Rory Bosio Repeats As UTMB Champion

American wins prestigious UTMB race in France for the second straight year.

American Rory Bosio acknowledges the crowd after winning the 104-mile UTMB race for a second straight year. Photo: Brian Metzler
American Rory Bosio acknowledges the crowd after winning the 104-mile UTMB race for a second straight year. Photo: Brian Metzler

Bosio repeats as champion of the 104-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc race that passes through France, Italy and Switzerland.

With a bloody knee and muddy legs, Rory Bosio crossed the finish line of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc late Saturday afternoon in Chamonix, France, to win the storied race for a second straight year.

After enduring a few rain showers, 13 mountain passes and 31,000 feet of climbing and descending over 104 miles in 23 hours, 20 minutes and 20 seconds of running, the 30-year-old pediatric intensive care nurse from Truckee, Calif., was her typical smiling self and ready to go dancing.

“That’s the best way to get the lactic acid out of your legs,” Bosio said with a playful smile after finishing the race through the spectactor-lined streets of Chamonix. “I’ll definitely go dancing, but not until I get a shower and a nap.”

The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is considered the world’s most prestigious trail race. It starts on Friday night in Chamonix and sends runners on a 168K (104-mile) voyage through parts of Italy and Switzerland before finishing back in Chamonix on Saturday.

Bosio, who finished the race wearing a royal blue “Eat My Dust” running skirt from The North Face and a sleeveless pink T-shirt, didn’t take the lead until almost the halfway point. She trailed several women early on, but finally passed Spain’s Nuria Picas, last year’s runner-up to Bosio, at the trail camp known as Refuge Berton, roughly mile 51 of the course.

“I tried to keep up as much as I could early in the race, but I had to realize that I’m not very good on the flats,” Bosio said. “Then when we got to the first real big climb at Notre Dame de la Gorge [near mile 19], I didn’t feel great. It wasn’t until after we left Courmayeur [mile 48] that I started to climb well and feel really good.”

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From there, Bosio found her groove and kept adding to the lead. She said she was inspired watching the sun rise on the way up Grand Col Ferret, the 8,169-foot pass that leads runners from Italy to Switzerland and one of the steepest and largest vertical climbs on the course. She ran the final 40 miles of the course unchallenged and finished 13th overall.

Although she was off her record pace from a year ago (last year she won in 22 hours, 37 minutes), Bosio wound up winning by more than 90 minutes over Picas (24:54).

Bosio works as contract nurse roughly eight days a month at the UC-Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. She trains on the trails around Lake Tahoe and drives 90 minutes to Sacramento for her work days, which are often grouped in two- or three-day blocks. But she says she never runs in Sacramento.

“That’s just not my kind of running, it’s just too flat,” she says. “And it works out well that those are my rest days from running.”

Last year, Bosio became the third American woman to win the the UTMB, following in the footsteps of Krissy Moehl (2003, 2009) and Nikki Kimball (2007). This year she became the first woman to win the race on the full course in back to back years. (Lizzy Hawker of the UK won the UTMB three straight years from 2010-2012, but the race was shortened due to weather in 2010 and 2012.)

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Bosio said she had many moments of discomfort along the way and also struggled in the sloppy mud caused from heavy rains in Switzerland about 12 hours before UTMB runners passed through.

“It was pretty hard for me this year because it was so muddy,” said Bosio, who strategically organized her blocks of work to spend seven weeks training for the race in Chamonix. “I can already tell my legs are way more sore than they were last year. I always feel so tense when I am running in mud like that. Some of the downhills were super, super muddy and that just made it slower for me.”

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In the men’s race, Francois D’Haene of France won for the second time and set a new course record of 20:11:44. The top American finisher was Jason Schlarb, who placed fourth in 21:40.

“It was more vertical up and down than any other run in my life,” Schlarb said. “Had I not been here for three months, there is no way I could have held on for the last half. You just can’t get this in North America.”

Many top American runners dropped out, including Hal Koerner, Mike Foote and Timothy Olson. Anton Krupicka struggled over the second half of the race for the second straight year, this time with stomach issues. But he took at three and a half hour nap at the second to last aid station, got up and continued back to Chamonix, where he placed 47th in 26:30. Michael Wardian also stuck it out, finishing just after midnight local time in 30:40 (123rd place overall).

The UTMB will continue until the 46-hour cutoff time on Sunday morning.

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