Emma Morgan completed the extreme Ultra Marathon event, the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc finishing in Chamonix. Simply inspirational!
Guest: Emma Morgan
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Emma Morgan had such a different French story to chat about with me! It’s not often we consider the sport of Ultra Marathon Running as being particularly French, but Emma fascinated me with her story of the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc she ran in the French Alps around Chamonix, this past summer of 2022.
The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, also known as the UTMB is the most sought-after trail-running event for trail-runners from all over the world crossing three countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. Each year, at the end of August, the elite of the trail-running world come to Chamonix Mont-Blanc to participate in one of the event’s races.
Firstly, not everyone gets to run an Ultra Marathon. Qualification is needed by earning points from particular lead-in events. Qualification is actually both demonstrating that each competitor can run 100kms and also a lottery, which Emma entered together with her friends so if one of them made it through the lottery, they all got a spot. Emma worked through the qualifying criteria and winning a lottery spot with a couple of her friends she was off! The course of the event would usually take hikers 7 to 9 days to traverse but Emma completed the whole event in 43 hours! I wondered if altitude training would have been required, but Emma didn’t feel the effects of the high mountains during the event. The course is very technical though. There are strict rules to follow as last year a competitor died during the race. In some places the runners are climbing across rock faces with sheer drops whilst carrying supplies and water, so the rules are in place to keep the competitors as safe as possible. Emma’s two friends unfortunately had to drop out during the race and Emma also had a number of moments when she thought she couldn’t continue, but she mustered up some more courage within and made it to the finish. In the whole 43 hours Emma had only 20 minutes of sleep. Continuing in the dark, in rugged terrain, in extreme conditions meant that 42% of starting competitors didn’t finish.
There are so many complicating factors I can imagine with an event like this: the language barrier, the different customs, the preparations in mountainous regions much smaller than the French Alps! Emma said that the people were all so encouraging that the whole experience was incredibly positive. The locals came out to cheer the runners on, the Australian competitors supported each other, the stations along the way have good cooked foods, medics and rest spots. But in the end, it is an extreme event and I am in absolute awe of Emma’s amazing achievement.
Emma said that whilst she was pushing on and competing, there were moments when she would be able to take in the amazing views of the alps around Chamonix as well as the little quaint villages along the way. I imagine a return trip to experience the region for just a holiday would help the achievement sink in as Emma says it still seems surreal that she completed such a huge event.
Emma loves nothing more than a French baguette! It can be difficult to purchase French bread outside of France, so this recipe will help to have French bread at home!
Emma loves anything by French chanteuse Zaz! I already have some Zaz music on the Loulabelle’s Spotify playlist. Click the link above on Zaz’s name to go directly to her website and find more of her terrific tunes.