Imagine a challenge so finely balanced that after 15 hours of total physical commitment and days of planning the target is missed by a fraction over half a minute. That would be incredible, non? Well that is exactly what happened at the ASICS Outrun The Sun event last year. Two teams attempted to run around the Mont Blanc as a relay between sunrise and sunset – just over 15 hours. One team – Team Ultra Trail – made it with a few minutes to spare. The second team, Team Enduro – which included my wonderful friend Holly Rush – missed the official sunset time by 33 seconds. As I said in the film that Sunset + Vine made about the event, it is hard to imagine a better challenge: had the route around the highest peak in Europe been even 10km longer or shorter, there would have been no challenge.
But there you have it: a perfectly poised challenge that was great fun to observe. And having run the CCC – the same route but only from Courmayeur to Chamonix – I know exactly how tough the challenge was.
But what next? Team Ultra Trail, which included a former winner of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, beat the sun. The next group attempting this would have learned from any slight mistakes the successful team made last year. And Team Enduro… well they would know that they just have to run 33 seconds faster. Obviously there is no way to artificially make the course tougher. I guess you could handicap the runners in some way. But that would be very hard to do fairly. So how about handicapping the team? Maybe by offering a non-elite athlete or two a place? Yes, that would work. And that is exactly what ASICS have done.
Next weekend ASICS Beat The Sun returns to Chamonix and this time they have decided to let amateur runners be part of the fun.
In fact this year ASICS have created five teams, one each from northern Europe, southern Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia-Pacific. And each team has a contingent of amateur runners. For team northern Europe, which has Holly Rush, Christian Schiester (Austria) and Lukas Naegele (Germany) as the elite athletes, there will be Loughborough University Student Charlotte Love, aged 23 from Ascot, Finn Volger from Germany and Benjamin Druml from Austria.
The challenge remains the same – the six athletes have 15 hours, 41 minutes and 35 seconds to cover 148km which includes 8,370m of ascent and descent.
Honestly, knowing how hard Team Enduro worked to miss the target by 33 seconds, I think this is a big ask. Personally I would not rate my chances of running my leg fast enough to keep any team I was in, in contention. But thankfully that is not something that is going to be tested. ASICS have very generously invited me to go to Chamonix to watch the five teams take on the mountain paths, and I am sure there will be plenty of trail running for those of us observers who want to, but there won’t be any pressure. Other than to make sure we leave something behind the bar for when the thirsty runners make it back… hopefully just before the sun sets.