Earning UTMB Qualifying Points: A Comprehensive Strategy Guide

Earning enough qualifying points to gain entry into the iconic Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) is a dream for many ultra runners. The premier race held annually in the Alps delivers an unforgettable alpine running experience.

But with limited slots, gaining entry into UTMB requires proper planning and qualification strategy. You must earn enough qualifying points through ultra finishes to even have a chance at landing a coveted place on the start line in Chamonix.

This comprehensive guide provides everything you need to know about strategically earning UTMB qualifying points as an ultra runner. I’ll cover:

  • An overview of the UTMB points system
  • How and where to earn points
  • Key qualifying tips and strategies
  • Building a multi-year UTMB qualification plan
  • Maximizing point earning potential
  • Ensuring qualifying races align with UTMB’s standards
  • What to do if initial qualifying attempts fall short
  • Managing qualifying attempts with your race schedule
  • Training specifically to run qualifying ultras
  • Final considerations for implementing your UTMB qualification strategy

I’ll provide extensive detail on optimal tactics to implement at every stage of your journey to qualify for the heralded UTMB. Let’s begin!

Understanding the UTMB Qualifying Points System

First you need to understand the basics of UTMB’s qualifying points system. UTMB uses a fair and standardized points formula for all qualifying ultras worldwide.

Point Distribution by Distance

UTMB awards qualifying points based on the distance of the qualifying ultra. The longer the race, the more points distributed:

  • 100K (62 miles) – 1 point minimum; 2 points maximum
  • 100 miles – 2 points minimum; 4 points maximum
  • Over 100 miles – 3 points minimum; 6 points maximum

Points Based on Difficulty Factors

Within those distance ranges, the number of points ultimately awarded depends on the race’s difficulty as calculated by UTMB.

Several factors determine difficulty, including:

  • Total Elevation Gain – More climb earns more points
  • Altitude – Races at higher elevations earn more points
  • Number of Aid Stations – Fewer aid stations increases difficulty
  • Course Marking – Minimal markings increases difficulty
  • Time Limit – Tighter cutoffs equal higher difficulty

UTMB analyzes these variables to assign each race within the point ranges by distance. Harder 100 milers get max points while easier ones earn the 2 point minimum.

Point Requirements for UTMB Entry

To gain entry into UTMB, you must earn enough qualifying points within a set time period:

  • UTMB (170K) – 5 points required in the past two years
  • CCC (100K) – 3 points required in the past two years
  • TDS (119K) – 3 points required in the past year
  • OCC (55K) – No points required

These requirements apply to first-time UTMB participants through the regular entry process. Higher point totals are needed for re-entries.

Now let’s look at how and where to start earning UTMB qualifying points.

How and Where to Earn UTMB Qualifying Points

UTMB accepts qualifying points from hundreds of ultras worldwide. Where and how you choose to earn points requires strategy.

Official UTMB Qualifying Races

The primary way to earn points is by completing races specifically designated as official UTMB qualifiers. These events have had their courses analyzed by UTMB to assign difficulty ratings and corresponding points.

Races applying to be qualifiers must meet certain criteria:

  • Trail terrain – At least 75% runnable trail
  • Route marking – Permanent or semi-permanent markings
  • Aid stations – No more than 10K apart
  • Cutoff times – Based on location and difficulty

UTMB maintains an extensive list of all official qualifying races on their website.

Search this list to check if races you’re considering have official qualifier status. Then check prior years’ results to see the typical point levels awarded to gauge difficulty.

UTMB Qualifying Races Site

UTMB World Series Races

In 2022, UTMB launched the UTMB World Series – a circuit of flagship international ultra races modeled after UTMB.

These 100 milers held on multiple continents automatically award maximum points. Running any UTMB World Series race guarantees you the points needed to qualify for UTMB.

However, these races fill quickly through separate lotteries. You likely need to qualify just to gain entry. But if you gain entry through other means, these offer an excellent opportunity to secure guaranteed UTMB qualifying points.

