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Tor des Geants: what makes this race so special?

by Robert Britton
Friday 23rd September 2016
In Courmayeur you can tell who has run the Tor; not just by the way they are walking, but also the thousand-yard stare worn on the weathered faces of those who have ran 338km, climbed over 30,000m and descended back down each quad-bashing metre. You just want to shake the hand of every one of them.
What has been an extremely tiring week from a supporting perspective pales in significance to what these athletes have been through. Tears have been shed, blood spilt and blisters have appeared in their thousands. Out of 800 runners, 446 have finished, 317 have withdrawn and 2 have been disqualified.

Nats blisters
Robbie tends to Nat's feet, while Rosa the dog has her eyes on that Pot Noodle

The two winners, Oliveiro Bosatelli, the caterpillar of Bergamo, and Liza Borzani, 7th overall, returned to the finish line to welcome the last two finishers over the line, just before the clocked ticked over to 150:00:00 and the sweepers entered the town en masse. This is a race where the lanterne rouge is rightly still celebrated. Finishing, in what ever position, is fantastic achievement.
The last two days of the race saw some of the worst weather we’d seen all week. Those who ran quick enough to finish before the storms set in had the best of weather for the Tor, but then they didn’t get much sleep with some rumours stating the winner did not sleep at all for the 75 hours.
Rain, wind and snow were the story of the final days and at each checkpoint there were shivering runners, especially those in the lightweight waterproofs, who dreaded going back out into the day or night. The Col Malatra, the final obstacle at 2900m, had 4 inches of snow. 
Before the final descent Natalie was held back to wait for the 12th place lady so they could travel together in safety, but this wasn’t really any safer for Natalie, who knew the course, had great kit and needed to move a little quicker to stay warm. They were both still warmer than the heroic mountain guides that spent 4 days and nights up at the col. Thank you.
The final run into town can be deadly quiet for those finishing at night or full of cheering for the day finishers. Natalie had two rather loud chaps who made sure Courmayuer knew she was coming and just how proud they were to be involved. If you want to watch the lunacy, it’s here: 

So what does make this race just so special? The scenery, the distance, the runners and the food all make it an awesome experience but it really is the people of the Aosta valley that make the Tor des Geants one race that everyone should aspire to. Not only are they willing to bend over backwards to help anyone out, there is also a real sense of pride, in their race and their valley.

Tor day 2

At the prize ceremony everyone who finished will be handed a jumper individually, probably the only jumper that I would wear after a race and every time you see one in town you want to talk to them about the Tor, ask them how it went and just tell them that they’re awesome.
Even in the days post Tor Natalie still wakes up in the night shouting “Forza, forza” and getting ready to run off into the hills. It’s a race that has a deep and lasting effect on a runner, with flashbacks as vivid as acid trips it seems.
If you love the mountains and want to truly test yourself then we implore you to add this race to your bucket list. It’s at the pinnacle of Mountain Ultra Running and remember “There is only one Tor”

About The Author

Robert Britton

Robbie is a 100 mile runner who is a member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad and Team Centurion and likes to run ridiculous distances as quickly as possible.

To provide enough food to feed a monster running habit, Robbie coaches other ultra marathon runners through www.robbiebritton.co.uk and is also a member of the coaching team at Centurion Running. He likes to dabble with a bit of writing so that others can learn from his mistakes and enjoy the sport as much as he does.

Robbie is also a is a Profeet ambassador.


"Pain is inevitable, suffering is just part of the fun"


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