Outrunning The Sun
Thomas Acher. Licensed under Creative Commons.
Here is an inspirational endurance challenge for the summer solstice. On June 21, the longest day of the year, Megan Kimmel, the dominant U.S. woman's trail runner, and eleven other of the world's best trail and endurance runners, including World Champion triathlete Tim Don and world 100-mile record holder Jonas Budd, will attempt the never-before-achieved feat of circumnavigating the highest mountain in Europe between sunrise and sunset.
They will broadly follow the circular Tour du Mont Blanc hiking trail, typically a seven- to nine-day hike. It is the same route used by the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, an annual ultramarathon widely regarded as one of the world's most challenging foot races (all runners are required to carry for safety reasons warm clothes, emergency rations, a whistle, survival blanket and headlamp).
Divided into two relay teams running legs of between 10.7 miles and 28.8 miles and starting at sunrise, the summer solstice runners will attempt to complete the high-elevation 103-mile course before the sun sets 15 hours, 41 minutes and 35 seconds later. No winner of the Mont Blanc ultramarthon has broken 20 hours for the course; most runners take 30-45 hours to complete it.
Starting and finishing in the French town of Chamonix, the relay teams will pass through all three countries the Mont Blanc massif straddles. Along the way they will have to traverse the Notre Dame de la Gorge near the Italian ski resort of Courmayeur, which involves a 3.8 mile gain in elevation, and the valley of Champex Lac in Switzerland, with its thick forest, glaciers and river torrents. The highest point of the course, the Grand Col Ferret, is more than 8,000 feet above sea level. Weather and temperature can change dramatically and unexpectedly in the Alps adding to the challenge. The scenery, though, is spectacular.
The Race the Sun event is promoted by sports shoe and apparel maker, ASICS.
See also: A Visitor's Guide to Running France