Focus on a race Interview

Marathon du Montcalm : Skyrunning in the French Pyrenees

18 Oct 2012 05:05
Jean-Loup Fenaux

§staticmap(8007,5,450,250)Hello, on August 17th 2013, you’ll be organizing the Marathon du Montcalm. Can you tell us where it is located?

The race takes place in Auzat, a village in the French Pyrenees. Our village touches the border with Spain and Andorra. It is only at one and half hour drive from Toulouse or Carcassonne, 3 hours from Barcelona.

How old is the race and why was it created in the first place?

The race is 23 years old. It will be the 24th edition in 2013. It was created in 1989 by a handful of sports enthusiasts. Its main purpose is the promotion of our territory “the Montcalm sports resort”.

What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?

The Montcalm Marathon matches the most technical criteria of Skyrunning races. With a 2,500 m elevation gain, and two summits at more than 3,000m of altitude, it is certainly the most technical race in the Pyrenees. After a few strides on the road to get out of the village and stretch the pack of runners, come the first difficulties: the first climb to reach the « square canal » where we will quickly identify the runners capable of winning the race.

Credit : Marathon du Montcalm
Then from the parking lot of Artigues, the route starts climbing and follows the traditional path to the Montcalm and Estates summits. The climb through the Pla de Nouzière forest marks the start of the difficulties. The runners will hit the aid station near the « Etang sourd » pond before the « wall » leading to the « Etang du pinet » pond.

At the Pinet refuge, the runners should grab some snacks before tackling the next rocky climb. The path becomes quite technical during the climb, but it’s nothing compared to the descent. The course goes near two other ponds. Then, the vegetation becomes scarce and the runners enter a rocky environment.

Finally, you get to the 2,900 path and turn left towards the Montcalm, the “roof of the Ariège”. The way down follows the same path before heading to the “Pica d’Estats”, the highest summit of Catalonia. The infernal descent can begin. It will last more than an hour and a half for the best runners.

Many runners consider the last 7 kilometers between Marc and Auzat as the most difficult after all they’ve been through. The course goes through a few uphills and offers many flat sections where it is tough to keep pushing before reaching happiness while running in the streets of Auzat that the very best runners have left 4 hours 15 minutes earlier.

Credit : Michel Arnaud (organisateur des citadelles)
How many runners do you expect on Saturday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract?

After hosting the French Skyrunning championship in 2012 and the SkyRace® Series in 2012, we expect a great skyrunning event for 2013. More than 350 runners should take part in this very technical and specific race.

Do you organize other races during the Weekend? If so, on what distances?

In 2013, we’ll have a new vertical kilometer race on August 15. The race climbs 1,000m on a 4.2 km trail.

The “Trail des novis”, a great nature trail, linking the villages in the valley will take on a new dimension. The new course will be 2 km shorter but will gain 200 m in elevation. The new distance will be 25 km. It will be part of the Trails of the South West Challenge (Challenge des trails du Sud-Ouest).

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?

We usually have good weather, but the race has already finished under the snow.

Have you planned festivities around the marathon?

For the past 12 years, the “Mountain Festival” provides a festive and friendly touch to the races. Live performances, craftsmen, local farmers, livestock farmer, sheep shearing, mountain bike show, rock climbing, canyoning, paragliding are on the agenda.

The race finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Auzat before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?

Before or after the race, I recommend visiting the famous Cave of Niaux or the Prehistory Park. For those who aren’t tired after the race, the viaferrata of Vicdessos are a great way to spend time with friends or family. The South via is great for families, the North face is more challenging and will suit better the participants of the Montcalm.

Credit : Marathon du Montcalm

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the Marathon du Montcalm?

At Montcalm, you’ll discover a volunteer’s only organization. We have no mercantile goal. More than 300 volunteers will be scattered throughout the course to encourage you. You’ll find an aid station every other kilometer.

Interview with Gilles Denjean, one of the organizers of the Montcalm Marathon, in charge of the administrative and financial aspects of the race as well as the timing and rewards… Gilles is also the Chief Financial Officer for the Community of municipalities who share a passion of mountain running. He hopes that this race becomes a showcase for the valley.