2012 Grand Raid de la Réunion

Grand Raid Reunion - La Diagonale des FousFor October’s introduction to a classic world ultra I’ve chosen three race distances that are offered on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, situated between Madagascar and Mauritius. Réunion Island is a small, tropical French territory with beaches lined by palm trees, stunning coral reefs and pristine blue lagoons. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The races occur from the 18th-21st October, but the leaders have finished the longest distance at the time of writing. The marquis event is a 101-mile run called the Grand-Raid or Diagonale des Fous (“Madman’s diagonal”) and there are also shorter options in the 58-mile Semi-Raid or Trail of Bourbon and the 38-mile Mascareignes Raid. [Note: The official 2012 splits show the course to be 170 km (106 miles), not 162 km (101 miles) as advertised.

About the Race
Since the Diagonale des Fous is the most prestigious and competitive of the three races, that’s the one I’ll focus on here. Over the 101 miles, the terrain includes almost 32,000 feet of altitude gain and the winners from the previous two years took over 23 hours – given those winners were Julien Chorier and Kilian Journet, it shows the difficulty of the course. And over the 19 previous versions of the race, the male winner has been French in all but 2010 when Kilian won. French women have also dominated, with 18 of the 19 wins, as well.

The route climbs five peaks with the highest point being 7,900 feet. Runners follow the rim of the volcano, including trails overlooking deep ravines and ankle-deep mud in Kerveguen forest. Despite the difficulty, out of around 2,500 starters about 70% make it to the finish. That is partly due to the lenient cut-off time of 64 hours, but is despite trekking poles being prohibited.

Full results aren’t available yet but the top 5 men and women will be updated here when published.

Initial reports show Kilian Journet (Spain) won the men’s race and Emelie Lecomte (France) won for the women. Joe Grant represented the American contingent, but was forced to drop. Joe’s blog post on his course recce shows some great course photos of the island.

Unfortunately, there are also reports on Twitter of a runner dying out on the course and more can be found about this when the organizers make a statement on the race website.

2012 Diagonale des Fous Men’s Results

  1. Kilian Journet (Salomon – Spain) – 26:33:10
  2. Antoine Guillon (Lafuma – France) – 27:44:47
  3. Arnaud Lejeune (Hoka – France) – 29:39:39
2012 Diagonale des Fous Women’s Results
  1. Emilie Lecomte (EQH – France) – 33:03:17
  2. Nerea Martinez Urruzola (Salomon – Spain) – 35:27:20
  3. Julia Bottger (Salomon – Germany) – 39:23:36

Call for Comments (from Bryon)
Have you ever run Diagonale des Fous or one of its sister races? If so, what did you think?

If you’ve ever been to (or live on!) Réunion Island, we’d love to hear more about the island, its culture, and the running to be found there.

There are 5 comments

  1. Vonbrucken

    Hello actually we don't have a lot of sand beaches in Reunion island they are located on the west coast (white or black sand). It was formed by a hot spot and it shares many similarities with Hawaii. We have many good surf spots as the well renown left wave of Saint-Leu. The race started in 1992 but we have a lot of other races every-week but The Grand Raid is the main event followed by the entire population (TV, press, radio, helicopters).

    Here are few videos so you guys can get an idea:

    Quechua – Grand Raid de la Réunion 2011
    DIAGONALE DES FOUS 13-16.10.2011

    There are people everywhere on the race, huge crowds to support runners, you can follow the race en Google Earth [broken link removed].

  2. kevin

    Pat McMurtry and I were there last year. Quite a hard race w lots of brutal mud last year. Pat ran a 25 hr Wasatch, and a 38hr race in La Reunion. I had to bail in Hellbourge. Island is amazing, race very well organized. Locals have an advantage w "private" aid stations and "real" food. Cool historical fact according to a local is that the local Gendarme must be a trail runner to seek out the number one export – which is not vanila – growing in the mountains. As a result many locals (about 5000 applications a year) a local police! Great people with a great party atmosphere. A more "small town" feel than Utmb…

    Kevin Lawlor

  3. champacs

    Vonbrucken's comments are accurate, just to add to them here's a blog post video about the Grand Raid dating from 2006 (the year my husband finished the race; he had to drop out 30km before the end in 2005!): http://travelssmart.blogspot.com/2006/10/grand-ra…. Unfortunately the video quality isn't great but you get to see some of the great landscapes here.

    More generally, for blog posts in English about Reunion see more of my posts here: http://travelssmart.blogspot.com/search/label/Reu….

    1. francois

      just read a quote from Kilian (in french): "I offered to wait for him. I was ready to give up the victory to finish with him. But he was in really bad shape"

      On the same interview Kilian says "I was so sleepy I almost wanted to stop at the volcano. Later I really suffered from the heat."

