Our reporter is on a trail running course in Chamonix. Did she learn anything valuable?




Our intrepid mountain reporter, Catie Friend, has been in Chamonix all week, on a trail running course.

From unsure beginnings to finding her feet, how did it end and did she learn anything valuable?

It’s Saturday morning.

I am not anxious or stressed or worried.

I have that lovely dopy, satisfied feeling that comes from tired legs and stretched lungs.

I am home after five days of adventure in Chamonix.

I was a guest of Action Outdoors, staying at the Argentiere UCPA.

I have been climbing, mountain biking, sightseeing at nearly 4000m and, most of all, I have been learning how to tackle trail running.

Thursday morning greeted us with a torrential downpour.

We all met at the allotted 8:20am meeting time, grim determination bonding our little group.

After starting in rain jackets and long sleeves, at around 8:35 the rain miraculously stopped and gradually the sun came out and layers were peeled off.

Running through the trees

Running through the trees
















I have always had an affinity with trees and running water.

It is where I feel most alive.

This whole run was wooded, mostly soft underfoot, with a carpet of pine needles to deaden any pounding vibrations.

Streams and rivers, shadows and slivers of piercing sunshine all added to a magical feel.

Spirits were high and the friendship that had built up during the week turned into genuine delight in sharing this experience.

Crossing bridges

Crossing bridges
















Even when most of us were attacked by a swarm of angry wasps (maybe our pounding was not so deadened after all!), the mood remained giggly and, if anything, reinforced our connection to each other.

We returned to the centre ready to eat the proverbial horse.

Luckily the food, and the range of options all week, was enough to satisfy even the hungriest of trail runners.

Mountains of colourful salads, meat, fish, rice, pasta, not to mention the excellent and highly indulgent traditional French desserts, kept us all in fine fettle.

Canteen food

Canteen food













Our afternoon consisted of mountain biking from Argentiere to Chamonix.

Not terribly taxing for some, but great fun and everyone learned some new skills with the drills we practiced and there were some great little descents to keep us on our toes!!

The girls on mountain bikes

The girls on mountain bikes
















The girls on mountain bikes

The girls on mountain bikes
















Friday was the BIG day.

Our first day of packing our own lunch, garnered from the “picnic making” zone in the canteen.

Taking advantage of the once again glorious weather, we started from Les Praz and walked up to Montenvers train station at the Mer de Glace.

We then ran round from there to Plan de l’Aiguille.


















It was steep and tough but breathtaking from the first step to the last.

We all found our rhythm and helped each other when we could.

We chatted, we sweated, we laughed and we enjoyed the views and the company.

Running ...

Running …
















14km and 1540m of vertical later we descended into Chamonix in the cable car to devour an ice cream, have a cup of tea and for me the party was over.

Although I was desperate to get home and see my family, I also found it really hard to leave our little group.

Fortunately social media has eased the pain of separation and photos from the week have been flooding in all morning!

What did I learn this week? A few things:

1. The UCPA is an incredible institution. While there I could have done everything from salsa dancing and yoga, to downhill mountain biking and rafting. And that’s just one mountain centre. I can’t even imagine what the watersports centres must be like! I ate so well, the facilities were clean and the equipment stores well-stocked. Our instructors were all competent and welcoming.

2. Action Outdoors is doing a great job of getting non-French people involved and using this fantastic resource. Their website is clear and easy to use and the personnel knowledgeable.

3. I can train hard with a stinking head cold and I will not die.

4. It’s ok to be nervous at the beginning of a week like this. It’s normal. Most people are there on their own and are there to try something they have never done before. All it takes is a deep breath, a smile and a willingness to get stuck in.

5. Sporty people and people who travel on their own are generally all of a similar mindset, so it’s not hard to make friends. Even if you do have to do it in another language!

6. I learned from those that were fitter, faster and more experienced than me, without feeling like a loser. I gladly and freely passed on knowledge that I had to those who were less familiar with mountain terrain, and it made me feel good.

7. Mostly I learned that trail running is not about being the fastest or the fittest (although a certain degree of fitness is advisable and helpful). It occurred to me about 11km into Thursday’s run that it was so much more than that.

It’s about parking your fears, your worries and your insecurities and enjoying the moment.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Work your tired legs.

Sweat until it’s running down your back.

Look up and understand what a glorious privilege it is to be amongst the majestic peaks, the pine needles, the streams and the rocks.

I can’t write how it felt, but it was a bit like a thunderbolt, so I videoed myself having this revelation.

Once again, I’m a bit nervous.

This time because I’m sharing this on a public forum, but it was real and it changed how I feel about exercise and running forever.


If you are interested in trail running and biking, you might also be interested in this:

Read more of Catie’s Uncool Runnings


Action Outdoors run trail running holidays based in Argentiere, France throughout the summer months from June until September.

Trail Running For Beginners: dates until September 10, 2017, from £418 per person including, 6 nights full board accommodation, 5 days instruction, lift passes, technical equipment. Travel to Chamonix – Argentiere not included.
Train Running Preparation: dates until September 10, 2017, from £382 per person including, 6 nights full board accommodation, 5 days instruction, lift passes, technical equipment. Travel to Chamonix – Argentiere not included.

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