Germain Grangier Pre-2023 UTMB Interview

A video interview with Germain Grangier before the 2023 UTMB with transcript.

By on August 28, 2023 | Comments

France’s Germain Grangier placed fifth at the 2021 UTMB, up from ninth in 2019, and is back for more in 2023. In this interview, our first with Germain, he talks a little about his background in the sport, the importance of getting the details right for honing a performance at UTMB, and the parts of this familiar course that particularly suit or challenge him.

For more on who’s racing, check out our in-depth men’s and women’s previews. Follow along with our UTMB live race coverage from Friday.

Germain Grangier Pre-2023 UTMB Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Germain Grangier. It’s a couple of days before the 2023 UTMB. Hi, Germain. This is my first time interviewing you.

Germain Grangier: Yeah, thanks for inviting me on this interview.

iRunFar: Yeah. I’ve seen you race for a long time. I’ve known you for a long time, but this is iRunFar’s first interview with you. I’d love to learn a little bit about you. We were talking off camera that you came to running from first alpine skiing and then road biking.

Grangier: Yeah, exactly. I grew up in a French ski resort. So skiing was the first sport I did. Then my family moved to the south of France close to Nice. So that’s when I started mountain biking then road biking.

iRunFar: And then when did trail running and then ultra trail become part of the sports menu?

Grangier: Yeah, actually, after a few years of road biking I got injured. At the time I was in Poland doing my studies and sport, so,I decided to push more on the student side and move to Grenoble to earn my geology engineering diploma. So, I had less time and at that time I found out about trail running.

iRunFar: You and I share that in common that we both studied geology. [laughs]

Grangier: Okay. I didn’t know. Cool.

iRunFar: It’s fun to be a geologist or to have that as your background as a trail runner.

Grangier: Yeah, it’s fun. You see the rocks, you see your surroundings when you are running. You’re more aware what, where you are. Why the mountain looks like that. But yeah, had to choose and running is way more fun.

iRunFar: Yeah, yeah. So UTMB is sort of a fixture in your life now. You have two finishes and three starts of this race. This will be your fourth start. What makes you keep coming back to this race?

Grangier: I think at first it was really the main reason why I started ultrarunning, I would say. And yeah, I don’t know. I like the atmosphere of the race. I like the race route, which is really logical. It’s like a nice circling route. And yeah, there was good competition here. I just like the place, the competition, the atmosphere, and really testing myself. I feel like it’s the best place to test myself.

iRunFar: Yeah. You have had two finishes inside the top 10 of this race, right?

Grangier: Yeah, exactly.

iRunFar: And your top finish was a fifth place, which I think a lot of people would say that is like a career high, if you’re able to place fifth at UTMB. So, when a person comes back to a race after taking fifth like that, you must know that you can do more.

Grangier: Yeah, exactly. And that’s the tricky point, I would say. You know you were at that place, so you want to take more risk, but you still need to run smart. So, I think it’s a point that it’s pretty hard to, I don’t know how to say, but to like, move further. Because you know, it’s like when you’re at 99% and this last percent takes a while to get. It’s like, okay, I got fifth, but it’s not like in a few months or a year that I can make it higher. It’s those last percentages that takes time, dedication, and you need to be consistent. And yeah, we’ll see if everything plays well.

iRunFar: Yeah. You have been in Chamonix for you said I think a month and a half. You must be taking this race very seriously.

Grangier: Yeah, that’s actually the first time I did that. So the first time was more like, okay, I want to finish. The race starts really slow. Then second year, I’ll take more risk. But I never took the time to really like optimize the recce, the whole the nutrition around the race, like, what are the small details that can make you get those little minutes, stuff like that.

iRunFar: Yeah. So, you’re really taking care, or trying to take care for the details this time?

Grangier: Yeah, I’m trying to care more about the little things. And also, I’m trying to do the minimal training to get the best adaptation from that. It’s hard also because you always want to do more, but it’s like at school when you have an exam and you write 10 pages and maybe two is enough. I’m trying to find the limit, and to train, and recover well from what I’m training from, and get the best of myself.

iRunFar: Now this course is really interesting in that there are parts that are technical, parts that are more runnable. I mean, kilometers and kilometers of very runnable terrain. Some steeper climbs and descents, some more rolling. What is it? What parts of the course feature well for you, and what will be more challenging for your own strengths and weaknesses?

