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Grand Raid de la Reunion – ‘La Diagonale des Fous’ – October 2008

January 23, 2013

The Diagonal of Fools                   

At 11pm on 23rd October 2008, I lay flat on my back on the gravel at ‘Cap Mechant’ at the south eastern corner of Reunion island. Bruno was to blame – for weeks I had had hundreds of questions – ‘are you ready for it?,’ ‘how do you think you will do?,’ ‘surely you will sleep?’ and so on. My answer to all three and more was ‘I have no idea’ – and I did not. How was I to know if I was in a fit state to race across a volcano, mostly in the dark, on a course 4 times longer than any race I had done and with the equivalent of more than an ascent and descent of Mount Everest, starting from sea level, along the way? I had no idea. I’d barely seen a mountain in training – my highest peak is all of 40 metres above sea level. I would finish, that was not in doubt in my mind – typically 40% of entrants do not – but I had 64 hours to do it and would be happy to walk the whole thing and be done in 63 and a bit.

Bruno had done it before, when the course was a little shorter, in 32 hours. I asked him if he had slept on the way – ‘no, but the last 21km took 7 hours – downhill.’ How could 21km downhill take 7 hours? I can knock off that distance – a half marathon – in an hour and twenty even with a hangover. Like the other questions, I had no idea. I’d done my training over the months – 350km in September alone; over a 3 week period in September and early October I had run the equivalent of 3 marathons each week, getting out of bed, running 20km to work, running home again, laps of the airport island at weekends and so on – though admittedly my longest run had been ‘only’ 53km, and Denmark is not famous for its mountains to practice on.

My full (illustrated) race report is here

And the rest of the photos are here

Ascending the 'Rampart des Basalts' after dawn on Day 1

Ascending the ‘Rampart des Basalts’ after dawn on Day 1

One day I’ll do it again.

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