The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, known fondly as the UTMB, is the largest trail-running event in the world. It follows the route of the Tour du Mont Blanc crossing a variety of alpine terrain in France, Italy and Switzerland to circumnavigate Europe’s highest and whitest mountain – Mont Blanc. The TMB trail has a distance of approximately 171 kilometres (106 mi), and a total elevation gain of around 10,040 metres (32,940 ft), so it tends to take most hikers about a week to ten days to complete, staying in picturesque mountain huts (“refuges”) as they go.
Each year almost 8,000 runners from all over the world come to Chamonix Mont-Blanc to participate in one of the UTMB event’s ultra trail-running races, of various distances and various routes. Even two weeks before the event, the Chamonix Valley pulses with the galloping hooves of ultra-runners, from serious amateurs to sponsored athletes, pounding her trails. UTMB 2022 officially happens from Monday 22nd to Sunday 28th August. The UTMB 2022 calendar is totally packed, with loads of peripheral mini events, from trail running and adventure sports brands. Chamonix’s market place becomes alive with trail running stalls at the UTMB Village and shops all over town invite their pro athletes to meet and greet crowds, or even take runners on a few training laps.
During the UTMB race itself, starting this year on Friday 26th August, the fastest runners are expected to complete the loop in just over 20 hours! Most UTMB runners who reach the finish line (if they manage to finish) will take 32 to 46 hours – meaning that most runners will have to run through two nights in order to complete the race. It is hardcore.
The UTMB is widely regarded as one of the most difficult foot races in the world and one of the largest. It is one of several races during a week-long festival based in the Chamonix valley and is a race of the Ultra-Trail World Tour.
The training for any ultra trail running event is intense on both the mind and body. Athletes need to prepare seriously in advance, with training (have a look at the AlbonApp for trail running training plans set up by the indomitable Henriette and Jon Albon pro trail runners) , nutrition (you can pay for qualified nutritional support plans for ultra athletes from legendary mountain runner, CCC podium finisher and trail-pounding super-mum, Stephanie Howe… also check out local Chamonix nutritionist, Rebecca Dent) and even bodywork/massage (this is something Equilibrium Massage can help with if you’re based or staying in Chamonix, Les Houches, Argentiere, Vallorcine, St Gervais or areas surrounding Mont Blanc). Post race? Absolutely, trail runners must take care of their bodies following any ultra-running event, with emphasis on active recovery, continued quality nutrition, plenty of sleep and, when possible, post-race recovery massages, to limit DOMS.
The freedom and beauty of trail running makes the sport fun and exhilarating, but the physical and mental effort makes it challenging. There is uneven terrain and sometimes unpredictable obstacles, such as jagged, loose rocks, on steep trails. Unlike the relatively repetitive motion of road running, for trail running the body needs to be trained to adapt to every angle of movement, with a developed proprioception, mechano-reception and omnidirectional strength. This makes trail running an optimal sport for all round physical strength and resilience, but without adequate training and physical preparation, there’s a high risk of injury. It makes sense to prevent injuries before they happen – and this is where regular sports massage aids the body’s suppleness and fluidity, as well as helping the runner to mentally relax. The benefits of sports massage for trail runners and athletes are countless for both physical and mental wellness.
Sports Massage for Trail Runners
Sports massage is a genre of massage that is specifically tailored to help athletes prevent injuries and also recover from previous or chronic injuries. Sports massage can be used to treat various chronic tensions or over-use injuries, including strains, sprains, tendonitis, and shin splints. Furthermore, scientific studies (e.g. Systematic Review Article, Front. Physiol., 26 April 2018, Sec. Exercise Physiology) have shown that massage can help to reduce DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) that can otherwise interfere with regular training leading up to the event and certainly can be uncomfortable post-event without a post-race massage.
A good quality sports massage, incorporating myofascial release techniques, works on the fascial network, helping densified tissues shift from a more viscous/sticky/gel-like state to a more fluid sol-state (quoting Stephen Levin at Biotensegrity Interest Group about “Stretching,” 2021). In everyday terms, the sports massage helps to loosen and “warm up” muscles before a run, help to boost blood flow and circulation, which helps to reduce inflammation and swelling, and it can help to improve recovery time. Sports massage can help to reduce fascial tension patterns, reduce muscle soreness and stiffness, and as a result, a good massage can also help to improve range of motion and flexibility.
Sports massage is not only for the body. The mental benefits of massage can aid in relieving anxiety, stress and tension while stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which increases the production and release of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and endorphins (Kuhn et al, 2005, International Journal of Neuroscience).
Sports Massage Therapist for UTMB Runners
Having lived and massaged in the Chamonix valley for almost 2 decades, Ruth Martin’s favourite massage time of year is the UTMB week, when she works with many participants, from the hardcore amateur runners (and their equally hardcore support crews) to the insanely fit pro-athletes. It’s always super exciting and super humbling at the same time to watch these humans push their strengths and resilience to the limits. It is wonderful to see any Equilibrium Massage clients finish any event, and the cherry-on-top to witness some get a top ten and even podium place at UTMB. (shout out for Mariya Nikolova, UTMB 9th place 2017 & 2018, Rory Bosio, TDS 2nd place 2018; Stephanie Howe, CCC 4th place 2019, for starters).
We look forward to offering our mobile massage services in Chamonix to new and returning contestants this year… and will follow our 2022 UTMB massage clients avidly throughout the races.
For 2022 UTMB event in Chamonix, when not doing pre or post race massages, we will be excited to cheer on, amongst others: the dynamic and super positive Dynafit trail runner and ski-mo pro, Grace Staberg in the OCC; Stephanie Howe, all-round super-mum mountain athlete also racing OCC with The North Face; Ionel Cristian Manole racing 2022 UTMB; Hannah Osowski, racing the CCC with Dynafit, Henriette Albon and her husband, Jon Albon in the CCC; Morgan Pilley – racing UTMB; and Claire Heslop – UTMB!
Reviews about Ruth Martin’s Equilibrium Massage Treatments
“I’ve participated in numerous ultra-marathons, including the TDS (119km) and CCC (101km) of the UTMB, and Ruth’s work has been an essential part of both training and recovery. Her service and skills are exceptional, and she’s always accommodating of my hectic work and training schedule. For any athlete (or even anyone who sits at a desk all day long), I highly recommend Ruth.”
Seth, USA & Chamonix, France
“We were in Chamonix for the UTMB and were lucky enough to be recommended Equilibrium Massage by a friend who had used them before. There are so many massage therapists about but it is rare to find someone special – Ruth was amazing, she has a special skill of identifying and fixing problems – truly blessed! Fixed all of our issues before our races and sorted us out with a recovery massage also – as a result we had 9 out of 9 finish the race 👌🏻 you will not want to leave Chamonix 😊”
Rob, Hong Kong
“Ruth was an exceptional help the days before and after my race in Chamonix! She definitely was a great resource when I needed to ensure I was taken care of. I approve of her in the highest regard!”
Matt Scharr, USA
Looking for an amazing massage in the Alps? There’s no-one better than Ruth. Intuitive and knowledgeable, I always leave feeling a million times better – whether it’s for a specific muscle ache or just general wellbeing. Thanks Ruth!
Isobel, UK & Chamonix, France
Contact Ruth Martin for more information to book a massage:
(t) +33-783-72-63-76 (e) firstname.lastname@example.org