Greg Houston: Lets Get This UTMB Party Started
The UTMB and all of its sub races are likely the most prestigious in the world, and they attract the world's best elite runners. But, that being said, they also attract runners from all walks of life looking to solely push themselves in one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Chamonix Valley and the surrounding Alps. Our good friend, passionate runner and sales rep, Greg Houston, is one of those people. He's returning to Chamonix for the second time to participate in the TDS. We caught up with him before he hit the trails to pick his mind about the event that inspired him a few years ago.
It seems like every year the UTMB and all of its sub-races keep getting bigger and bigger, more prestigious, and drawing in more international fame. From someone who's been over there, run one of the races and have had the full experience, why do you think that is?
I think as the sport grows in popularity, folks are drawn to the carnival type fun atmosphere, and the fact that these races have a total of 7500 participants and they are run with such precision is amazing!
Tell me about your first race over there and why have you decided to go back?
My First race in Europe was the OCC at UTMB (53kilometers w 11,000ft of vert) I fell in love with running while spectating at the UTMB a few years earlier, so it was only fitting that I come back and run in the Alps for the full experience.
A lot of people compare the UTMB to the Tour de France. We've had, officially, one American male win the TdF. What is it going to take for an American male to win this thing, do you think? It seems like it's the last big prestigious trail race in the world to be won by an American male? As you know, Krissy Moehl, one of our beloved athletes, won it a few years ago and became the first American women, pretty cool!
Running in Europe is so different than in the U.S, I would never say it's better (because it's not)...it's a totally different experience. I think it's more appreciated by the general public in Europe; not just the participants.
The reality of it is that "home advantage" plays a huge roll in racing well and racing specific target races. Also, I think there's a larger competitive pool in Europe than in the US. That's not to say that there are better athletes in Europe, I think it's just a larger percentage of participants. I think if you compared the number of elite athletes...Europe versus the number in the US, the actual percentage would be equal...but the overall volume would be larger in Europe...but to answer your question "What is it going to take for a US male to win this thing?" I think it's going to take more elite Americans to train specifically in the Alps for this race.
How rugged is the terrain there and what kind of ups and downs mentally does one go through to complete one of the UTMB races? Any insight?
The terrain at UTMB is always changing depending upon conditions! You could be running smooth buffed trail in 70 degree weather one minute, and an hour later be slipping and sliding in a freezing rain storm, or winter mess—it's almost unpredictable!
What's your goal this year? Time? Just finish?
My goal is to set three time goals; one lofty fast (fast for me) time, one possible (if things go well) time, and one "well at least I finished" time!
You can follow along with Greg and the rest of #TeamJulbo by looking them up on the UTMB website.