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Addicted - immerse yourself in mountain running culture at the UTTJ

by Editor
Monday 27th July 2015

Race feature: In his first article for Run247, Majell Backhausen explains why the Un Tour en Terre du Jura has a lot more than three UTMB qualification points to offer to trail runners

Un Tour en Terre du Jura

Photo: The author, Majell Backhausen, wins the 2015 Un Tour en Terre du Jura

Un Tour en Terre du Jura (UTTJ) was an event that I chose to complete for standard UTMB point gaining reasons, but what I left with was so much more and unexpected. Friends, a deeper appreciation for the French mountain culture, a massive wheel of cheese, sore legs, a huge smile and a bigger love for the trail running community, just to name a few.

The stats are simple. 115km in a 2-day Stage race with 6400m of elevation gain and loss in the Jura Mountains of France. It sounds pretty standard, although from my experience, I now know this is a REAL French mountain race. Here’s why:

UTTJ provides not just a tough weekend in some beautiful mountains but also a cultural experience that should be witnessed and appreciated by all trail runners. I used this race in two different ways in my build up to the 2015 UTMB, once in 2014 for the three points it provides and again in 2015 for a great long weekend of training and searching for vert. I also couldn’t resist visiting the region again and catching up with the people who had showed such warm hospitality the previous year.

The region of Jura has an amazing topography, creating a maze of valleys and steep mountains. This allows day one to boast 3500m of elevation gain in 57km, providing amazing panoramic view at the top of each of the 5 major climbs. It’s like a mini-UTMB course and preparing the body for the ups and downs of the Alps is vital on similar profiles. It was a little rockier than the UTMB trails so I didn’t use my poles here.

Photos © Jean-François Bourgine

Photos © Jean-François Bourgine

One of my fondest aspects of the race is that the course has you passing through the towns and fields which are home to the people and fromageries, that provide the volunteers and regional delicacies for the aid stations, participant gift bag (which you receive at registration before you even set foot on the course and its full of goods including local beer!), the Friday evening French style pasta party (cheese in abundance) and all the subsequent incredibly French picnics and meals in the weekend.

I have a tremendous ability to eat, especially post race, and there was no doubt that I was well fed here, even as a vegetarian. The organisation of UTTJ is so passionate that this year they celebrated the 5th instalment with a custom made t-shirt with the word ‘Addicted’ printed on the front. The people of the Jura region really love UTTJ and they make every runner feel like such an important part of the event.

Un Tour en Terre du Jura, translates into English as ‘One Earth Tour in the Jura’. Which is apt because this race will test you physically, mentally and emotionally, by allowing you to pass through the Jura region. Along with these challenges it will also make you feel like you are part of, to Jura and I, the most important French race held in Mid-July.

Photos © Jean-François Bourgine

Photos © Jean-François Bourgine

Upon completion of this true multi stage mountainous challenge, which sees the overall winning time of just under 12 hours and a final finish time of near 28 hours, this event will have you knowing for weeks after that you are now a true participant of French mountain running.

If any race has 3 UTMB points for finishing then you know it won’t be a Sunday stroll around the park.  The course has some technical and steep climbs, but it also has you pausing on the trail in the middle of a forest, at the top of a ridge or when greeted by locals cheering “allez, allez” with a garden hose at the ready, realising what a special experience this is. The secluded towns and green fields echo cowbells (from the people and animals), which always bring a smile to your face, neither caring if you are first or last, just that you are welcome in Jura.

A personal highlight is the staggered start on the second day, which is great for the trail running camaraderie, allowing runners of all abilities to interact and be supportive to one another on the trail, which is exactly what happens at UTTJ.

‘Couvage!’ which translates to ‘Be Brave- continue strong’ is what you are greeted with by passing trail runners. It really is a friendly environment at this event and one of the main reasons I love trail running and its people and the main reason I returned for round two in 2015.

Another of the race highlights comes at the start of the second day, a beautiful 700m climb straight out of Mijoux (Base camp for the evening). There is no choice but to take this easy, allowing the legs to re-awaken from the trails and tribulations of the first day's efforts. As your senses start to come around you find the trail leading to the Nature Reserve of Mount Jura, a protected area for wildlife and flora. As you push towards the summit the panoramic view of Lake Leman, home to the France-Switzerland border and Geneva City, are in the foreground with the backdrop being the Mont Blanc Massif, with the snow capped Mont Blanc standing tall above everything surrounding it. It’s a rewarding start to the day and just reward for that first climb.

Photos © Jean-François Bourgine

Photos © Jean-François Bourgine

This is a tour of the land, a meeting of its people and an experience into their passion for mountain sports and the trails. It is an event I really enjoyed, where runners of all abilities interact in a humble way. If I’ve scared you a little then not to worry, single day entries and relay teams are also an option, although you don’t justify eating as much cheese.

Un Tour en Terre du Jura (UTTJ) took place on July 11-12, 2015. Find out more at: https://sites.google.com/site/utmjura/accueil

Un Tour en Terre du Jura

Photos: Made in Jura

Men's results

1 MAJELL BACKHAUSEN North Face (6:20:08/5:34:53) 11:55:01
2 JORIS BOTTON   (6:44:32/5:51:50) 12:36:22
3 SÉBASTIEN JEU   (6:53:49/5:45:37) 12:39:26


Women's results

1 CYRIELLE BARONI Les Lacets du Lizon (9:06:14/7:57:29) 17:03:43
2 ANNE VILLEMIN   (9:08:18/8:29:17) 17:37:35
3 CARMEN HILDEBRAND SSC-Langnau (10:06:13/9:14:49) 19:21:02


Click here for full results


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