Var Verdon Canyon Challenge 2019 Trail Run

Jul 19, 2019
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Although I’m not so old yet, but I decided to leave my memories of Var Verdon Canyon Challenge 2019 here. Just in case 🙂 This trail fest happens every year in Var department of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Ah, that magic Provence…

A little bit of history. First I saw Verdon Canyon when I didn’t even start running (I’m not talking about childhood, when everybody runs). But even then I had this feeling of “wow, how cool it would be to hike here”. Later, when I’ve already had some trails under my belt, I started to look for a beautiful place to pass away while running run somewhere around here.

Because the place is damn beautiful! Rocks, the lake (artificial, but who cares!), fresh air… Having thought for about… a couple of seconds I pressed the link “Register” and burned my bridges.

How to get there. To be honest, I’ve chosen automobile, because I don’t know any other mean of transportation, which is more acceptable in case of Verdon. The nearest airport is in 130 km (80 miles) in Nice. I haven’t seen any train station in the nearby villages. I decided to travel by car, because it lets us (my wife and kids and me) enjoy other beautiful places on the way.

Accommodation. We stayed at the Camping de l’Aigle in Aiguines. Sure we did, because it’s the cheapest and the closest accommodation (less than 1 km) to the starting line. Views are magnificent! By the way, this is the only camping during this the whole trip from Kyiv to the Atlantic Ocean and back, which had toilets with automatic disinfection.

The Event. This year’s distances:
10 km (680m total ascent). Registration fee – 15 €. Start at 10:00.
17 km (1190+), 18 €, 9:00.
30 km (1780+), 45 €, 6:00. This was my distance. In fact, it was 29,8 km and 1579 ascent.
60 km (4000+), 75 €, 4:00.

In order to participate, you need the medical certificate. You can download the example on the web-site of the Event, and then give it to your doctor to fill in. You’ll have to send the scan via e-mail.

Even though there is a list of obligatory equipment, I didn’t show a thing when receiving my BIB. They said: “Runners are big boys and girls, you know how to take care of yourself, we believe you”. To receive your BIB and package you just need to say your name – that’s it. The package contains ads, T-shirt, car air freshener from sponsor and the bib itself.

I think such negligence is due to the fact, that there’s no cash prize for the winners. There’s only a finish lottery, which I wittingly skipped, knowing my luck.

The briefing for my distance started at 5:30 a.m. The man with a microphone whispered in it (!), because the people of Aiguines were still asleep. This was one of the quietest briefings I’ve ever had. Participants mainly come from EU (95% of them from France), although there were a couple of guys from US, Canada, New Zeland, two (including me) – from Ukraine, one girl from Russia. My distance’s winner was Helio Fumo from Portugal.


The cemetery is a bit old, but ready to welcome the unfortunate trail runners

The first 10k were almost flat (under 200 of total ascent), but there was a queue from runners, especially when the path became narrow. These 10k were mainly around the village. Later we ran uphill in the woods.

My distance had two checkpoints. I wish you’d seen them! Lots of local varieties of cheese, meat and sausages, dried fruits, cookies, nuts, oranges, chocolate, water, cola, isotonic – everything is unbelievably tasty! Especially during the run. The staff scan your BIB on every checkpoint.

Some parts of the distance encourage you to fall down from the cliff are rather technical. And beautiful!

Usually I have a “OMG-never-again” uphill on every trail. But when there was a final uphill at last, I discovered that I can pass by the other runners and let them feel miserable a-ha-ha 🙂

That’s me who felt miserable when everybody else passed by me during the descent. I just can’t stand the stones on the steep slope. Lack of my training, but there’s no way to find such descents in my city. After having fallen for three times I decided to take my poles and just walked down for some time. The heat also didn’t make the run easier. Thank God I didn’t choose the 60k-distance!

I was optimistic and expected to finish in 5h 40min. My family had to meet me at the finish line. But in fact I managed to do the race in 5h 24 min! My finish reward was no family waiting for me, no official finish photo (the cameraman missed me) and no medal (they don’t have them at all). But after 15 min everything became OK, I had some food and – surprisingly – didn’t feel exhausted.

Next – delicious local food and craft beer, lake Sainte Croix swimming and amazing sunset.

P.S. While I was running, this beast came into our camping. It managed to open our fridge and to empty my “Great Finish Cheese Plate” with sophisticated selectivity:

P.P.S. The place is so “magnifique”, that I couldn’t help but take my camera and run through Aiguines the next morning. The video “Provence-UK express” is already in Video section of the web-site.

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