Sales of Compeed and ibuprophen rocketed in Chamonix town centre as the hundreds of brave souls who completed the 166k Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc sprinted, ran, jogged, walked, limped and hobbled over the finish line in less than 46 hours.
Those who weren’t up for the 166 could do a shorter version – a mere 98km, the CCC, Courmeyer, Champex, Chamonix, in 26 hours. But if all that was a walk in the park and you fancied something a little more challenging with your mates, there was the inappropriately-named Petite Trotte a Leon, 220km in 100 hours.
And did I mention the altitude? 9,400m for the UTMB, 5,600m for the CCC and 17,000m for the Petite Trotte. To put that into perspective, Ben Nevis is about 1,300m from sea level.
It was an incredible sight. Thousands of people prepared to run day and night. Hundreds of volunteers waiting to hand out food, drink and encouragement. Vangelis booming over the loudspeakers. Chamonix brought to a halt. I felt a little inadequate in my Dewsbury 10k tee-shirt
Nearly half the runners who started didn’t finish. But those who did were heroes. The lot of them. There isn’t a prize – and the course changes slightly every year because it’s designed to be an adventure. Some adventure! The winner completed166k in 21 hours, an hour ahead of the next runner, last year’s winner
Sponsors North Face put their money where their bouches were. Topher Gaylord, Le Big Boss as the French newspapers called him, and yes that is his name, helped start the race – then joined in. He came 14th. Respect. Respect also to the organisers who turned down a lucrative sponsorship deal from Nissan, makers of, among other things, gas-guzzling 4x4s Not the right image, they said. Too right
Our hotel, the Faucigny, was just next to the start and finish line, cheers were going up night and day as the finishers crossed the line. Guy and Jacqueline, who run the Faucigny were taking the day off – so they could take part. Jacqueline completed the CCC in 21 hours. Guy had to abandon his adventure because of injury. He shrugged his shoulders in that typical Gallic way.
“Ce n’est pas grave” – it’s not a big deal, he said. He’s done it two years ago.
Today’s lovely thing
Bruised fingers from applauding the runners