Why go take the start of an ultra-trail lasting several tens of hours when a mountain marathon already represents more than 5 hours of running for most trail enthusiasts? However, the approach drives a large part of trail runners who, after having cut their teeth in short formats, have only one idea in mind: to increase distances to find the Holy Grail for many practitioners. Namely the status of finisher of a race of more than 60, 100 or 170 km.
A quest for thrills through extreme efforts? Looking for adventure, as if to give meaning to existences that are sometimes far removed from the very pragmatic considerations of the urgency of reaching the finish line in the middle of the mountains? Or a simple story of ego satisfied by finisher status? Probably a bit of all of that.
“I had to think about a lot of things. If only logistics and food! I have been thinking about which bag to take for several days. “
If the motivations are not always exactly the same, some elite runners make the same transition at some point in their careers. Or at least, find themselves trying their hand at much greater distances than what they have already known. On the CCC (Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix, 101 km and 6,000 m of vertical drop), the most accessible race of more than 100 km of the week of the UTMB, two very high level athletes, at least, s’ are preparing to carry out this experience: the Norwegian Stian Angermund, winner of three GTWS races this season, and the Frenchman Thibault Baronian, best Frenchman on the circuit since 2019. But then why think outside the box of the marathon format when we are still so efficient over distance? A desire for change.
“I’ve been on the GTWS circuit for three years, running on these same formats that I master, says the French trail runner less than 24 hours from the start. I want to discover other sensations, other efforts and other racing patterns. The idea is to bring something new to a season focused on what I can do. By adding something that really contrasts with what I’ve already done. And see for more: depending on my feelings about these experiences, I’ll see if I want to push the experience further in ultra or stay on shorter formats. “
In other words: to face the unknown again in a sport that the French have mastered to the tips of their nails and to prepare for the future by testing themselves in less nervous formats. “I had to think about a lot of things, assures Baronian. If only logistics and food! I’ve been thinking about which bag I’m going to take (laughs) for several days. “
Because on a race of more than 10 hours, the management of the effort and the logistics take a much more important part in the equation of the performance. “It makes me want to explore these new performance factors,” continues the Frenchman. Then I have sacred sources of inspiration around me that have always made me want to try myself over longer distances, to live, humbly, the same adventures as them. “
The runner glances at François D’haene, triple winner of the UTMB, seated with his family just next door. “It will be interesting to have to deal with a state of physical fatigue, wear and tear, more important than what I have already experienced. On short formats, we have small variations in feel and shape. In ultra, everything is louder, the ups and downs. But conversely, we can accept to reduce the speed a little bit if necessary. If we do that in the Mont-Blanc marathon, for example, we instantly lose five places and never come back. “
On the preparation side, Thibault Baronian could not concentrate his season on the CCC, GTWS obliges. He carried out an accelerated preparation from July, “two large blocks with more length”. “Overall, we do more volume, less speed,” he explains. Even if this second job remains important. Basically, I don’t think the preparation is completely different, even on ultra you need runner skills to perform. “
As to whether his extensive experience on the court can give him an advantage, Baronian believes it is possible, that his ability to relaunch hard in the effort can allow him to make a small difference. “But I don’t think I can go faster than 11 hours to complete the adventure. I’m not going to get excited trying to follow the lead at all costs, ”continues the Frenchman, who takes a nervous look at his gourd which he sips automatically: it’s time to go to rest.
But does he only know the rhythm that allows you to make 100 limits? “Not really,” Baronian replies, laughing. I know myself from very long cross-country skiing trips, and over 50 km running. But not over 100 km. I will do everything to the sensations, I am leaving tomorrow to explore new sensations ”. He confides all the same that if all goes well, he could go so far as to participate in a UTMB in the coming years. “I don’t have so many apprehensions. The distance doesn’t scare me, I know I can do 100 km. The only thing that scares me is letting myself get on too fast a pace that would trap me at the end of the race. “
Answer in less than 12 hours on a finish line that he has already crossed several times in Chamonix races.