The Outdoor Olympics / UTMB 100mile Footrace


– Why the world’s (unofficial) ultra running championship is unlike any other sporting event –

There was a moment during the Utra Trail du Mont Blanc live coverage this weekend, where we watched the Spaniard Luis Alberto Hernando walking along a mountain path in the Chamonix Valley, closely followed by the American Seth Swanson. The cameraman had been jogging spritely along infront of them for the last 3miles, on the steep dirt trail that lead to the Tete au Vent summit at mile 99. 1,000’s of viewers watched online as Alberto Hernando stopped, cupped his hands and took a slurp from a mountain brook, allowing the American to pass him at a brisk 4mph and move into 2nd place. The commentator, barely able to contain his excitement, declared that this was the equivalent to watching the outdoor Olympics. This strange sport that sees competitors run for as long as 46 hours, peel skin off their blistered feet and vomit by the side of the trail, was suddenly out there, and in the mainstream.

Damian Hall arrives back in Chamonix after lapping the highest mountain in Europe and travelling through France, Italy and Switzerland in a time of 26:41

Damian Hall arrives back in Chamonix after lapping the highest mountain in Europe and travelling through France, Italy and Switzerland in a time of 26:41

Success in a 100mile race requires a fervent commitment to training. To tow the start line, the 2,300 competitors needed to have completed a minimum three events of 60+miles during the last 18months. Some runners will have completed more, preferring to train for the UTMB with lots of regular “shorter” events – where you run just a couple of marathons at a time. Others prefer to slog it out in training runs, spending 10 or more hours each weekend in the mountains. An exact formula for success in this multi sport refuses to be pinned down however. When the tape dropped on Chamonix’s high street last Friday at 6pm French time, the fortunes of the sport’s most shining lights were cast to the wind. 

The challenges of this race are immense. Of the 5 runners that lead to the half way point, only 1 of them finished the race. Unfamiliarity with the terrain, poor shoe choice, over heating, dehydration, inability to hold down food and open wounds sustained on the trail led to many competitors retiring. For all but the most elite, two consecutive night of running were to be expected. During this time, the body enters such extreme states of fatigue that vivid hallucinations are experienced and runners fall asleep on their feet. 

Besides the physical fatigue, the mental strain is soul-sucking. When the sun sets on a second day of non-stop running, and there are still 3 mountain passes to go on your bipedal trip through France, Switzerland and Italy, no amount of saucisson sec and cheese is going to get you to the finish. The desire to have done with the race is enormous. The lack of stimulation during the night that follows, where your world is reduced to a single beam of light, pushes competitors deeper still into their dark places, and it it easy to question the need to keep going.

Ultramarthon running is a very far cry from the marginal gain sport of professional cycling, or the style and finesse of elite level swimming. If this really is the closest we can get to an outdoor Olympics, and the sport’s popularity is to continue to grow, new audiences are going to have to adapt to the ultramarathon freak show format, and take a live broadcast vomit in their stride.




Til-Til to Lampa 38km (English Version)

Lampa Til Til

A wildly beautiful and brutal experience in Chile’s coastal mountains this weekend, representing GreenBeanTrails. It was all thanks to Latitud Sur’s most recent event on the calendar – The Til Til to Lampa Traverse. We passed through golden oaks, alpine lagoons and remote valleys – washed a verdant green after the recent winter rain.11887997_665285376941584_9186242116246554003_n

Whilst the rest of the word is going crazy over vertical km races, here in Chile we’re quietly racing 1.7 VKMs over the first 4miles of the race…and then going on to run the rest of the mountain marathon with a total of nearly 3,000m vert. It’s all a bit too much for this Brit. who just 12 months
ago had a mere 200m “summit” to train on.

DCIM146GOPROMany thanks to Pablo Garrido and his tremendous team. Many thanks also to Matias Bull from Tail Chile for keeping everyone informed during the race and to Max Keith for taking such mind bending photos. Race directors: you need these boys at your races!

