for these events.
WHO ARE THE ATHLETES TO WATCH IN THIS YEAR'S MAIN RACE?
In the men’s race, the two pre-race favourites are trail running superstars Kilian Jornet and HOKA’s Jim Walmsley. All eyes and most of the pressure will be on these athletes to perform. Kilian has been in outstanding form leading up to the event and Jim moved to Europe, from the USA last year to specifically train and prepare for this event.
Other athletes to watch are Hannes Namberger, GB’s Tom Evans, the Chinese athletes Zhao and Yun, Thibaut Garrivier and the 2019 winner, Pau Capell.
The women's race will be hotly contested and amongst the favourites are Ragna Debats, GB’s Beth Pascall, Azara Garcia De Los Salmones, Katie Schide and HOKA's Audrey Tanguy. All are in with a shout of top honours.
If all goes to plan, HOKA could potentially have two athletes crowned as the winners. But this is the Mont Blanc race after all and anything can happen – and that’s what helps to make this event so special and so very exciting!
WHAT KIT AND EQUIPMENT DO YOU NEED FOR THIS EVENT & OTHER ULTRA DISTANCE RACES
So, you’ve entered the Mont Blanc race but you’re unsure of what kit you’ll need for the big day.
Let’s talk about the essential kit;
This year, HOKA have two main trail shoes that will feature heavily in the races – the Tecton X and the Mafate Speed 4.
Let’s start with the Tecton X. Named after the earth's tectonic plates, which inspired its revolutionary parallel carbon fibre plate technology, this shoe is built for speed. With a Profly X midsole bolstered by a Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole, this is HOKA’s first trail shoe to incorporate propulsive, dual parallel carbon fibre plates. It’s also designed to perform differently to other trail running shoes featuring carbon plates in the midsole. This is because the carbon forks (as opposed to a full-length plate) allow more movement and flexibility, which means you work with, and not against, the terrain. They’re the perfect racing shoe for trail running because they’re well suited to the terrain and they’re super light and super-fast! Expect to see these on the feet of most HOKA athletes for this year’s edition of the race.
Next up is the Mafate Speed 4.
A pinnacle product for technical trail, this shoe includes everything we’ve already seen in the EVO Mafate and the Mafate Speed, but it’s been updated with new textiles and construction, including a breathable, single layer jacquard mesh and two-part PROFLY+™ midsole with the lightest, most responsive HOKA foam underfoot.
In comparison to the Tecton X, it’s slightly heavier, but it does offer more protection and stability in the upper and extra grip on the outsole, with deeper 5mm lugs. This shoe would be a better choice in poorer weather conditions or for someone who wants a more supportive and aggressive trail shoe.
ASIDE FROM SHOES, WHAT KIT DO YOU NEED?
The most important thing to carry is a race pack, also known as a race vest or a lightweight running backpack.
In terms of size, we asked a number of experienced ultra-runners, who all suggested a minimum of 12L, large enough to store all of your kit. Ultimately, you need to find a balance between weight and performance, whilst being able to carry everything that you need.
Here's a list of the mandatory kit:
- A Mobile Phone with LiveRun application installed and activated. An external battery is highly recommended.
- A personal drinking cup/beaker (15cl minimum)
- At least 1 litre of water (minimum)
- 2 x working headtorches with spare cells/batteries for each. The main torch needs at least 200 lumens of light power or more
- A survival blanket
- A whistle for attracting attention in case of emergency. Most race vests now have one built into the design.
- A first aid kit, or specifically a self-adhering elastic bandage for bandaging or strapping
- Although you can eat plenty of food in the aid stations, you’ll need to carry food (at least 800kcal)
- A Waterproof Jacket, including a hood, with a minimum rating of 10,000 HH (that’s Hydrostatic Head - which is a term of measuring how waterproof a garment is). Most good quality waterproof jackets will have this rating. The jacket must also have taped seams and all sections of the jacket must be fully waterproof.