Independent Qualifiers

Beyond official qualifiers, runners can also submit results from non-designated races to have them evaluated as “Independent Qualifiers.”

UTMB will assess these races using the same criteria to determine if points can be awarded. However, these independent qualifier requests are less likely to garner maximum points since the events haven’t been vetted.

Submitting for independent qualifiers requires paying a fee and waiting for UTMB’s assessment. So targeting official qualifiers is often easier.

Now let’s move on to specific tactics and best practices for planning your UTMB qualification journey.

Key UTMB Qualifying Strategies and Tips

Crafting an optimal multi-year UTMB qualifying strategy requires understanding key best practices and lessons learned from those who’ve successfully navigated the process. Here are vital tips:

Start Early

Don’t procrastinate! Two years is the typical time frame needed to earn required points through multiple ultras. Attempt your first potential qualifier at least 24 months prior to registering for UTMB.

Building a cushion of extra points also helps absorb potential DNFs or lower than expected point totals.

Research Qualifying Values

Thoroughly research past results when selecting qualifying races. Target those regularly awarding maximum or near maximum points based on difficulty.

Easy 100Ks granting only 1 point each will require too many finishes to qualify. Look for competitive 100 milers outside your comfort zone instead.

Seek International Qualifiers

Consider qualifying races abroad for a points boost. International travel is rewarded by UTMB’s system. The hardest 100Ks overseas often match points from easier domestic 100 milers.

Plus, running iconic overseas ultras serves as reward for your UTMB qualifying journey.

Evaluate All Variables

When selecting qualifying attempts, look at more than just the points granted. Also consider travel, terrain, climbing, weather and other variables based on your strengths.

Picking easier qualifiers that don’t match your abilities risks poor results jeopardizing your UTMB dreams.

Have Alternate Qualifiers

Qualify for multiple lotteries each year and be ready with backup options if you aren’t selected for your first choices. Races filling through lotteries adds unpredictability.

Line up multiple qualifying opportunities annually to keep earning points through inevitable lottery defeats.

Run Within Your Limits

Race smart at qualifying ultras. Pushing overly aggressive paces risks blowing up short of the finish and scoring zero points. Finishing each race strong is the priority.

Learn From Setbacks

If you fall short of expected points, get back up and try again wiser for it. Analyze what went wrong and set up your next attempt to go right. Persistence is key.

With the right strategy tailored to your abilities, the required UTMB qualifying points will steadily accumulate over time. Next let’s examine how to build a multi-year UTMB qualification plan.

Constructing a Multi-Year UTMB Qualification Plan

Realistically you need 2-3 years to complete enough ultras to amass required UTMB points. Construct a multi-year plan mapping out qualifying attempts:

Start With Easier Qualifiers

Attempting five 100Ks earning 2 points apiece meets the minimum for UTMB. Build initial confidence via easier 100Ks before progressing to more difficult point sources.

Design a Mileage Progression

Slowly increase distance from season to season to avoid overextending. Maybe Year 1 is 100Ks, Year 2 mixes in some 100 milers, Year 3 targets solely competitive 100s.

Race More Ultras Over Time

The more ultras attempted annually, the faster points add up. But increasing volume gradually lessens injury risk. Build from maybe two ultras Year 1 up to four or five Year 3.

Mix Domestic and International

Blend domestic and overseas qualifying ultras to earn points through travel while minimizing costs.

Align Hardest Races With Peak Fitness

Schedule your most challenging qualifying ultras during periods of peak training and fitness. Don’t waste peak fitness windows on easier races.

Plan Around Lotteries

Factor in registering for multiple lotteries to ensure entry into top choices each year. Lost lotteries require backups.

Plotting your multi-year path to UTMB qualification helps match qualifying attempts to your evolving fitness and experience. Let’s also explore how to maximize overall point earning potential.

Maximizing Point Earning Potential

To ensure earning maximum or near-maximum points from your qualifying ultras, keep these tips in mind:

Target Technical Courses

Seek out qualifying ultras boasting highly technical terrain and major elevation change. These tougher events earn top points.

