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Trail des Glières: Running the Course of Les Résistants

Trail des Glières: Running the Course of Les Résistants

Oct 24, 2013

The 22K Trail des Glières in Haute Savoie, France, is a trail race with a lot of history. The Glières plateau is famous for being a hotbed of the resistance movement in World War II. The wilderness plateau, located at an elevation of about 2000m, saw the emergence of the maquis des Glières, the local French Resistance fighters. The two races, called Le Dernier Assault (the last assault) for the 22K/1500M+ course, and L’Escarmouche (the skirmish) for the 50K/3000M+ course, bring vivid images to mind of the struggle during this period. Both follow the historic trails used by the Germans when they attacked the résistants.

The race started a day after heavy rains, so the organizers announced that course included muddy, wet and slippery terrain–and they couldn’t have been more right.

The first part of the race was a long ascent (+1300m) mainly in the wet forest and up steep trails. While most of the way up was covered with mud, the last hundred meters were very rocky and slippery. There were also a few narrow and exposed sections where passing was forbidden to minimize the risk of an accident. Soldiers, out volunteering for the day, were stationed throughout the race to give runners a hand when climbing up the steep sections.

Right before the summit of the race, Sous Dine...
Right before the summit of the race, Sous Dine.

As we emerged from the forest, clouds welcomed us at the summit, hiding the valley and refreshing us with a cold breeze. This was the beginning of a very slippery section. I tried to keep my balance with my poles, but without pushing too hard so that they would not stay stuck in the limestone holes. Usually, I’m not too slow on the technical parts and I enjoy them, but today because of the difficult conditions I was overtaken by a lot of the runners that I had passed during the last part of the ascent. Unfortunately, the fog stayed on the plateau for a while and we couldn’t really appreciate the landscape, with only a few hundred meters of visibility.

I didn’t feel particularly well, so decided to skip the food station. I quickly regretted the choice a few kilometers later, when I started feeling a classic sugar crash coming on, and needed to stop to eat a cookie. Bad timing! A race photographer was taking a photo while I was devouring my precious snack! “Empty your mouth!” he insisted. “No way!! Itshhh chho gooooood.”

Along the beautiful traverse.
Along the beautiful traverse.

On the way down, we followed a beautiful traverse where we could finally enjoy the view of the valley. I was surprised that it wasn’t too slippery, thanks to the pine needles that absorbed quite a lot of the moisture. I was feeling a little bit sleepy, when all of a sudden I was awakened by a kid shouting encouragement through a traffic cone. He was very strategically placed, too–right before a tricky section! The last kilometer of the race followed the river and, happily, still managed to avoid the road. I finished the race supported by an enthusiastic crowd. In the end, the only thing missing that day was the sun.

Feeling hungry? After effort comes comfort.
Feeling hungry? After effort comes comfort.

Right after the finish line, there was an open-air market selling jam, honey, fruit, vegetables… and local cheese and saucisson of course! A few osteopaths and physiotherapists were taking care of the runners. (I imagined all the work they would soon have, once the 50K runners started to arrive!)

This year was just the third edition of Trail des Glières, but there was nothing to criticize: the route was very well signed and secured. (I don’t usually pay much attention to the security of the route, but this race day was particularly cloudy and wet, and therefore potentially treacherous.) Onlookers encouraging us everywhere, too–even in the middle of the forest, where I only expected to see deer and boars, if I were lucky. Most importantly, though, it was an interesting course with lots of single trail. For anyone out there considering this race, I definitely give it two thumbs up, and recommend it!

Thomas Fresneau