France’s Antoine Guillon is the Diagonale des Fous defending champion and a nine-time finisher. In going for his 10th finish this year, Antoine is participating in what he calls a most challenging race. In the following interview, Antoine talks about what brings him back to Réunion Island year after year, how race conditions change dramatically over the course of the event, and how he mentally visualizes the race as he prepares for it.
[Editor’s Note: Thank you to Fabrice Payet for the translation.]
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Antoine Guillon Pre-2016 Diagonale des Fous Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m on Réunion Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean a couple days before the 2016 Grand Raid Réunion. I’m with men’s defending champion, Antoine Guillon. Bonjour! Hello! How are you?
Antoine Guillon: Bonjour. Fine.
iRunFar: You are the defending champion of the Grand Raid Réunion. Not only are you the defending champion, but you are a nine-time finisher. How does it feel to come back to this race now?
Guillon: I have always the same motivation when I come here. It’s a great adventure to cross the island. It’s like the first day. I didn’t change. It’s always the same.
iRunFar: Even though you don’t change, the terrain and the course of the Grand Raid Réunion changes. You start on the ocean. You climb a volcano, come down, and climb another volcano. Constantly the environment is changing. How do you adapt your body to that in this race?
Guillon: I’m following every time all the information about the race, all the changes. I know everything. This year I did especially cycling to be on top. I’m able to be on the top. I will be on the top.
iRunFar: Nine times a finisher. We’re way out here in the Indian Ocean. Yes, this is still part of France, but you’re quite far away. It’s a challenge to get here. What brings you back each year?
Guillon: For me, it’s the hardest race in the world. You have everything you can find—heat, cold, very steep climbs and hard climbs, hard descents, and also every year there are very good runners. This is for me the best race in the world.
iRunFar: The people of the Réunion Island are fanatical about his race. Thousands of them come to this course to see people like you run. What is it like? You travel around the world to a lot of different races. The culture is different everywhere. How can you describe what it’s like here?
Guillon: Here on Réunion Island, it’s not the runners who make the story of the race, it’s the people. The people around the race make the story and the culture of the race.
iRunFar: My last question for you. I know from studying your social media that you are very analytical about your preparation for your races—your kit, your training. What special things do you do to prepare for this race and the challenges specific to the Grand Raid Réunion?
Guillon: This year, I made 250,000 meters climbing and walking only for this preparation, 100,000 meters by cycling. I worked also very technically, because it’s very hard. The field [trail] is very hard and very technical. Most of my preparation is mental. I did two or three or four times the race in my head. I know the race. I made it in my head many times.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you defending your championship of Grand Raid Réunion. May your mind and body be with you.
Guillon: Thank you so much.