Mont Blanc Cross: 23.9km, + 1500m and a lot of jelly babies

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For the last three years I have entered the Mont Blanc Cross or Mont Blanc Marathon, and each year, because of injury or other commitments, I have been unable to make it to the start line. This year I decided: no matter what, I would be there.

The MB Cross is part  of a weekend of trail running events in the Chamonix valley: from 10k to a Marathon, to 80km and a vertical km. It’s a truly inspiring weekend. This short clip gives a good feel to the extraordinary atmosphere and exciting terrain involved.

People congregate in Chamonix town centre to cheer runners off on their challenges and welcome them home, as, many hours later, they run back through Chamonix’s streets, exhausted, elated, and, in the case of this years marathon runners, covered in mud and soaked through from a day spent running in torrential rain, hail and snow!

The atmosphere is pretty extraordinary. I marvelled at the elite runners skipping across the finish line and my heart swelled with emotion as the realisation of the magnitude of their achievement passed across the faces of those later on in the pack.

The wonderful Emelie Forsberg, winner of the 80km, who followed that up with competing in the vertical km a couple of hours later - super trail running lotus!
The wonderful Emelie Forsberg, winner of the 80km, who followed that up with competing in the vertical km a couple of hours later – super trail running lotus!

 

Crowds line the streets in Chamonix welcoming back the Marathon runners
Crowds line the streets in Chamonix welcoming back the Marathon runners

 

Sue Roberts warming up after completing the Mont Blanc Marathon - 26 miles, +2700m climb in horrendous conditions - hail, torrential rain, snow - her first endurance mountain marathon! Super Lotus!
Sue Roberts warming up after completing the Mont Blanc Marathon – 26 miles, +2700m climb in horrendous conditions – hail, torrential rain, snow – her first marathon – her first endurance mountain marathon – exactly – inspiring super Lotus!

The CTS Flete run at the end of May reassured me I could cover the half marathon distance. But the thing about the MB Cross is that it has some added tricks up it’s sleeve: 1500m of climb up mountain trails, or 1700m as it turned out.  “We’re running up there!” said my friend Lizzy excitedly at the start line, whilst pointing up to the finish at Planpraz sitting roughly a 1000m above us.

When you live in Chamonix your benchmarks of  distance, altitude etc change a bit. Climbs like that can quite quickly become a normal part of your training schedule. Back in South East London, that is not the case. I glanced up at Planpraz and quickly decided the best option was to ignore its existence until absolutely necessary and concentrate on the relatively kind and undulating first 10km of the course!

Life had been hectic the last few months, training time has been limited and swimming has taken priority. I’m not sure if this was the best plan, but as my legs aren’t comfortable on tarmac I decided to avoid runs of more than about 40mins and stuck to hill reps and intervals in the local park. It wasn’t the final months of preparation I had intended, but life rarely follows the pattern you think it will, and I hedged my bets that it would be enough to get me around the course…

I loved it!

Trail Running - it makes you happy!
Trail Running – it makes you happy!

Swimming got my lungs through the uphill, and yes my calves were cramping in the final stages, but the views were stunning and to be back in the mountains, running along the trails, dancing over rocks and picking the quickest downhill path was as smile inducing as it’s always been!

Trail running!
Trail running!

The finish was particularly entertaining with a new route for 2014, up a steep grassy hill. For me, best approached by switching my brain off and smiling at the cheeky-ness of the race organisers for adding in this final hurdle…

A fantastic course that takes you through breathtaking landscape and surrounded by utterly inspiring people. After three years of trying to get to the start line, it was pretty special to get to the finish!

Finishpic

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