The competitors are starting to flow into the city, and race faces are everywhere to be seen. How about this: did you know 10 entrants are allowed to do this race accompanied by their dogs? 175 Km of trail running with your dog can only be a truly special experience. And the dog also pays an entry fee, so tell Rex to start saving up. The other great rule is that age is favoured to beauty. If two people cross the finish line at exactly the same time, the older competitor gets the higher placing. Love it!
You might think: “How many people would attempt a 165 Km race on Reunion Island?”. Believe it or not, there are 2500 entries for the long race, the Diagonale des Fous, and another 3000 split between the other two shorter races, the Trail de Bourbon and the Mascareignes. People come from every country you can imagine! If you Google “Grand Raid Trail Race”, or anything close to that, you will find the official website opens up with a short video that will blow your mind! The beauty is beyond words. Think “Jurassic Park”, and you get to run through it for hours and hours.
I went for a recce run today, and now I understand why next to soccer, trail running happens to be the biggest sport on Reunion Island. The yellow pointer on my Garmin tracking map marks the start of trails that cover the entire island like a network. It is trail run heaven. The trails are very technical, but not unpredictable, and the views indescribable. You will be as good and fast as your fitness and skills will allow you, but if you loose focus or make wrong decisions you will pay the price!
I also ventured into the streets of Saint Denis, the city where I stay and got very lost. I even came across a Saffa advertisement board which I could not understand for the life of me. Something about “15 years”, I think! Everone speaks French and almost no English, which makes communication rather tricky. The cost of life is on par with France, which means a Red Bull 250 ml costs R30, a small size chips or “french fries” about R28 and a beer R30. To an athlete these stats would be of no concern anyway. Athletes only eat healthy.
After today I am really looking forward to the race, but will I finish it? That remains to be seen!
Follow Frank Smuts and Enduro Hub as he conquers the 67km Grand Raid Trail race while also covering all the events as journalist.