April 14, 2022

All about UTMB: Jon Albon partners with TNF and targets 20-hour barrier

Brit part of a new breed of ultrarunners as he joins forces with The North Face to tackle the 'pinnacle of the sport'
By Stuart Dick
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Multi-discipline ultrarunning World Champion Jon Albon has a new target – to break the 20-hour barrier for the illustrious 171km Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) course in 2023.

The 14-time World and seven-time European Trail, Ultra, Sky Running and OCR Champion has already had an illustrious career since he started running competitively in 2012.

And if all goes to plan, the attempt will coincide with his venture to complete the UTMB triple – Albon has already won the OCC 55km distance in 2021, and is planning for success on the CCC 101km course this year.

To put him in the best position to do this, he’s just signed a partnership with The North Face, who will provide his footwear, clothing and equipment to tackle the challenge ahead, the 32-year old – who turns 33 next week – has big plans for the next two years.

Triple crown

“With many seeing the UTMB as the pinnacle of the sport, it attracts the best of the best, so for me it’s the one I really want to crack,” he said.

“Although I’ve achieved a lot in my career – both running and in obstacle course racing (OCR) – the UTMB has so far not been a big focus for me, but that has all changed for 2022 onwards.”

“Last year I won the OCC (55km), this year my focus will be on the CCC (101km) and if all goes to plan, the full UTMB course (171km) in 2023.”

If he achieves that feat in consecutive years, he will be the first to do so.

Time for change

With the best in the trail running world getting closer to, but not yet breaking the elusive 20-hour barrier at UTMB, Albon believes the future of the race will be decided by a new breed of athlete taking on the longer events.

He said: “Ultrarunning in general is becoming increasingly more competitive. There is already a healthy field of experienced racers, but more and more shorter-distance athletes are stepping up to run the 100km+ courses.

“These athletes are typically faster, but running for 10+ hours requires as much strategy, planning and experience as speed.

“I’m therefore taking my time to increase the distance each year, whilst not compromising on my quest for pace. Having already run over 100 miles in an obstacle course race, I know I can go the distance.

“By this time, I believe it will be necessary to run under 20 hours in order to win.”

Tech advances

Technology is also an increasingly important factor according to Albon and a big driver in the new link up.

Jon Albon joins TNF [Photo Credit: Jordan Manoukian / TNF]
Jon Albon [Photo Credit: Jordan Manoukian / TNF]

Asked about the changes in the sport since he turned pro, Albon said: “Shoe technology, in particular the use of carbon plates, is making as much of an impact in the trail running world as on the road.

“The North Face have been leading this innovation for the past years and have been pioneering how to best utilise carbon plate technology within trail running, resulting in a fast shoe that doesn’t compromise on responsiveness.

“It was this that first drew me to The North Face, and I have already reaped the benefits, setting a new course record using the Flight VECTIV during the OCC.”

On Jon joining The North Face, Simon Brizard, EMEA Sports Marketing said: “We’re proud to welcome Jon to The North Face athlete team and excited to help him write new chapters in the trail running history books wearing our VECTIV™ footwear technology.”

Jon will commence his race season at the Greenweez MaXi-Race on May 28-29 (45km) and then Marathon Du Mont-Blanc June 23-26 (42km).

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Article by
Stuart Dick