Trail Running in The Alps

Trail Running in The Alps

Marie, Sylvie and Jane are pretty average running wise and we run with Sylviane who is better than average as she used to be on the French ski team and she’s a ski instructor. None of us have a running history, we’re all working mums and like so many who read this website we’ve discovered running late in life as a way of staying fit despite our limited free time. Sylviane’s the one who motivated us to try a few of the classic Alpine ‘trails’ using her technique of walking fast uphill using light ski poles and running on the flat and downhill terrain.

Being used to hills and regular runs of 15 to 20km we weren’t too daunted by her first proposal of 20km and 1400m of accumulated climb up and around the Mont Charvin which overlooks both Albertville and the Annecy lake and has fantastic views of the Mont Blanc. We all finished and felt fine, energy expenditure is amazingly controlled by walking up the steep parts and using the arms on the poles and to be honest the speed is almost the same as running.

Sylviane then decided that we were ready to follow in the footsteps of Roger Frison Roche who was a famous mountaineer from Beaufort who has a trail race named after him which goes through many of the villages and hamlets of his Beaufortain valley. No, we didn’t want to do the race, the pressure was enough just to attempt the tour, so we set off a week after the race so that all the signs and fluorescent arrows  were still in place and we couldn’t go wrong. Our goal was just to make it round the 35km and 2400m of +climb. The descent from the top of the Areches ski resort chairlift down to the village was a killer (500m) followed by a 6km undulating limp down the road to the finish. The heat didn’t help; it was one of the hottest days of the year. Once again we all made it to the end and no worse for wear, well, nothing that a thorough thigh massage from our other halves couldn’t fix!

Sylviane starting talking about THE BIG ONE the ULTRA TRAIL DU BEAUFORTAIN which is second only to the Mont Blanc trail. The UTB is 103km and has 6300m of positive climb. Sounds amazing? well, yes it is, but no, we didn’t do it. The plan was to try it over two days, we managed one and were pretty pleased with ourselves (35km 3000m +climb) but the summer was over, the kids back at school and family commitments prevented us from finding two consecutive days altogether. Consequently we felt we were losing our fitness and decided to make the UTB our goal for next season, fingers crossed for no health problems, effective training, good weather and understanding husbands.

These trails proved to us that we are physically capable of running further and with more climb than we ever dreamed of when we started out. It’s all about keeping energy in reserve, none of us monitored our heart beat but we just tried to stay within a zone where we could always talk to each other; we were never ‘in the red’. It was a great boost to our self confidence and a really motivating experience!

Article written by Jane BOWMAN who is British and lives in Albertville in the Savoie region of France. Sylviane, Marie and Sylvie are French. Anyone who would like information about these runs or others around Albertville and Annecy can e mail me with their questions:  j.bowman@voila.fr

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