Val d’Aran by UTMB® prepares to welcome 4,000 runners
The countdown is on to the highly anticipated inaugural edition of Val d’Aran by UTMB® – the newest trail running event in the heart of the Spanish Pyrenees - which will take place this weekend, 9-11 July.
Part of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour, around 4,000 runners representing 75 nations are readying themselves for the challenge of the wild side of the Pyrenees across four sold-out distances ranging from the 100-mile (162 km) Torn dera Val d’Aran (VDA) to the 15km SKY Baqueira Beret (SKY).
Inspired by the high standards of UTMB® Mont-Blanc and part of the UTMB Group family of international events, Val d’Aran by UTMB® kicks of the Group’s event season, which will include a return to Chamonix and UTMB® Mont-Blanc in August.
UTMB Group President Catherine Poletti commented: “We have all been eagerly awaiting the first ever Val d’Aran by UTMB® and this exceptional event is even more significant for us as it is the first time since UTMB® Mont-Blanc in 2019, that we are able to be on site and meet the international runners. We look forward to sharing with them and also the entire Val d'Aran community an exceptional experience, on and off the trails. Indeed, since Thailand by UTMB® and then the Panda Trail by UTMB® (China/Sichuan) which we supported from a distance, we missed this human side of the experience which is essential in our vision of UTMB events.
As with all our events, we obviously encourage participants to take the opportunity to explore this amazing territory and all that it has to offer. Immersing themselves in the local culture and taking part in local tourism activities is a way to maximize their experience and to contribute to the local economy in a sustainable way.”
Xavier Pocino, Director of Val d’Aran by UTMB® said: "After two years of very hard work due to the pandemic, we are finally getting very close to the start of the race. We are very happy to welcome 4,000 runners from 75 countries to Val d'Aran. It is a testimony to the new normality in the world of trail running and outdoor sports and we have planned every detail so Val d'Aran by UTMB® becomes a great first edition.”
In line with regional and national government regulations, international runners will be welcomed to the region, and Covid-19 safety measures will be in place throughout the event including specific guidelines for sanitisation, the use of face coverings, social distancing, and crowd management protocols, as well as additional measures at aid stations and bib collection.
Amongst them will be Japanese elite Kaori Niwa, whose career highlights include an impressive fourth place at UTMB® Mont-Blanc in 2017 when she ran with a broken arm. A favourite in the 162km VDA - a spectacular race that takes participants on a full tour of the Val d’Aran valley - Kaori has been training in the region in preparation for her return to international competition.
“I'm so happy to be back in Europe after the Covid-19 restrictions,” she explained. “Competing internationally means a lot to me. When I compete among the world’s top runners or run on tough and demanding courses, I need to push myself to my limit. That feeling is something very special. I haven't competed internationally for so long. The most important thing is this race will bring me back to the racing edge.”
Commenting on the region, Kaori continued: “It's a very beautiful place. The lower part in the woods are very much like Japanese mountains, but above 2000m it is very different. The wide-open mountain views are fantastic and there are many beautiful rivers, lakes and flowers I've never seen in Japan.”
In the men’s race, home-talent and event ambassador, Jordi Gamito, who was 3rd at UTMB® Mont-Blanc 2018 and ranked 2nd ranked in the Ultra- Trail® World Tour in the same year, knows the region well and will be hoping for a podium position. “The VDA is a very hard, demanding and technical race. I expect to be able to do it in 23 or 24 hours, so I will have to take one step at a time. I will go out and run my own race and compete just with myself. Provided I can keep my strength and energy I should be able to aspire to the podium. I have a lot of respect for a race like this on this type of terrain. I feel really excited to run at Val d’Aran by UTMB®."
Other athletes of note include Yeray Durán (ESP), who finished 3rd in Transgrancanaria 2013 and 2nd at UTMB® Mont-Blanc TDS in 2016; and Sweden’s Anna Carlsson who ran her first trail running race in 2017, the Swedish Alpine Ultra where she finished 3rd overall, and who finished 4th at the 2019 UTMB® Mont-Blanc TDS.
Family, friends, supporters, and trail running fans will be able to immerse themselves in the Val d’Aran by UTMB® experience at the Trail Festival Baqueira Beret, an outdoor festival including children’s races, as well as Trail Expo, an international outdoor sports trade fair. Enthusiasts from around the world can watch live highlights every evening from 1900 CEST from 8 to 11 July on the event official YouTube channel.
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