Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mont Blanc Marathon

by Helen McGrory

Phew, what a weekend! Blazing sunshine, scorching temperatures and hardly a cloud in the sky; just the sort of weather that I like to kick back in a lounger, Pimms in one hand, ice cream in the other and a spot of Wimbledon on in the background..... It’s certainly not the kind of weather that makes me want to put my trainers on and run a full or half mountain marathon which is exactly what 3500 people decided to do this weekend.

Saturday was the day of the Cross du Mont Blanc – the 23km half marathon that has been held in the Chamonix valley for the last 32 years. The course took the runners up past Argentiere on the north side of the valley to Montroc (via le Planet), before crossing over to the balcon sud at Tre-le-Champ for the climb to Flegere and the finish line at Plan Praz on Brevent. The 1500 available places filled up in a flash, such is the popularity of the race, and aided by the fabulous weather, the runners certainly had no shortage of supporters to cheers them on their way.

Participants had a maximum time of 5 hours to complete the course and for safety reasons, anyone falling behind the minimum pace was stopped at the control posts at Tre-le-Champ or Flegere. However, this year’s winner, Candide Pralong from Switzerland, romped across the finish line in 1h58m09s and the winner of the women’s race was Pascale Aymon from France in 2h10m33s. Both times were very similar to last year’s winners despite the scorching temperatures faced by the runners.

Unfortunately for those taking part in the marathon, today was even hotter than yesterday making conditions on the trail even more demanding. Setting off bright and early at 7am, the runners were at least able to make good headway on the course before the heat of the day really built up.

This was the 8th edition of the Marathon du Mont Blanc, an event that was created back in 2002 due to the huge popularity of the Cross. The 2000 places were again snapped up months ago and there were many people who’d been training for weeks, hoping for last minute drop outs so that they could claim a place at the last second.

Following the same route as the Cross as far as Tre-le-Champ, the runners then continued over the col des montets to Vallorcine where the 1000m vertical climb up to the Aiguillette des Posettes (2201m) loomed dauntingly above. For many, the heat and exertion took its toll by this point and this is where the largest percentage of people called it a day. This year’s winner was Nicolas Pianet who completed the 42kms in 3h56m57s, followed a minute later by David Pasquio in 3h57m54s. Third place went to whippersnapper, Charles Dubouloz, in 4h00m44s. Two of the three top spots in the women’s race went to the same athletes as last year; 1st place - Maud Giraud (2009 winner) in 4h41m40s, 2nd - Isabelle Jaussaud in 4h54m08 and 3rd – Michelle Leservoisier in 5h13m00s, 12 minutes faster that her 3rd place time last year.

As well as receiving a well earned medal when they crossed the finish line, runners were also offered a refreshing home brewed beer from the MBC to celebrate their achievement and reunite body and soul. At the prize giving in the tourist office square, it was announced that over 7500L of beer had been served to competitors during the event which makes me think that all those wobbly legs we can see around town this evening might not be entirely due to exertion!!

Huge congratulations go out to all of this year’s runners and if you fancy taking part in either the Cross or the Marathon next year, the subscriptions usually go on-line at the beginning of September so get in quick to bag your spot.