La Réunion’s Freddy Thévenin is a five-time Diagonale des Fous finisher, including second place in 2013 and third place last year. In this interview, Freddy talks about his life outside of running, what the Diagonale des Fous means to him and other local people, if he feels pressure to succeed, and how the DdF has become more competitive in the last few years.
[Editor’s Note: Thank you to Jérôme Désiré for the translation assistance.]
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Freddy Thévenin Pre-2016 Diagonale Des Fous Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m in Saint-Denis, Réunion. It’s a couple days before the 2016 Grand Raid Réunion, the 2016 Diagonale des Fous. I’m with La Réunion’s Freddy Thévenin. Nice to meet you.
Freddy Thévenin: Nice to meet you, too.
iRunFar: Thank you also, Jérôme Désiré, for the translation.
Jérôme Désiré: With pleasure. With pleasure.
iRunFar: I’ve just arrived to Réunion Island four days ago, and I am overwhelmed. What do I need to know about your island?
Thévenin: The most beautiful things here obviously are the volcano and the race of Diagonale des Fous. Hopefully you will enjoy the race which is quite amazing here.
iRunFar: Everywhere I go, people say, “Freddy this,” or “Freddy that.” I won’t see until race day, but I hear you’re a bit of a superstar on the island?
Thévenin: Yeah, there are a lot of expectations of me, of course. Réunion Island is a big island who lives for the trail running. I’m going to my best for this race.
iRunFar: I want to ask you a couple specific questions about the race, but before that, I’d love for iRunFar fans to learn a little bit about you. What part of the island do you come from? What do you do when you’re not trail running? Who is in your family?
Thévenin: When I have free time, I work for my sponsor, Prudence Créole. I work for the company as well. It’s an insurance company here. I have my job and my training, but when I have time to spend with my family I make the most of it because I know I don’t have much time especially on the weekend when I’m always on the trails.
iRunFar: The island, when you look at Réunion Island on the map it’s very small, but once you get here, you see there are many different departments and regions. What part of the island do you come from, Freddy?
Thévenin: I live in the center of the island near the volcano in a town called Plaine-des-Palmistes. I was born there and all my family and my sisters were born there as well.
iRunFar: I drove through there yesterday, so I should have been waving to your family.
Thévenin: Yes, you should have come to my place to have a special coffee from the Plaine-des-Palmistes.
iRunFar: I’ve spent a couple days recceing the course, and I’ve seen how much it changes. You run on some pavement, through a couple agricultural areas, and through a couple volcanic cirques. Being successful at Grand Raid Réunion, it seems like you must have so many different skills in your skillset. What does it take to do well and to feel good at Grand Raid Réunion?
Thévenin: If you want to perform at Diagonale, you have to like climbing because there are a lot of climbs here and the downhills as well, a lot of downhills. It’s very technical, so if you like technical trails, you will love here. Of course, other big point here is the heat. When you enter Mafate, which is a cirque, during the day, it’s extremely hot, and you have to deal with this. For the last section of the course it’s in the afternoon and basically it’s easier physically, but you have to hang on mentally. The trail is easier, but it’s the end of the race and it’s more than 150 kilometers. You have to be strong in your head.
iRunFar: My last question for you. If I understand it right, you’re a five-time finisher, is that right?
Thévenin: Five times.
iRunFar: Last year you achieved the podium. This is a difficult race. You must put much physical and mental effort into it. Five times a finish, on the podium, what keeps bringing you back? Are there more goals and things that you’re seeking?
Thévenin: Yeah, I already finished second and third. Of course, what I’m looking for now is a victory.
iRunFar: At least he’s being honest.
Thévenin: Yes, I came for the victory. There is a lot of pressure on me from the locals. Obviously, since the race entered the UTWT [Ultra-Trail World Tour], the level of the competitors is much higher. I like it. I love it. When I run here and different local races, it’s a little bit lonely at the front with nobody to challenge me. Thanks to the World Tour and thanks to this, I can compare my talents to the other ones.
iRunFar: Fantastic. Best of luck to you on Thursday and Friday. I sincerely look forward to following the race.
Thévenin: Yes, thank you.