For 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
- Kilian Journet (Salomon – Spain) – 26:33:10
- Antoine Guillon (Lafuma – France) – 27:44:47
- Arnaud Lejeune (Hoka – France) – 29:39:39
- Emilie Lecomte (EQH – France) – 33:03:17
- Nerea Martinez Urruzola (Salomon – Spain) – 35:27:20
- 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.