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Surely if you have been running for a while, you will have noticed the growing popularity of trail running and also trail running in Chamonix.
Personally I haven’t covered much trail running with the exception of Love Trails Festival in 2022, Black To The Trails in June 2023 and then my local parkrun which, with the exception of being flat as a pancake, has everything else. I can offer.
So it’s no surprise that when the opportunity or idea to run the Mont Blanc 10km in Chamonix with Nike Running arose, I jumped at the chance. All without really investigating whether Chamonix is good for beginners.
So where is Chamonix?
Chamonix is a city located in the southeastern part of France, close to the border with Switzerland and Italy. It is located in the French Alps and is known for its stunning mountain scenery, including the famous Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe.
Chamonix is a very popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, particularly skiing, mountaineering, walking and of course trail running in the summer months.
Weather in Chamonix
Chamonix experiences a mountainous climate with distinct seasons and quite changeable weather, as I experienced. June is the start of summer in Chamonix, which means generally pleasant temperatures, ideal for outdoor activities.
Typical daytime temperatures range from 15 °C (59 °F) to 25 °C (77 °F); during my trip, the average was about 27°C. Being summer also means longer daylight hours and relatively mild nights. However, temperatures can drop at higher elevations, so layers are advisable, especially if you’re heading out on the trails.
In the few days I spent in Chamonix I experienced everything from torrential rain to non-stop blazing sun. The best place to check the weather in Chamonix is Chamonix Meteo.
How to get to Chamonix from the UK
There are actually quite a few ways to get to Chamonix from the UK, but the most convenient option is to fly into Geneva International Airport (GVA) in Switzerland, which is the closest major airport to Chamonix.
Quite a few airlines offer direct flights from various UK airports to Geneva. I flew British Airways (from London City airport and back to Heathrow) as I had some airline miles to use which saved me some money on my flights.
Another option is to take the Eurostar train from London to Paris. From Paris, you can take a high-speed TGV train to Geneva.
If you prefer to drive, you can take a ferry or the Eurotunnel from the UK to Calais, France, and then head towards Chamonix. The journey by car usually takes between 9 and 10 hours, depending on the route and traffic conditions.
Transfers To Chamonix From Geneva
From the airport you can either take a bus transfer or rent a car to get to Chamonix which is about a 1.5 hour drive away.
I checked a few different sites to find the best times and prices for coaches and private transfers based on my flight times. They were:
ADVICE: Please be sure to allow sufficient time between your flight arrival time and pick-up time to account for flight delays and long lines at passport control in Geneva during the busiest periods of the year. Also, check the policy of the transfer you book regarding the loss of your transfer.
Where to stay in Chamonix
With Mont Blanc 10km on Saturday, I opted to stay in Chamonix for 3 nights; Thursday to Sunday. In hindsight I would have stayed a bit longer to enjoy the mountains, but Chamonix is quite expensive, especially when there is a high demand for accommodation in the area.
The initial plan was to book a hotel room, but after some confusion, I ended up only booking accommodation 6/7 weeks before the event. I found a great apartment on Booking that was a 15 minute walk from the 10km start line, <10 minute walk from Chamonix South bus station and centrally located.
The apartment slept about 5 people and cost less than a hotel room for the 3 nights, at the time of booking. It worked out well, sharing the apartment with 4 grand ladies, which made the cost much more reasonable. Staying in an apartment also meant we had facilities to cook what we wanted/needed (if we wanted) and also to have our ideal breakfast on race morning.
These are some of the hotels I looked at when choosing where to stay in Chamonix:
Review of the 10 km of Mont Blanc
When I signed up for this event, I didn’t even factor in the elevation until I was already registered. Once I realized the elevation was just under 300m I compared it to the 10km River Ness which I thought was hilly only to realize this event would have an additional 100m elevation.
When asked what my expected finish time would be while signing up, I initially put in my usual 10km time. Little did I know that realistically, whatever your 10K time is, you need to add another 20-25 minutes. Fortunately, you can change that information after signing up, so I changed it to less than 1 hour 45 minutes just to be safe.
Your 10km kit list:
- hydration vest / capacity to carry 500ml of water (mandatory)
- reusable cup/bottle (mandatory)
- trail running shoes
- wind jacket
- running hat
- in race fuel (according to personal preference)
It was clear that the Mont Blanc Marathon had a real emphasis on sustainability and green practices during events, such as the use of refillable water bottles, respect for the environment and local communities. At the time of bib collection, you will be asked to show your mandatory equipment in order to obtain your bib.
