On the Trail of the OCC

Spectacular views you can expect over to Mont Blanc during the UTMB series of races


It may only be March, but already I find myself celebrating my first two major “achievements” of the year: 1) I am not injured (yippee). 2) I was finally able to gain a ballot entry into the OCC race in August in 2018. Its a measure of how popular a race is when it sells out by 345%, but I have been trying for three years to get a place in it. The OCC (or Orsieres- Champex- Chamonix) is the shortest version in the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc series of races, with the UTMB arguably the most prestigious trail running race in the world.

The route from Champex to Chamonix


Some might say the OCC is a “mickey mouse” race, but they tend to be the “runners” who spend most of their time walking longer races, so don’t listen to them! A 55k race with 3500m ascent and descent in the Swiss and French Alps is long and hard enough for me thanks, especially as I intend to run most of it as hard as I can (in anything from intense heat to extreme cold, and with some fairly high passes).

Indeed it will be my longest race to date and is part of a long term (fairly loose) plan to run all the UTMB races in order, so starting with the OCC, then CCC, TDS and finally the UTMB. To step up to 100k, 121k or 171k distance races should not be taken lightly and I do not intend to rush the process, especially as I am still (relatively) fast at the shorter type distances.

You can expect heat, snow, high winds and beautiful sunrises and sunsets during these races


All UTMB series races finish on the high street in Chamonix, which outside of the Lake District is my favourite place in the world, so to say I am looking forward to it is an understatement. I still have the long term plan of moving there or to another part of the Alps in the future, so any trip out there doubles up as a future career scoping exercise.

The hardest part of the trip may be missing Becky and my little boy. He has certainly given me an extra impetus and focus in training in the last few months, with a switch to quality sessions, shorter or more sociable cross-training (e.g walking with the pram!), and running that I can fit in better to the day, so the active commute is my current choice to get the longer miles in. Roll on the 30th August.

Cross training can take many forms!

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