The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) has been cancelled because of the coronavirus. The event was due to take place from August 24 to 30, but with travel restrictions in place it was considered impossible to host the festival of running in Chamonix, France. Runners will recieve a 55 per cent refund.

“As you know, the UTMB Mont-Blanc brings together thousands of people from more than 100 countries around the world. Conditions which, to date, are not compatible with the health context and public health rules. Cancelling is the most responsible decision to preserve the health and safety of all participants,” the UTMB’s statement said.

The UTMB is one of the most hotly contested and highly prized events on the trail running calendar. There are four major races – the 55km OCC, 100km CCC, 145km TDS and the 171km UTMB itself. The races attract the best mountain and ultra runners in the world. Including the elites, there are 2,300 runners in the 171km race alone and countless spectators who line the start and finish lines, and pack each village along the way.

It makes for one of the best atmospheres in trail running, but creates dangers of spreading the coronavirus.

The UTMB runs the full circumference of the Mont Blanc massif, going from France to Italy, then Switzerland and back to France. There are ever-changing travel restrictions for different countries. Italy was one of the first and worst hit countries in Europe – any travellers arriving have to spend 14 days in self-isolation, for example.

There is talk of “travel bubbles” where agreements between specific countries allow travel back and forth. France and Switzerland seem set to agree to a bubble.

But all this is speculative and with runners arriving from over 100 different countries, getting to the start line would have proved as much a challenge as getting around the course, even if crossing borders by foot is legal.

The UTMB is the latest event to fall to the virus. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed to summer 2021 and other sports are desperately searching for gaps in their schedules to resume leagues or play postponed fixtures.

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