Proving that the depth of Scotland’s running talent isn’t confined to the track, Scotland and GB hill and trail running international Tom Owens finished a very close fourth in the UTMB at the weekend.
The event, a 170km circuit of Mont Blanc, rising to 2500/2600m with 10,000m of climbing, is the highlight of the world-famous annual trail running festival based in Chamonix.
The UTMB attracts applications from thousands of runners of the highest standard, but less than one in three gain a place. The event is known for its difficulty, with the average competitor taking 40 hours to complete the distance. This year, 2543 runners started the UTMB, but nearly 1000 failed to finish.
When interviewed after the race by Bryon Powell of iRunFar, Owens, who only recently had ankle surgery, was ‘absolutely delighted’ with his achievement. "It was my first really long, 100-mile race, so I had zero expectations. One thing I wanted to do was finish. I did that and I finished well, so … yeah, I’m delighted."
Not everything went to plan for the Shettleston Harrier: "I fell over early on and my knees were in agony for 100k or so on the descents, so I had to concentrate on taking lots of deep breaths and taking it one step at a time, quite literally. Just to get through that. I was fine on going uphill. So, I guess I didn’t think too much about anything else apart from that."
Later on, Owens tweeted: "What an adventure! Refreshing to tackle this iconic race (171km & 10,000+/-) with zero expectations & pull through strongly. Really happy with pacing and climbing." With less than two minutes separating the top finishers, Owens narrowly missed out on a podium spot.
In the end, the UTMB was won by Pau Capell of Spain (20.19.07), with Xavier Thevenard of France just under a minute behind (21.07.56). Scott Hawker of New Zealand took third (21.48.04), just under 20 seconds ahead of Owens (22.04.29).
In addition to Owens, two other Scottish elite runners took part in – and finished – the UTMB. Glasgow’s Paul Giblin just missed the top 20 with a 24th-placed finish; Metro Aberdeen’s Kyle Greig came home 116th.
Image: Tom Owens (Facebook)