Hey, all you trail enthusiasts and mountain runners! 🏃♂️🏔️ So you’re eyeing the UTMB, huh? This ultra-iconic trail race through the Alps that’s on every runner’s bucket list, comes around every year, and every year we get FOMO, unless of course we are there running it ourselves!
Trust me, the FOMO is real. But man, figuring out how to qualify for UTMB can sometimes feel like navigating a labyrinth within a labyrinth; that’s why I’m putting this post together to help break it down into an easy to understand process for you.
I will also share how I plan to reach the starting line of UTMB OCC 2024 in Chamonix, France, as a case study to help make the process relatable and easier to understand.
Who can register for UTMB races?
First things first, let’s talk about who can register for these adrenaline-pumping races—UTMB, CCC, and OCC.
There are three groups of lucky runners:
- Runners Eligible for Lottery
- Elite Runners
- Runners with Priority
Hold up, though! Pre-registration for these races is currently closed, and the lottery results were announced on January 10, 2023.
If you made it through the lottery, congrats—you had until January 20, 2023, to finalize your registration.
The lottery explained
If you’re among the mere mortals like us, you’ll be entering via the lottery. To do this, you gotta have:
- At least one Running Stone from the last two years AND
- A valid UTMB Index score in the category for your planned race distance. So if you plan to race the 100km CCC, then you need to be qualified in the UTMB Index for that category of distance.
Like any lottery, the more tickets (or Running Stones in this case) that you have, the higher your odds of gaining entry to the race, after you apply. More stones, more chances!
What’s a Running Stone?
Imagine a Running Stone as your golden ticket to the lottery; you can earn these by finishing a 20K, 50K, 100K, or 100M race in the UTMB World Series circuit.
You need to have completed one of those races to even be able to enter one of the UTMB races in Chamonix, France. So, with that in mind, I recommend you go and have some fun choosing one that tickles your fancy, or is most local to where you reside.
These little gems are like your “extra tickets” in the lottery, upping your odds of getting picked.
UTMB Index, what’s that all about then?
The UTMB Index is like your runner’s GPA. You need one that matches your chosen race category and is up to date (within the last 2 years).
- OCC Lottery: UTMB Index in the 20K, 50K, 100K, or 100M category
- CCC Lottery: UTMB Index in the 50K, 100K, or 100M category
- UTMB Lottery: UTMB Index in the 100K or 100M category
Diving deeper into trying to explain this concept, typically, the UTMB Index is calculated based on your performance in specific races, with various distances and difficulties factored in. It’s not just a “run this distance, get this index” kinda deal.
If you’ve run a 50K UTMB World Series race (or qualifying UTMB Index race), your UTMB Index would be updated and valid for the 50K and 100K category, making you eligible for the OCC and CCC lottery.
To find your exact index number, you’d need to check your MY UTMB account where all this data is compiled once you’ve got some UTMB World Series/UTMB Index races under your belt.
So while I can’t give you an exact index number for the race you’re planning to run as that also depends on your performance; running a 50K in a UTMB Index race would for example put you in the game for the OCC or CCC race in Chamonix provided you’ve earned a Running Stone from one of UTMB’s World Series events!
Clearer now? If not, just keep reading and hopefully it will become even more so, if not just drop me a question in the comments below.
Race categories explained: Kilometer-Effort (km-effort) scale
The 4 race categories are based on the km-effort, a globally recognized formula for measuring the perceived race distance in trail running by considering both the distance and elevation gain to calculate the estimated perceived distance.
The km-effort is calculated by adding 1km to the race distance for every 100 meters of elevation gain.
For example, a race of 50km and 2,500 meters of elevation gain has 75 km-effort – this all helps determine your UTMB Index score for each qualifying race you complete.
Other ways to register that may improve your chances of getting in
Got a running crew? You could go for a group registration!
You can enter as a group, but the group’s lottery odds are determined by the member with the least number of Running Stones.
For example, if you have 3 stones and your buddy has 1, you’ll enter the lottery with 1 stone each.
Elite runners, listen up!
To gain access to the UTMB World Series Finals, the best athletes on the planet must qualify by taking part in the UTMB World Series Majors or UTMB World Series Events races.
The first 10 men and women on the UTMB World Series Majors, as well as the first 3 men and women on the UTMB World Series Events in each of the 50K, 100K and 100M categories, will win a place at the UTMB World Series Finals in the equivalent category.
Elites benefit from advantages at all the UTMB World Series Events and can also benefit from the UTMB World Series Support Program.
Special cases and age categories
UTMB does offer entry through age category rankings and to some “priority” runners like those registered in 2020 or international runners from 2021.
Reallocated reserved bibs
Didn’t get picked in the lottery? Don’t lose heart. You can get in through reserved bibs, which get reallocated in June.
These are for runners who have at least one UTMB World Series Event or Major under their belt.
My strategy for entering OCC in 2024, and potentially CCC in 2025
Ok so as with every year, I have spent the last week glued to the UTMB coverage and now have ridiculous FOMO, as such I’m planning my return to the event in 2023 with the aim of running OCC (UTMB’s 50km ultramarathon race) once again.
I have been off the UTMB World Series circuit for a few years due to covid shutting the world down, and other life’s adventures BUT I WANT BACK IN! This means I have to first earn myself a UTMB Stone before January 2024 in order to finalise my entry.
I’m British but I currently live in beautiful Northern California in the USA and luckily there are a number of UTMB races in my region, although we are approaching the end of the year which means most of the races have already happened, leaving me with less choice.
But wait, there’s a really awesome looking race in Big Bear, California called the Kodiak. The 50km category race on the 14th October 2023 is the one I have targeted, in order to make my 2024 UTMB OCC dreams come true.
I’m going to go ahead and enter this race as soon as I have finished writing this blog post, so that my plan is set in motion. Once I have completed the race, I will have earned 2 running stones from that race, which is effectively two lottery tickets, for when I come to register for OCC in January 2024.
My next phase of training will see me step up into the 100K arena, ready for me to register for CCC in 2025, and I plan to be running more races throughout the year in order to keep my UTMB Index points topped up ready for when I register for the CCC goal race.
I hope my own little case study helps you with your own plan but if anything is still unclear and you’d like my help with making your own UTMB dreams come true, please just drop any questions you may have in the comments section down below.
What’s it going to cost you?
Please bare in mind prices fluctuate from year to year but as of right now, entry prices for the 3 main events at UTMB are:
- UTMB: 355€ (excluding admin fees)
- CCC: 220€ (excluding admin fees)
- OCC: 135€ (excluding admin fees)
Some alternative races to the UTMB
In case for whatever reason you’re not able to qualify for the next UTMB event, here are some other epic European mountain race alternatives to the UTMB that you should definitely consider running too.
Wrapping it all up then
Phew! Hopefully you don’t feel like you just ran an ultra reading through all of that and you now have a much better grasp of how to qualify for UTMB.
For those of you who follow us on Instagram (and hopefully thats all of you! :oP), stay tuned for exciting new reels and updates on new running gear and training tips. Join our Strava club too, and be part of the joy that running brings to our lives.
Any questions? Shoot ’em over. Run wild, run free and see you on the trails! 🌲🏃♀️ -Alastair