Gardiner native Katie Schide is all smiles after winning the 2022 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc on Aug. 27 in Chamonix, France. Photo provided by UTMB

There’s little down time for Katie Schide.

Not when you’re winning a grueling ultra running trail race covering more than 100 miles in the mountains of southeastern France. Not when you’re earning your Ph.D in geology after six long years of study. And not when you’re living in a village tucked into the French mountains and have to make a two-hour round trip for your groceries.

So you’ll have to pardon the Gardiner native if she’s still hasn’t had time to find the right words nearly a month after winning the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, a 172-kilometer (106-mile) race in the Alps, whose course loops up, down and around a series of mountains, hills and valleys surrounding Chamonix, France — all while covering 10,000 meters (32,000 feet) of elevation. Schide’s victory came after she recorded top-10 finishes in 2019 and ’21.

The annual race, which debuted in 2003, is part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour. To compete in the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), competitors had to accumulate points through a series of qualifying races during the previous two years. The race, which does not award prize money, attracts nearly 1,800 competitors. Schide, a professional runner, finished the race in 23 hours, 15 minutes, 12 seconds to collect to the 10,000-Euro ($10,000) grand prize. She was the top female competitor and was 22nd overall.

“It’s overwhelming to come with words to try to describe it, because when you have this dream that you aren’t even sure will ever happen, you’re not sure it’ll even come to reality,” Schide, 30, said from her home base at the Isola 2000 ski resort near France’s Mercantour National Park. “And when it does, it’s kind of overwhelming.”

Schide crossed the finish line Aug, 27 after hours of hiking, running, breaks for water and food, shoe changes, dirt, sand, mud and blisters.


The only thing she didn’t get along the way? Sleep. Since the race began at 6 p.m. the night before, Schide and her rivals had to trudge through darkness. Having raced and trained on the course several times, she had become familiar with what she might encounter once the sun went down. While some competitors who finish in 36 or more hours will stop to take a power nap at an aid station, Schide hiked during the night.

“The hardest part for me is always in the early morning,” Schide said. “That’s when I feel like the missed night of sleep catches up with you and you start to feel more fatigued and also uncertain how you will still run through the entire following day.”

Gardiner native Katie Schide celebrates after winning the 2022 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc on Aug. 27 in Chamonix, France. Photo provided by UTMB

The aid stations are pivotal; there are five spread out on the course, where competitors’ personal crews can refresh them with food, water, poles, shoes and anything else.

And it’s also where a little strategy comes into play.

“You can decide how long you want to stay there, which is part of the game,” Schide said. “You have to decide if you need that extra minute or if you should really leave.”

For example, Schide changed her shoes at the 80-kilometer mark, figuring the dusty trail would fill her well-worn current pair with dirt and sand, raising the chance for blisters on her feet. (“It gives you a fresh feeling,” she said.) At about 100 kilometers, Schide began to feel dizzy and fell back to second briefly before she gained her second wind — and first place — with help from a refreshing cheese sandwich, according to an interview she conducted with iRunFar after her win.


When she reached the finish line, nestled among the quaint buildings and tall mountains of Chamonix — which hosted the first Winter Olympics in 1924 — she covered her mouth in amazement as throngs of fans applauded her.

“Even for those of us running in the front of the race, the first goal everyone will tell you is, ‘finish the race,’” Schide said. “It’s not a given that you’re going to finish, so that’s always the first goal. And then after that, see what you can do. In 2019 and 2021 I also did the race and I was just really kind of disappointed with my results, I think I wasn’t really ready for it and still had a lot to learn in the sport before coming back for this year.”

Gardiner native Katie Schide competes in the 2022 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc on Aug. 27 in Chamonix, France. Photo provided by UTMB

The trail from Gardiner Area High School — where Schide was a 2010 graduate and field hockey standout — to France had its own share of hills and valleys. Schide, a Middlebury College graduate who once section-hiked Vermont’s famed Long Trail with her father, moved to Zurich, Switzerland in 2016 to get her doctorate in geology. Not long after she arrived, she met her current partner, Germian Grangier, a native of France and ultra runner who shared her passions for geology and the great outdoors.

After Schide finished her lab work in Zurich, she and Grangier found their mountain home, which is about 20 minutes from the Italian border, but an hour from the nearest grocery store. For the pair, it’s the perfect getaway.

“It’s important for us,” Schide said, “because when we do go to events and races we’re around a lot of people at once, and we do travel quite a bit for those things and for press events and for obligations with sponsors. It’s nice to come home and be like, ‘OK, we can exhale.’ We can be quiet, have our space, and then reenter that world back and forth.”

And “that world” is growing by leaps and bounds. According to data compiled by, more than 600,000 ultra runners competed in 2020, a leap of nearly 350% over the previous decade. About 20 million trail runners — ultra and otherwise — race worldwide, according to the International Track & Field Federation.


Competitors make their way through a tight pass during the 2022 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc on Aug. 27 in Chamonix, France. Photo provided by UTMB

Schide has about 8,500 Facebook followers and 47,000 Instagram followers, impressive for a sport that receives scant mainstream attention. Schide credits that to the sport’s participatory nature and the ability of fans to literally follow the paths of their favorite competitors.

“There is still that aspect of the first goal being to finish, to complete the course, and you can share that with everyone,” Schide said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re first or last, you still did this huge challenge. I think it allows us to connect a bit more easily than in other sports.”

The UTMB wasn’t the only challenge Schide passed, as she completed her doctorate in geology this spring. While she did most of her schoolwork in Zurich, she had worked at reduced hours, many of them virtual, since 2019 as her career as a professional athlete took off. While studying the Earth and running on earth don’t really overlap, there are some similarities, Schide said.

Competitors make their way up a mountain during the 2022 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc on Aug. 27 in Chamonix, France. Photo provided by UTMB

“They kind of attract me for the same reasons, and that’s bring outside and understanding how the Earth works,” she said. “I don’t think I really know how the Earth works when I run, but it brings me outside into places I love exploring, and I think both of those things do that.”

Schide hasn’t been back to Maine in two years; because of COVID-19 border restrictions, Grangier had been unable to come to the United States with her. While video conferencing means she can still see family and friends from home, it’s not the same as seeing them in person.

“Just running into someone in the grocery store is different than setting up a Zoom meeting,” Schide said with a laugh.

Even if that grocery store is an hour away.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.