The rain was pouring, thunder echoing nearby and lightning breaking darkness of the night. We were 1000 m up in the Alps and in few hours me and Ania would be going 23km and another 1000 m up. The route was going to be a challenge, I knew that, but I was not really prepared for weather this difficult as well.
But at 7 am our host drove us from the thick clouds of Passy to sunny Chamonix. We left our race bags behind, took running backpacks and headed for the start. There we met with Helena who raced 1 k vertical just a day before. With her cheers and good luck hugs we were off. Ready or not, there was only one way to the finish line.
First couple of kilometers were flat and going through a bit muddy forest trails. People were trying to avoid big rain puddles and it felt very crowded. Few steps further we stopped and saw that in front of us the whole passage under the bridge was completely flooded. This was last time I worried about my dry feet. Through the water we went. And carried on running. The first 10k we run mainly in the forest, slightly going up but soon following with fast and easy downs. It was beautiful and enjoyable part of the race. We got to first check point full of smiles and lifted at hearts. Maybe this is not as hard as people say it is?
Passing French villages when racing was fabulous experience. Whole families come out of their homes to cheer you on and it didn’t matter if you at the front or the back, they supported you like you were just about to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
With our spirits high, we turned from the village to the trails again. There we started to ascent. The hills were sharp and steep and as I looked up they were also never ending. I could see small dots in the distance, runners one after another climbing higher and higher into the mountains. Soon legs started to burn and all the energy has left me. Smile was gone and I felt like I have to stop. Ania was strong, impressively pushing passed more people. My steps were shorter and slower and I had to take longer breaks. I just could not go on. Eventually we stopped for a little longer. I regained my strength and in my head “just one more step” repeating continuously I pushed on higher.
We reached beautiful waterfall. The water splashed on my face and gave me great feeling of freshness. Felt so good, gave me strength and power. But it was Ania who struggled from there. Her back was hurting badly, she could barely move forward. We were high in the mountains, less trees and more rocks, the route was challenging. It was tough moments. But we kept going. Through little passages, climbing higher, barely walking through the rocks and tree brunches. Then cold rain welcomed us once more, clouds covered blue sky and thunder filled quite space. It was all getting tougher and tougher. Slowly we reached woods and started our descent, I thought we will be able to fly down, boy was I wrong. Stones were wet and uneven which meant we had to be very careful not to trip and fall, the trail was covered with tree roots sticking out and few hundred meters felt like eternity. Eventually the forest lead us to a massive field and huge empty trail going up. I feared this part the most. There was nothing beautiful about it. With rain and high winds this was my personal route to hell. But I sucked it up. I knew the next check point will be somewhere near. One step at the time. That’s all it takes.
And on the top, there it was, my refuge camp. We ate and drunk and got inside to warm up for few minutes. We needed the strength for our final leg home.
From there it was all downhill. No it was not easy, it was still pouring with rain and it was very slippery. But the feeling that the finish is near, kept us going. We reached the forests again and the trail became easier. We could increase our pace, the air warmed up and rain stopped. We enjoyed running again. We were nearly there, nearly in the end. We reached the town of Chamonix and with full smiles on our faces, hand in hand with my sister we run across the finish line. It was amazing. All pain was gone within few moments, the medals on our necks and congratulations from other runners felt amazing. It was tough, challenging. But this did not matter then. What mattered, was that we did not give up, pushed though our own personal boundaries to reach our goal. I run in Alps, through some of the worlds most beautiful trails. I can not wait to be back to this little heaven on earth.