Breathtaking! (about: 2009)|
C. K. from Kalamazoo, MI (1/17/10)
4-5 previous marathons
| 1 Mont Blanc Marathon
I had no idea what to expect for this, my second marathon and first trail marathon. It was an incredible experience. The views are simply stunning. The water stops (4 of them in total) were like mini-festivals. Each had a huge spread of food and a band playing. Many of the runners seemed to just stop, hang out, and even sprawl on the ground to have a picnic for a bit. Not something you'd see in a road marathon!
The most difficult parts for me were actually the downhill sections, which were rocky, narrow and sometimes very steep trails. I was tired by the time we hit the biggest downhill bit, and I did not carry mini-ski poles, as most of the runners did. I was very sorry not to have those for these sections.
I was also surprised at how much of the race I ended up walking. This was for two reasons - first, many sections were narrow and it was difficult to pass. I started toward the back of the pack and many people in front of me were walking. Second, some of the narrow, mountainous parts of the trail were a bit treacherous, and by the end, with tired legs, I thought I might plunge over the side if I got carried away. Hey, I'm from Michigan! It's hard to find a place to practice for trails like that.
The weather was slightly on the warm side. We were warned to carry tights, hat, gloves, jacket, etc., which I did. It was not necessary that day - just extra weight - but I guess weather is changeable in the mountains so better safe than sorry.
The other runners were very friendly. A few Frenchmen discovered that I was an American with no French skills, and they struck up a nice conversation. We passed back and forth a bit, and they cheered me on each time. I saw one at the finish (a stunning view at the finish area, by the way), and he gave me a big hi-five.
If you are looking for amenities, there will be none. Just the little water stops. I never saw a porta-let or bathroom of any kind, but I did see a lot of Frenchmen peeing, while barely moving off the trail. Didn't bother me, but I thought it was funny - much more out in the open than you would see in the U.S. even in a big race. The spectators were wonderful, cheering us along through every beautiful little mountain town. Oh, and at the end of the race, the bathroom in the facility with the gondolas was locked up tight. This was a real bummer, as I wanted to change before going back down. I changed in the hallway, but a bathroom would have been nice after 7+ hours of trail running. Also, when I arrived at the bottom of the lift, they had buses to take you around. Wonderful, except with no French, I had some trouble figuring out where each was going, and could not find any of the many volunteers who spoke any English (although all looked like they were trying to be helpful!). Fortunately, another runner saw me having trouble, did some quick translating and helped me get on a bus to take me right to my part of town. I got the impression that the bus driver went out of her way to do that. Very, very kind.
This was probably a once-in-a-lifetime race for me, but I'd do it again if I could!