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Running in the Alps

CMBM: The Club at the Heart of Trail Running in Chamonix

Nov 07, 2015 09:14 am | Doug Mayer

This is an extract of Run in the Alps' interview with Federico Gilardi, CMBM's President who is still racing, having just completed the Tor des Géants.

 Taking a break at Haut Pas, on the Tor des Géants

Over the last decade, Chamonix has become one of the world’s top locations for trail running. Long the world’s centre for alpinism, thanks to its location at the base of Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles Rouges, the Chamonix valley is also home to hundreds of miles of beautiful single track trails, and, for the last 14 years, the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc—arguably the world’s most famous trail race. The valley even has a town-sponsored website devoted to trail running that features route recommendations, trail conditions, and supporting information. 

One of the driving forces behind Chamonix’s leading position in trail running is Le Club du CMBM, the local trail running club named for its iconic trail race, the Chamonix Mont Blanc Marathon. And, these days, behind CMBM is its ever-smiling, enthusiastic President, Federico Gilardi. 

This past season, we had a chance to talk with Federico about CMBM, the future of trail running in Chamonix, and his own trail running goals—which, by the way, are pretty impressive in their own right.

The ever-exuberant CMBM leader, with the Mont Blanc massif behind him. (Grandes Jorasses on the left and Dent du Géant on the right.)

Run the Alps: We’re here, outside L’Atelier Café, with Mont Blanc just above us, and it’s impossible not to note a feeling that everything is coming together to make trail running a major component of the outdoors life here in Chamonix. 

Federico: Definitely, without a doubt! 

Run the Alps: Why do you think that is? 

Federico: UTMB started it. It’s one of the biggest trail events anywhere. People come from all around the world. The Marathon du Mont-Blanc is now a really big event, too, with five major races over the weekend. And of course, we have the club’s original race, the Cross du Mont Blanc. So, we have the biggest mountain trail races in the world. 

Run the Alps: Can you explain the club’s coaching? That’s something that might be unfamiliar to trail runners in the United States. 

Federico: We have several professional, federally-licensed sports coaches. For three years now, we’ve also developed training sessions for kids, as well. We have two coaches who are focused totally on training kids. Our youngest member is 11 years old! 

Run the Alps: How many people attend the training runs with the coaches? 

Federico: We used to have just one training run a week, but enough people started attending, that now we have two. So, each week, we have the same mid-week training on Tuesday and then on Wednesday. As many as 50 members attend each session. We also have a training session on Friday. It’s a smaller group, with about 40 people attending.

The level of racing among club members is very high. More and more, there is a CMBM member on the podium at trail races around the region. We have some really good runners, like Morgane Cretton. She was sixth overall in the 60-km Gran Trail Courmayeur. She won Trans-Martinique and is often on the podium. Nicolas D’Oliveira was 12th at Maxi Race, and some young runners are coming up who are quite strong. 


Some of the members of CMBM

Run the Alps: Your own racing is not without note. You’ve done quite a number of races, including just recently, the epic Tor des Géants. How did that go? 

Federico:   This year it was my hardest race of the four times I have done the Tor. The weather conditions where really bad, with rain, wind, fog… And snow during the first night. Race Directors stopped everyone at 4:00 a.m. Monday morning, due to poor weather conditions and some rock falls under the Col Fenetre. At 7:00 a.m., the race started again, the trail up and down from Col Fenetre was practically an ice rink—really dangerous, but so nice! After Col Fenetre, the passes at Entrelor (3,005 meters) and Lozon (3,299 meters) where waiting for us. That was a really tough day for all of us. 

The day after was the only one without rain, and had good conditions, but during the third night some strong rain and wind started up again. We reached Rifugio Coda in really bad conditions. It was just impossible to go on. At 6:00 p.m., the race organization decided to stop all the racers for the night. The day after, the race was stopped for good, due to really deteriorating weather conditions. We definitely made the right decision when we stopped! 

Run the Alps: Wow. We’re exhausted just hearing about that, Federico! Thanks for your time. Want to go for a shorter run… maybe 10 km? 

Federico: Anytime! You know how to find me!

Thanks to Chloë Lanthier for her help with this interview, and to Maia Rauschenberg for the transcription.

Categories: All topics, Interviews, Running

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