Mathieu Blanchard, 2nd of UTMB: “A transcendence, something magical”

“The picture went around the track world: this moment was shared with Kilian Jornet under the UTMB arrival arch. Is this the photo that pretty much sums up UTMB?
Not necessarily, but it sums up what our sport stands for. We can’t imagine the world of ultra-trail without linking it to Kilian Jornet, he is the messenger, the inspiration that drives the sport. And he is someone who inspires me a lot. Finding myself with him at UTMB also makes all the work I’ve done in recent years very intense. it expresses somewhat the values ​​of the sport: I am a bit more professional now (he is part of the Salomon team), but I remain an amateur, I remain new to this sport. It’s a sport where professionals and amateurs rub shoulders on the same starting line. And then, you’re there drinking beer and chatting with everyone. A bit like this photo, quite light and comfortable.

“On certain turns in Alpe d’Huez, like the Tour de France riders. It’s super powerful.”

When you look back on UTMB this year, what strong memories do you have?
There are so many… The starting line. Even if it’s the 3rd UTMB, you can’t get used to the energy, the pressure, the powerful words from the speaker, hundreds of people gathering together, lightning… It’s quite stressful. I also remember the first part of the race, Les Houches, until km 10, where all the professional athletes are together, it’s quite unique. It was as if we were going for a run on Sunday morning, we were talking.

It’s also a good memory when I caught up with Kilian (Jornet), around km 110/120. The race takes turns. The next 50 km, running with Kilian in a kind of titanic battle, was very powerful for me: with the ability of body and mind to overcome themselves. I discovered strengths I never imagined. A transcendence. A magic game that allows you to get an extra percentage of energy, just like a button you press. It’s a pretty incredible feeling.

There is also Trent (142nd km), I shed tears where I lost my opportunity. Because I feel like I’m doing anything, I’m not what I imagined an hour ago. I tell myself that playing with Kilian is nonsense. A kamikaze operation that will blow up. There I tell myself that I will not go until the end. This scene is very powerful because my partner Alix managed to say very powerful words. I left refueling with energy and confidence. shows that environmental influences can have a major impact.

Of course, there is a finish line. All these cheers, these thousands of people gathered together… they opened a small corridor one meter wide to sneak in like the runners of the Tour de France at certain turns of the Alpe d’Huez. This is super powerful.

Mathieu Blanchard and Kilian Jornet under the arrival arch at UTMB. (UTMB)

When it’s less than 20 o’clock…
When I looked at my watch it was 7:50 and another thing I ran in under 20 hours, they said it was impossible… it was too strong. I was not aware of it at the time. Now I understand.

What did this 2nd place at UTMB change in your career, if only a little bit?
Not much. I still have the passion. I had partners, I already had some. All my professional activities have not changed. But all my partnerships are improving. it also gives me a slightly more important status professionally. it can only propel me into the future.

“I will sign up for UTMB and Diagonale des Fous and see what I can do”

Have you recovered from this UTMB after four months?
Since UTMB, I haven’t trained hard and set goals that mentally drain my mental energy. So it’s like my cut is already made. It’s been almost four months since my mental load has been minimal, so I feel quite refreshed and ready for the future.

Matthew Blanchard.  (F. Oddoux)

Matthew Blanchard. (F. Oddoux)

What is your program for 2023?
I will spend the first part of the season with a stage race in Costa Rica from February to the end of June, I will practice in Kenya in March for special training in the apartment, because the goal is to run the Western States with a lot of fast games in the USA.

I have spent the last two years in the mountains, working on ascent and descent relationships. In early April I have the chance to run in the Paris marathon to see what level I have reached thanks to the experience in Kenya and the track training in Canada. I’ll probably be back at the Marathon des Sables in late April, in warm conditions, to shake up my body, as it will be hot Western states. In May-June I will definitely be moving to the US to complete my training in the Lake Tahoe area.

And after the Western countries?
I’ll see how I feel physically and mentally, but I’ll set up a second season, which I can’t confirm yet. I will sign up for UTMB and Diagonale des Fous and see what I can do. But now I don’t know, there are several scenarios.

Western Nations is a mythical race that I have wanted to do for a long time. Registration is difficult. Since I placed 2nd in UTMB, I have a ticket to register without going through the lottery, so I’m taking the opportunity. However, this does not mean that it is superior to UTMB. It’s just that this is my goal next year and I don’t know if I’ll be physically and mentally ready for UTMB.

Aren’t you going to do both UTMB and Diagonal?
By feelings (after Western States), If I’m ready to get the start of UTMB, I’ll go. If I feel like I’m still not healed, maybe I’ll go to Diagonal. It will be one or the other depending on how I feel after the west. There may be another scenario.

Excluding races, I spend 50% of my energy on adventures. So at any given time, it could take me on an adventure somewhere in the world that could last a few weeks or a few months.

“(Adventure) is a passion, it’s my personality and it’s stronger in terms of feelings and emotions”

What attracts you to adventure?
It’s passion, it’s my personality, and it’s also stronger in terms of feelings and emotions. Even on an ultra-trail, you can consider it an adventure, but the start and finish line, doctors, refreshments… There is a certain framework that puts a safety net on you. The adventure is with you. The danger, the risk, the obligation is greater. I love telling stories, it’s my heritage. »

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