Filipinos Stood Proud in UTMB: the World Summit of Trail Running
Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc, on its 15th year, saw a display of perseverance of the 8000 runners from around the world in the five events held during the week. Being able to join the race is a feat in itself as runners have to garner points in two-three qualifying races to gain points and be part of the lottery for the race. The race gathered the top elite athletes in the world, most of the professional athletes representing their countries and supporting brands, were present. UTMB organizers dubbed this year’s edition as the most competitive so far. It was one of the toughest also, quoting from UTMB’s website “The skies above the Mont-Range decided to celebrate 15 years of trail running in their own unique way, by turning on the hose full blast over the hundreds of kilometers of trails traveled by competitors. Mixing rain, wet snow, hurricane-force winds, fog at the higher elevations, and mud, nothing was spared for the several thousand runners, including some who spent two nights out in the mountains to endure the abominable conditions. For event director Catherine Poletti, this 15th edition felt like a new beginning, “The weather conditions reminded me of the first edition in 2003, except that 15 years later we’re ready and able to deal with bad weather, just like the runners today who are also much better prepared.”
Seventeen trail runners represented the Philippines including three runners based in other countries and two expats.
Sandi Menchi, set the excitement high for the Filipino trail running community on August 30 as she raced with 1600 runners in her event TDS together with four Filipino contingents. For 23 hours, the community was glued to the live tracking as Sandi raced on the leaderboard of the trail running leaders, finishing at rank 21st, third Asian and first Southeast Asian in a race that is dominated mostly by Europeans and Americans. Her first time to race outside Asia after winning several Asian races and being crowned Asian Circuit Champion in 2014 and 2016, Sandi had to persevere racing in a very foreign land. TDS is not for the faint of heart with the most technical course in a 119k distance and 7200 meters elevation gain. The race started with a sunny weather with rains and snow as they reach the peak at night. “It was painful, at the last 8 kilometers as we were going down, I pushed hard to possibly gain more leads in the female category but the competition was really tough. I knew I gave my best and have seen how a far a Filipino can go in this race, and I hope this could be the first of many. I look forward to being better than my performance in TDS or any other international race if given another chance. It was great to be there and know that finally a flag of the Philippines is displayed in a trail running leaderboard. It is my way of giving back to the Filipino community that has brought me here.”, said Sandi. Fellow Filipino, Aldean Lim finished the same event three hours after Sandi. While Filipino based expat, Kristian Jorgensen finished in 19 hours.
On September 1, other Filipino trail runners, started their 101 kilometer race – the CCC. Race conditions got worse with the rain and snow continuously pouring in Chamonix. Mark Itol, Erick Guieb and Edmund Cura successfully finished the race. Edmund shared that his eyesight worsened midway through the race and had to deal with it until he finished during the last hour until the race cut-off.
The main event – UTMB started at midnight of September 1 with six Filipinos joining the race. Gene Olvis, an engineer, led the Filipino contingent and eventually finished in 35:33 setting the fastest course record in UTMB by a Filipino. He was followed by Miguel Carranza, a police officer, who finished after two hours. Conrado Bermudez, a US based Pinoy and Donald Hermoso, based in Singapore also finished the race. Majo Liao, finished the race in 42:15 and became the first Filipina to finish the UTMB. “I want to show that a Filipina can finish UTMB”, Majo said during one of her pre-race interview. And she did.
Gene Olvis at an Aid Station with Filipino trail runners (Benj Termulo, based in France and Aldean Lim and Sandi Menchi who finished TDS days before). The crew gave support at the Aid Stations to our local runners.
Majo Liao, the first Filipina finisher of UTMB.
The race offered one of the most averse weather conditions in the history of UTMB, added to the already tough challenge of running hundreds of kilometers in the highest elevation mountain ranges of Italy, France and Switzerland. And our Filipino trail runners stood proud and raised the flag high in Chamonix, France.
Watch our #AskYourRaceYaya facebook live interview with some of our UTMB Finishers.