      The report says Iker Karrera lead Kilian on most of the hardest climbs… From the time Kilian went alone, he slowed down (they were far ahead), enjoyed the course, answered the media at each station, and basically preserved himself until the finish line…

  4. champacs

    From what I've heard, the two Spaniards ran the race side by side until the middle of Mafate (≈100/110 km) when Karrera started having knee pains. They separated, Jornet went ahead and Karrera followed after a short rest, arriving at Le Maido (121 km) 45 minutes after Jornet. But in the end he abandoned the race a few kilometres further on at Sans Souci.

    1. francois

      correct. i followed online (a local channel – [Broken link to Canal Plus Reunion removed.] – was braodcasting 24h live from the race, aid stations, and putting in between some documentaries on hikes and trail, history of the race etc.) and got to see the iker karrera thing happen. on each aid station the press was talking to kilian while he was feeding and running (since he's fluent in french – and loved over there since his first win in 2010).

      What kilian said is that iker started the race with an already tender knee, then had trouble with his digestion. they intended to finish hand-in-hand but in Roche-Plate Iker wouldn't go on. Kilian kept on and got to the summit of Piton Maido, where he learnt that Iker hadn't dropped after all: when he saw the next follower (Antoine Guillon, finished 2nd) arriving at the station, he got on his feet and back on the trail, only to drop for good 5h later…

  5. Vonbrucken

    Nice blog you posted here champacs ;)

    @VJ Boril, Iker wanted to do this last race for the season before taking some times to rest as he was feeling his body needed it. cf

    Already from the start according to Kilian he had some problems with his knees. The race started and the temperature was around 27 degrees Celsius, then going to 2500 meters to the volcano temperature 2 degrees below zero under a cold rain, then moving to Salazie and then to the Piton des Neiges altitude 3069 meters, then it was down to Cilaos with a temperature around 17 and going to Mafate after having climbed 2200 something Col. Temperature in Mafate was hot and dry (28), he was still with Kilian then. But before the ascension to the Maido Col (2200 meters) he was without energy and stopped, though regained some strengths Arnaud Guillon passed him, he managed to pass him again, but stopped after the Maido Pic. http://www.lepape-info.com/wp-content/uploads/201… It was really touching especially the way Kilian tried to push him: https://www.facebook.com/IkerKarrera3/posts/44022https://twitter.com/kilianj/status/25961014770443

    Full video report will be up soon, tomorrow there will be an other day of race recapitulation nearly hours per hours on http://www.canalplus.fr/c-sport/c-autres-sports/p

  6. Vonbrucken

    Oops forget to add that Vincent Delebarre who won the UTMB in 2004 , won the Grand Raid in 2006 (among other things of course), Sherpa finished the race only once finishing 5th.

    5 first people of the Grand Raid from Reunion are automatically qualified for the UTMB (normally 7 points in 3 races maximum ) i.e UTMB® 2013 : 7 points acquired in 2011 and/or 2012 (in 3 races maximum)

    Throughout the year we have a lot of races to get points:

    Grand Raid = 4 points

    Trail of Bourbon= 3 points

    Raid 974= 3 points

    Plus other 2 and 1 points qualifier events. So making the Raid 974 and the Grand Raid is sufficient points-wise to enter the UTMB.

    Full calendar of the races who took place or will take place for 2012 http://runraid.free.fr/cal_mois.php (left column)

  7. francois

    The wife-to-be was born and grew up there (getting married there next year). Although we don't live there we go as often as we can. Main attractions (for me):

    – trails: volcanic island, with one dead volcano that built the island, collapsed into 3 massive circus that happen to offer stunning 3000' cliffs and rain forests filled with endemic plants, and one active volcano that erupts every other year or so, which can be hiked when quiet. The circus and high mountains (tops at slightly more than 3000m) create interesting micro-climates with dry areas and very damp ones. The locals are very found of their islands, trails and nature in general, got it logged in the UNESCO few and the trails are very well maintained by ONF (Office National des Forets), making it a pleasure to hike and run

    – food: the population is a mixture of african (history of slavery in cane plantations), chinese, indian and french culture, and so is the food. Best stuff, always in line with seasons (probably due to the isolations from the rest of the world until a few decades ago): interesting fruits and veggies you'd find nowhere else, the best bananas and pineapples, mangos there are, etc

    – people: due to the mixed culture, everyone manages to live together despite (or thanks to, as it appears) differences in religion, culture, revenues and whatever else can separate people anywhere else. Surely not that perfect, yet much more peaceful than other places in the world.

    As mentioned by Vonbrucken there are lots of races every weeks on the trails.

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