The Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc (UTMB) has changed its entry process, so runners can all but guarantee a spot in the famous race.

As of 2020, runners who are unsuccessful in the lottery for places in the race improve their chances of winning a spot the following year by gaining ‘tickets’.

“The probability of being selected is therefore proportional to the number of times a runner has failed to gain entry in the previous years,” the UTMB said.

The chances of being picked double the second year you enter, then triple the subsequent year.

Tickets can be accumulated and the runner can take a pause for one year, without losing the lottery advantage. Tickets are valid for life and only expire when the runner is finally successful.

The organisers added there are two exceptions: those that fail in 2019 and 2020 are guarantee a spot in 2021 if they still have not won a place (as per the current rules). Secondly, finishers of 130-kilometre race at the Ushuaia by UTMB in South America, and the 130km and 160km races at the Oman by UTMB will automatically gain a spot at the UTMB in Chamonix, even if they compete before the 2020 launch date.

The UTMB is the marquee event on the running calender with six races taking place over a week. Even to earn a chance to enter the lottery, runners must collect enough “points” by running in International Trail Running Association (ITRA) accredited races.

As of 2020, the amount of points required will lower.

The UTMB now requires 10 points (down from 15), the 145km TDS requires eight points (the same as before), the 100km CCC requires six points (down from eight), the OCC requires four (down from six) and the PTL and MCC require none.

Speaking during a live press conference the organisers, Catherine and Michel Poletti, explained the rational behind the changes.

The races are over subscribed – with 26,000 applications for 10,000 race bibs.

“We cannot add any more competitors to the races – we must take care of the narrow trails that we run on and there are also administrative reasons,” said Catherine.

Michel added: “It was necessary to change our registration process. We have thought out a more flexible, more open system, one that is in sync with the ongoing internationalisation of trail running and better addresses the issue of runners’ health.”

In addition to the above system, athletes can collect ‘Running Stones’, which are essentially a different form of points, but ones that bypass the lottery and guarantee entry.

They are awarded to runners who complete “by UTMB” events such as Gaoligong by UTMB and Oman by UTMB, and also selected Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) Events.

“This is a little joke” said Michel Poletti about the stones – “they are the stones you see on the UTMB logo, modelled on the stones we have in the rivers in the Alps.”

18 running stones get the runner automatic entry into UTMB, 15 into TDS and CCC and 12 for OCC. Importantly, runner must also have a number of qualifying ITRA points – 10 for UTMB, for eight for TDS six for CCC and four for OCC.

The number of running stones gained from completing a “by UTMB” race is awarded based on the one ITRA point = three running stones formula.

For the UTWT races not “by UTMB” one ITRA point is equivalent to one Running Stone. There is no limit as to the number of Running Stones a runner can accumulate and the stones are valid for four years.

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You can ‘exchange’ stones for lottery tickets.

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Exactly which Ultra Trail World Tour races will be part of the running stones system is still under negotiation according to Michel Poletti.

Throughout the conference, the UTMB emphasised the advantages of the flexibility of the new system. “It is a good answer to the issue of female participants pregnancy” added Michel, referring to the issue that was raised last year. “Now it is possible for a female applicant to come back one year after pregnancy without losing her place in registration.”

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At the end of the conference, Remi Duchemin, the Executive Director of UTMB International mentioned the importance of Asia in UTMB global strategy – “We have many demands and applications from Asia and we already have very strong partnership in China. Asia is the continent of growth, it is where it all happens.”