Travel Internationally

Look globally for qualifying races. Overseas 100Ks often match points from easier domestic 100s. Cultural immersion is a nice perk too!

Run Altitude Races

High altitude ultras receive point bonuses. Prioritize qualifyers at elevation in places like the Rocky Mountains or Andes if you run well at altitude.

Consider Lottery-Free Races

Lesser known qualifiers without lotteries guarantee entry if you meet cutoffs. No risk of losing a valuable qualifying opportunity through the lottery.

Research Aid Station Spacing

Races with checkpoints spaced wider than 10K apart score higher difficulty points. Search for qualifyers optimizing aid station distances.

Pick Tight Cutoffs

Races with tighter cutoff limits at checkpoints earn additional difficulty points. Target qualifiers with rigorously enforced cutoffs.

Always Finish Strong

However challenging, be sure you have the fitness to finish each qualifier well within cutoffs. Time buffers protect your points.

Submit All Races

Even if you’re unsure if lesser known ultras will qualify, submit them for independent qualifier evaluations. You might earn a nice points surprise!

Taking these proactive steps will help you maximize points from every race attempted on the journey to UTMB.

Next let’s examine how to pick qualifying races that align with UTMB’s standards and requirements.

Choosing UTMB-Aligned Qualifying Races

While UTMB technically accepts qualifying points from any ultra, your races must still meet their baseline standards:

Ensure 75% Trail Terrain

UTMB requires qualifying ultras to have at least 75% trail or off-road running. Road ultras won’t qualify even if distance and difficulty align.

Look For Ample Route Marking

Markings at least every few kilometers are needed to meet standards. Runnable trails and navigation required races likely won’t qualify.

Check Aid Station Spacing

Races must have aid no greater than 10K apart. Self-supported ultras without aid therefore won’t qualify.

Review Cutoff Strictness

Cutoffs can’t be excessively relaxed or allow finishing in tight groups. Races must apply cutoffs rigorously throughout.

Evaluate Ascent and Descent

Total vertical gain with combined ascent and descent is critical for scoring maximum points. Ensure qualifiers offer ample climbing.

By choosing races that closely mirror UTMB’s gold standard, your chances of earning maximum qualifying points improve.

Next we’ll explore backup plans if your initial qualifying attempts fall short.

Rebounding From Disappointing Qualifying Attempts

Inevitably setbacks will happen on the path to UTMB qualification through injury, fitness issues, or simple bad luck. Here are tips to rebound stronger:

Recalibrate Your Plan

Openly reassess why your initial qualifying attempts fell short of goals. Be willing to change your plan based on lessons learned.

Analyze Fitness Shortcomings

If unfinished races exposed fitness gaps, address weaknesses through added strength training, speedwork, endurance, etc.

Learn the Course

Thoroughly study course maps and profiles of upcoming qualifyers. Foreknowledge prevents costly routefinding errors.

Perfect Gear and Nutrition

Review gear and fueling choices that may have contributed to past DNFs. Make necessary improvements.

Develop Mental Tenacity

Many DNFs stem from mental surrender, not physical failure. Strengthen mental fortitude through mindfulness, visualization, mantras.

Tackle Weaknesses

Turn past weaknesses into strengths. If descending ability limited you, practice downhill running relentlessly before next race.

Trust Your Training

Don’t second guess preparation leading up to your next attempt. Have faith in your fitness and avoid overtraining.

By proactively learning from past mistakes, you’ll only come back stronger and wiser.

Now let’s examine how to effectively integrate qualifying attempts around your broader race schedule.

Scheduling Qualifying Races Within Your Season Plan

Attempting UTMB qualifiers must be incorporated strategically within your overall race calendar. Keep these tips in mind:

Balance Qualifiers With Other Goals

Don’t overload your schedule with too many qualifiers, leaving insufficient time to train for key performance races.