(Third overall and first in age group)


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Til-Til Lampa 38km (español)

Lampa Til Til

Tuve una experiencia maravillosa y durísima en las montañas este fin de semana, representando mi marca GreenBeanTrails. Fue gracias a Latitud Sur y su edición mas recien de su calendario – Traversia Til-Til Lampa. Pasamos por un paisaje sublime con robles de oro y valles desconocidos y verdosos.

Mientras que el resto del mundo se esta volviendo loco por los kms verticales, nosotros acá en Chile11887997_665285376941584_9186242116246554003_n estamos piolamente subiendo 1.7km verticales en los primeros 7.5kms de una carrera….y así estamos empezando no mas porque en total esta imponente carrera es casi una maraton de largo y tiene casi 3,000m ganados. Impresionante para este chico Inglés – quien hace un año atrás tenia una cumbre de 200m para entrenar.

Muchas gracias a Pablo Garrido y su equipo por organizar un evento tan DCIM146GOPRObueno de nuevo, y con tanto buena onda y compañía. Agradezco a Matias Bull de Trail Chile por mantener a todos informados y a Max Keith también – el fotógrafo quien saco fotos alucinante. Todo necesitan a estos chicos en sus eventos.

(Terminé tercero de la general y primero de mi categoria.)


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Challenge Complete – 31,000m Above The Smog in July / DESFAFIO COMPLETADO – 31,000m Subidos Arriba del Smog


Me on Mortal CombatI went into the mountains this month and climbed a vertical KM above the city everyday because I hoped to…

  •  Photograph the winter pollution epidemic in Santiago from above, that sends children and the elderly to hospital with chronic lung complications.
  • Show an enduring commitment to a difficult challenge; similar to the greater one of reducing our own carbon footprint and living more
    sustainable lifestyles.
  • Enjoy the mountains – The sunrises and sunsets, like this one on the last morning with my friend René Castel.



Today I am very tired.

I ran 432km (268miles) and climbed 31,471m (103,251.’) I have finished the month with two
very bruised feet, a recurring popping sensation in my ear from all that pressure change, a punctured bum from falling on a cactus but, more importantly, a wealth of experiences from running with over 15 different Chilean friends and supporters who have been interested in the project and who wanted to share some of the journey in the Andes.

There has been a lot of interest in the issue
the challenge has raised as well. Via Green Bean Trails social media I developed ideas about the problem:

  • The constituents of air pollution
  • Where it comes from
  • Live data to assess how we are affected (amazing resource)
  • Long term health effects

but also tried to suggest how we as individuals are empowered to make changes and model a powerful commitment to the climate and our environment we inhabit by:photo (3) (1)

  • Highlighting local initiatives in Chile to reduce contamination of air and water
  • Reducing dietary carbon emissions by 50% when choosing a plant based diet
  • Promoting recycling and and green transport

There is certainly a detailed GreenBeanTrails investigative article on the way. For now though, whilst I catch my breath, I’ll just sign off with this quote borrowed from AliceWalker by the conservationist and North Face Founder Doug Tompkins to describe his work:

“Each of us (should) aim to pay our rent for living on the planet, and somehow leave the planet better for our efforts.”

(If you have enjoyed following the challenge, or feel encouraged by its intentions, or just want more adventurous stuff similar to this please Like the page on Facebook and share a link to the 31,000m challenge.)


Fui a las montañas este mes y subí un KM Vertical cada díaMe on Mortal Combat.
Hice eso para…

1) Documentar la contaminación de arriba con fotos y videos.

2) Mostrar el tipo de compromiso necesario para enfrentar el desafío mas importante: Bajar nuestra propia contaminación y vivir una vida mas sustentable.

3) Disfrutar las montañas,  los amaneceres y atardeceres y presentar que podríamos perder si no nos cuidamos nuestro proprio etorno….

Hoy día estoy muy cansado. 