- Waterproof over-trousers
- A pair of running tights/trousers
- A cap or headwear
- An additional warm second layer with long sleeves (not cotton!)
- A windproof jacket with some water-resistance (DWR rating)
- A pair of gloves (waterproof)
- Some form of ID e.g. passport/ID card
In case of Hot weather kit, you may also be required to carry additional kit.
- You’ll need some sunglasses with high UV protection.
- A saharan cap or a design which completely covers the neck – it can get very hot, even in the mountains!
- Sunscreen (SPF) 50
- A Minimum water supply of 2 litres, as opposed to just 1 litre
Cold weather kit (in case of poor weather conditions)
- Protective eyewear
- A 3rd warm layer e.g. a fleece or packable down jacket
- Appropriate trail-running shoes (which completely cover the foot - no exposed sections)
Other recommended equipment
- Spare warm clothing, in case of bad weather or an emergency situation
- Running Poles* - which help to negotiate extreme terrain (both up and down).
- Vaseline or anti-heat cream
- At least 20€ cash
- A reusable bowl
- A GPS smartwatch, with a long battery life. This can also help with navigation
- A knife or scissors for cutting elastic bandage
- Emergency sewing kit
Photo credit: David Miller Photography
We've teamed up with HOKA to provide you with everything you need to know about Ultra-Distance Trail Running.
Check out our list of articles below;
- REVIEW: HOKA Tecton X Trail Running Shoes
- Inspirational Trails 13: Tour De Mont Blanc with HOKA's Carla Molinaro
- REVIEW: HOKA Speedgoat 5 Trail Running Shoes
- Strength and Conditioning Workout for Trail Runners with HOKA's Carla Molinaro
- REVIEW: HOKA Mafate Speed 4 Trail Running Shoes
- Q&A with HOKA athlete Jim Walmsley
- Training and preparation for the Mont-Blanc Trail Races with HOKA athlete Harry Jones
- How to run with poles? with HOKA athlete Harry Jones
- What's in my race vest? with HOKA athlete Harry Jones
- POV of a 15KM Mont-Blanc Trail Race athlete
1. REVIEW: HOKA Tecton X Trail Running Shoes
We take an in-depth look at the HOKA Tecton X Trail Running Shoes, featuring carbon fibre plate technology, built for pure speed.
2. Inspirational Trails 13: Tour De Mont Blanc with HOKA's Carla Molinaro
3. REVIEW: HOKA Speedgoat 5 Trail Running Shoes
Our Sportsshoes Trail Ambassador Will Harper-Penrose reviews the new HOKA Speedgoat 5, a highly cushioned and supremely comfortable trail running shoe.
4. Strength and Conditioning Workout for Trail Runners with HOKA's Carla Molinaro
5. REVIEW: HOKA Mafate Speed 4 Trail Running Shoes
We review the new HOKA Mafate Speed 4, the perfect UTMB trail shoe with responsive cushioning for tough terrain.
6. Q&A with HOKA athlete Jim Walmsley
We chat to HOKA athlete Jim Walmsley ahead of the world's biggest ultra-distance trail race.
7. Training and preparation for the Mont-Blanc Trail Races with HOKA athlete Harry Jones
New to Ultra-Distance Trail Running and unsure about how to train and prepare for a race?
We asked HOKA athlete, Harry Jones, for his expert advice.
8. How to run with poles? with HOKA athlete Harry Jones
Ever wondered why and how to use running poles for ultra-distance trail races?
We asked HOKA athlete, Harry Jones, for his expert advice.
9. What's in my race vest? with HOKA athlete Harry Jones
We take a look at what's in HOKA athlete, Harry Jones', running vest for his 170km Mont-Blanc 2022 race and other ultra-distance events.
10. POV of a 15KM Mont-Blanc Trail Race athlete
POV of SportsShoes ambassador and athlete, Ben Mounsey, running the 15KM Mont-Blanc Trail Race. Ben finished 8th in a time of 1:42:45. He also came 1st in his master category wearing head to toe HOKA kit.