This summer I was due to head to North Wales, to be part of the media team for UTS – and we all know what happened to racing in 2020….
However, good news keeps arriving, with some races able to take place and now with the news that UTS is now part of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour and with it, becoming Ultra-Trail® Snowdonia.
I’ve been friends with Race Director Mike Jones for a number of years and privy to some conversations early on about the original idea of Ultra-Trail® Snowdonia. It’s hard to believe the first race was only held in May 2018, it feels like its been around much longer, though, for those that braved the start line of the inaugural race, I’m sure the memories of Mike’s brutal witchcraft are still fresh in the mind.
He said it would be “Beautiful beyond belief. Savage beyond reason”
200 runners took on the original 50/100-mile distance races, in the latter, just 13 finished out of 46 starters
He wasn’t lying
The second edition in May 2019 attracted an increased number of hardy competitors, with around a quarter coming from outside the UK. Word spreads fast about races that will leave your quads and minds in tatters. Just over half of those who started, finished the 100- mile race, under perfect weather conditions.
This year’s (2020) third edition was sadly cancelled due to Covid-19. For 2021, the event is planned to take place on the weekend of 4-6th June, based in Capel Curig, near Betws-y-Coed. It will feature three distances: 50/100/165km with 3300/6700/10,000m+ elevation gain, respectively, of which the 100km event (UTS 100), will play host to the UK and Ireland’s first and only Ultra-Trail® World Tour event.
That’s right, this is the first time the UTWT is coming to the UK and though Scotland has been stealing some of the wider attention of late, Wales is set to show how a compact mountain range can deliver outrageous challenges.
Time limits for each event are 14/33/50 hours, respectively, which makes the 165km ‘UTS 165’ which starts on Friday morning, one of the longest single-stage ultras in the world, timewise.
Mike set out to bring the Alps to the UK. A feat that requires a lot of though, scouting and creativity. Head to Chamonix for example and the base of the valley is already higher than most UK mountains, with a further 3000m of vertical real estate to play with (with rope and harness).
UTS is certainly one of the more aspirational trail ultras to complete within the UK scene and is unique in nature due to its ‘Alpine-style’ status, thanks to the significant amount of climbing and rugged trails that each race distance features. Therefore, cutting your teeth in less savage races is advised, in order for you to get the full UTS experience, rather than be in a world of pain from the off.
Entries to all race distances are now live and are £99/£139/£179, respectively. Places are limited and this has been open for a couple of weeks, so I advise you move fast. You can read more about what’s included with entry here.
But where did the idea come from?
While living in Chamonix during the summer of 2017 and training for CCC, UTS Race Director Michael Jones had the vision to launch an ‘Alpine-style’ ultra, similar in nature to UTMB, within the UK. An event that would in due course bring the UTWT to the UK and in doing so, put Snowdonia firmly on the global trail running map. In 2018, his vision was realised with the inaugural UTS, which has gone from strength to strength since then.
Mike explains: “Since launch in 2018 I have worked relentlessly to develop UTS and shape it into an event worthy of hosting the Ultra-Trail® World Tour. It has been very rewarding to see that the vision I had has not been lost amongst the event’s previous competitors, many of whom no doubt entered having identified UTS as a new benchmark mountain ultra-race for the UK”
Having spent a week living with Mike in Chamonix in 2018, I can appreciate where the idea comes from and also the passion that flows through his legs. Even if he did leave me for dead when we did try running together. The difference between average Joe (me) and Mike is vast!
For those with a love affair of the Chamonix Valley & UMTB, your chances of running the fabled race can be more in your favour if you roll the dice. As a UTWT 500 Point event, finishers of any UTS race will collect 3 highly lucrative ‘Running Stones’, which can be used towards entry to UTMB events in 2022 onwards and treble your chance of getting a place in the lottery. Read more about this concept HERE.
And for those lucky to already be racing at UTMB next August, in terms of date and nature of challenge, UTS offers the perfect dress-rehearsal event to help ensure you are suitably well prepared upon arrival in Chamonix. Also, thanks to being part of the tour, UTS will soon join the UTWT Virtual Club (more info HERE), so keep an eye out for a new, international UTS-themed virtual event this winter.
“The routes you have found are challenging and the right mix of rough Welsh terrain and nice rocky well-made paths with lots of really good views, taking me to places on routes that I have never thought to go… The organisation is superb, very friendly with great checkpoints serving a wide selection of food. I look forward to returning in 2021!” – Nicky Spinks, 2018 UTS 50 Champion
“I had never been to Wales before; I had never done a race with so much vertical gain… I didn’t know what to expect so I had just one goal: to finish. We had amazing views, a challenging route, long climbs and technical descents. I had never felt as broken as I did on the last descent, but at that moment I knew that I’d definitely be coming back for more!” – Marcis Gubats, 2018 UTS 100 Champion
So if you’re after some home grown adventure, a course that will leave you wishing you’d taken a week off work for recovery & a chance to line up against the world best at the Ultra-Trail® World Tour, look no further than UTS.
More event info & entry: www.ultratrailsnowdonia.com
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