Corrí 432km y subí 31,471m en total. Cerré el mes con dos pies moretoneados, un sensación rara en mis oídos destapandose por los cambios de presión, y un poto perforado por un cactus…pero lo mas importante es que terminé con un cofre lleno de experiencias compartidas con lo 15 o mas Chilenos que vinieron a compartir este desafío en la cordillera. Gracias por toda su ayuda y motivación.    Ha habido bastante gente interesada en los temas planteados en el desafio. A través de GreenBeanTrails en Facebook desarrollé temas de:

  • Las partículas de la contaminación
  • De dónde viene
  • Información en tiempo real para estar informado cada día del riesgo que se presenta
  • Los efectos para la salud a largo plazo

Sin embargo, también sugerí como nosotros tenemos el poder hacer cambios, y mostrar un compromiso poderoso con nuestro medioambiente a través de:

  • Las iniciativas Chilenas para reducir contaminación del aire y agua
  • La reducción del 50% de nuestra huella carbono nutricional, cuando elegimos una dieta vegetariana
  • Reciclar lo que compramos, usar transporte publico y crear un sociedad que valora un estilo de vida sustentable.

Pronto viene un artículo de Green Bean Trails en la prensa internacional sobre el desfio, pero, por ahora – mientras recupero mi aliento – firmo con esta cita de Alice Walker y desarrollada por el medioambientalista Doug Tompkins para describir su trabajo en Patagonia:

“Cada uno de nosotros deberíamos pagar nuestro arriendo por vivir en este planeta, y, de alguna forma, dejar el planeta en un estado mejor por el esfuerzo.” (Si has disfrutado este desafio, o te sientes motivado por las intenciones, o simplemente quieres mas “Adventure Media” – por favor haz click en Like en Facebook y comparte un link al desafio 31,000m.)

Gracias a Sofia por todo su paciencia este mes con mis problemas comunicando en español!


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Climbing for the Climate / A Commitment to Clean Air

[:en] This week I started I challenge that I’m not sure I’ll be able to complete…

Smog Rising over Santiago

The Background

I’ve been running for 8months now in the mountains surrounding my home in Santiago, Chile. It’s mid winter here and it’s rained only twice since I arrived. The ski fields are dry and my lips are cracking in the thin air up at 1,000m where we live.

Day 4 – Sunrise on the “Cow Loin” Ridge

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Day 6 – A lone carancho framed in snow clouds

Santiago suffers badly from air pollution and is one of the worst capital cities in South America on this index. The colder temperatures of winter presses this contaminated air down into the lowest altitude reaches of the city, where the poorest people live: Their babies, small children and elderly being admitted to hospital each June and July with respiratory related conditions.

The Andes mountains which sweep around the city, blocking the free flow of air, are part of the reason for the contamination. Other problems include the industry allowed in the heart of the city, the insufficient provision of quality public transport, the lack of bike lanes and poor recycling infrastructure.

Day 7 – Smog in Las Condes, Santiago

Day 7 – Smog in Las Condes, Santiago

The government, the President; Michelle Bachelet and the Environmental Minister; Pablo Badenier Martínez have a lot to answer for.

But it doesn’t stop there….There’s an even bigger culprit really.

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Day 9 – Cerro Provincia 2,700m

Day 12 – A volcanic cauldron effect from rising cloud / Se pareció un volcan en el filo de Pochocon (Manquehue atras)

The Individual

The singular acts of individuals, will be the main reason for the reduction in contamination in this city. The energy, effort and commitment involved in my climbing challenge, won’t do anything to change the air quality in Santiago. It does, however, show a parallel to the strength of mind needed to take seriously our commitments and responsibilities with the environment.

Choosing a smaller car, to share a lift to work, to eat just vegetables once a week, to recycle all the shit we buy, to take life slower and arrive by bike – these are the changes that are needed – regardless of whether we believe the man on the other side of the fence is making the same effort. Such proactively is what draws the line between negligible and nothing. You can’t build on nothing but a lot of negligible eventually makes a difference.

photo 5

Day 12 – Above the Flats of Javier trying to get a decent shot of the smog

The Challenge

This month I will try to climb 31,000m above the city – 1,000m of elevation gain each day – to draw awareness to the tragic irony in Santiago that we breathe better when we escape into the thin air, and to show the level of effort needed to try and combat such a problem.

