Report and photos by Liam Lenehan
Chamonix, France – 25th June 2016
Eoin asked me to write a few words on my recent mountain race in Chamonix which I am delighted to do. I’ll keep it short and let the photos tell most of the story but now that I have the forum …
Race reporter Liam with hois wife Orla!
… If you said to me a couple of years ago ago (when a weekly five-a-side and maybe a jog or two were my staples), that having turned 56, I would be track running in Tallaght and trail racing in the Alps, I would have said you needed your head examined. But here I am, not a wet week in IMRA and Sportsworld, and my world has changed.
Bursting my lungs in Bushy Park and pumping my legs up and down the Wicklow Hills have filled my spring and summer weeks and rejuvenated mind and body. The best part of it all has been the discovery that running with others beats the socks off running solo and I have Eoin to thank who, with Myles help, sold me on the benefits (better race times and great craic he said!) of joining Sportsworld when I was collecting my number at the clubhouse for the Terenure 5 back in May. 6 weeks later I can vouch for the fantastic camaraderie in the club and I am sure I could not have run so well in Chamonix without being dragged and pushed around fartlek sessions like last nights!
To the race – many of you probably know of the UTMB which happens in August in Chamonix but the iconic Alps town also has the Marathon du Mont Blanc weekend of trail running every June. The centre piece is of course the Marathon (42k with 3,000 metres of ascent) but there is also an 80k/6,700 metres, the Cross (my race) with 1,600 metres, a 10k/350 metres and the notorious Vertical KM! (1k straight up 3.8k of switchbacks from the town centre to the Brevent ski station – winners timw was 36mins).
7,500 runners (I counted about 20 Irish or so in the entry lists) invade Cham for the weekend and 1,500 took on the Cross at 8am on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning.
Starting from the Chamonix paragliding landing field (already 1035m up) our route climbed steadily towards the upper Chamonix valley, progressively passing through the hamlets of Les Bois and Lavancher before reaching Argentière (1250m). We passed the ski stations for Grand Montets and Le Tour and reached the half way point and feeding station (distance not time as the steepest climbs were still to come) in the hamlet of Tré le Champ, a pretty village based right before the Col des Montets, from where we hit the Balcon Sud (south balcony trail with amazing views of the valley and Mont Blanc).
At Flegere ski station (1850m), thunderstorms were imminent so we were diverted (first time this has happened in 38 years of staging) from the usual higher finish at Brevent ski station (2,000m) to a finish back in Chamonix. The net result was was the same overall meterage of ascent but an extra 3k added to bring the distance to 26k, and a non stop very technical descent of 800 metres over 8k (had my only tumble on this section and it was spectacular – still have the bruises and cuts to show for it!).
The reward for the route diversion was a raucous finish in front of the crowds (runners from the other races, supporters, locals and bemused tourists!) in Chamonix town square – won’t ever forget the atmosphere!
Photo from Mont Blanc Marathon Website
Winning time was 1h:59 and first woman home was 14th in 2h:25 (both were Salomon sponsored runners). For the record I finished in 3 hours 23 minutes which earned me position 293 out of 1527 runners and 25th out of 157 in the V2h category (men over 50!). Thrilled with the time as I was targeting 3h:30 and variable weather and route change mitigated against good times.
Cant wait for next year (maybe the marathon??). By the way if you are interested in participating next year, such is the demand that there is a lottery for places – registration for 2017 is late September 2016 with the draw results a week later so if you do get lucky you have plenty of time to prep!