Mont Blanc Marathon: A walk in the park…

DSCN3859It’s been a long winter here in Chamonix, so I was feeling less than ready to run  my first ever marathon in the mountains ( and second ever marathon) on the 30th of June.

I’d managed to do about 3 hill runs with the girls from the Chamonix Ladies Running club and Chamonix Alpine Endurance group and then had been away for three weeks. (Although perhaps trekking in Nepal was more relevant for this kind of race?) So to say I was feeling a little unprepared is an understatement!

However, I had such encouragement from the girls to go for it- I almost felt I couldn’t let them down. Plus we’d been working together as The Neverest Girls, in a bid to raise sponsorship to run the Everest Marathon next year- so it was all good training for that- if nothing else.

After a restless night’s sleep I headed with trepidation to the main square where over the weekend various races started.  I felt bad for the people running the Cross on the Saturday as it had been raining heavily all day- but today looked like being perfect conditions- so I really had no excuse, other than my own self-doubt.

The square was buzzing with gnarly looking runners all kitted out in compression sock and other vital accessories- I’d managed to treat myself to some walking poles- that was about it. I was nervous but the atmosphere was amazing with loads of people to support the runners at 7 in the morning!

DSCN3856As the race got underway it took a few moments to actually cross the start line- but I was soon to discover that this was like no race I’d done before and, dare I say it- easier than a normal road marathon.

The start was actually fairly flat, giving my body time to wake up and accept what I was about to put it through. The description of the course is on the MMB website and a GPS of my run, from my Garmin Fenix  HERE, or Strava HERE  ( although I failed to start my watch for 45 minutes!)

There were three main climbs, the first a comparatively *small* one  on a single track which meant we actually ended up queuing for about 15 minutes to get onto as there were so many runner who hadn’t yet spread out.

DSCN3864The next, toward the Aiguilles des Possettes was really steep and felt endless. My tactic was to walk as best I could on most of the uphills and run as fast as I could down. My weakness is uphills as I’ve only short legs, a short stride and have done all my running prior to this in South London! But downhills I seem to be pretty speedy and was often  frustrated, stuck behind someone hesitating on the obstacles, looking for crafty ways to jump pass them.

Before this climb began we passed the first water stop where we could grab coke, ‘Tuk’ biscuits, cake and…cheese! I’m guessing one runner overindulged as he was curled over at the side of the trail throwing up quite violently!

DSCN3880With stunning views of Mont Blanc in the sunshine, a band playing and more coca cola stops, it felt like quite a reward to reach the top, followed by a walk along the ridge and a  long long, singletrack downhill until we crossed over at Montroc and took a painful rocky ascent to Flegere.

For some reason I had it in my head we would be running down Brevent and I was gearing up to overtake all the people who had passed me on the way up- but sadly this wasn’t the case. The final kick in the stomach was the climb to the Brevant lift station. I gave up even trying to walk fast as my groin was aching and the muscle where I fell off the mountain bike the other day was sore too. ….to say nothing about my buttocks!

As I climbed the last 50 odd meters or so I had people calling out my name and slapping my hand- so put a burst of  a run on to cross the finishing line as fast as I could. And what a reward to stop and get more chocolate, cake, and….beer!

IMG_8002I managed to complete the race in 7 and a half hours, which I’m perfectly happy with this year. It gives me my points towards maybe something bigger next year (CCC?) and a taster of what is to come in the Trail des Aiguilles Rouges in September. It was quite a confidence boost.

I’m not really built for endurance events- unlike the awesome Killian Jornet who won the race in an astounding 3 and half hours, but I loved the atmosphere, the sense of excitement in Chamonix  and it felt like a real achievement.

Killian Jornet (pictured with me) won the marathon in 3 and a half hours!

Killian Jornet (pictured with me) won the marathon in 3 and a half hours!

And it really was easier than a normal marathon, despite being on your feet for so long.

As unlike Killian, us humans have to walk most of it which gives you a chance to recover, enjoy the views and plenty of opportunities to stop, take photos, drink and eat- or even have a paddle in the river.

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