So I’m going into the mountains this month: to breathe some better air; to take pictures of the contamination and have a personal stab at making a difference.

Day 18 - Back on top Provincia 2,700m - this time in the snow.

Day 18 – Back on top Provincia 2,700m – this time in the snow.

photo (3) (1)

Carbon footprint 0 recycling


Follow my progress from the Twitter feed on the home screen or the Facebookpage. Find smog pictures, facts, and info. about we can make changes on a personal level to reducing our waste, cutting our emissions and doing our bit. Share with #nosmog.

Happy Trails. Matt Maynard.[:es]

Hoy dia empezé un desafío para el mes de julio.

Smog subiendo sobre Santiago

Normalmente salgo a correr todos los días en las montañas de Chile – mi pais adoptado. Disfruto la sensación de dejar mi trabajo y mis preocupaciones “reales” por un rato y salir hacia las cumbres y el cielo.

Este invierno, sin embargo, entiendo que el smog esta peor que nunca. Hoy es la décima pre emergencia por maa calidad del aire. El gobierno Chileno impidió a 1,350 industrias funcionar y hay restricciones de auto y de estufas a leña…

photo (1)

Un carancho solo abajo nubes de nieve

El amanecer en el filo de Loma de la Vaca

…Hasta cuando? Esta media es para una ciudad en plena crisis – no hace nada para mejorar la raiz del problema. El Ministro del medio ambiente; Pablo Badenier Martínez, y la presidenta de la República de Chile; Michelle Bachelet, necesitan tomar la responsabilidad y hacer los cambios necesarios para mejorar la causa del problema con las industrias, el reciclaje y formas de transportare sustentable.

Pero también esta en nuestras manos. Es demasiado fácil quejarse del smog. Pero somos la causa también….

El Smog En Las Condes

El Smog En Las Condes

El desafio

Este mes, voy a subir un KM Vertical cada día por los senderos en las faldas de Santiago. Mi intención esescapar del smog y llamar la atención a la tristeza y grande ironía que respiramos mejor en nuestra ciudad a mas altura – donde hay menos aire.

bird prov 3

Día 9 – Cerro Provincia 2,700m

photo (3) (1)Tu participación

Subir una montaña no es una opción para todos, pero
igual yo espero que este desafío muestre un poco ladeterminación y convicción que necesitamos para realizar cambios duraderos y significativos para combatireste problema que hemos creado. Ojalá te inspire usar un auto más chico, compartir un auto a la pega, dejar de comer carne una ves a la semana, andar en bici, reciclar o salir a pie a buscar tus propias aventuras.


Seria buenísimo si compartes tus propios intentos de bajar la contaminación en nuestra ciudad. Anda a Home page (esquina izquierda) para updates sobre el desafío. Ahi también puedes encontrar un link para subir tus comentarios a Facebook!

photo 5

Día 13- Arriba los Llanos de Javier intentando tomar una buena foto del smog

Matt Maynard – GreenBeanTrails



Nikki Kimball on Patagonia’s first 100miler, her new film “Finding Traction” and ‘chicking’ Usain Bolt

[:en]Nikki Kimball has been at the forefront of the ultra running scene for 16 years. During this illustrious career she has won some of the most challenging and competitive of races: the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, Marathon de Sables and Western States three times over.

She has set innumerable course records, worked tirelessly to close the pay gap between elite male and female athletes, and most recently has starred in the running expedition film “Finding Traction” which documents her attempt to run the fastest overall time (for both men and women) on Vermont’s 273mile ‘Long Trail.’

nikki RRR

Photo credit: Paul Nelson


‘Finding Traction’ will have its debut UK screening at Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (ShAFF) this coming weekend and then again next month, in Puerto Natales, Chile. (There she will be running in Patagonia’s first 100mile ultramarathon – ‘Ultra Fiord.’)

