Gran Trail Courmayeur comprises of 3 races; 30km, 75km and 105km starting and finishing in Courmayeur, Italy at the southern end of the Mont Blanc Tunnel. The 105km route is actually the 30km and 75km routes joined together in a figure of eight with Courmayeur at the centre. The 30km route heads north east into Vallon du Sappin, while the 75km route heads into the south west part of the Aosta Valley.
I had originally seen this race as it was “conveniently” in the middle of our family summer holiday to the Alps, and I thought it would be a good run in my build up to the TDS (one of the UTMB series of races) later in the year. Also I was hoping for the award of “most abuse of family holiday time” at the 2017 Carnethy AGM.
After a week acclimatising (eating burgers and drinking beer) in the Chamonix valley we travelled under Mont Blanc to registration at the Courmayeur Centre of Sport.
The 3 races are limited to 500 runners, and are therefore on a much smaller scale than UTMB. This makes for a less commercial and more friendly atmosphere.
The race started at 7am in cool conditions, while the weather forecast was for a hot day with temperatures of 35C in the valleys.
The first part of the route was through quiet forest trails, before climbing to Refuge Deffeyes, 23km, 2,400m high. This was the 2nd of 12 refreshment points on route, well stocked with drinks, food and friendly volunteers. The views were spectacular, and the technical trails made for great running.
At La Thuile (32km), Nicola, Andrew and Rachael met me and ran along part of the trail before getting the bus back to Courmayeur.
The day was now hot and I was starting to struggle in the heat. The race route took us into rarely visited parts of the Alps and to the highest point of the race on Mont Fortin at 2,758m. Everyone seemed to be battling with the combined effects of the heat and altitude, and my heart was beating at its maximum, although my actual progress was slow.
Descending to lower altitudes towards Courmayeur I felt better, and met up with Nicola, Andrew and Rachael again at the Sports Centre where the 75km runners finished. I headed off into the darkness to now do the 30km section and didn’t see another runner until the final descent into Courmayeur, when I passed the leading lady (Anna Marie Watson from the UK).
Arriving into a deserted Courmayeur, just before 3am, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself finishing in 9th place (19hrs 51min).
This is a fantastic series of races with a choice of distance to suit all abilities who want to experience trail running in the Alps. And easy to get an entry, with no points requirements or ballot, plus the added bonus of good value with an entry fee of 1Euro per Km.
Results here: https://www.100x100trail.com/classifiche/GTC2017-105.php#
Race info here: http://www.gtcourmayeur.com/en/content/trail-ultra-105km-7000m-d