Embarking on a trail race is not just about the challenging terrain and physical endurance; it's also an opportunity to immerse oneself in the unique charm of the towns and cities hosting these events.

Trail running captivates enthusiasts with its blend of irresistible natural beauty and physical challenge. Unlike traditional road running, trails lead through diverse terrains, from lush forests to rugged mountains, providing a dynamic and immersive experience. The unpredictable surfaces demand heightened focus, engaging both body and mind. Trail runners relish the solitude and connection with nature, finding solace in the rhythm of footsteps on dirt paths. The ever-changing scenery, fresh air, and the sense of conquering untamed landscapes make trail running a uniquely exhilarating pursuit.

In 2024, a diverse array of ultra trail races awaits, each set against the backdrop of a captivating locale. Let's explore four great ultra trail race adventures for the year across the world.

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) - Chamonix, France

Date: August 27-September 2, 2024

Chamonix, nestled in the French Alps, serves as the picturesque setting for the World Series UTMB Finals including the 100km Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). This charming town is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering cobblestone streets lined with alpine chalets, delightful cafes, and stunning views of Mont Blanc. Participants not only tackle the challenging 171 kilometre course but also bask in the rich cultural ambience of Chamonix. Chamonix's charm adds to the allure, with its outdoor cafes buzzing with athletes sharing stories of triumph and challenge. Past winners include Kilian Jornet and Courtney Dauwalter, showcasing the race's elite competition.

The UTMB World Series Final 100 mile course is approximately 171 kilometers (106 miles) long. The exact distance can vary slightly from year to year due to route adjustments. The course features a significant amount of elevation gain, with runners ascending and descending mountainous terrain. The total elevation gain is around 10,000 meters (32,800 feet). Participants in the race either earn a spot through victory in a qualifying event or secure a lottery entry. To qualify through the lottery, runners accumulate tickets ("running stones") by completing  World Series Events or a UTMB World Series Major. The greater the number of stones, the higher the chances in the lottery.

For athletes not quite ready for the full 100 mile event there are shorter events of 100km (60 miles) and 50km (30 miles) on the same the weekend, with commensurate entry requirements.

Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run - Olympic Valley, California, USA

Firefly Olympic Valley, California 97957
Date: June 23-24, 2024

California hosts the iconic Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Known for its ski resorts and the 1960 Winter Olympics, Olympic Valley, once known as Squaw Valley, transforms into a hub of trail running excitement. Runners navigate through lush forests and towering peaks, all while experiencing the warm hospitality of this mountain town. Squaw Valley has hosted legends like Jim Walmsley and Ellie Greenwood as past winners.

The Western States 100 is a 100 mile (161km) race, finishing in Auburn, California. The course features a total elevation gain of approximately 18,000 feet (5486m) and a loss of around 23,000 feet (7010m). The terrain includes steep climbs and descents, river crossings, and varying trail conditions. The Western States course is considered moderately technical; while it includes challenging sections with rocky and uneven terrain, it is generally more runnable than some other mountainous ultra marathons. The trail conditions can vary, including sections of dirt, rocks, and forested areas.

Unless you are lucky enough to have an automatic placing, entry to this race is via a lottery system, based on completion of a qualifying race, which  must meet specific entry criteria, including completing a qualifying race, such as a 50 mile (80km) or 100 kilometre (60 miles) race. Qualifying races must meet certain criteria, including elevation gain, within a specified time frame.

Marathon des Sables - Merzouga, Morocco


Date: April 5-15, 2024

The Sahara Desert becomes a challenging yet mesmerising backdrop for Marathon des Sables, with the town of Merzouga acting as the gateway to the dunes. Merzouga enchants visitors with its unique desert landscapes and offers a glimpse into Berber culture. The race tests endurance and introduces participants to the mystical allure of the Moroccan desert town. Past victors include Rachid El Morabity and Elisabet Barnes.

The Marathon des Sables course covers a distance of approximately 250 kilometers (155 miles) over six stages, with participants running through the challenging desert terrain. The course does not have significant overall elevation gain, as it takes place in a flat desert landscape. The primary challenges come from the sand dunes, rocky terrain, and the extreme heat.

The Marathon des Sables typically does not require specific qualification in the form of accumulating points or completing other races. However, participants must provide medical documentation to ensure they are physically fit for the challenges of the race. The Marathon des Sables is known for its self-sufficiency, and participants are required to carry their own gear and food for the duration of the race, which adds an interesting element to the challenge in the extreme conditions of the race.

Sierra Madre Ultra Trail, Manila, Philippines

Firefly Sierra Madre Mountains 56435
Date: To be announced for 2024

The Manila to Sierra Madre Trail Ultra brings the thrill of trail running to the dynamic cityscape of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Participants embark on a challenging journey that takes them from the urban environment of Manila into the lush landscapes of the Sierra Madre mountain range. Manila's vibrant street life, historical sites, and diverse culinary scene add a unique cultural dimension to this trail race adventure. The home crowd were delighted in 2023 when Manila’s Ann Jilian Pulanco won the women’s race, whilst Jeff Campbell was victorious in the men’s.

The 75 kilometer (47 miles) route features a considerable elevation gain, estimated to be around 4240 meters (13911 feet). Examining the race profile reveals a challenging course characterized by frequent ascents and descents, incorporating a total of 12 distinct peaks.

The journey will take participants through the southern peaks of the Sierra Madre Mountain range in Rodriguez and Antipolo, including notable points such as Mt. Parawagan, Mt. Purro, Mt. Mapatad, Mt. Kawa-Kawa, Mt. Malemod, Mt. Ayaas, and Mt. Kapananan.

Given the demanding nature of the event, participants are expected to have a certain level of experience. Specifically, they must provide evidence of completing a road or trail race of at least 42 kilometers (26 miles) previously.

This is a UTMB 100km qualifying event.


These trail race adventures not only promise exhilarating physical challenges but also invite participants to explore the rich cultural tapestry of the towns and cities they call home for the duration of the events. From the alpine charm of Chamonix to the desert mystique of Merzouga, and the dynamic urban landscape of Manila, each location contributes to the overall allure of these trail races in 2024. Lace up your shoes and get ready to embark on a global journey of trail running and cultural exploration.

For more great articles like this, including those preparing you for your ultra trail run, be sure to visit the blog section here at Endurance Bike and Run Performance Coaching.


Written by : Andrea Silvers

Andrea Silvers
Post by Andrea Silvers
January 30, 2024
Andrea Silvers is a committed runner from Hermiston, Oregon. As well as running, she enjoys cooking, which isn't always a great combination. Her two dogs, Cash and Jennings, take up the rest of her time.