Prime up on a slim mountain trail, a few miles above a Swiss valley, I come to a decision to overhaul some of the runners in entrance of me. And I fall. The tuft of grass I put my foot on offers approach. I land on one knee. My different leg disappears over the threshold. Immediately down. There are gasps from the snaking path of runners in the back of me. I scramble to my toes. My knee is smarting. There’s blood. I don’t in point of fact dare glance. As a substitute, I push on – or reasonably I’m driven on through the lengthy line of runners in the back of me, all seeking to get to the highest of the mountain.

We’ve been on our toes for a minimum of seven hours already. And we’re handiest midway via this Alpine race. We had prompt from a village in Switzerland early that morning at the beginning of the OCC, a 35-mile extremely run around the Alps, up and over 3 mountains into France, with nearly 12,000 toes of mountain climbing. The OCC takes its identify from the course we’re operating – from Orsieres by means of Champex-Lac into Chamonix. It is likely one of the shortest races within the UTMB’s global well-known, week-long competition of path operating. The primary match is the Extremely Path de Mont Blanc – a 106-mile adventure round Europe’s very best mountain that comes to greater than 30,000 toes of mountain climbing. That was once approach an excessive amount of for me. Despite the fact that at this time I’m starting to suppose this ‘shorter’ model may well be past me too.

It isn’t simple to coach for a mountain marathon whilst you are living in London. Plus, my preparation for this race has been some distance from perfect. I’ve been operating six days per week on the BBC after taking over Andrew Marr’s Sunday morning display in January, on best of my standard information bulletin tasks. My commonplace lengthy Sunday runs have been changed through are living interviews with politicians. By the point I used to be off air at 10am, the speculation of pulling on my running shoes for a three-hour hilly run up Field Hill was once an excessive amount of. However I ploughed on, coaching once I may just, operating to and from paintings maximum days. I spent August at the Isle of Wight, trailing up and down the coastal paths seeking to get some correct elevation into my runs. The furthest I ran was once 24 miles proper around the island from Bembridge to Freshwater Bay. However I nonetheless handiest clocked up round 3,000 toes of mountain climbing, only a quarter of what I’m about to do within the Alps.

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In order I stand on the starting point with round 1,600 runners (not up to a 3rd of them are ladies and infrequently any of them over 50), I’m feeling very underprepared. I’ve infrequently even appeared on the course. That seems to be a excellent factor. If I had recognized what was once in retailer, I could have discovered an excuse to stick at sea stage. The primary few miles are runnable, however I take it simple. I’ve been within the Alps for not up to 24 hours – no time at involved in my frame to get used to the altitude. Vibrant blue skies body snow-covered peaks. Glaciers tumble down from the mountain tops above us. That is the primary time I’ve noticed those mountains in summer season, and they’re impressive. The warmth is emerging, nearly 30C as of late. After 5km, the mountain climbing starts and we gradual to a gentle march. Even the elites have to stroll one of the most steepest paths. Nearly everybody has operating poles. Infrequently somebody speaks. The air is thinning. I get started respiring onerous. My center charge is mountain climbing rapid. It’s hitting my 5km race ranges and I’m handiest strolling. I check out to not panic however the ones first few miles are nerve-wracking. I do not know how I’m going to deal with this race, this terrain, the altitude.

Gabriele Facciotti

We move via small hamlets, cheered on through locals ringing large Alpine cow bells. We snake up in the course of the timber alongside slim zig-zagging paths, strewn with rocks and tree roots – a variety of go back and forth hazards. The valley drops away temporarily underneath us. ‘Shouldn’t you be studying the inside track?’, asks a British hiker squeezing previous us at the trail going the opposite direction. ‘It will be so much more uncomplicated than this!’ I gasp and stay mountain climbing. The perspectives are impressive, unreal nearly. Despite the fact that it’s no longer simple to take all of it in when you must listen so onerous to your toes. The altitude begins to get me at the steepest trail up from the hamlet of Trient to Col de Balme, the border between Switzerland and France, greater than 2,000 metres above sea stage. It’s nearly six miles of mountain climbing and scrambling up paths, at one level so on the subject of a drop that we’re instructed to carry directly to a series to stay us from falling. That’s once I begin to get dizzy. My legs tingle. A person stops and is quietly ill in the back of me. However there’s no approach out. No lend a hand till the following assist station a few miles away. So we press on.

Gabriele Facciotti

I lose observe of time. It will get dusky on our ultimate climb out of Argentieres. If the climbs are difficult, the descents transform brutal. Hours of operating downhill, consistent pounding and my quads at the moment are agony. The overall descent via a woodland into Chamonix turns out interminable. It’s darkish through now; my head torch is on. After which all at once we burst out onto tarmac below streetlights and right into a carnival setting and a roaring crowd. Giant displays beam are living photos of the UTMB races. Cafés are full of folks applauding. I run onerous in spite of the ache. A last nook and it’s there. The well-known UTMB arch and the end line. I think sheer reduction as I move it after 11 hours and 54 mins at the transfer. There’s no medal for our efforts. Not anything to hold at the rack at house. As a substitute, a child blue fleece ‘finishers’ gilet that I slip on as I’m passed a lager. It hasn’t ever tasted so excellent.

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