Chamonix Camp Attendee - MRP Leader Dorset - Long time Maverick Race supporter & runner.
I have done a bunch of sports trips/weeks and weekends away in the past – mountain biking, road cycling, gravel riding and snowboarding but like a lot of people, I have never thought about signing up for a trail running trip abroad before.
I guess the main reason for this is that I tend to run whenever I go on holiday. I have always said running is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to see a place. I know all this, but it still took one of my MRP runners Kat to sign up before me to actually book onto the Maverick Chamonix camp and I am so glad we did!
I knew I would enjoy it – The Alps in the summer is something that if you haven’t experienced them, I would definitely recommend. Here are a few things that I loved about the trip...
WOW! I have been skiing a couple of times in the region and I knew it was known as the French “mecca” for Trail Running (down to the UTMB and Mont Blanc Marathon being held there)but nothing could prepare me for how amazing it actually is to trail run there. Chamonix is magical, there is a buzz in the town and on the trails.
Secondly, the trails.
Living in Dorset I’m pretty lucky to have the Purbecks on one side of me, the golden beaches on another and TNF/Wareham Forest close by, but running in Chamonix was like nothing I had experienced. It has just the most insane views. I look back at some of the photos Jake took of us whilst out there and still can’t get over the fact that I ran there it doesn’t look real. Also, the trails were fairly empty (this is probably down to good route choices made by Sam and Giles– our guides for the weekend).
Third, the people.
I run one of the MRP clubs in Poole on Tuesday Nights, so I know the type of person Maverick attracts but it still surprised me when Kat and I turned up at the hotel to be met by such a welcoming group. There was such a varied age range which I always think is fun – from the 25-year-old Glaswegian, Dylan to the myth and legend Ken who is 63 years young.
We split into two groups on the main running days and then stuck together on the Sunday morning run before heading home.
Everyone was friendly, everyone chatted and helped each other out on the trails and everyone had a story to tell or something to offer to the evening meal group chats. Trail runners tend to be all pretty similar – that’s why I like the sport.
Fourth, the actual weekend.
Friday, we arrived at the hotel that Maverick had booked for us which was much better than expected. We were told that we could jump straight in the pool as our rooms weren’t quite ready yet which was exactly what we wanted to do since we had been travelling since the night before. After a quick dip, we were asked to join all the runners for our camp intro and briefing led by Jake (Camp Director/Photographer), Sam (Running Coach + Guide ), Giles (Running Guide) and Adam (Maverick Race).
We were given a lovely goodie bag full of useful things for the weekend (PH tablets, Lifejacket Sunscreen and a First Aid Kit) and told what to expect and what time we needed to be where in the mornings/evenings. We were reassured that it was not a race and that people could pick which group they wanted to run in each day. There would be a casual group led by local guide Giles at a leisurely pace and a slightly faster group led by Sam. Jake would be on hand there to take photos (often running up the mountain ahead of everyone like a mountain goat) and Adam would partner up with whichever guide needed him to ensure no one was left behind/injured.
Following the briefing, we headed straight out, got a gondolier up to the top of a mountain and ran down. Literally the dream for most trail runners. I had imagined the first run would be a local 10km to find our feet. I was pleasantly surprised – we went straight up to one of the highest mountains and proceeded to run one of the most technical descents I have ever run down. It was fun, it was quite fast and more importantly, it was beautiful. We would stop to regroup every so often which gave me the chance to look around, take stock and enjoy the views.
That night we headed for a pizza and beer at a local brewery and went to bed fairly early ready for Day 2 which was an early breakfast and then an 8 am meet before getting a train out of town ready for a big day in the mountains running back to Chamonix.
Saturday did not disappoint and we were out running for around 6/7 hours. We climbed up to a refuge near the glacier which was unbelievable to see. Had a coffee and some cake at the refuge and then headed back down and ran through a couple of towns back to the resort of Chamonix. It was I who then rolled my ankle on one of the descents ...Not my finest fall but I managed to brush off the gravel and keep running until the end. The cankle club definitely grew in numbers as the weekend went on.
Saturday evening, we all had a quick shower after reaching the resort after the run and then headed for a group meal which was nice. Everyone felt a sense of achievement from the day’s route and a breakout group led by the youngest member of camp “Dylan” headed to one of the infamous bars in Chamonix until the early hours. I made the silly decision of heading with them – only to be met by Tequila and Yaeger Bombs upon entrance. Thanks...
With Sam having tapped up my ankle to support it on the Sunday morning run, we then headed off for our final run but this time from the top up to a famous little refuge called the Chalet La Floria. Giles told us on the climb up to the Chalet that it was famous for being on the last descent of the UTMB back into the town. You could feel the respect the place held with local/runners and hikers when we finally reached it. This was quickly followed by a radical descent which I nursed my ankle down and then a leisurely final jog back down to the town.
We had the afternoon free to eat Ice-cream, chill by the pool and explore the town before the goodbye meeting and transfer to Geneva. It went by in a flash but the runs were long and just what I wanted.
I really do recommend this trip to anyone who has a passion for trail running. There were so many people who came on their own, nervous at the beginning about their ability to keep up but who by the end of the weekend had made friends with the other runners along the way. We had lawyers, doctors, event managers, joiners and various other professions come along. Still, we were all there for the running and it didn’t matter about your background, day job, mountain experience of half marathon PB!
A HUGE thanks to the whole team from Maverick Race who supported the runners and managed us all over the weekend. Jake - how you managed to carry your camera whilst running up a hill with us I will never know. Especially with a cankle yourself. Sam, Giles and Adam, the ease at which you guided us and managed the crew who all had different abilities is such a great talent to have all whilst keeping a smile on your faces.
All I would say is if you are thinking about going on a trail running camp in the future... I would just bite the bullet and do it. If you are on your own or in a two – it doesn’t matter.
Everyone is friendly and the team will look after you. Plus the memories and photos, you get are unforgettable. A number of us already said we would sign up for the next one, so bring it on!