UTMB Group – a major player in trail running which has led the sport’s development for the last 18 years – has joined forces with The IRONMAN Group to boost the sport’s international development and, together, will launch the world’s ultimate trail-running circuit: the UTMB® World Series.
From as early as 2022, the UTMB® World Series will bring together many of the best international events on the planet which will provide exclusive access to the sport’s pinnacle event, UTMB® Mont-Blanc. Runners across the globe are invited to be part of it and to ‘meet their extraordinary’.
An extraordinary adventure for all runners
The UTMB® World Series is a revolution for the sport, that will bring the trail running community together through a new, integrated sports system that is open to all. Inspired by the high standards of UTMB®, runners will be able to take part in the most beautiful events on the planet, and the UTMB® World Series will be the only place where runners can begin their quest to Mont-Blanc, France, where the prestigious UTMB® World Series Finals will be held. In-line with the rapid growth of the sport, events will be held across six continents, giving all runners more opportunities to live the UTMB® experience on a global scale.
While the full calendar of UTMB® World Series Events will be announced in the third quarter of the year, eight leading, international events are already confirmed across Europe, Asia and Oceania, including:
- UTMB® Mont-Blanc (France, Italy, Switzerland)
- Val d’Aran by UTMB® (Spain)
- Thailand by UTMB® (Thailand)
- Panda Trail by UTMB® (China)
- Gaoligong by UTMB® (China)
- Tarawera™ Ultramarathon by UTMB® (New Zealand)
- Ultra-Trail Australia™ by UTMB® (Australia)
- mozart 100® by UTMB® (Austria)
A new, inclusive sports system
As of 2022, the UTMB® World Series will integrate four levels of event
- UTMB® World Series Finals: UTMB® Mont-Blanc is the place where legends of the sport are made, and this pinnacle event will now also see the official crowning of the UTMB® World Series male and female champions. UTMB® World Series titles will be awarded in each of the three key distances of the UTMB® Mont-Blanc – known as the OCC (50K), CCC® (100K) and UTMB® (100M), – and qualification can be achieved only by participating in one of the UTMB® World Series Events or UTMB® World Series Majors.
- UTMB® World Series Majors: Three UTMB® World Series Majors will take place each year, where athletes can go head-to-head at the continental Series finals in the Americas, Europe and in Asia/Oceania. Each UTMB® World Series Major will include at least one race in each category – 50K, 100K and 100M – with elite and amateur finishers having at least double the chance to access the UTMB® World Series Finals.
- UTMB® World Series Events: From Europe, to Asia, Oceania, the Americas and Africa, UTMB® World Series Events are the best events on the planet, taking place in exceptional locations in the heart of unspoiled nature. Organized to the highest quality standards to bring the UTMB® adventure closer to runners globally, each event will include at least one qualifying race in the 50K, 100K or 100M categories. These races will award Running Stones – with 1 Running Stone equivalent to 1 entry into the UTMB® World Series Finals entries lottery – giving runners the chance to be on the start line in Mont-Blanc. The stars of the sport will also be able to enter the Finals based on their performance in the UTMB® World Series Events.
- UTMB® World Series Qualifiers: UTMB® World Series Qualifiers are the gateway to the UTMB® World Series, with thousands of races around the world that are open to all. Participating in a UTMB® World Series Qualifier race is not mandatory to begin your adventure in the Series but runners who do take part will benefit from privileged access to the UTMB® World Series Events.
A new alliance, underpinned by UTMB® values
UTMB Group and The IRONMAN Group have joined forces through a strategic partnership that will enable them to develop the sport of trail running together. The pioneering new UTMB® World Series will unite the trail running community by drawing on UTMB Group’s expertise in the sport and The IRONMAN Group’s acclaimed global experience, to create the future of trail running built around the values of UTMB®: surpassing oneself; fair-play; respect for people and the environment; and solidarity.
Catherine Poletti, President of UTMB Group, commented: “After 18 years of history that has seen UTMB® become known around the world, it has become a brand that not only carries the sporting values of trail running but also fundamental human values. More than ever, we want to share this with as many people as possible and allow everyone to participate in an event organized in the same spirit – and with the same quality standards – as the UTMB® Mont-Blanc.
“We are certain that combining our experience and what the UTMB® brand represents, with the ability and expertise of The IRONMAN Group, is excellent news for the world of trail running and for all its players: the athletes, amateurs, elites, but also their friends and families, the territories, partners and the media.”
The IRONMAN Group has several established trail running events, including the Tarawera Ultramarathon™ by UTMB® (Rotorua, New Zealand), Ultra-Trail Australia™ by UTMB® (Katoomba, NSW, Australia), and the mozart 100® by UTMB® (Salzburg, Austria), all of which will be part of the inaugural UTMB® World Series.
Andrew Messick, President & Chief Executive Officer for The IRONMAN Group said: “The legacy of excellence and leadership by the Poletti family and UTMB® is unparalleled in trail running. Their ability to create transformative and enriching experiences registers deeply with us as the world’s largest organizer of endurance events, and together we look forward to bringing the deep-rooted values, spirit, and camaraderie of trail running competition globally.
“For over 40 years, we have worked to create event experiences that capture the imagination of people from around the world, producing life-changing race experiences for athletes of all levels, from their first step through the finish-line. We are grateful for the ability to partner with the talented team at UTMB Group as we marry our strengths in creating the UTMB® World Series as a platform to elevate the extraordinary that exists in us all,” Messick concluded.
The UTMB® World Series will provide all trail runners with the chance to live out their passion in the heart of some of the world’s most extraordinary natural settings while exploring iconic destinations and embracing different cultures. More than a sporting challenge, the UTMB® World Series will use its global platform to raise awareness around environmental issues while advocating for inclusivity. Sporting ethics will also play an important role in the UTMB® World Series, with elite and amateur runners treated as equals, as well as the health and well-being of every participant being a priority.
