Quebec runner wins one of world's most challenging trail races
Anne Champagne tops field at the Trail du Bourbon
In mid-October, Quebec trail runner extraordinaire Anne Champagne travelled to Réunion Island, a French territory in the Indian Ocean, to take part in one of the most challenging, some might say brutal, trail running races on the planet. It was something she had not planned to do, but she was a surprise winner nonetheless.
“I participated in the Quebec Mega Trail 110K in June that was hosting the Canadian Ultra Trail championship, won it and had a chance to be invited to the Grand Raid de la Réunion,” she says. “With this opportunity, my race calendar changed and I included it as a final race for 2019.”
Champagne is well-known to readers of Get Out There, as she was featured earlier this year following her epic Spartan Race outright win. Following that race, she moved to ultra trail running and set herself some pretty sizable goals.
Grand Raid de la Réunion, held Oct. 17-20, features a number of different race options. The oldest race is the Grand Raid or Diagonale des Fous (Madman’s Diagonal) at 170K and 9,643 metres of altitude gain, followed by the Trail du Bourbon at 133K and 6,500 metres of altitude gain, the Mascareignes Raid at 61K and 3,036 metres and the Zembrocal Trail — a 182K relay race.
Photos by Mathieu Blanchard (@mathieu_blanchard)
Champagne opted for the Trail de Bourbon, a 113K distance over super-rugged terrain because she was comfortable at the distance and knew she would do well.
To prepare for the unique competition, Champagne travelled to the region nine days prior to the race to get used to the conditions and train.
“I had no specific goal in mind because I didn’t have anything to compare it to,” she says. “The race is so unique because of how technical the terrain is, the long ascents and descents.”
Having no clear objective in mind eased any burden of expectation and allowed the talented young runner to embrace the spirit of the race and enjoy the experience. The rest took care of itself.
Champagne started conservatively on the first ascent and was in 40th position overall at the first split. She finished the race sixth overall, and the first female finisher.
“I think I ran an intelligent race,” she says. “I had a down between the 80 and 90 kilometres but was able to focus mentally to finish strong. I had the chance to have friends with me as a support crew and it helped a lot mentally to see them.”
Among the highlights of the race for Champagne is the sunrise on the Cirque de Mafate caldera on Reunion Island, which was formed by a collapsed volcano.
“I will remember it for sure,” she says. “The finish line will also definitely be a moment to remember. The atmosphere, seeing my friends there cheering for me and realizing the accomplishment.”
The challenges were also numerous, including the many long ascents.
“From what I’ve experienced, it is the most challenging and toughest race I’ve done,” she adds.
Now that she’s back home in Quebec, Champagne is spending a couple of weeks recovering before getting to work planning her 2020 race schedule.
Other results from the race include French runner Lambert Santelli winning the Trail du Bourbon, Gregoire Curmer, another French runner, winning the Diagonale des Fous with American Sabrina Stanley the top female. Another Quebec sensation Claudine Soucie won the women’s Mascareignes with French runner Alexis Sevennec in first overall.