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Race news: Trail des Dents du Midi

Race news: Trail des Dents du Midi

Jul 8, 2019

Trail des Dents du Midi’s full loop is now sold out for 2019– the earliest ever for the race. However, Run the Alps has access to entries as part of our September Chamonix-Champéry guided trip. You can read more about the trip, and race options, here. (And some spaces still remain for the Dents du Midi’s two-person relay, plus the 32 km shorter course.)

The trail racing scene is now in full swing here in the Alps. New races are popping up all the time, but some of the older ones continue to attract more and more attention. Switzerland’s Trail des Dents du Midi, or DDM, is one of them. In fact, having started in 1963, it is the oldest of all the Alps trail races. DDM takes place towards the end of the season, in mid-September, starting and finishing in the picturesque village of Champéry. It’s also known as the ‘Seven Summits Challenge’, due to the seven summits of the Dents du Midi mountain which the course loops around. The route’s history is fascinating, including having been used as a training run for Swiss and French border guards. Every year the course continues to evolve. Run the Alps caught up with good friend and race director Gil Caillet-Bois to hear the latest news on the race. Here’s what we found out.

Runners setting off through the village of Champéry (Photo DDM Trail).

Run the Alps: Your family has a unique history with the race. Could you tell us about that, and perhaps the changes you’ve personally seen over many years?

Gil: Yes, my father ran the DDM Trail 40 times, and I ran for the first time when I was 9 or 10 years old – taking part in the “Kids Race” in Vérossaz. Although the spirit of the race is practically the same after all these years, I think there’s been some change from the pioneering spirit of the first runners. They had to work really hard to run and race – they had to literally build many of the trails in the Alps. Now, it’s more trendy to run in the mountains and everything is more accessible, or “on the table”, for the runners.   

Taking a break at the Lac Salanfe aid station, on the wilder “backside” of the Dents du Midi range (Photo: Run the Alps).

Run the Alps: Are there any notable changes from last year? 

Gil: Every year, we try to make small improvements without changing the core values of the DDM Trail: authenticity, quality, and the welcome of our guests. In 2019 we’ll have two main changes: Firstly, the aid station of Bonavau will be relocated to the Susanfe refuge (thank you Fabienne!), which is earlier in the course. Last year we had a lot of feedback that the distance between Salanfe and Bonavau aid stations was too long. Secondly, we will have a “real” trail race for young runners between 12 and 17 years old.   

Run the Alps: The races are increasingly popular – why do you think they are attracting more runners?  

Gil: I find it hard to explain the reasons for this craze! Perhaps people want to return to the core values of trail running: solidarity, nature and authenticity. On the other hand, with high-profile ambassadors like Kilian Jornet and Jim Walmsley, trail running receives huge media coverage now. However, I can’t tell if we are living the golden age of the trail running right now, or if it will become even more popular…     

Runners are warmly welcomed, with drinks being served during the bib pick-up (Photo DDM Trail).
Run the Alps: The races cover a wide area of remote mountains. What are the main logistical challenges, and how do you deal with them?  

Gil: Security is the most important thing! We track each runner carefully – over the weekend of the race, I don’t stop worrying until the last runner crosses the finish line. And, as I said before, I think the main difference between the 1960s and now is the reduction in autonomy of the runners in the mountains – there is more support for the runners around the course now. However, the DDM Trail is still a very technical mountain race. It attracts very good athletes who are not necessarily very good mountain runners so we have to work hard to ensure everyone’s safety.    

Run the Alps: There are so many trail races in the Alps these days. Other than its unique history, what do you think makes DDM special?  

Gil: One day, a good American friend told me the DDM Trail is the only race in the Alps where you can’t find any gondolas or trams throughout the whole course of the race – if you want to get up into these mountains, you have to use your legs. I’d never noticed this before, but it’s true! The DDM Trail is authentic and has a unique spirit. It’s not the biggest, the longest or hardest race and it never will be. But every volunteer is a woman or man who lives in the area and is proud of the Dents-du-Midi. We are not just organizing a race, we are welcoming friends from all over the world to share our passion of trail running and the beauty of the Dents du Midi.
Run the Alps: Anything else you’d like to share with our audience about the DDM races?  

Gil: We look forward to welcoming you to Champéry on the 13-14th September 2019.

Run the Alps: Thanks Gil – we can’t wait!

If you’d like to experience the Dents du Midi area, you can check out our Chamonix and Champéry tour which finishes with a chance to run in the DDM race, or support the runners while soaking up the atmosphere. The race is now sold out, but Run the Alps has access to entries via our guided trip.

Emily Geldard
Emily is an International Mountain Leader, and the Assistant Manager for Run the Alps. She lives in Chamonix, France and is passionate about all mountain sports, all year round.