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HorizonSports at Tor Des Géants – Ultra Trail – One of World’s toughest

What a Tor! So far the weather is splendid with a mix of heroic runners, well planned organization, hundreds of motivated spectators and on the first day, a festive atmosphere. It all starts in Courmayeur, Italy, one of the most beautiful Alpine towns at the foot of Mont Blanc.

Starting in Courmayeur, the runners must complete 330km and climb a total of 24 thousand meters within 150 hours – leaders complete the race in less than 75 hours.  The day before the race, the runners are relaxed and looking forward to the challenge…most have done it several times and are there to try and finish…some know what they are getting themselves into – others have no idea and hope they can pull through. After the safety briefing, the night before the race, runners eat a pizza and have a beer in a local pub in Courmayeur….no big deal…everyone is happy and smiling…no stress…..

As Nicoletta (wife of a runner) said, the largest number quit after the first night out on the trail. Nonetheless, the first leg is the most festive. Federica Boifava stopped above La Thuile to play her flute for fellow runners before running off adding to a festive feeling about the race.

We saluted the first one to pass the refueling area above La Thuile on day one– local favourite Franco Collé– as he ran by at a controlled pace while chewing on an energy gel – he is still leading the race as of this writing and then went on to win in 74 hours and three minutes  . Then more and more runners appeared – Avery Collins, Mr. Runnin High from USA ran by, followed by male and female runners from Italy, Japan, USA, Canada, Spain, China, Germany, France….all very friendly and chatty.

HorizonSports will produce a video that tries to capture what it means to be in the race….by mingling  with the runners and speaking to them as they run …… and then following them on the GPS tracker. Some have already abandoned the race but most are still in the running.

You may ask why they do this? You probably think that after completing one they would never do another again but they return, to prove something to themselves. Not sure if enjoyment is the right term but all sports require giving it all. Maybe in this sport you are required to give even more and reach down into your inner self. Running / walking around 3 to 5 km per hour, after the first 100 or 200 km kilometers, it becomes totally mental. Your body says that is enough – can’t do it anymore but your mind forces you on over the next mountain….Its an adventure. Its tough even for the spectators – you can wait for runners in the towns or climb up the mountain and watch them come down or up……you have to make an effort to see them…The rules are a bit harsh – coaching and team motivation is allowed only in certain rest areas… …. all have tracking devices for safety.

It seems that a younger generation is picking up the baton from the older group – most top runners are between 40-57…….maybe older runners are mentally tougher…lets wait for the results of this TOR to see.

The Tor is one of the most notorious Ultra races….the weather can be brutal and in some cases fatal. The helicopter was called in at La Thuile for an allergic reaction to a bee sting and a runner was hurt falling…nothing major….no rain…warm …perfect…the weather may change…provide another dimension to the race….in the past the weather caused the race to be shortened but never canceled……The race continues until Friday and you can track the runners on the Tor web site. HorizonSports will have a short documentary of the race available by the end of the month.


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