The world of Ultra-running is becoming increasingly competitive, not in the least due to the expansion of the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) World Series, which incorporates 36 events across the globe. Many will know South Africa’s trail running legend Ryan Sandes but may not be familiar with the up and coming crop of athletes of which Matt Healy is one of the most promising.
Matt Healy has gone from strength to strength in the trail running scene after leaving behind the rugby field and his most recent achievement (and likely his most significant) has been a 2nd place at a UTMB World Series event, the Trail Alsace Grand Est by UTMB in France.
The 109 km race was won by Guillaume Berthier (FRA) in a time of 10hrs 29mns and 4 secs, only 53 seconds behind him was South Africa’s Matt Healy! That is unbelievably close for an Ultra-marathon of over 10 hours. We caught up with Matt to hear how he approached the race and came away with 2nd.
WA: 2nd is an incredible result on the world stage Matt! You must be buzzing from that?
Matt: Yes I’m super stoked to be featuring on a UTMB World Series podium. These are the events I’ve been targeting so I’m really chuffed that I’ve been able to achieve this result and improve my ITRA Index and collect some more UTMB Running Stones – with the added bonus of automatically getting a UTMB entry.
WA: The margin to 1st was a mere 53 seconds after 10 hours and 29 minutes of racing! How close was the margin throughout the race and how did you manage your effort accordingly?
Matt: It was a really tight race throughout the day with a lot of yo-yoing between the top 4, we were always within a couple minutes/seconds of each other. I just focused on managing my nutrition, to allow me to be as consistent as possible and give me the best shot for a strong finish.
WA: What did your strategy look like going into the 109 km race and were you able to stick to it effectively?
Matt: My strategy was purely focused on myself. I wanted to run my own race for the first 30 km, making sure I was ticking all those early boxes. From Chatenois to Barr (aid 3 to aid 5 – 50 km) is where I settled in and was able to start mentally racing from there. Barr onwards is where I started implementing my caffeine strategy and that’s when I started making progress towards the lead.
WA: Were there any mishaps in your race or strategy that you had to manage?
Matt: Yes, ultras are almost never perfect. Going into the race I was a little concerned with tendon tightness I was feeling behind my left knee which I felt really tightened up my hammie in the first half of the race. I felt that definitely hindered my climbing on the day so I just really tried to focus on nutrition more than anything to make sure my energy levels were up for the majority of the day.
In hindsight, if there’s one thing I would critique myself on it would be about 5 km before getting into Klingenthal (second last aid station), I moved into 1st place and decided then I was going to make my move on the descent to open up a gap but unfortunately my energy levels paid the price going up the next climb and shortly after that is when Guillaume passed me.
WA: What has been your biggest takeaway from this race?
Matt: I’d say my biggest take away is to try to always be as present as possible during these ultras. The fact that after a whole day of running it came down to a matter of seconds just shows you that a race isn’t over until you cross that finish line.
WA: As for the rest of the season, where did this race fit into your campaign and what is next on the horizon?
Matt: My next big goal race will definitely be on the UTMB World Series again but I still have a few things to finalise so we’ll wait and see.