However, if you forget something at home, don’t worry as there are plenty of sports shops in Chamonix town centre, including Decathlon.
The first 4 km I spent inside my head. Wondering if I was out of my league, wondering if running was really for me, berating myself for not tackling as many hills as I’d planned in an effort to prepare.
Check out the 10km route on Strava:
The day before the Mont Blanc 10km, over coffee with a friend, Amy showed me the entire Mont Blanc 10km route on FATMAP, which turned out to be very helpful. She highlighted that most of the elevation was around the middle of the trail and then it was “downhill to the finish line.”
The start of the 10 km Marathon du Mont Blanc was quite cold. We swayed, hung out, then headed to the starting arc and off we went.
Run 10Km Marathon Du Mont Blanc
I quickly mistook a climb in the early stages of the race for the actual elevation when it was just a warm up for what was to come.
Most of the elevation came in the form of a single file walk, straight up the side of a mountain, traversing it, and then the descent to the finish line came into play.
The slowness of that mid-race kilometer was frustrating for some and terrifying for others. For me, it was a welcome break where I felt recharged, as once I was able to run again, I felt like a new person.
Running downhill has its own problems, especially on uneven terrain. There was a moment where I sprained my ankle while running over the edge of a cliff, but I managed to stop myself. I knew I had to keep running so my ankle wouldn’t swell up and that’s what I did.
There was a moment when I stumbled and went flying forward, but somehow I managed to catch myself and stay upright. It was precarious, but at this point, I loved life and I loved running trails.
However, the longest kilometer (after the 20 minute walk) had to be the final kilometer. You couldn’t really see the finish line until the last 100m so you never knew when it would end. All my race photos are of the finish line and that probably explains why I look so confused (and tired) in all of them.
Would I do this event again? Hell yeah. And if you have the opportunity to do it, take it (or take the opportunity).
My favorite places in Chamonix
After the race is over, there is much to explore in Chamonix and beyond. These are some of the must-see places that I managed to visit during my stay in Chamonix:
- Shouka Chamonix for coffee or hot chocolate
- can be very busy so not always easy to get a table
- Moody Coffee Roasters for the coffee, obviously
- It was always closed when I tried to visit so it’s on my list for next time
- at Ricardo’s house Chamonix for cakes and ice creams
- Dart Waterfall Hike
- Less than 5 km away, this hike is perfect for stretching your legs and you will be able to see the waterfall with frozen water that comes directly from the glacier.
- SHE Chamonix, a great little Mediterranean restaurant
- Super U et Drive (117 Rue Joseph Vallot) for groceries
- it’s a bit like WholeFoods prices for pretty regular groceries but it’s the best/best selection central Chamonix has to offer
I’m also planning a visit to Annecy, another alpine town in south-eastern France with a beautiful lake, Lac d’Annecy, the next time I’m in the area.
Tips for your trail running holiday in Chamonix
As much as I had a great time in Chamonix for the 10km du Marathon Mont Blanc, there were some administrative tasks to do that go beyond what we normally do here in the UK.
First of all, let’s talk about the fact that to participate in events in France (and Italy, I’ve heard), you need to present a medical certificate signed by a doctor before the event.
If you’re lucky, your GP will do it for you and probably charge you. If not, you’ll have to go private. I can highly recommend DocTap, which was used by many of my fellow UK Mont Blanc 10K participants.
This was the biggest thing that got resolved tbh, but it was quite stressful as there was a deadline to submit that if you missed your race spot would be cancelled.
Other than that, this is your reminder to pack sunscreen for your body, your face, and your lips especially. And be sure to thoroughly read the digitally provided manuals for your event for required equipment and recommended equipment.
For those facing more difficult events, they will also need insurance that covers air rescue in the mountains.
Before I go, I just want to say a huge thank you to Dora, Nike Running Coach and Ultra Black Running Founder, for sharing this event with the community and Nike Running for the venue.
Getting to events that normally lack diversity can be a lot when you’re on your own, so it was epic to be with a group of 100+ riders who represent creating space for those who aren’t normally represented in trail running.
Have you been to Chamonix before? Do you have any advice? Leave it in the comments below!