07:00hrs, Sunday 26 June 2011, Place du Triangle de l’amitie, Chamonix. There are 16 of us standing at the start of the Marathon du Mont Blanc amongst 2200 other trail runners. The mountain air is fresh and full of anticipation. The friendly banter eases nerves and we tell ourselves it’s about enjoying the day…but we know it’s going to be tough. ‘Nobody is in fancy dress…’ one team member points out. The race snakes from Chamonix to Argentiere up the Col des Montets and down to Vallorcine over 18km. The first major assent of 941m over 6km is to the L’Aiguillette des Posettes which reaches 2201m. The views are absolutely breathtaking.
With an adventure-park ride descent of S bends and rocky terrain spectators in Le Tour at 28km lifted our spirits and encouraged us on. From 30km the only way is up. The climb is cheeky and relentless. It is only when you start noticing chair lifts, well known from the winter months that you realise how the high you are. A soul destroying climb to Flegere at 1875m in the full heat of the day is followed by a playful 4km traverse across to Brevant. Out of nowhere the loud speaker at the finish line can be heard in the distance. The course tests, teases and cajoles you along. Just when you think it is all over, there is one final, merciless climb of 200m to the finish at Planpraz at 2050m. Everyone in our team ran a strong race, crossed the finish line and in impressive times.
42.195km with 2511m of positive vertical ascent (the equivalent of running up Snowdon 2.5 times) and an elevation loss of 1490m, the Marathon du Mont Blanc is no ordinary marathon. It offers spectacular views, a humbling experience and teaches respect of the mountains. It is a brutal and amazing race. We loved every wonderful, painful, emotional minute of it…so much so that we’re planning on doing it again next year if you fancy joining us.