Its 4pm Friday evening and its go time! Paulo and I make our way to the start line and contemplate where to cram in to the hoards of runners. As we approach the church a race official motions us and proceeds to move one of the barriers to allow us in. Then as we enter I am stopped short as the race official points at me and says “NOT YOU!”. You see, Paulo had a low bib number that qualified him as an elite and making him eligible to move up to the very front of the start line. Our plans to start and try to finish together were suddenly in jeopardy. Paulo looked at me, then looked at the head of the line, hesitated for a second and looked at me again. “Have a good race man!” he said with a smile as we hugged and said goodbye. Not that I blame him I would have done the same thing if I had the opportunity to stand just meters from the likes of Anton Krupicka, Timmy Olson, and others!. Plus he worked hard for that bib – having a great race at AR50 and Western States the last year.
Shortly after our goodbye I squeezed myself squarely in the middle of the pack of runners. “So this it what sardines feel like” I think to myself. Gray clouds loom above us. The UTMB theme plays loudly (Conquest of Parradise – Vangelis) as the French announcer speaks indecipherably but commandingly into the loudspeakers. I hear bits of French and German from the other runners surrounding me representing over 70 countries. As the countdown clock approaches five minutes to the start, suddenly the clouds open up and fat, cold rain drops begin to fall creating the perfect landscape for one of the hardest ultras in the world. Could it really get any better than this?? The runners around me quickly reach into their packs to grab their rain jackets. Finally the countdown begins “CINQ!, QUATRE!, TROIS!, DEUX!, UN!” and the crowd cheers loudly as 2300 runners and I begin are slow march through the streets of Chamonix towards Les Houches.
More to come! Check back soon!