Brian McArthur at the finish line of the UTMB Race in Europe earlier this month. (Contributed photo)

WATCH: Red Deer man runs once in a lifetime European ultra-marathon

Red Deer’s Brian McArthur ran up mountains and through villages in France, Italy and Switzerland while competing in a 170-km ultra-marathon.

The 45-year-old finished 161st overall and third among Canadians in the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), which started on Sept. 1 in France.

“It’s a race that is sometimes a once in a life time opportunity,” he said. “It’s such a wonderfully organized event – I was really impressed. It was unbelievable.”

It took McArthur 31 hours, eight minutes and 21 seconds to finish the trek around Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in the Alps.

“I’m really proud of how I did,” he said. “My legs started to really cramp up and get tired after the first 80K. Running uphill was fine, but running downhill was really painful.”

Runners had 46.5 hours to finish the race.

McArthur said his goal was to finish in 30 hours, but considering there was rain and snow throughout the run, he was satisfied with his time.

Dealing with those conditions was challenging, McArthur said. The route was slightly altered due to the weather, as organizers didn’t want anyone to get hurt from slipping on the snow and rain.

Of the 2,600 competitors from around the world, 850 did not finish.

To get into the race, runners had to gather enough points from performances in other 70-mile and 100-mile races. If the runner had enough points, they were entered into a lottery where they had the chance to compete in the UTMB.

First-time applicants only have a 20 per cent chance to enter the race. But despite the low odds, McArthur entered the race as a first-time applicant.

“I was totally stoked,” he said. “I had travelled to Quebec to do a race so I could gather enough points to apply, so when I got in I was really pleased.”

When he heard he was able to compete, McArthur’s training began.

“I would run five or six days a week – at my peak I was probably running 150K a week to prepare,” he said.

McArthur also took several trips to Canmore to train in similar mountain conditions as the ultra. The UTMB brought runners to altitudes higher than 2,500 metres.

“Even at the top of the mountain passes, there were spectators and hikers cheering you on,” he said.

A week before the race McArthur and his wife, Dawn Detarando, spent time with friends in Switzerland to get used to the altitude and to avoid jet lag.

Full results from the race can be found at


Brian McArthur, facing the camera to the left, was one of thousands competing in the UTMB Race. He finished in 31 hours and eight minutes. (Contributed photo)

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