24th of October, 2017 21°06'05.3"S 55°28'49.4"E
LA DIAGONALE DES FOUS – La Réunion
One for the bucket list – running the Grand Raid, an ultramarathon on Reunion Island. La diagonale des fous (The Madmen’s Diagonal) is a 165 km route with 9580 meters of elevation gain crossing the island from South to North. The mountain race takes places each year in October on Reunion Island. This years race of The Madmen’s Diagonal started on Thursday the 19th of October and is the tenth and final stage of the Ultra-Trail World Tour.
10 pm Saint Pierre waterfront: “Les fous sont lâchés” – The madmen are released! In the distance you can see the first runners, followed by thousands making their way through the clapping and cheering crowds along the street. The crowd follows the athletes through the whole city of Saint Pierre until they are released into the night and nature. Everyone along the street tries to spot someone they know, a friend, a dad, a sister or a grandpa. After the start and the first kilometers the path becomes quickly darker and the noise of the people along the way is fading. The first boost of excitement is decreasing and the new rhythm is the one given by the pumping heart in your chest. The race is on.
The race used to have a distance around 125 km, which was increasing over time and is now around 160-170 km. The first race took place in 1989. Each year around 2000 participants try to run this intense trail from which only a few cross the finish line. The participants, men and women, are coming from all around the world to start this prestigious race (53 nationalities in 2017).
We went to see the departure of the “Fous” (Madmen) in Saint Pierre last Thursday. The atmosphere previous to the start is a very special one. People create some pregame ambience with music and dance. Groups from African or Indian origin perform drum rhythms, while others are dancing to Latin American music. The streets are already getting packed hours before the starting shot is fired. Everyone is trying to get in good position to see the Madmen starting their long and intense journey.
Among the runners you can feel the adrenaline pumping and the nervous but excited vibe around the starting zone. You can see who is new to this or who already survived the race several times. Some look afraid, some over-excited and others surprisingly relaxed until last-minute. It is a very prestigious thing to be part of this group of runners. Those who succeed become local heroes.
This years event is the 25th anniversary of the Grand Raid which meanwhile hosts 4 races – The Madmen’s Diagonal and three further races which start a day later and are shorter – the Semi-Raid or Trail of Bourbon – 93 km and 4920 m of altitude gain and the Mascareignes Raid – 61 km and 3036 m of altitude gain and since this year a race in teams of 3 called Zembrocal trail route.
This ultramarathon is a trail on a tropical paradise which offers incredible views of volcanos, waterfalls, lush green forests and tropical beaches. Reunion Island is like a small continent in itself with highly diverse landscapes and weather conditions which is fascinating to see and experience but which also make the trail even harder to succeed.
The last 5 pictures are taken from the official Grand Raid Facebook page which can be found here – photo credits as mentioned on the pictures.
All other pictures are as always (if not mentioned differently) ours – Copyright Hele & Lime.
There are 21 checkpoints for the runners to pass. At the checkpoints the runners can have a break with food and drinks or sleep for a bit to refuel the engines. The fastest Madmen arrive in the Stadium La Redoute in Saint Denis at the finishing line already after 24 hours which means no sleep and if so, only short breaks. Chips and ID bracelets will give information of where the runner currently is, which allows to follow each competitor online.
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