[Editor’s Note: Photographer and Vert.Run co-founder Kirsten Kortebein created these images at the 2022 Grand Raid de La Réunion. Enjoy!]
This past weekend, the 2022 Grand Raid de La Réunion — a festival of racing featuring the 100-mile Diagonale des Fous and other shorter-distance events — took place on the island of Réunion, located in the Indian Ocean.
Since much of the race takes place on volcanic terrain, the Diagonale des Fous is rightfully known for being one of the toughest 100-mile races on the planet.
Besides the terrain, though, there’s something else that really sets the Grand Raid apart from other events. Since so many of the race’s participants are local, the ambiance of the race takes on a totally different feel. Large groups of friends and family wait for runners at the finish line, and masses of island residents come out to support the racers.
Plus, this year had an additional draw for locals: families with small children, older couples in their 80s, and teenage girls arriving by moped all flocked to the finish line on Saturday night to see Courtney Dauwalter’s historic, course-record-setting finish in the Diagonale des Fous.
Enjoy this look at the Grand Raid in photos.
Ronan Quere, who lives on the west coast of the island of Réunion, blows a kiss to a line of family and friends from the island who’ve come to support him at one of the easily accessible aid stations. All photos: iRunFar/Kirsten Kortebein
Hortense Begue, a Réunionnaise runner who finished fourth in the 70-kilometer La Mascareignes event, makes her way through La Possession — the town where she lives on the island.
Amélie Huchet, a Réunionnaise runner who’s known on the island for her positive energy and smiling attitude during races, flies past the crowds on her way to win the 70k La Mascareignes.
Courtney Dauwalter wins the 2022 Diagonale des Fous in 24 hours and 37 minutes — setting a new course record by hours and finishing fourth overall, which drew massive crowds of awestruck locals. The energy at the finish line was explosive as the island waited for her arrival; despite the fact that the men’s Grand Raid podium hadn’t even finished yet, the response when the announcer asked the crowd, “Who are you waiting for?” was a unanimous, “COURTNEY!”
An excited spectator lets out a whoop under the famous Pont Vinh-San bridge as the finishers pass. The bridge is a legendary part of the Grand Raid for the island’s residents and racers; it marks the last stretch toward the finish line, and is known for the crowds and great energy.
Another part of the Grand Raid that sets it apart from other races is one unique rule: runners are required to start and finish wearing their race t-shirt. Here, a runner pulls his Grand Raid t-shirt on over his other race gear as he nears the finish line.
Since there are so many Réunionnais runners that participate in the Grand Raid, the number of friends and family members who hike up to run the last section with their racers is innumerable. Here, Jimmy Rocrou is accompanied into the finish line.
“Is it really right there?” asks an incredulous runner, referring to the finish line. The race is full of lots of “surprise climbs,” and even in the last few hundred meters of downhill, many participants truly don’t believe that they’re about to finish.
Wearing his finisher’s t-shirt that says “J’ai survécu” — “I survived” — a runner floats his way to his car with the help of his friends.
“Dauwalter becomes the stuff of legend,” reads the front page of local newspaper “Le Quotidien.” Courtney’s win and incredible finish time blew the Réunionnais away. For her arrival, the finish line crowds of all ages were sardine-packed, shouting and smiling. “We’ve never had this many people stay out for the arrival of the first woman,” the finish line speaker told Courtney. “You did this. These crowds are for you.”