Thousands of ultrarunners descended on the European Alps for the 17th annual Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc – dubbed the World Summit of Trail-Running – from Aug. 26 through Sept. 1 as world-class mountain runners and world-class mountain lovers of varying speeds and natural abilities shared the trails on some of ultrarunning’s most hallowed trails.
The event offered five ultramarathon-distance races, three of which counted runners from New England among the finishers.
The signature race – the 171K UTMB – started and finished in Chamonix, France, circling Mont Blanc through Italy and Switzerland and testing runners with nearly 33,000 feet of vertical gain over 105 miles while they tried to beat the 46 1/2-hour time limit.
Spaniard Pau Capell put on a clinic in the men’s race, dominating from start to finish and winning comfortably in 20:19, nearly an hour ahead of three-time winner Xavier Thevenard of France who was second in 21:07. In the women’s race, American Courtney Dauwalter of Colorado moved to the front midway through and never looked back, earning the victory in 24:34 in her UTMB debut. She was the first American woman to win the race since Rory Bosio in 2014, who also won in 2013. Prior American women to win the race were Krissy Moehl (2003, 2009) and Nikki Kimball (2007). An American man has yet to win UTMB.
Three New England men started this year’s UTMB; all successfully finished. Shaun Daylor, 40, of Lakeville, Mass., and Joseph D’Alessio, 43, of Boston, Mass., spent most of their race within a few minutes of each other, and they finished seconds apart. Daylor finished in 38:17:06, good for 528th out of 1,550 total finishers. D’Alessio followed 33 seconds later in 38:17:39 for 530th place. UTMB was Daylor’s first race in Europe; D’Alessio has two other finishes under his belt at races in the Alps – the 330K Tor des Geants in Italy in 2018 and the 101K Eiger Ultra-Trail in Switzerland in 2017.
Joining Daylor and D’Alessio in finishing the UTMB was 53-year-old Joseph Boyle of Nashua, N.H., who placed 992nd in 42:47:45.
While the UTMB is the main event, the CCC is the “short course” version, covering the final 63 miles of the UTMB course through three countries from the starting line in Courmayeur, Italy, through Champex-Lac, Switzerland, and on to the finish line in Chamonix. Runners amassed 20,000 feet of vertical gain along the way. Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando led the race for the majority of the day and earned an 11-minute victory in the men’s field in 10:28. In the women’s race, Ragna Debats of the Netherlands had a similar performance, keeping the field slightly at bay for most of the day and winning in 12:10, followed 17 minutes later by American Amanda Basham of Utah in 12:27.
Three New England men were among the 1,549 finishers within the 26 1/2-hour time limit. One of them – 28-year-old Joe McConaughy of Boston, Mass. – had been there before. McConaughy finished the 2018 CCC 47th overall in 13:26:21. His 2019 race proved to be more difficult. The heat took its toll on several runners, McConaughy included. Eventually McConaughy connected with Yassine Diboun, 40, of Portland, Ore., who was also having a tough race in the heat. Diboun has made multiple trips to New England as a host of the Trail Running Film Festival, hosting the event in Arlington, Mass., multiple times. McConaughy and Diboun spent most of the second half of the race together and crossed the finish line together, McConaughy logging an official time of 17:21:49 (256th place) and Diboun officially finishing one second later.
The other two New England residents who finished did so while racing CCC for the first time. Benjamin Bruno, 32, of Middlebury, Vt., placed 112th overall in 14:58:49, and 32-year-old Boston resident Juan Santos placed 626th in 21:20:03.
Several other New England residents started the CCC but did not finish. Marcelo Gleiser, 59, and Kari Gleiser, 43, both of Hanover, N.H., both dropped from the race, Kari after 70.6K and Marcelo after 54.1K. Kristin Lundy, 49, of Charlotte, Vt., dropped after 40.2K; and Michelle Murphy, 33, of Lanesborough, Mass., timed out after 54.1K. Additionally, former Hudson, Mass., resident Liz Canty, 28, now of Huntsville, Ala., dropped after 81.2K and nearly 12 hours on the course.
Two New England residents were among the field of runners that took on the TDS, a 145K race that featured nearly 30,000 feet of climbing over 90 miles and a 42-hour time limit. Andrew Drummond, 38, of Madison, N.H., finished 317th overall out of 1,091 finishers in 33:02:26. Additionally, Julien Fourcade, 44, of Shrewsbury, Mass., finished in 37:26:19, good for 653rd place. Pablo Villa of Spain earned the men’s win in 18:03, and France’s Audrey Tanguy took top honors in the women’s field in 21:36, holding off American Hillary Allen of Colorado who was second in 21:52.
The TDS marked the successful completion of a third UTMB event for Fourcade. He completed the UTMB in 2016 and the CCC in 2013.
No New England residents were among the 1,474 finishers of the 55K OCC – the shortest of the ultramarathon races – from Orsieres, Switzerland, to Chamonix, and none took part in the multi-day PTL team race.