Words and Photography by Alexis Berg
This story first appeared in issue #22 of Like the Wind
“Nuits blanches”, the title of Alexis Berg’s magical new mini-documentary about the night-time periods of the UTMB, directly translates into English as “white nights”. But in French, it’s not only a neat play on words – “nuit blanche” means “sleepless night” – but also a wink to the white magic of the mighty Mont Blanc.
Behind the lens
Acclaimed photographer Berg tells us about the Nuits Blanches back story: “The UTMB start is given at 6pm, so runners go straight into the night. The best will spend only one night out, but most spend two nights out on the 100-mile course. Two nights of running. They might see more night than day. This particularity steers the race away from pure sport and performance, and more towards mental strength. It’s not just about who won the race, but the experience of the athletes.
“Having captured the sport for a long time, I know how difficult it is to transcribe night running, with its silence and its contemplative nature. One perceives the beauty and might of the mountain in a very different way; the trail left by the thousand head-lamps creates a very particular light.”
The thoughts of runners featured in Nuits Blanches:
Dave Pen (Archive and BirdPen singer)
“I do a lot of things at night. Obviously with the music, most concerts are at night. We do everything in the dark, and indoors. I love sleeping. I’m not a night owl; I sometimes go to bed quite early.”
“I guess a lot of people like running at night because the sensation of speed is heightened. You think you’re flying. And then you look at your watch and your checkpoint timings, and you realise that no, you were just running at your normal speed.”
Claire Le Pors
“Night removes the dimensions of time and space – it’s a cocoon.”
“For me, night was the best of the whole race. We were very lucky to have a moonless night, so we could see the stars to the infinite… pfft.”
“You’re completely focused on your sensations; it’s an incredible feeling.”
Watch Nuits Blanches: bit.ly/ltw-nuitsblanches