FOULEES DE FROMENTAL (10km)
Strides of Fromental I think, but Foulees could equally be fools as it turned out.
I did this race on the middle Saturday of my holiday near Limoges. It took a bit of planning as you need a medical certificate to run in France but I thought it would be fun to try a race in a different country. It did cross my mind that it may be a bit warm, but I thought the 6.30pm start (5.30 UK time) would mean it would be a little cooler. What I (and indeed the locals) didn’t anticipate was that race day would be one of the hottest days of the year.
I was nearly spared the race as I forgot to take the medical certificate to the race, so had to act a bit dim (quite easy being English in France), so a quick Gallic shrug from the organiser and I was in.
It was 32 degrees at the start (Celsius to be clear), and a touch of cloud in the early evening only served to make it more humid and keep the temperature the same. After a brief warm-up which had me pouring with sweat already it was time to go on the first of two 5k laps. The organisers did their best to ensure we had enough fluid with cups and sponges of water every km, and even a power washer on the start/finish line acting as an Olympic marathon style rain curtain, but they could do nothing about the heat and lack of oxygen.
After only a couple of km I was puffing hard but it seemed to make no difference – my temperature was rising rapidly and I could do nothing about my oxygen deficit. The first 3k of each lap were also uphill, though I’m not sure that actually made any difference. In the final km of the first lap I was struggling badly, and already two locals had thrown in the towel and were staggering back to a soon-to-be-busy race hq.
The first lap took me close to 24 minutes, and the thought of stopping did cross my mind, but I ploughed on – for Queen and country and all that! The second lap started in the same vein as the first, uphill and me struggling like, well, an idiot Englishman trying to race in France. I managed to find a bit more of an even rhythm in the second lap, but it was still really attritional stuff, and a real battle to keep going.
In the final 2k I managed to peg a few people back, and finished in 47m46s, absolutely drained from the effort. In terms of difficulty it truly ranked alongside the Edale Skyline or the full Sandstone Trail.
The Race HQ had now been turned into pretty much a field hospital. An extra ambulance arrived to treat people evidently suffering with heatstroke. I counted six (out of less than 100 starters) being treated when I went in, one guy requiring oxygen. An old man had also collapsed outside just from spectating.
It was an experience running in France, but a really, really tough one. An hour after the race it was still 28 degrees. Think carefully if you ever find the thought crossing your mind.
And the differences to a race in the UK? Unsurprisingly the whole community comes out to cheer you on, the blind athlete got a head start, and they re-use the race numbers (complete with stains!).