Josh Wade and Emma Stuart crush the 100M course, Tom Evans takes victory in the 50K among record participation at Ultra-Trail Snowdonia by UTMB
Set at the National Slate Museum in Llanberis, Wales, Ultra-Trail Snowdonia by UTMB® hosted more than 2,850 runners last weekend for a record-breaking fifth edition. With the most competitive and deep elite fields ever seen in a UK trail event, more than 64 nationalities came together to take on the rugged wilderness of north Wales, experiencing the wealth of the Welsh landscapes, with race paths featuring everything from ridges and moorland running, to epic single-track and untamed countryside, including scree covered scrambles up and around the legendary Snowden and surrounding peaks.
Race Director, Michael Jones, was proud of the transformation from the event’s humble beginnings in 2018 to the UK's most prolific ultra-trail event in 2023. He said, “We were honoured to have such an incredible elite field and the weather was on our side to showcase the stellar beauty of Snowdonia (Eryri).” The event highlighted many aspects of the Welsh culture, with speakers announcing the event in both English and Welsh and the local Welsh Samba band, Batala Bangor, on hand to drum out the beat as runners took the start on Saturday. Jones added, “It means so much that the local community has really embraced our event.” Local Gwynedd Council Member, Kim Jones was on hand to congratulate runners from around the world and cheer on local Eryri runners as well, commenting. “We are proud to welcome such a diverse mix of runners. And delighted to share the unique Welsh culture and mythical landscapes of Eryri (Snowdonia) with new and familiar faces, alike.”
The UTS 100-mile race got underway on Friday at 1pm. During an unprecedented heat wave, the competition was cooking on the 168km course as Grégoire Curmer (FRA – UTMB Index 859) took a strong lead and kept a punishing pace before UK favorite, Josh Wade (WLS – UTMB Index 855) started his charge at the 100km mark. “I’m just over the moon. The hills felt absolutely awesome,” Wade said. “I went out slow. The plan was to push hard from Beddgelert (117km into the race) but just before, I thought let’s give it full gas. One of the best days ever.” With a time of 23:57:51, Josh Wade made the most of every single second of his best-day-ever, while Curmer claimed the second place spot 1-hour and 20 minutes behind Wade. In third place, David Hedges (USA) rounded out the men’s podium, with all three also qualifying for the pinnacle race at the UTMB World Series Finals held in Chamonix at the end of August.
Emma Stuart, grabbed the women’s title in 28:33:28, coming ahead of Sabrina Stanley, who found the race to be “absolutely extraordinary, so beautiful and so very hard.” Claire Bannawarth (ENG) completed the podium on the 100M. Emma is eager to encourage more women to take on the ultra-distance, commenting: “There are some really strong female runners out there. It’d be great to get more on the 100-mile start line. I’d like to see another woman bring this course record down under 28 hours.”
Overall across the weekend, Ultra-Trail Snowdonia by UTMB saw 20% female participation, which was up 5% from last year. The 20K counted a record 40% female participation.
A 5:00AM start greeted the UTS 100K runners on Saturday morning, as the 618 athletes set out for an epic adventure of 103km and 6800 meters elevation gain. At the finish line, the Welsh crowd was enamoured with Jean-Philippe Tschumi (CHE)who was equally as smitten of the Welsh destination. He put on a show at the finish, cartwheeling through the winner’s ribbon. He said, “I love the technical trails. It was not a holiday out there. It was really hot. The scenery is incredible. This is the essence of what trail running is,” before proclaiming, “I love Wales.”Hot on Tschumi’s heels were Tom Owens (ENG) and Keith Wigley (SCT) finishing just 3 and 5 minutes behind, respectively. On the women’ spodium, Lizzie Atkins(ENG) took the win in a time of 16:44:09, followed by solid performances from Robyn Cassidy, and Rachel Fawcett to round out the fully British podium.
Tom Evans, the UK’s top trail runner, was an avid participant and a proud supporter of Ultra-Trail Snowdonia by UTMB, and its extended events program. He first led the 2k Eyri Mini Kids race as the race marshal on Friday evening, before taking on the 50k Saturday morning.He said, “If I can inspire just one kid to pursue their dreams, whether it's to win races or just to participate, then it’s more than worth it.” He explained, “I've wanted to run at Snowdonia since the race was created in 2018, the 50K is really technical. It’s great to bring more notoriety to the beauty and technicity of our trails here in Wales.” In all 1383 runners set out from Llanberis’s National Slate Museum on Saturday at 8am to take on the 50K. Evans described the course as ‘super tough and technical’. He grew up visiting his grandparent’s in Snowdonia, just a few valleys over. He joked, “I have been doing a recky of this course since my childhood.” That experience certainly helped, as he posted the fastest time across the finish in a blistering 05:27:11, ahead of Mathieu Delpuech, (FRA) and Kristoffer Eftedal (NOR). On the women’s side, Johanna Gelfgren (SWE) was the fastest female, placing 9th overall, followed by Kirsteen Welch (ENG), who conceded her crown as last year’s winner but held tight to finish a strong second. Fiona Pascall (ENG) clinched the remaining spot on the podium.
On the 20K, Holly Wooten (ENG), sped to victory ahead of Theresa Arvik, (NOR) and Charmaine Horsfall (ENG). On the men’s side, the accomplished road runner from Swansea, Wales, Kris Jones, kept a crushing pace to claim the win ahead of Dominik Tabor (POL) and Gian Schicktanz (CHE).
Over the moon seemed to be the phrase of the day as runners crossed the finish line into the arms of loved ones or to share stories from the race with other runners competing in one of the wildest and toughest events in the calendar.
Former rugby champion and local legend, Lewis Robling ran the 25K and was blown away by how hard it was. “It was my first time running up Snowden. Even as a Welshie. What a challenge, it just didn’t quit. A great showcase of the local beauty.”
For UK runner, Zukie Tandatahu, his goal at Ultra-Trail Snowdonia by UTMB was about having fun on the course and completing the 100K to bring visibility for greater diversity in trail running. As a crew member of Black Trail Runners (BTR), a charity that seeks to increase the inclusion, participation and representation of black people in trail running, he said, “The 100K was quite a brutal race, challenging but I really enjoyed it. There was good camaraderie amongst trail runners on the course. It’s huge for black people to take on these races. It’s important to help broaden access to this sport for blacks and other minority groups.” Tandatahu aspires to one day make it to Chamonix for the UTMB World Series Finals. “I hope to inspire other black runners to do the same.“
Another inspiring finisher was Turtha Gurung, originally from Nepal and living in London for the past 8 years, she demonstrated ultimate defiance and determination, as one of the final runners to complete the race in 31:32:30, with just minutes to spare before the cut-off. Full of emotion and pride at the finish line, she said, “So many times, I felt like giving up but I kept pushing, I was inspired by my friends on the course, and now, I am just so happy to have finished. So many emotions, some tears, but all happy tears.”
Full Race Results for the event are available via live.utmb.world through this link.
Entries for the 2024 edition of Ultra-Trail Snowdonia by UTMB will open at 10am on the 24th of May, 2023 on the website.