Ahead of these exciting times, she very kindly found time to reflect on these career accomplishments; discuss some of the dark times she has worked through, and talk with great passion about the challenges ahead.

finding tractionQ –

Nikki thanks so much for your time! You very recently returned from Transgrancanaria and are now shooting off to the UK. Busy times! Many people coming to see your film this weekend, though, may not be runners, and certainly never have run an ultramarathon. What do you hope that they take away from you film?

Nikki –

I really love this question. Though the film covers a running expedition, I do not think of it as a film about running. I’ve been racing for so long (over 16 years in ultra and over 3 decades in a combination of skiing, cycling and running), that the sport in and of itself no longer excites me.

Rather, I love the humanity that ultrarunning facilitates. The stories I hear on the trail, and the possibilities uncovered by both running exploration and the physical deprivation racing can cause, are what keep the sport fresh for me. With that said, I will tell you that “Finding Traction” is about what running means to me. It is about exploring my mind and my body. It’s about crushing challenges rather than letting the challenges win. It’s about keeping me, and all who do endurance exercise, healthy. It’s about the value these sports add to human existence.

nkhoka-2 hhI think people take from the film what they need. A woman who’s struggled for 20 years in a job without equal pay to her male colleagues may find
the courage to simply ask for more. A sedentary or overweight person may find the inspiration to exercise for health benefits. A person suffering from depression will find a sister in that struggle.

Naturally, given the deadly nature of the disease, I want the movie to encourage discourse on depression. From the two big film showings I’ve attended, I found that mental health professionals bought copies of the DVD for their patients.

Note that I had nothing to do with the writing, editing or composition of the film. I was its subject and I did a lot of fund raising and organizing of the premiere showings at home, but I take no credit for what the producers and filmmakers did. I wish I had that kind of artistic and narrative talent in this medium, but I do not.

Jaime Jacobsen and her team exceeded my expectations with “Finding Traction.” They were brave enough to show my darker sides, and the personality traits that physical pain, lack of sleep and extreme stress can bring forward. For instance, I am not proud of the repeated frustration I showed when the weather during the expedition turned out to be sub-optimal for speed. But I don’t always show the behavior I want people to associate with me. And in choosing to publicize this expedition as I did, showing only my caring, powerful and athletic attributes would be dishonest. The film is honest and sometimes brutal. But so is our sport, and so is life.

Q –
The Long Trail record is one of the most impressive FKT’s (Fastest Known Times) in the USA. Why was it important for you to have not just the fastest female time, but the fastest known time overall?

Nikki –
I am very competitive and I like to win. I know that breaking the Long Trail’s FKT is eminently possible for the right person, male or female, given good conditions and good timing in the athlete’s life. I would love to be able to go after every record in my 2007 body which seemed to turn every effort into gold.

But the fact is that one only has so many peak performances in her body. My Long Trail expedition was far from a peak performance for me. I made many mistakes from ignorance, and many from circumstance. I know there are women in our world right now who can crush that record. I just hope I either get the chance to chase it once again, or to be on the crew of the woman who does.

Q –
You have been a strong advocate for equality in prize money and sponsorship for both female and male athletes. In the last thee years you have seen a lot of these original goals realised. What impact is this having on your career now and what will it mean for future female distance runners?
NK Snowfill

Nikki –

I am beyond my absolute fastest racing now. Much of what I’ve fought for in the last 25 years of my racing career will not directly benefit me. And I admit that I envy the women who’ve joined the sport, or hit their physical peaks, in the past 5 years or so.

I think some of the runners who joined the sport more recently will believe I over play the gender gap. Newer female athletes do not know what it is to have the director of an overseas race invite and pay for male elite athletes to travel to their races, while stating in emails that they do not care about the women.

They do not know about domestic race directors offering overall, but not women’s prize money. They may not know what it is like to see the most experienced scholastic coaches serving only the male teams. And frankly, I look forward to the time when a woman watching “Finding Traction” thinks to herself, “what the hell is she talking about?”.

