Every year, the Mont Blanc Marathon draws runners from around the world keen on the high-altitude adventure of a lifetime. Held every year starting on the last Friday in June, this three-day event features a number of different courses and events, but the centrepiece remains the marathon-length (42 km) race, this year held on Sunday 26 June starting at 07:00.
The marathon starts in the town of Chamonix, home to Mont Blanc itself. Possibly most famous for its alpine skiing, Chamonix is one of the oldest ski resorts in France and was the site of the very first Winter Olympics in 1924 – though clearly the town remains a magnet for sporting activities all year round.
For both runners and spectators, marathons require a lot of planning ahead. Whether you’re a participant or a supportive family member, we can help you coordinate your trip to Chamonix for this impressive athletic event.
For the Runner
Registration for the 2016 Marathon started in autumn 2015. If you’ve successfully registered for the Mont Blanc Marathon and paid the €52 fee, your name should be on this list.
Every runner has their own training regimen, but there are a few rules that do apply to everyone. You must arrive at the Place du Mont Blanc in Chamonix no later than 30 minutes before the start of your race in order to pick up your bib, which displays your unique number.
For the marathon race, bib distribution starts at 05:00 and ends at 06:30. You must show a form of valid identification in order to receive your bib.
You also must show your race bag to a marathon official to confirm that you have the following obligatory equipment with you: a mobile phone, at least half a litre of water, a waterproof jacket, a whistle, and a survival blanket. If the weather is cool or inclement, you also might want to bring along a hat, gloves, and leggings.
During the 42 km course, runners will climb a total of 2,407 metres and descend 1,700 metres. The race begins at the centre of Chamonix (elevation 1035m) and finishes at Planpraz, a high 2,000-metre plateau that towers above the Chamonix valley. Along the way, runners will pass through mountain hamlets, fields of wildflowers, glaciers, and the Aiguilles Rouge Natural Reserve. There are a total of five refreshment points along the way, and sixty health personnel will be scattered at various points along the trail in case of injury. Maximum time allowed on the course is nine hours.
For the Spectators
If you’re coming to Chamonix to cheer on a family member, you won’t want to miss the starting signal at 07:00 (you might have to drag the kids out of bed). Since the runners will be traversing some fairly rough and remote terrain, you won’t be able to access the entire course (not easily at any rate!).
You can, however, head over to Les-Praz-de-Chamonix and take the cable car up to La Flégère refreshment station to catch a glimpse of your runner. You can then follow the Grand Balcon Sud, a high ridge with a walking path that runs 6km all the way to the finish line. The marathon runners aren’t the only ones getting a workout!
How to Get There
Chamonix’s closest international hub is Geneva Airport, located right on the French-Swiss border. Flights from London airport typically take about 90 minutes, and are very reasonably priced with budget airlines like easyJet. Considering that the driving distance from London to Chamonix is over ten hours and involves toll roads and Eurotunnel fares, flying is probably the cheapest option for your family.
To get from the airport to Chamonix, consider Geneva airport transfers from Shuttle Direct. Our experienced drivers can pick you up from the right terminal and navigate the border-traffic snafu around Geneva with no trouble. A marathon is more than enough to deal with – let us handle your transfer!
Where to Stay
Hotel du Clocher – Set in a townhouse converted into a two-star hotel, this cosy spot has an unmistakable homey feel. As you walk up to the house, you’re greeted by overflowing flower boxes and tall French windows. Inside, cheery bedrooms and a comfortable breakfast area will make you and your family feel right at home.
Le Faucigny – For a modern twist on the classic alpine chateau, look no further than this charming three-star hotel. Though traditional-looking from the exterior, the inside is full updated with chic contemporary décor – think high ceilings, bold bursts of colour, and minimalist furniture. Marathon runners will appreciate a long soak in the Jacuzzi or some time in the sauna after an exhausting day on Mont Blanc.