Day 1 – The Craziness of the Grand Raid Ultra Distance Trail Race

Sometimes you need to allow something crazy into your life to shake you out of your mundane comfort zone. Right at the top of those “crazy somethings” is the Grand Raid ultra distance trail race which happens every year in October on Reunion Island. For those who do not know, Reunion Island is 200 Km southwest from Mauritius.

More about the craziness: the longest of the three races you can choose from is the 165 Km La Diagonales des Fous route. La Diagonales des Fous means “the mad man’s diagonal”, so by definition, madness is a pre-requisite. Reunion Island is only 63 Km long and 45 Km wide, hence the diagonal criss-crossing, but the real catch is the total elevation, or climbing, during the race, which happens to be 9917 meters! To put it into perspective, the “up” Comrades marathon elevates with 1166 meters over 89 km. Killian Jornet, arguably the world’s best trail runner right now, has a best time in this 165 Km trail race of of 23 hours and 58 minutes So, in time on your feet, if you are the winner, it is the Comrades record time multiplied by 4.4, and the elevation multiplied by 8.5. This climbing is courtesy of the most beautiful, lush green, volcanic mountains, because Reunion Island, just like Hawaii, happens to be the remnant of bllions of years of volcanic activities, resulting in these wonderful mountains.

Arriving in style at the St Denis airport on the Reunion Island.

Arriving in style at the St Denis airport on the Reunion Island.

If you ran out of ideas for collecting bragging rights, the Grand Raid trail race is just for you. It has been in the running for 22 years, so there has got to be something that makes this a great race. For the less crazy, there is a shorter race, the Trail de Bourbon, 93 Km with an elevation of 5208 meters. If your are under the delusion that you are sane, a third race of “only” 67 Km with 4000 meters elevation, the Mascareignes route, awaits you.

When I got the call from EnduroHub to attend the race as journalist, I insisted to go on condition that I race as well. So right now, courtesy of ilop Sports, agents for the Grand Raid race and as Endurohub ambassador, I am looking down at the sea as we land on Reunion Island. I will attempt the 67 Km Mascareignas race. With 72 hours notice, I could do no formal preparation, so it is going to take some doing to finish this race. Last year’s winner clocked it in 12 hours. I have to allow for up to 16+ hours. The cut-off time is 19 hours. My body knows Ironman race times of 10hrs 45mins up to 11hrs 30mins. Running for 16 hours will be a totally different ball game, both mentally and physically. For once I might have bitten off more than I can chew. Only time will tell.

In an hour or two we will land on Reunion Island, and I will be able to find out more about Reunion Island, the Grand Raid trail race and everything that lies ahead.

Stay tuned…

Follow Frank Smuts and Enduro Hub as he conquers the 67km Grand Raid Trail race while also covering all the events as journalist.