With respect to gender equity, ultrarunning is light years ahead of where it was a decade ago and also ahead of professional sports in general, where many, many more opportunities exist for men than women. However, it still isn’t quite equal. I wish I had statistics on endorsements for male versus female ultra runners. My sense is that many companies are quite fair in their contracts.

However, factors exist beyond the control of even the most even handed companies out there. Most athletes, for example, get bonus money based on the athlete getting his/her picture with the company logo in the printed and television media. Particularly outside our sport, sports media continues to picture male athletes disproportionally often.

This gap needs to end and, though ultra athletes may not realize perfect fairness, we enjoy more equality than most. Perhaps our sport can serve as a model of better gender equity in sport in general.

Q –
You said of a difficult experience during a race last year (Western States – interview by Ian Corless) ‘I was like “I’m vomiting but it’s so beautiful.’” For those of us who haven’t covered a 100miles on foot in a day, can you give us an idea about why you might feel like this?

ski summer

Summer skiing near home in Montana

Nikki –
I think that physical discomfort can be scary when one is not used to it. Given that ultra runners experience uncomfortable moments frequently in racing, we are able to compartmentalize physical sensations. Vomiting is not pleasant, but it usually leads to a relief of the stomach pain that precedes it. Like hip pain or muscle cramps, it’s a known entity to me. Knowing the pain takes its power away. It cannot paralyze one who does not fear it.

Further, when I am very uncomfortable I focus on the beauty around me. Since I know the pain is fleeting, I can accept it, and spend my mental effort appreciating my surroundings rather than focusing on the unpleasant sensation.

Doing this helps force discomfort into the background. I find this works well with all but the most intense pains. With those I focus on the pain and let it drive me.

You have talked openly and very powerfully about using exercise as additional treatment to help combat depression. What is it about movement/being outdoors that helps alleviate these feelings?

Nikki –
I am not a mental health professional. But given that I have a mental illness, I read some primary literature surrounding it. There is compelling evidence that exercise lessons the symptoms of depression. I personally think that being outdoors while moving is even better than, say indoor exercise. But I am not sure if there is quality evidence supporting that belief.

Many hypotheses exist as to the reason that exercise is beneficial in the treatment of this disease, without a clear answer to your question. My guess is that exercise benefits one with depression in a complicated, multifactorial way. Chemical changes in the brain, a sense of purpose and accomplishment, increased body temperature, and several other factors may well combine to make exercise the treatment that it is.


During your time in England at the ShAFF, will you have anytime to run any of the trails, or have  a look at such famous 24 hour time limit ‘Rounds’ as the Bob Graham, which covers 42 summits in the Lake District?

Nikki – 

I cannot wait to run the trails around Sheffield. Unfortunately I will not have time to give the area it’s proper due with respect to trail running, nor will I be able to get to the Lake District. I guess that means I will have to come back another time!

Q –

When you come to a magical place like Torres del Paine in Chile, is it possible to race competitively and yet still appreciate the landscape you are moving through?

Nikki –
I love running in beautiful places, and that is a primary reason for me to race in Patagonia. I cannot focus on competition throughout 100 miles of racing. 100 mile races require a lot of mental power. One of the strategies I use to ensure that my race focus will be available when I need it, is to focus on the beauty of my surroundings as much as I can during the run.
Ultra Fiord

This is in fact is why I like the distance so much: it’s like going for a hike, but one gets to see a lot more because of the vast distance being covered. And it hurts a lot more. So, yes, I will appreciate the beauty, and I will race as competitively as I am able. And I am excited for both the beauty and the competition.

Q –
Brilliant! We are really looking forward to having you down here in Chile. Finally then, just for fun of course: In an ideal world, what race you would be running and what male runner you would be ‘chicking.’

Nikki –
Since we are being silly here: Usain Bolt in World Championship 100m. I’ve always wanted to feel the ground reaction force, and the body’s movement through the air at that speed of running!

Thanks Nikki. We will see you down here in South America in less than a month for Ultra Fiord!