Marathon du Mont Blanc

Heading to the start in Chamonix

On 28th June Jo and I ran the Marathon du Mont Blanc . The event was the showcase event of the ‘Marathon weekend’ which also hosted an 80km, 23km, 10km and a VK. Chamonix was awash with trailrunners in a cacophony of colour and the atmosphere over the weekend was fantastic (If I could bring a slice of that to Scotland as part of Glasgow Trailrunning Festival I will be delighted).

The race began at 7am and by the time we reached the start line the place was packed which meant we ended up right at the back of the pack. This didn’t bother us as we knew we’d be happy to pick our way up through the field into the top half. But, alas!, due to the volume of runners and the amount of singletrack (I do love singletrack though!) there was hardly any opportunity to get past slower runners!

Much of the race became a game of blasting past anyone when a gap appeared (usually on very steep uphill or on precarious slopes!) or taking huge risks on some very technical descents in order to get the thrill of going downhill at my own pace, none of which was ideal (except the latter, which gave me a huge buzz!).

Queues going up. No chance of overtaking!

By mile 9 I had already succumbed to the spine-tingling, eyes-welling up emotions that is usually reserved for the finish line, thanks to the cheers, encouragement and ringing of alpine cow bells from the huge numbers lining the route. The fact we had our names on the race numbers (The French are very good at this), meant everyone was cheering us by name, though Jo got more shouts than I did as the French are never very sure how to pronounce ‘Ryan’!

I find that when I do get emotional running a long-distance race that is when the race transcends life itself. It’s like a new world opens up and can only be accessed when in the moment of a big race. It feels brilliant and it is for these small, fleeting moments, that I am continually drawn back to long-distance trail races.

While I expected the emotions to then continue for much of the rest of the race, the slow pace of the race after this point (this was where we began to go up in earnest) meant that I was never again at the point of reaching the point of transcendence. Sadly, this meant that when we crossed the finish line we still had a fair amount left in the tank.

Mont Blanc. With views like that, there’s always time to stop!

This wasn’t to say that it wasn’t a tough route, but a huge chunk of time was added to our race due to starting at the back. Still, running prestigious races in weather and scenery like that is what makes it all worthwhile and we most definitely enjoyed the free beer at the finish line.

We’ll be entering the ballot again for next year. If we’re lucky, we’ll be at the starting line a good 30mins before start time!

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