Michel Poletti, the co-founder of the renowned Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc (UTMB) World Series, couldn’t resist the allure of the TransLantau trail running event in Hong Kong. Poletti, alongside his wife Catherine, established the iconic UTMB race in 2003 in their hometown of Chamonix. This 171km race, featuring a staggering 10,000 meters of elevation, has since become a cornerstone of the global trail running community. The UTMB has expanded to include the world’s most prestigious trail races, with TransLantau gaining recognition within the series in 2021.
The 2023 edition of TransLantau marks its first appearance on the UTMB World Series circuit, following the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the previous year. For Poletti, including a race in Hong Kong was a fulfillment of a long-held desire. He acknowledges Hong Kong as a key location in the global trail running scene, citing the city’s vibrant community of trail enthusiasts.
Poletti has a longstanding relationship with TransLantau organizers Clement Dumont and Sabrina De Nada-Dumont, which further cemented his decision to participate in this year’s event. Despite his jet-lagged arrival in Hong Kong, the 68-year-old trail veteran is eagerly anticipating the start of the new 129km race. This challenging course, though shorter than the typical 100-mile UTMB requirement, compensates with its significant elevation gain, aligning with the series’ rigorous standards.
A former cross-country skier who took up endurance running in 2000, Poletti has an impressive resume with approximately 100 ultra races under his belt. He humorously notes the stark contrast in weather as he transitions from the snowy conditions of Chamonix to the likely hot and humid trails of Lantau. Poletti approaches the race not as a competition, but as an opportunity to immerse himself in the beauty of Lantau Island and enjoy the thrill of trail running.
Race director Clement Dumont has expressed the immense pressure in orchestrating the event, especially given the four-year hiatus. Poletti empathizes with the organizers’ emotional journey to revive TransLantau, emphasizing the significance of their hard work and dedication.
While elite runners are expected to complete the course in around 13 hours, Poletti’s personal goal is to savor the experience, anticipating a completion time of about 26 hours. For him, the race is about embracing the adventure and the unique challenges of trail running, rather than focusing solely on competition. His participation in TransLantau not only highlights the event’s prestige but also underscores the growing popularity and global reach of trail running as a sport.