4-time winner and course file holder at UTMB (Extremely-Path du Mont-Blanc), Kilian Jornet, and 2023 second-place finisher Zach Miller are asking their fellow elite runners to affix them to find an alternate race to UTMB for 2024.
“In case you are receiving this, it’s since you are one of many prime athletes in our sport,” begins the e-mail, which was shared by Martin Cox, a working coach and former professional mountain runner primarily based in Chamonix, France (the positioning of the race) on Instagram. “We’re writing to see in the event you is likely to be occupied with committing to race one another at a race apart from UTMB this 12 months (2024).”
Jornet’s and Miller’s e-mail goes on, in what most individuals would describe as a really reasonable and respectful tone, to acknowledge UTMB as a “nice race” that has performed rather a lot for the game and created alternatives for a lot of high-level runners. Nevertheless it goes on to criticize the group (consisting of UTMB, the UTMB Group and Ironman, which grew to become half proprietor in 2021) for rising and increasing with out regard to what’s greatest for the game, “treating individuals poorly and working over everybody who will get in [their] means.”
Some background: in October 2023, UTMB/Ironman introduced a new ultra-trail race in Whistler, B.C., on the identical weekend as the previous Whistler Alpine Meadows (WAM) race, which went out of enterprise earlier final 12 months. Gary Robbins, WAM’s race director, says he was pressured out by Vail (which operates the Whistler resort) to make room for a take care of UTMB/Ironman, and lots of within the ultra-trail neighborhood (together with former Western States course file holder Ellie Greenwood) declared solidarity with Robbins and disgust at his therapy by UTMB/Ironman. Then, on Dec. 1, UTMB race announcer Corrine Malcolm introduced she had been fired by the group for her outspokenness on varied points regarding its enterprise.
We reached out to a variety of elite mountain and path runners, together with among the prime finishers at UTMB in 2023, however had been unable to determine anybody, apart from Cox, who had really been despatched the e-mail. Nevertheless, some athletes, together with Harvey Lewis (winner of Huge’s Yard Extremely World Championships in 2023) and Leah Yingling (who completed eighth at UTMB final 12 months) advised us they had been in settlement with the feelings expressed. Yingling advised us she had reached out to Miller after he posted misgivings about UTMB in December, and that he responded with lots of the identical concepts expressed within the e-mail. “… his level was to impact constructive change, and his thoughts was open to what that may appear to be and the way it would possibly occur,” Yingling stated in a direct message.
Canadian marathoner and ultra-trail runner Reid Coolsaet advised us he didn’t obtain the e-mail, however that he helps the message. “UTMB has performed loads of good for the game by way of creating a really aggressive occasion on an incredible course and showcasing the highest athletes,” Coolsaet stated. “For that purpose they’re being held at a excessive customary as leaders within the sport.
“The best way they’ve purchased races and made it obligatory for individuals to race UTMB races with the intention to qualify for UTMB/CCC/OCC has ruffled feathers in a sport that was born out of grassroots races. Many ultra-trail runners don’t need to see an Ironman state of affairs, the place mother and pop races with their very own flavour are pushed out.
“UTMB placing on a race in Whistler with out speaking with Gary Robbins after which letting Corrine Malcolm go was the nail within the coffin for plenty of path runners.”
“Hopefully if sufficient elites present their dissatisfaction with UTMB, they’ll change their enterprise mannequin.”
Not everybody, nonetheless, is in favour of leaving UTMB. Cox, the previous professional runner and coach behind @vo2maxcoaching who shared the e-mail, expressed sturdy disagreement with Jornet’s and Miller’s place, saying the letter “stinks of hypocrisy” and referring to it as a “marketing campaign of hate … in opposition to UTMB.”
“UTMB has allowed Jornet and lots of of his fellow execs to climb aboard the mountain-ultra-trail cash prepare and develop into reasonably influential,” the publish continues. “So it appears to be somewhat ungrateful to then flip round and try to carry the race to ransom.”
Widespread working coaches David and Megan Roche (who coach a number of athletes who compete in UTMB races, however who additionally didn’t obtain the e-mail) included a section on the controversy of their Jan. 16 Some Work, All Play podcast episode, expressing help for Jornet and Miller’s place and speculating that their resolution to ship the e-mail stemmed from a notion that criticism of UTMB/Ironman on social media had not introduced the specified outcomes. Nevertheless the Roches acknowledged the criticism that it’s straightforward for Jornet and Miller, who’re each on the very prime of their sport, to counsel that others forgo the doubtless very profitable sponsorship alternatives that include a robust efficiency on the August races in Chamonix; and so they made it clear they’d help their athletes of their decision-making round UTMB (whereas hoping they’d keep away from racing at UTMB Whistler).
Jornet and Miller say they’ve “pinpointed” a race they’d like elites to race as an alternative of UTMB, however they don’t reveal which race they take note of. “… please understand this isn’t meant to be a malicious, hateful factor in direction of UTMB,” the e-mail concludes. “The concept right here is to discover a strategy to apply some strain to the UTMB/Ironman group in order that we will impact constructive change. It might be nice if in the future we may go to UTMB and be ok with it, realizing that what they’re doing is making the game higher, not worse.”