As the most iconic week in the trail-running calendar, it made complete sense for us to launch our first collection at the iconic UTMB week in Chamonix.
The AROW Collection – Advanced Race Optimised Wear – is designed to take on the world’s toughest races, having been tested extensively over the past 12 months (in fact co-founder Christian was wearing our first prototypes whilst racing in Chamonix in 2021).
As the first range went live, co-founders Christian and Tom were both in Chamonix, competing in different events and embracing another opportunity to sport the arrow, up and around Mont Blanc.
I fell head over heels in love with trail running after I left the UK, realising how much more fun it is to combine running with a sense of adventure, freedom, and the most unreal scenery. UTMB holds a mythical status and whilst I’ve spent a lot of time in the area to ski, I’ve never been there in the summer so I was super excited to get the spot at MCC.
I have a deep love for electronic music – specifically, house and techno – developed from a wasted youth (‘wasted’ being the operative word) spent making music and DJing around the UK and Europe. I run in the trails mostly with music and when I take on these races in the mountains, I use music as a way to really heighten the sensation; I feel every step, every beat – using the rhythm to lean into the tough sections and using the energy to send it on the runnable bits. If I get it right and have the right mix, in the right setting, on the right day, everything comes together and I literally feel high. That’s what I went searching for at MCC. A Monday spent cracking about in the mountains, listening to techno and chasing a high. Joie de vivre.
MCC is one of the shorter races at MCC, at ‘only’ 40km and 2500m of elevation gain (though we had an extra 2km and 250m this year due to landslides). For me, enjoying the day and chasing the high was my aim – any external validation through competition was a happy consequence. If I run well, enjoy myself, and find the high, I finish stronger – simple. I had absolutely no expectations from a racing perspective, but equally, I arrived at the race in really good form, raring to go, and in no doubt that I’d get round. The first 15km or so were pretty much entirely uphill (for ‘hill’ see ‘mountain’) and after the incredible experience of running through hundreds of cheering supporters at Martigny-Combe in Switzerland where the race started, I popped on the Denis Horvat mix I’d teed up and settled into a fast-hiking rhythm. In hindsight, maybe poles would have helped but I just tried to conserve the legs until it was time to run. Thankfully after what felt like an eternity of unfathomably slow kilometres, the trail really opened up and I was able to start running hard into some of the most unbelievable vistas in the world as we took in Chalet des Grands, Le Tour, and Argentiére (some of my old skiing haunts). The legs felt great, the music was absolutely on point (by this time it was an old faithful to bring it home - DIXON 🤤) and I started to really put away some fast sections – fully at one with the music, the day, and the feeling, both physical and mental. Sure enough, the happy consequence of a decent result came along too – finishing 60th overall and 11th in my category – a nice footnote on what had been the exact kind of day I was craving. My first UTMB experience and certainly not my last.
I do sports for many reasons but one is that I love to train, finding the feeling of building fitness and a strong body to take on challenges that otherwise may seem impossible. When things start to click and you start to float, moving with ease rather than pushing.
This summer had left me with more questions than answers. Nothing seemed to click like seasons before, everything was more labored, racing impossible. Finally, I found out that I had long COVID, the bugger had been hanging around for months, keeping me from reaching my best.
CCC was my day for redemption. We managed to get the bug out of the system and my body was healthy once again, maybe not at its very strongest but healthy. Not long after the race started, I was tested again with cramps in both my hamstrings but straight away I told myself that today we were going to the end, even if we had to walk. For 11 hours I suffered through, shuffling along the trails before finally reaching the finish line. Hours later than I hoped but it really didn’t matter, I pushed and arrived empty having left all my effort out there. That’s why I do it.
Huge thanks to Sami Sauri for capturing some moments on both days.