With the help of Bondalti, where he’s been working for 23 years, Fernando Mendes literally hit the road: one that was laid on a 171-kilometer mountainous course, completed after 41 hours of intense physical and mental effort. With this achievement, Mendes became the third Portuguese to conclude the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) on three occasions. Take a look at his own words.

“Sometimes, in an ultramarathon, there’s a moment when you leave it all behind. You let go of time goals or rankings, that celebration you dreamt of pulling off months ago, the landscapes, where you are, how you got there, your friends and family. You pack those things up and shove it in a large enough suitcase that you leave lying in a corner. Suddenly, your life is all about one goal.


Everything you do has to be of the utmost efficiency, with zero distractions and full concentration, focus and determination. You manage pain, time and effort. Everything has to be finely tuned, so that you can finally accomplish your life’s greatest achievement: conquering the next meter.


I’m not saying that UTMB 2018 was my life’s dream. Truth be told, I’ve already finished this competition on other two occasions, and I haven’t even been doing trail runs for that long. It all began in 2013, in Lousã, and since then, it spiraled out of control. All of the sudden, I was doing ‘ultras’, followed by three-digit courses, the MIUT, and, all of the sudden, I wondered: “What if…?”. I completed the qualifiers, signed up, got lucky on the pick, and when January came, I was in.


It all seemed so simple! Even the qualifier for the UTMB tasted like victory. Now I had eight months to prepare, attend and enjoy the competition, and take some pictures at Chamonix.


I confess that, for the last eight months, I rarely thought of the chance that something could go wrong. I drew a rigid plan, duly prepared myself, and fine-tuned everything. All I had to do was run the 100 miles. But, all of the sudden, the moment came. The moment I left all of these things behind.


Hours before, at the Place du Triangle de l’Amitié, in Chamonix, my eyes were wide shut, chills running down my spine, while I heard Vangelis in the sound system, an absolutely frenetic vibe exploding through the village. Crammed between 2561 runners (from which 267 were women), and, literally, surrounded by thousands of spectators, I wiped the tears that were building up and started hearing the countdown, the finish line some 200 meters away from me. It was time to, once again, live my life’s greatest adventure. Luckily, I was able to conquer it one more time, becoming the third Portuguese to cross the ‘portico of dreams’ for three times. One hundred and seventy-one kilometers with a 10.000-meter ascent, completed in 41 hours and 36 minutes. The mountain remained indifferent to my passage, but all I can think about is hugging it again!