Lucja Leonard (aka Running Dutchie) shares her experiences of the incredible Marathon du Mont Blanc in this detailed review.
More than just a race
Marathon du Mont Blanc is more than just a race; this is a party of trail running that takes place in one of the Meccas of the sport, Chamonix. Traversing through the awe-inspiring nature reserve, The Aiguilles Rouges, this event has eight trail races to choose from and is a celebration of mountain running at its finest.
With 42K and 2,780m ascent, this is a tough and challenging route, made all the more
difficult with temperatures reaching 32 degrees in the valley. Starting in the cooler temperatures of the early morning, you are pulled into a false sense of ease. The route takes you from Chamonix into the cross-country trails up through La Lavancher, following the Petit Balcon Nord to Montroc and in the nature reserve running along the Col de Montets.
The valley is in full bloom, greenery all around and bright flowers absolutely everywhere; running into Vallorcine felt like a dream. Masses of people lined the path into the checkpoint and there was a lively dancing band boosting energy levels before the first serious climb of the day up to Col Des Posettes. Aid stations are laden with local cheeses, salamis, fruit, nuts, baguettes, dark chocolate and plenty of still/sparkling water and coke.
All the runners are made to feel like superstars as we tackled the climb, which again was lined with lots of exuberant supporters. As the path narrowed and disappeared into the forest the crowds disappeared and gave way to solid hard work, with only the sounds of heavy breathing and the rhythmic ‘tap, tap’ of hiking poles as we ascended.
The heat was pretty intense up on the Col, but alleviated by an amazingly enthusiastic man playing guitar and singing on the back of a small truck. Plenty of runners were using this as a reason to hang at the checkpoint and soak up the party vibes. We reached the summit of Aiguillette at 2201m and then headed down the steep descent of 850m back to Le Tour. I tackled the descent with gusto, taking the steep rocky paths with tight bends and the odd sheer drop in my stride and it was over in no time!
The final big push up to Flegere was a pretty slow procession of runners, now only hiking, in the heat of the day. I had to resort to filling up water in the stream as I’d drunk my bottles dry. Flegere loomed in front of us, almost within touching distance, but felt more like slow-motion process up a long wide, open climb in the blazing sun to get there.
Fuelled on coke at long last, I’d saved this for the final stretch. I felt fully charged and got a bit frustrated on the final 5K, which was single track and was quite a bottlenecked in parts so using my best French, I got my way past as many people as I could along the tight path, with a vertical drop off on your left.
Two small snow drifts to cross just before the finish and it was there! Plan Praz was in front of me, with the finish up a small hill. Seeing Dion, Gobi and Jana at the finish, I let out a big whoop and I got my medal. I can’t recall a race where I felt like I smiled and laughed the entire way around, so Marathon du Mont Blanc will certainly go down in my memory as the funnest and most scenic marathon I’ve ever run.