America's only certified Skyrace course. Race Beast of Big Creek on Mt. Ellinor in Hoodsport, WA on Aug 3rd, 2024.

America's only certified Skyrace course. Race Beast of Big Creek on Mt. Ellinor in Hoodsport, WA on Aug 3rd, 2024.

Just listened to Corrine Malcolm and Buzz Burrell discuss the Ironman/Whistler kerfuffle on their latest episode of the ‘Trailhead podcast by UltraSignup‘, and man, if not even these two “voices of our sport” understand how UTMB’s stone system works, then I don’t even know. The two lament that UTMB requires a runner to run 2-3 official UTMB races each year in order to get their stones for the lottery. While that might fit the emotional narrative of the moment, it is just not true.

Stones do not expire. Stones are cumulative.

Their argument insinuates that one has to run exclusively UTMB events to be eligible to enter the lottery each year for a chance to run around Mont-Blanc. Yes, one needs to get a single stones every two years to enter the lottery. But a single stone from a single race, that could literally be a 20K, is enough to keep your account valid. And! The stones don’t expire but add up. You can run any of the community index races to keep your index current in order to put your name into the lottery for any specific distance.

So, to iterate:

  • No trail runner is required to have the goal to run in Chamonix one year. It’s a special dream a lot of people have but it’s not for everyone. In the same way not everyone dreams of running Western States, and the ones who do, need a qualifier each year and can’t let it lapse, and often have to wait 5+ years before they are picked.
  • That UTMB comes up with a lottery system that provides access to their races which are in such high demand seems reasonable. Is that stone system perfect? Maybe not, but no race organization has figured out a system that’s ‘community approved’.
  • That UTMB somehow breaks the community by providing access to their event in the Alps is lazy. Any popular trail race that is oversold has a mechanism to determine who gets to run. Some choose tight cutoffs, some operate on a first come first serve basis, some have a complicated system we all don’t argue over because it’s been around for years.
  • If some of the leading voices in our sport aren’t (willing to) understand-ing how this new system works then clearly the system needs to be explained better, and it’s UTMB’s fault for not promoting this more directly. It’s really not that hard.
  • This kerfuffle of last week seems to have brought out the worst in our community. If the very people who race, promote, and report on the very events are so willing to throw the organization that puts on these events on under the bus, and are doing so with careless oversimplified and false talking points then I actually don’t think trail running will save the world, then trail running is just as mediocre and average as any other past time.

This UTMB stone system is no threat to our community. It really isn’t.