High demand for a place in the first ever OMAN by UTMB® event has seen hundreds of runners sign up, including many of the best-known members of the international ultra-trail community.

With places filling up and the number of runners now exceeding 300, registration for a sought-after place in the 29th November event was closed on 30th September.

Among the elite runners registered for the newest addition to the UTMB® calendar are the USA’s Jim Walmsley, the 2017 Ultra Runner of the Year and currently the world number one in the ITRA rankings.

Joining him on the non-stop 137km event will be the Lithuanian-born 2016 Ultra Trail World Tour champion Gediminas Grinius, and the Swiss 2017 Ultra Trail World Tour champion Andrea Huser.

Also among the athletes representing no fewer than 49 countries are: Jason Schlarb, the top US finisher in the 2014 UTMB® Mont Blanc; former Swedish track athlete Ida Nilsson; Swiss runner Diego ‘Zpeedy’ Pazos, aka the ‘bow tie trail runner’; and Wyoming-based Meredith Edwards, one of the leading female runners on the circuit.

In addition, other familiar faces are expected to include Chinese national and Hong Kong resident Tsang Siu Keung “Stone”, one of the most successful trail runners in Asia, plus others from the growing trail running community in China.

“Ultra-trail runners enjoy the challenge of mountain courses and the beauty of the natural environment, and judging by the rush to enter, OMAN by UTMB® appears to have captured that enthusiasm in full,” said Salma Al Hashmi, Oman Sail Chief Marketing Officer.

“The authentic and unique landscapes of the Sultanate, particularly the route that takes in the heights of Jebel Akhdar, the Green Mountain, will provide an exciting and competitive event for hundreds who have seized the opportunity to take part in this first edition.”

OMAN by UTMB®, hosted by event organiser Oman Sail and supported by UTMB® International and the organisers of UTMB® Mont-Blanc, will take the growing field on a remote and rugged course, with long and technical climbs and a total vertical gain of more than 7,800m.

UTMB® founder Michel Poletti was a member of the team that designed the course: “The Sultanate is like no other place I’ve run before, the spectacular scenery, incredible mountains and warm people make this a must-do event,” he said.

“Having had the opportunity to revisit Oman I can now add that the country has a fantastic amount to offer visitors, it is very safe, with much to see and do that the whole family can enjoy,” added the UTMB Mont-

Blanc Race Director.

The special benefits of participation in OMAN by UTMB®for those hoping to run in the heavily-oversubscribed UTMB® Mont-Blanc will apply to all registrations up to the cut-off.

Finishers will earn the maximum number of six qualifying points, valid for three years instead of the usual two, and will save one year in the UTMB® Mont-Blanc registration process. This will double the chance for first-time applicants in the entry lottery for 2019, and guarantee entry for those reapplying a second time after being unsuccessful in 2018.

OMAN by UTMB® starts at Birkat Al Mawz, near Nizwa, at 19:30 on Thursday 29 November. ■

Photos by: Lloyd Images