Beautiful beyond belief, Savage beyond reason : Over 1,100 athletes prepare for Ultra Trail Snowdonia by UTMB
Next up in the UTMB World Series is one of the wildest and toughest events in the calendar for 2022, the Ultra Trail Snowdonia by UTMB, set in the spectacular and challenging mountainous wilderness of north Wales in the United Kingdom from the 1-3 July.
This year is the fourth staging of an event that started in 2018 and is the brainchild of its race director Michael Jones. Around 1,130 athletes from 43 nations will take on one of three distances – the UTS 50km, UTS 100km and the exceptionally tough 100-miler, the UTS 165km. Not for nothing is this event’s tagline: “Beautiful beyond belief; Savage beyond reason.”
The longest race is certainly not for the faint-hearted and includes one of the biggest totals for overall ascent in any one race in the family of UTMB World Series events. It totals 10,200 metres and features no less than 12 significant climbs, including an ascent of Snowdon straight after the start from the colorful town of Llanberis.
“It is more difficult than UTMB Mont-Blanc I would say, based on the feedback from people who have done both,” said Jones a former elite trail runner. “The secret to doing well is taking your time with it. It’s a 50-hour event, so you’ve got to be prepared to be on your feet and moving for two days and taking advantage of rest when you can get it. The best approach is to take it one segment at a time and try not to get too scared by the overall challenge and just break it down.”
The course is quite technical with heavily-bouldered trails in parts, but it also includes ridge and moorland running, fire roads through forests and a chance to enjoy some of the most untamed countryside in the UK, complete with wild ponies, at what is the only UTMB World Series event in the British Isles this year.
Among the favorites in the male division for the UTS 165 will the British runner Mark Darbyshire who won the 100km race at this event last year. Rivalling him for the title will be the Welsh runner Simon Roberts, 33, who won the Dragon’s Back six-day stage race in Wales last year.
“There’s a lot of climbing but the mountains are not as big as in Europe, so they don’t go on as long, but there are lots of smaller climbs too, so you are constantly going up and down,” said Roberts who will be going for the win on terrain he knows well. “That’s the mindset you’ve got to get into your head straight away and understand that that’s what your days are going to be,” he added.
In the women’s division, among six female athletes taking on the race will be Amy Norfolk, a 37-year-old dentist who lives in Cumbria in northern England. Norfolk was timed out last year at the final checkpoint and is determined to make it to the finish line this time round, come what may.
“I am just going to break it down into little bits – into 10-mile segments and just get over each one,” she said.“And just remind myself I really don’t want to go back again next year, so I need to get it done this year and crack on.” Norfolk joked that she is praying for a couple of miserable wet days – “bleak and cold and horrible please” – conditions that she believes will help her stay the course.
In the UTS 100, Josh Wade of Great Britain who finished second in this event last year will be a contender, as will Gavin Byrne, a strong runner from Ireland. In the women’s division, British runner Nicky Spinks will be looking to add another title to her illustrious CV, with Katarzyna Zajac of Poland and Britain’s Emma Brock amongst those contending alongside her.
Jones, meanwhile, is delighted that his event is now part of the UTMB World Series. “It has always been a goal of this event to have something with an international profile and it is a real privilege to be part of the UTMB family.”