It’s an email as remarkable as it is clear that famous trailrunners Kilian Jornet and Zach Miller have written to a rather large group of their professional colleagues. Most important message: a request to boycott Ironman’s UTMB series, stop participating and thus collectively choose other trail runs. This with the goal of getting the organization to make changes and organize less for its own gain.
The UTMB series launched in 2022 after Ironman Group announced a partnership with UTMB Group, thus jointly mounting a race series of trail runs, with the famous UTMB Mont-Blanc trail as the big finale. More than 40 UTMB trails now exist, but if it were up to elite runners Kilian Jornet and Zach Miller, a lot needs to change. That is precisely why they are calling on their peers – via an e-mail that has now become public – to stop participating in the UTMB series.
Both trail runners begin their mail – reproduced in full below – with a story about the things Ironman and UTMB Group do well and why they have meant a lot to the world of trail running. This is followed, however, by some arguments about why the growth of the UTMB series is not happening in a good and healthy way and which shows that they feel Ironman and UTMB Group are mostly enriching themselves instead of looking at what would be good for trail sports.
“To put it simply, we want them (Ironman and UTMB, ed.) to run their business well. We want them to be considerate. We want them to not only ask ‘what can we do to benefit ourselves?”‘ but also ‘what can we do to improve the sport of trail running as a whole?’,” the email reads. “Unfortunately, we feel that they have not been doing a very good job with this. And while it would be nice to be able to sit down and chat with them so that we can course correct and get things back on track, we fear that they won’t really make any changes unless they feel pressured to do so. Fortunately, as elite athletes we have a voice.”
“Perhaps the best way to communicate our discontent and apply some pressure is to band together and all go to a different race. An absence of the top fifteen ranked male and female runners from the UTMB start line would speak volumes. It would communicate to them that we are not happy and pressure them to make some changes.”
You can read the full mail below:
Kilian Jornet and Zach Miller here. If you are receiving this it is because you are one of the top athletes in our sport. We wanted to start with this select few so that our efforts can be a bit more focused and not so overwhelming. Having said that, what is this all about?
Well, we are writing to you to see if you might be interested in committing to racing each other at a race other than UTMB this year (2024). While we realize that many of you may have strong ties to UTMB (personal goals, incentives from sponsors, career goals, etc.) we ask that you hear us out on what we have to say here. First off, we want to acknowledge that UTMB is a great race, even though there has been a lot of drama recently, we still feel that the race and the organization have done a lot of good for the sport of ultra running.
Thanks to UTMB, we now have a world championship-esque event that draws many of the best runners in the sport as well as sponsors, media, and fans from all over the world. It has truly become the big event of the year and has really helped to put our sport on the map. Having an event like this has created a lot of opportunity for people like ourselves, as it drives a lot of money and attention to the sport. This, we feel, is a good thing.
However, while it may be good for the sport to grow and develop in these ways, it is also important that the growth occurs in a positive, healthy manner. Unfortunately, the current direction that UTMB, UTMB Group, and Ironman have taken has given us cause for concern. There are a multitude of things that we could point to that are concerning to us, but the gist of it is that we feel that they are not managing themselves and their event(s) in a way that has the best interest of the sport and its people in mind.
We understand that the racing space is a business and we are alright with the organization making money. However, we feel that there is a way to do this without treating people poorly and running over everyone who gets in your way. To put it simply, we want them to run their business well. We want them to be considerate. We want them to not only ask “what can we do to benefit ourselves?”, but also “what can we do to improve the sport of trail running as a whole?”.
Unfortunately, we feel that they have not been doing a very good job with this. And while it would be nice to be able to sit down and chat with them so that we can course correct and get things back on track, we fear that they won’t really make any changes unless they feel pressured to do so. Fortunately, as elite athletes we have a voice.
Perhaps the best way to communicate our discontent and apply some pressure is to band together and all go to a different race. An absence of the top fifteen ranked male and female runners from the UTMB start line would speak volumes. It would communicate to them that we are not happy and pressure them to make some changes.
So, we would like to hear your thoughts. We have already pin-pointed a potential race that we could attend instead of UTMB, but before we get into all that, please let us know what you think. Do you have the same or similar concerns? Are you interested in competing in an alternative race? Please let us know so that we can continue the dialogue and discuss what the next steps might be. And please realize, this is not meant to be a malicious, hateful thing towards UTMB. The idea here is to find a way to apply some pressure to the UTMB/Ironman organization so that we can effect positive change. It would be great if one day we could go to UTMB and feel good about it, knowing that what they are doing is making the sport better, not worse.
Anyhow, please let us know your thoughts. You can answer at
email@example.comPerhaps we can also organize a zoom call so that anyone who is interested can discuss these things verbally.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read!
Kilian Jornet and Zach Miller.