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UNCOOL RUNNINGS - PART ONE - Catie Friend, Chamonix
Tuesday July 18, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

Our reporter, Catie Friend, is in Chamonix for some mountain trail running. The only trouble is she is late, stressed and rather nervous. Why?

It's Monday morning and I'm late.

I'm also stressed. 

I'm stressed only in part because I'm late.

I'm heading to Chamonix, home of the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB), possibly the most famous ultra trail running race in the world.

Most other trail running races earn you points to enter the UTMB, so you could say all trails lead to Chamonix.

Chamonix, FranceChamonix, France
















I'm here to do an introduction to trail running, staying in the UCPA, French equivalent of the Youth Hostelling Association, as a guest of Action Outdoors, a UK based adventure company.

I'm not really a runner, confession time, I'm a wannabe.

And I am really worried that I'm not up to the course's pre-requisite ability to "run for two hours without stopping".

I mean, I can jog, shuffle and trundle for two hours, but run?

Well, that remains to be seen. 

The introductions, the bonding over a beer and worse still, the very first "easy" run this morning. 

I am nervous because I am a woman of a certain age and despite having spent many a youthful night in hostels and way, way worse, I have come to enjoy my own bed or at least a hotel boasting a few stars.

To try to counter this particular worry I've done what I used to scoff at old people for doing and brought my own pillow. 

 Because I am late, I have the last bed available in the dorm shared with three other girls.

 It's on the top bunk.

It is short, with a wooden end, and I am nearly six feet tall.

This adds to my anxiety levels.

I can be the devil incarnate when sleep deprived.  

On my tour of the facilities, I have a sudden realisation that due to my crazy schedule of the past few days I have forgotten that we are not just here to run.

This afternoon we are rock climbing, tomorrow we are doing circuit training, Wednesday is a WHOLE DAY of canyoning and Thursday afternoon is taken up with mountain biking.

I don't love any of those things. < p/>

I haven't brought the right kit and I'm silently cursing the editor of this publication for offering me the assignment. What was I thinking?

Chamonix, FranceChamonix, France
















They are already out running when I arrive. I set out my stuff.

What's the etiquette in hostels, again?

I can't really remember, but I'm pretty sure that putting your nightie and your own pillow on someone else's bed and taking over a cupboard on the other side of the room from yours (which is exactly what I unwittingly managed to do) is not quite cricket.

I get the nod that they have arrived back and are in the garden stretching.

Would I like to join them?

Well, quite frankly no, I'd like to get in my car and drive away as fast as possible. 

Chamonix, FranceChamonix, France

















Giving myself a stern talking to, I plaster on my best smile and walk towards an already formed and bonded group. >At this point, I'm hoping that at least someone looks as slow and old as me, but alas hope fades as nine pairs of bright, bushy-tailed eyes swivel towards me. 

And, oh for goodness sake, they are all speaking FRENCH.  

Now, I live in Switzerland and I speak good French, but I had totally not prepared myself for this particular element of the course.

Five whole days of chit chat and small talk, whilst breathing hard and trying not to cry from the shame of being the slowest - in French. 

Introductions over, whilst hunched over stretching my adductors (whatever they are), we make our way back to the room.

This is when I realise my horror error about taking over someone else's bed and I'm beginning to think that the 45 minute commute from my own bed every day may not be such a bad thing!  

After (a very nice) lunch, we gear up for climbing, something my own beloved husband struggles to get me to do due to my fear of falling and scraping down a rock face thus losing 50% of my skin, and head to Vallorcine with our instructor. 

Chamonix, FranceChamonix, France
















 Turns out I am one of the only people to know how to tie a figure of eight knot and how to belay.

There's nothing like a bit of self-confidence to make an afternoon seem less daunting.

This might not be so bad after all.

I helped some people who were doing it for the first time and then I gravitated towards the most competent climber in the group, also one of my roommates, to try to buddy up to climb.

But no! I was "given" to a very nice man from Paris who had never belayed anyone in his life before and promptly told to "climb when ready".  

Terror shot through my feet (this is what happens to me on rock faces and ladders) as I rattled up faster than I have ever climbed anything, so that I could be back down and on terra firma and not die prematurely because nice Parisian man got his hands mixed up. 

Chamonix, FranceChamonix, France
















Day one finished with more good food and if I'm perfectly honest, some good camaraderie starting to form with my fellow trail runners.

They're all very friendly and despite the fact we have to be ready to roll at 8:15 tomorrow, spirits are high.

Maybe they're all anxious too.

Maybe it'll be fun.


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.

See here for the full details

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