New services for runners and organisers
The UTMB® World Series will provide new services for runners such as privileged access, as well as new and more precise sporting criteria that considers the specificities of trail running. This includes developing the Performance Index as an exclusive asset of UTMB Group and creating new categories for classifying events.
Runners familiar with the sport’s first-ever ranking system will be able to continue using it on the new UTMB® World Series platform to evaluate and compare their performance level. Runners with a Performance Index will have privileged access to UTMB® World Series Event races, regardless of their level.
Four new categories based on the km-effort
There will be four UTMB® World Series categories including 20K, 50K, 100K and 100M which will be based on the km-effort, a globally recognized formula for measuring the race distance in trail running by considering both the distance and elevation gain to calculate the perceived distance. For example, 100M means 100 miles and represents a 170 kilometer-effort.
Top athletes’ consultation
In the process of defining the UTMB® World Series sporting structure, a significant group of international elite athletes were consulted to understand their collective feedback. Under the new sports system, to gain access to the UTMB® World Series Finals, the best trail runners on the planet will have to qualify by taking part in the UTMB® World Series Majors or UTMB® World Series Events over a period of 15 months.
The top 10 male and top 10 female runners in each of the 50K, 100K and 100M categories at the UTMB® World Series Majors will win a place for the next edition of the UTMB® World Series Finals race of the same category.
The top 3 male and top 3 female runners in each of the 50K, 100K and 100M categories at the UTMB® World Series Events will win a place for the next edition of the UTMB® World Series Finals race of the same category.
What they said – Elite athletes:
Lucy Bartholomew, Australia: “I am a huge fan of this series and what this will do for the sport, as an Australian and as a global ambassador for sport and ultra-trail running!”
Dylan Bowman, USA: “I’m thrilled to learn about the UTMB® World Series and view it as a healthy step forward as our sport moves into a prosperous future. UTMB® has always been the gold standard in event production and the UTMB® World Series will bring an elevated race experience to trail runners around the world. Quite simply, trail running changes lives. I view this is an opportunity to bring that gift to more people, while staying true to the spirit and culture that makes the sport so special.”
Kaori Niwa, Japan: “UTMB® Mont-Blanc is already the race everyone wants to be at because of its quality. Now we have the opportunity to experience UTMB®-quality races around the world. I am so excited to have more UTMB®races, especially in Asia with this new UTMB® World Series.”
Gabriel Rueda, Argentina: “My idea is to compete in the 100miles! I want to improve in that distance over the next two years, it’s my big objective. I’m looking forward to seeing more runners in 2022 at this new world circuit and wish them all good luck.”
Ryan Sandes, South Africa: “I am really excited about the UTMB® World Series and the evolution of our sport. I hope the Series will create a competitive racing platform for elite trail runners to showcase their talents and get the recognition they deserve.”
What they said – Race organizers:
Sam Ellis, Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB® Race Director: “We’re thrilled to be a part of the new UTMB® World Series, it provides a great opportunity to bring the world’s leading trail running events together and provides a clear pathway for athletes setting out to reach the pinnacle of the sport. At the Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB® we were in the great position of holding a successful event this February for our New Zealand based runners and can’t wait to welcome back international athletes in the years to come.”
Nick Christopher, Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB® Race Director: “As trail running continues to grow around the world, this partnership will bring together the world’s leading events into a world class series that will appeal to runners from around the globe. In the coming weeks we’ll be holding the 13th Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB® and can’t wait to welcome almost 7,000 runners to the World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB® has grown to become one of the largest trail running events in the world and we look forward to working closely with other event organisers in the years to come.”
Josef Mayerhofer, mozart 100 by UTMB® Managing Director: “Two leading brands in endurance sports joining forces to form a new global series will certainly benefit the trail running sport in many respects. Salzburg as a UNESCO world heritage site is a great and unique location for a race in this outstanding trail running series.”
Xavier Pocino, Val d’Aran by UTMB® General Manager: “We are very happy to be part of the UTMB® World Series. This is excellent news for all trail runners. We fully understand the required high level of organizational skills of all the events that are part of the UTMB® family, and this is going to be extrapolated to all the races in the circuit. It means one more step towards the improvement of the quality of trail running events, and to guarantee the runners’ satisfaction”.
Mr. Liu Yang, Chairman/President of Chengdu Xingzhi branch, organizers of Panda Trail by UTMB®: “As the most influential trail running event in the world, UTMB®’s professionalism and success inspires other race operators. We successfully held the Panda Trail by UTMB® in 2020, which has achieved the effect of internationalization, brand-association and high-quality delivery and created a positive response in the trail running community in China. It gave domestic runners the chance to experience the world’s highest-quality race near home. As the UTMB® World Series develops around the world, Panda Trail by UTMB® will attract more and more people both inside and outside of China, which will help us grow into one of the world’s top events.”
Bunjarat Suharitdamrong, Executive Director at Running Connect, organizers of Thailand by UTMB®: “The team at Thailand by UTMB® are all very excited to be one of the first events confirmed for the new UTMB® World Series. The idea to bring the leading races around the planet together to create structure will certainly appeal to all athletes, providing the best competition for elites, and a world-class experience for all runners. We look forward to the positive impacts on our race and to grow along with this new circuit.”
Mr. Malin, Executive Director of Gaoligong by UTMB®: “Nature and the mountains are at the heart of trail running, a place where new possibilities are discovered in connection with nature, history and oneself. As part of the UTMB family, we are looking forward to this flexible and inclusive innovation, which will enable runners around the world to join the UTMB® World Series. The Series is a great way to unite runners and attract like-minded people to come together to discover and challenge themselves.”