Allow Adequate Taper and Recovery

Schedule qualifiers with enough spacing to properly taper beforehand and recover afterwards. Don’t risk undertraining trying to string together too many races.

Take Advantage of Peak Fitness

Align your hardest qualifying ultras with peak fitness periods for maximum performance. Don’t waste peak fitness on lesser races.

Avoid Qualifiers Too Close to UTMB

给 Finish final qualifiers early enough to allow resting and UTMB-specific training. Don’t race a 100 miler just weeks prior.

Manage Qualifying and Racing Fatigue

Balance qualifying attempts with rest to avoid overtraining and burnout. It’s a multi-year journey requiring pacing.

You want qualifying races layered into your race calendar strategically to avoid interference with other key events.

Next up – guidance on training specifically for qualifying ultra marathons compared to goal races.

Training Specifically for Qualifying Races

Your training approach should differ when preparing for qualifying ultras versus goal performance races like UTMB itself:

Maintain Base Endurance

Keep weekly mileage high between qualifiers to continuously build endurance. But avoid peaking fitness before qualifiers.

Reduce High Intensity and Speed

Back off intense sessions like tempo runs, intervals and hill repeats leading into qualifyers. The priority is completing distance, not racing all-out.

Practice Race Execution

Replicate race execution on long runs to test gear, nutrition and pacing plans. Mimic the exact qualifying race format.

Increase Technical Running

If qualifiers feature highly technical terrain, significantly increase technical practice. Become an expert navigating roots, rocks, and trails.

Heat Adapt If Necessary

For hot weather qualifyers, implement heat acclimation. Gradually run longer efforts in peak heat to ready your body.

Add Mileage at Qualifying Pace

Incorporate mileage at your target qualifying ultra pace for specificity. Nail down the pace you plan to average.

Training focused solely on finishing qualifyers with controlled effort reduces injury risk while earning those all-important UTMB points.

Now let’s explore some final considerations to round out your UTMB qualification strategy.

Final Tips for Executing Your UTMB Qualification Plan

As you implement your strategic UTMB qualification plan, keep these final tips in mind:

Commit Fully

Understand that realizing the UTMB dream requires immense commitment. Scheduling, training, recovering from qualifying ultras becomes a central life focus for 2+ years.

Remain Flexible

Expect setbacks and be mentally flexible to implement backup plans when needed if initial qualifiers don’t go to plan.

Review Progress Frequently

Routinely review your qualification progress to ensure you’re on pace to have required points in time for UTMB registration.

Manage Costs

Between travel, race entries, gear, and more, costs add up. Stick to your budget to avoid financial pitfalls derailing your progress.

Share the Journey

Pursuing the UTMB dream is far more fun and sustainable if you share experiences with friends, training partners, or the ultra community.

Appreciate Each Race

Amid the UTMB focus, appreciate each qualifying ultra for the rewarding experience it provides. The journey is the real reward.

If executed strategically over time with these tips in mind, your UTMB qualifying journey will not only garner enough points, but make you a stronger, wiser ultra runner as well.


I hope this guide has provided you extensive detail on planning and executing an optimal UTMB qualifying strategy tailored to your abilities and goals.

While daunting, the journey to gain entry into the world’s most iconic trail running race is deeply rewarding. Commit fully to the process and unrelentingly pursue required points through diverse global ultras.

Stay flexible in adapting your plan when needed. But keep the end goal firmly in sight. Before you know it, you’ll be collecting precious qualifying points at inspiring destinations around the world.

And one day, all the hard-fought miles will culminate with your UTMB dream being fulfilled as you toe the start in Chamonix. Your UTMB odyssey awaits – now start strategizing!

Author - Mathew Stuckey

Mathew Stuckey is the founder of Ultramarathon Central, an online platform dedicated to supporting and inspiring ultra runners from all walks of life. With a passion for pushing the limits of what's possible, Mathew has taken on some of the toughest ultra events in the UK, including the Monster Triathlon.

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