Grangier: I would say I’m not super good at anything.

iRunFar: [laughs] Are you a jack of all trades?

Grangier: Yeah, I would say I like moving all the parts. And yeah, maybe I’m not a big fan of the start just because I don’t like that much the atmosphere on the start.

iRunFar: It’s the craziest start, isn’t it?

Grangier: Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s like, most of it is in the city, like through villages. And I think it takes time to really get into the race you signed for, I would say. Like, when you hit Notre Dame de la Gorge, you’re like, okay, now.

iRunFar: Then it’s finally a trail race, yeah.

Grangier: Then it’s like, okay, that’s the race I want to do, and it’s now, so. And it’s easy to overrun the first parts because you if you feel good, it’s the most easy place of the race. So yeah, I will try to be smart.

iRunFar: It’s interesting because I think Notre Dame de la Gorge is like 35 kilometers into the race. Like, that’s 20% of UTMB

Grangier: Yeah, yeah, it’s crazy. Because when you look at your watch, you’re like, okay. But you feel it. Now it’s long to really start.

iRunFar: Yeah.

Grangier: And yeah, it’s like kind of like a relief. I don’t know. When you hit that place, you’re like, okay, now it’s the race.

iRunFar: I feel that UTMB is interesting in that you start with the night, and then you race the next day. In many 100 milers, you start with the day and finish with the night. To me it seems like an extra challenge. What do you think about sort of that flip flopping of night and day?

Grangier: Yeah, I feel like it’s really particular to UTMB, this evening start. And I personally like this kind of stuff because I prefer to eat the night quickly than to wait for the night. But yeah, it’s interesting. I think that’s why there was a lot of different reaction to this race because not a lot of people are used to run at night and like to run at night. And yeah, around breakfast time, it’s always a turning point of the race, I would say. It’s something that definitely needs to be taken seriously.

iRunFar: Yeah. You’ve been here for six weeks. You’ve seen all the course now. Do you have a part that you’re like, really looking forward to doing?

Grangier: Yeah, I would say my favorite part is between Courmayeur and La Fouly. I really like this balcony, or unfortunately during race day, it’s dark. But even I like this part, because there is no big climbs. No big downhills. You can kind of run. You feel you’re actually moving.

iRunFar: Yeah. And you’re quite high there.

Grangier: Exactly. Yeah. It’s interesting. And then yeah, then the last part is way different from everything else before.

iRunFar: One thing I like to ask runners is, you know, there’s always a joke about where the UTMB race starts. Does it start on the starting line? Does it start in Les Contamines? Does it start in Courmayeur? Where does the UTMB race start?

Grangier: I don’t know. I would say, start from the start, for sure.

iRunFar: [laughs]

Grangier: And then you decide where you really want to, to do your move and to do your little push. Even if you think your little push will be around Champex, it’s not going to be a push. You’re just maintaining the speed more or less.

iRunFar: It’s a psychological push.

Grangier: Yeah.

iRunFar: You’re trying mentally, too. Exactly, exactly. Well, that’s important. But yeah, I think it’s really like, different scenarios. Yeah, this year the field is I think like, the few names really on top of the list, but the field is really dense and compact at like a similar level, which will make the race really interesting.

iRunFar: For me, I see like 25 men who could potentially be like, top seven in this race.

Grangier: Yeah. Yeah. Even more.

iRunFar: Oh, you think?

Grangier: Yeah, yeah, even more. It’s hard to name people. And it’s hard to also know the people’s strategies. That will be interesting in real-time.

iRunFar: Yeah. Well, best of luck to you in completing your third loop and fourth start of UTMB. Good luck.

Grangier: Thanks a lot.

Meghan Hicks

Meghan Hicks is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. She’s been running since she was 13 years old, and writing and editing about the sport for around 15 years. She served as iRunFar’s Managing Editor from 2013 through mid-2023, when she stepped into the role of Editor-in-Chief. Aside from iRunFar, Meghan has worked in communications and education in several of America’s national parks, was a contributing editor for Trail Runner magazine, and served as a columnist at Marathon & Beyond. She’s the co-author of Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running with Bryon Powell. She won the 2013 Marathon des Sables, finished on the podium of the Hardrock 100 Mile in 2021, and has previously set fastest known times on the Nolan’s 14 mountain running route in 2016 and 2020. Based part-time in Moab, Utah and Silverton, Colorado, Meghan also enjoys reading, biking, backpacking, and watching sunsets.