Run the Alps Explainer: I Need a Medical Form to Trail Race in France and Italy?

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Yes, you do.

For many of our guests and friends, the fact that you need a signed medical certificate from a doctor in order to trail race is a real surprise. In the US and elsewhere, most of us are simply used to suffering a bout of dubious judgement – usually concluding with, “Oh, sure, let’s do it!” – followed by an easy online application and fee payment.

In France and Italy, it’s a bit different. The federal governments in each country require trail racers (and indeed any sports competitors from golfers to horse-riders) to submit a certification from a medical doctor, allowing you to race.

Cables, chains, and even a ladder! Chamonix’s vertical kilometer trail race features more than a few technical challenges in the final 200 vertical meters. (Photo courtesy of Chamonix Club des Sports.)

The medical certificate is taken very seriously. If you don’t have a completed form, you won’t start. It’s that simple.

For someone not used to the process, there are a number of possible pitfalls. (I’ve personally fallen into a few of them myself!)

To help smooth the registration process, here are our tips:

1. The certificate needs to be less than a year old on the date of the race.
     Tip: Be sure to use European date format. The difference between 6.11.2018 and 11.6.2018 can create quite a hassle if your trail race is in July!

2. The stamp matters.
     Tip: Some doctors are not used to using their medical stamp with license numbers. A few don’t even have a stamp. But, the stamp matters. If your doctor doesn’t have a stamp readily available, he or she should write, “No stamp available,” followed by their medical license number and initials.

3. One certificate might do the trick for several races.
     Tip: Race organizations will often offer their own medical certificate on the race web site. But a standard certificate should do just fine – and then you can re-use it for other races (be sure to make extra copies!)

4. Just the form – Nothing More!
      Tip: If you use an asthma inhaler from time to time, for example, that’s not relevant for the purposes of the form. Your doctor should complete the information on the form, and not add additional information.

5. Everybody Loves Their Own Form
     Tip: Unless you are doing several trail races in one season, use the form suggested by your race. They’re used to seeing it, after all.

Kilian Jornet celebrates his 2015 Sierre-Zinal victory in style. Oh, and it’s in Switzerland, so no medical certificate is required! (Photo courtesy of Salomon Running.)

6. Got verification?
     Tip: Once you have uploaded your certificate, make a note to check back in a week or two. Most races will indicate on your registration page that they have received and approved your certificate.

7. Print it. Twice.
     Tip:When you’re headed to the race, always bring a hard copy of your medical certificate. It just might save the day, if the race says they haven’t received a copy of your certificate.

     Tip: And, bring an electronic copy, too! Keep a copy on your phone or laptop, downloaded and easy to access. It might come in handy.

8. What’s Up, Doc?
     Tip: It’s entirely up to your personal physician what to check during the certification process. Most doctors will check vitals, get a thorough medical history, and ask about any conditions that might prevent you from taking part without complications.

9. Schedule It!
      Tip: If you’re coming on a Run the Alps trip and taking part in a trail race in France or Italy, plan ahead with your appointment. Get the forms to your doctor in advance, so they can ask question before your appointment.

10. Forgot to do it? Find a doc!
     Tip: In mountain towns with an active population, the local doctors are generally quite familiar with the racing medical form routine. An appointment usually costs about €30, and takes about 20 minutes. If you are taking part in a Run the Alps trip, we’ll help you find a doctor and make an appointment.

11. Don’t worry about Switzerland
     Tip: Medical certificates are not necessary in Switzerland. You’re off the hook if you’re running Sierre-Zinal, Eiger Ultra, Matterhorn Ultraks, or any one of the hundreds of great trail races in the Swiss Alps.

Ready? We’ve included PDF downloads of certificates for you to use.
Run the Alps guests: Drop us a note directly if you have questions!
Congratulations! You’re ready to race!

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