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Welcome to the Alps C

Maxwell Roche took on the 6000D, a 60k/37.2 mile off-road ultra. Here he recalls the highs – and the lows!

a va bien monsieur?” asks the concerned looking Frenchman as he thrusts toward me a steaming bowl of noodle soup. I accept the

soup with a smile and sway metrically back and forth. “Oui merci, je suis de Londres,” I reply between slurps of the warm savoury liquid. A look of understanding appears upon the man’s face as, with a sinister smile, he retorts “Welcome to the Alps!” Meeting his smile with raised eyebrows I stumble clumsily onwards. It doesn’t hit home until I’m 10 strides higher up that the man was dressed as a giant rabbit. “At 7am, four and a half hours prior to this curious encounter, I stood upon the start line amid a sea of excited faces and jovial chatter in the handsome Alpine town of Aime. With a very unfamiliar atmosphere, free of nervous puffing and anxious shaking of limbs characteristic of a typical UK marathon, this epic 60k (37.2mile) off-road ultra begins with a light hearted hum and easy manner such as would precede a morning stroll. The countdown commences, and then we’re off.

Reach for the sky

“For me, a reasonably experienced runner of road races, never further than

the typical 26.2mile distance, this was set to be an entirely new experience. Back in May this year I posted a new personal best at the Edinburgh Marathon of 3.09 and have been feeling fit ever since. Problem is, this race, the infamous 6000D in La Plagne France clocks 4,748m of vertical ascent/ descent, reaches altitudes of 3,047m, and traverses mud, rock, snow and ice! Edinburgh, in contrast, barely breaches sea level and is steadily downhill throughout. I had my work cut out, but nevertheless I set off steady and full of confidence. After all, with an 11 hour time limit, how hard could it be? “The initial 3k proves frustrating and I

start to regret being submissive on the start line, gawking at the back of the pack instead of elbowing my way forward. The wide and flat road soon becomes a 40 degree single track through dense woodland slowing everyone to a walk. Not surprisingly, the jovial chatter is promptly replaced by a chorus of heavy breathing. Trapped and striding slowly upward, I tell myself ‘This isn’t a sprint, it’s 60k, the longest race of your life,’ and in so doing, stem my growing frustrations. “After two hours spent in much the

same manner we finally break the treeline gaze up toward a white and blue sky framed by jagged pines. The path at this point, around 15k into the race, suddenly widens and the claustrophobic progression through the forest ends abruptly as the runners spray out on to the sandy pathway. “An hour later we reach the first

refreshment stop at 1,979m in Plagne Centre. The vista is now fully visible and the forest a distant memory. Smooth- edged summits dissect the lingering morning cloud and peer down upon the valley below. Closer at hand there is a view of equal magnificence; a 20ft table covered with piles of treats. Cheese, cold meats, nuts, dried fruit, cake and chocolate make up but a portion of the delicious fare on offer. I shove the first chunk of cheese homeward and check my watch; over three hours gone and little more than 20k in! Conscious that I would now be just nine minutes from the finish at Edinburgh, I begin to contemplate the enormity of the task. Luckily, the chocolate brownies prove to be an adequate distraction from such dangerous avenues of thought, and before I know it I’m fully engrossed. These Alpinians lay on a good spread!

Allez Maxwell! Moutain High!

Maxwell on top of the world

“The satisfying sound of rubber scratching upon the dusty track and the ringing of the cow bells keeps me company for the next 10k between Plagne Centre and Roche de Mio. With the severity of the incline increasing I

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