After more than 28 hours of tough running in conditions which forced hundreds of runners to quit because of extreme cold, Hoka One One athlete and Trail Run Mag representative, Kellie Emmerson, ran herself into 5th place at UTMB, one of the world’s most competitive 100-mile ultramarathons.
The event takes athletes around the mountains range surrounding Mont Blanc in France, covering 167km with 10,000 metres of climbing – effectively 4 marathons in thin air while running up and down a 3,500-storey building.
The unique challenge of 2,500 competitors racing around Europe’s tallest mountain was only made tougher by snow falling unusually low for this time of year.
“My hands were so cold today I couldn’t use them; I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drink,” said Emmerson.
“I just had to keep my head down and push through the ice and sleet.”
Known in Australia as a strong ultra trail competitor with a variety of course records to her name, this 28:30 epic in harsh terrain was the kind of run that can only be described as a breakthrough for the rising star. Her registering fifth at the world stage event in what was a deep and quality women’s field – led by race winner Nuria Picas from Spain and Andrea Huser in second – places her among the best trail runners on the planet.
Only edging into her best position of the entire race over the closing miles, it was in fact her first 100-miler.
“I ran 70k further than I ever have before and didn’t change my shoes once,” says Emmerson, giving tip of the cap to her recently formed relationship with shoe brand Hoka One One. (She ran in the new Speedgoat 2, for those shoe-o-files).
Emmerson challenged hard for fifth just minutes before crossing the line and was able to hold on for a stellar finish only seconds ahead of Canadian Alissa St Laurent at the most prestigious ultra-trail event in the world.
Another Aussie, Robyn Bruns, managed to get in to the top ten also, registering tenth place.
In the men’s it was a steamroller performance by Francois D’Haene to stay ahead of Kilian Jornet in second and Tim Tollefson – who won UTA earlier this year – in third.
New Zealander Scott Hawker put in a polished performance also, registering eleventh place.