The Chamonix Marathon, or Marathon du Mont Blanc, is much more than 26.2 miles… For a start, as we’re in France, all the distances are in kilometres rather than in miles, so the marathon is a 42km distance race. But putting metric versus imperial aside, there are now 8 races taking place over a 3-day weekend. This ensures that the Chamonix marathon is a date not-to-be-missed in the diary of keen trail runners everywhere.
History of the Chamonix Marathon
It all started in 1979 with the Cross du Mont-Blanc, the half-marathon distance race of 23km.
Twenty-four years later, in 2003, the eponymous marathon distance was introduced, swiftly followed by the 10km in 2004. Another burst of developments brought in the infamous vertical kilometre race (KM Vertical) in 2011 and the 80km event in 2013.
Proving that the organisers are always looking for ways to widen the appeal of the race, 2017 saw the first Young Race Marathon and the magical Duo étoilé race which takes place under the starry skies of Chamonix.
After five years of hosting the 80km race, recent GPS and map assessments have concluded that the route is actually 91km long! 2018 will therefore see the renaming of the route as the Mont Blanc 90km.
Mont Blanc Marathon stats
Check out our quick overview of the stats for each race which makes up the Chamonix Marathon weekend.
- Mont Blanc 90km: 6220m D+/-, 1000 runners at the start
- Chamonix Marathon / Mont Blanc 42km: 2730m D+ / 1700 m D-, 2300 runners at the start
- Mont Blanc Cross / 23km: 1680m D+ / 870m D-, 2000 runners at the start
- Mont Blanc 10km: 325m D+/-, 2000 runners at the start
- Duo étoilé: 17km with 1300m D+/-, 500 teams of 2 runners at the start
- Vertical KM: 3.8km with 1000m D+, 700 runners at the start
- Young Race Marathon: 15 km with 1030m D+, 100 runners at the start
- Mini Cross: From 800m to 3km, 500 children of 7 to 15 years at the start
Some other facts about the Marathon du Mont Blanc:
- 10,500 runners, including 300 elite athletes
- 80 nations represented, including 30% from outside of France
- 15,000 registrations into the draw for 5000 places
The Mont Blanc 90km traverses across between France and Switzerland, while the other races over the weekend are all run around the Chamonix valley.
As the Chamonix Marathon is the first major trail running event of the summer, there’s always the risk that some of the higher sections of the races will encounter snow patches which have not yet melted after the winter (particularly this year with the regular snowfall we’ve experienced throughout the ski season). This is of biggest concern on the route of the Mont Blanc 90km, so there are fallback routes in place to cut out some of the highest altitude sections.
Similarly, the Mont Blanc Marathon and Mont Blanc Cross races usually have their photogenic finish line at Planpraz, approx. 2000m above sea level. However in bad weather conditions, the course can be redirected from Flégère, to come directly back down to a finish line in Chamonix rather than continuing up.
The Vertical KM is an infamous course. While short in distance on the ground (only 3.8km), there are 1000m to climb. Runners set off from the centre of Chamonix, passing underneath the Planpraz cable car, and completing the top section by overcoming the very steep and exposed path, equipped with cables and ladders.
Nurturing young passions for trail running is also at the heart of the Chamonix Marathon philosophy. The Mini Cross takes places in the Bois du Bouchet, while the Young Race Marathon takes in the final 15km of the marathon route to provide a true introduction to the world of competitive trail running.
About Chamonix Marathon
The Aiguilles Rouges Nature Reserve is traversed by the routes of the Mont Blanc 90km race, the Mont Blanc Marathon and by the course of the Cross event. This reserve is a protected zone, home to many native mountain flore and fauna, including chamois mountain goats, ibex, marmottes and eagles. Athletes are provided with information to raise their awareness of the fragility of the area, as well as to ensure they appreciate the beauty of the setting.
The Chamonix Marathon organisers also take their responsibility to their athletes very seriously. In recent years, they have provided a wealth of care services including over 60 physical therapists, podiatrists, reflexologists, and massage therapists over the weekend.
As well as taking care of the athletes’ physiques, their security in the mountain is also paramount for the race. The safety record is exemplary and the security plan is in line with the strict regulations of the FFA (Fédération Française d’Athlétisme).
The Club des Sports de Chamonix (the sports association behind the Chamonix Marathon) works closely with many partners to ensure the safety of athletes: La Chamoniarde, the local mountain rescue organisation; the CNEAS, the national training centre for mountaineering and company for national safety in skiing; the Red Cross; the EMHM, military high-mountain school; the GMSP, mountain group of firefighters; as well as the team which manages the trails within the valley.
The Club also entrusts the coordination of medical rescue services on the course to a professional body – Dokever.
Last but not least, no race in Chamonix valley would be complete without a troupe of volunteers. The Chamonix Marathon relies on over 500 volunteers to help signal the course and provide refreshments to athletes, ensuring the success of the race year after year.
Marathon du Mont Blanc – Programme 2018
Thursday 28th June 2018
- 9am – Opening of the Trail Camp
Friday 29th June 2018
- 4am – start of the Mont Blanc 90km
- 4pm – start of the Vertical KM
Saturday 30th June 2018
- 8am – start of the Mont Blanc Cross / 23km
- 10am – start of the Mini Cross
- 1pm – start of Mont Blanc 10km
- 8pm – start of the Duo Étoilé
Sunday 1st July 2018
- 7am – start of the Mont Blanc Marathon / 42km
- 10am – start of the Young Race Marathon
Chamonix All Year loves the Chamonix Marathon
We love the buzz of the marathon weekend in Chamonix and, for us, it really kicks off the summer season. If you’re lining up on the start line for one of the races, you may even be alongside one of our sporty team members!
Our sales team will also be delighted to help you find the perfect accommodation for your marathon stay in Chamonix. Need a hot tub to soak away your aches after the race? We’ll hand-pick the property that suits your needs, and those of your supporters, family and friends too. Search for your accommodation dates on our site or contact us to organise your stay now.