Chamonix, the heart of alpinsime in Europe, morphs into a ‘Running Mecca’ every year at the end of June. During the coming summer months a host of different running events on offer brings big crowds and an exciting ambience to the valley. With challenging courses and rough routes, the Mont Blanc Marathon series rewards all those who take part with a unique perspective of this stunning mountain range.
While the Marathon du Mont Blanc is the headline event, this seven race series also incorporates a mixed group of longer and shorter distance races (as outlined below). The event even offers a "Mini Cross" (800m to 3 km) for 7 to 15-year-old competitors.
KM Vertical du Mont-Blanc
Distance: 3.8 km
Total Ascent: 1,000m
Course Description: This is the most exciting and impressive race to watch from town; the 3.8 km time trail course famously makes its way up the Brevent directly beneath the gondola. A strenuous snake of punishing switchbacks with a positive vertical gain of 1000m, it is open for the Junior class and upward, it is generally limited to 400 (very fast) runners.
10km du Mont-Blanc
Distance: 10 km
Total Ascent: 325m
Course Description: This race across the cross-country ski terrain of Chamonix is accessible to all runners regardless of their ability level. With a distance of 10km and a gentle ascent, entries are limited to 1,500 runners.
23km du Mont-Blanc
Distance: 23 km
Total Ascent: 1,665m
Course cut-off: 5 hours
Course Description: This is considered a short trail, partially supported, but remains notoriously gruelling. Within your distance of 23 km there is a positive vertical gain of 1665m, and 621m of vertical drops! Open from the Junior class, in the past entries have been limited to between 1000 and 1500 runners. This is the oldest of the races on offer and has been run annually since 1979.
Marathon du Mont-Blanc
Distance: 42 km
Total Ascent: 2,730m
Start Time: 07:00
Course cut-off: 9 hours
Course Description: A trail of 41.6 km which is partially supported, the Marathon du Mont-Blanc has been a staple of the Chamonix runners’ calendar since 2003 (the 25th anniversary of the first “Marathon du Mont Blanc” races). With a positive vertical gain of 2760m, and 1704m of vertical drops, this race is open from the “Espoir” or “Hope” category …and you’ll need it! Limited to 2000 runners.
Credit: www.competitor.com Alex Nichols (USA) won the 80km race in 2015
80km du Mont-Blanc
Distance: 83.7 km
Total Ascent: 6,026m
Course cut-off: 24 hours
Number of entries: 1,000
Course Description: In order to meet the requirements for hosting the Skyrunning World Championships in 2014, the “80 km du Mont-Blanc” was added to the race schedule as a test event in 2013. Starting on the Place de l'Église (near the Tourist Office), the route climbs via Refuge de Bel Lachat to Le Brévent (2,525m); the runners then descend to Plan Praz traversing the Aiguilles Rouges to reach La Flégère. Next the runners climb further up Col du Corbeau (2,602m) before descending to Vallorcine (1,260m).
From Vallorcine the route climbs steeply to the Aiguillette des Posettes (2,201m) before descending the valley through Le Tour, Argentiëre and Le Bois. The trail then makes the last major ascent via Les Mottets and Gare du Montenvers to Signal (2,200m) where the runners traverse to Refuge du Plan de l’Aiguille (also 2,200m) before descending to the finish in Chamonix.
An incredible feat of fitness, strength and will power. A good warm-up for the Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc (1st September) at 166km long.
This race is limited to 1000 participants and also open for the “Espoir” category and upwards.
Distance: 19 km
Total Ascent: 1,315m
Start Time: 21:00
Course cut-off: 4:30 hours
Course Description: Brand new for 2017 this night race sees teams of two set out running into the night to the Plan d'Aiguille and back over a distance of 19km, descending on Chamonix by the same way as the 80km of the Mont Blanc.
Mont-Blanc Mini Cross
Course Description: These children's races from 800m to 3km are for little champs aged 7 to 15years. The serious fun is set in the idyllic Bois du Bouchet, sharing some of the nordic ski piste terrain (as with the Mont Blanc 10km).
Cheering from the sidelines is no mean feat when those sidelines may well be at an altitude of 2,000m+! Droves of spectators hike up to Flégère or Plan Praz (you can also use the lift systems if you prefer) to encourage racers as they approach the final K’s of their race. There are also villages along the route which often have a good turn-out of cheering locals, so runners enjoy plenty of support to keep them going.
There is also plenty to keep you occupied in the town of Chamonix itself as racers compete for glory. In central Chamonix you can keep an eye on the action with live feeds on giant screens broadcasting different points of the race. Entertainment also includes (but is not limited to) climbing, bouncy castles, trampolines and live music. Each bringing people from all around the world together and building a good atmosphere of fun and adventure. The weekend culminates in the prize giving ceremony in the space in front of the Tourist Office known as the Place du Triangle de l’Amitié.
HOT TIP: PASTA PARTY
Look out for the celebratory buffet meal or ‘Pasta Party’ which follows the Cross and Marathon races. This carb loaded and festive meal provides competitors with the chance to greet, meet and congratulate each other on their race.