Grand Raid Reunion 2009


The Grand Raid (or Diagonale les Fous - "Crossing of the Fools") race was fantastic. I had a basic plan and was hoping for anything between 36 and 40 hours. I had split the race into three sections to coincide with the drop bag points. One after 45 miles and another at 75 - giving me roughly a 45 mile section, a 30 mile section and a 20 mile section. I was hoping to do slower than Ramsay pace on the 1st, Ramsay pace on the 2nd then hopefully give it all I had on the last.

We set off at midnight on Thurs in torrential rain and were completely soaked in minutes. It was however still very warm and there wasn't much point putting my waterproof on. The first 5 hours are spent going up from sea level to a height of 2400m. Initially we did about 6 miles of wide track then it was onto a narrow path through woods and a slow crocodile upwards. I was just taking the time to eat and drink but when we approached the tree line I did get worried as I was getting cold and had on waterproof, hat and gloves by then. Luckily the rain stopped and as the sun came out I warmed up and dried out. Across the plateau we could run and I began to overtake people. The checkpoints came frequently and is was pleasing to find they had a good selection of food - bananas, raisins, bread, tea, coke, coffee and other stuff. I was warming up and found my sunhat and suntan lotion from my bag. The views were magnificent and all was going well.

At Cilaos I was thoroughly enjoying it. There were lots of supporters out and they call your name out (its on the front of your number) and cheer "bravo" and "courage". But there's also bands, drums and general festivities all the way round. I changed my socks, ate some food from my drop bag, talked to Marriane, Kathryn (waiting to do the Half Raid), Sue and Ange (Sleath brother's wifes) and set off again. My stomach decided to play up a little as we dropped into the valley to begin the 2nd huge climb of the day - 1400m. I knew why - I had run out of food before Cilaos and so it was now trying to digest all the food I had just eaten. More Cheddars came out and after forcing a bag of those down it felt better. It started to get dark as we crossed the valleys down towards Deux Bras and it was head torches out. At one point we had to cross a shallow river and because I was slipping on the rocks I walked through the water. This was a mistake I think. I realize now that all the locals were trying very hard to keep their feet dry and it was soon after that that my toes started to hurt. Looking at them they were all white and shrivelled but no blisters could be seen - I put some Vaseline all over my feet and carried on. It seemed to take forever to get through, round, up, down, round, up, down in the dark. At one point we (I had teamed up with a local guy) spent an hour and a half in the dark listening to a band playing at the checkpoint we were going to but never getting any nearer to it. Eventually we dropped into the last valley towards Deux Bras - I told the guy that I was slowing him up and he must go on - he thankfully agreed!

At Deux Bras I headed for the medical tent and was ushered onto a couch. Off with my shoes - 3 people examining my feet. Out came a epi pen needle thing. Into my little toes it went, then into my heels - Ow, Ow, Ow - Urrh - think I'm going to faint. I lie back and hope they know what they are doing as right now its more bloody painful than ever. I didn't want to lie down as didn't want my body to think it was getting any sleep! But the burning pain in my feet keeps me awake. The guy tells me "we must burn your feet now so they don't hurt later" - hope he's right! He bandages my toes and heels up and off I stagger feeling very wobbly. I get my drop bag and just about get to canteen tent when I think I'm going to faint so sit on the floor very quickly. Some of this is definitely down to lack of food so while sat I open 2 tins of rice pudding (Sainsburys - I know  - its lots of air miles but I needed them!). After food I felt better so decided to carry on. It was about 3am and I had another big climb to do and it would be light by the time I got to the top.

My feet had calmed down a bit and were ok to run on. I missed not having company but pressed on. The hill passed easily - my feet hurt mainly on descents. Then there was a road section and the last major food checkpoint. Despite my feet I was still passing a few people and asked how long was the finish - 5 hours said one person, 4 hours said another. Ok I thought the quicker the better and so whenever I could I ran. My feet were getting very painful again and I wasn't enjoying it at all. The last 3.50 hours were generally hell with my feet on fire. I was annoyed at myself for not looking after them better and not being able to run as fast as I felt I could.

On the last descent I thought I had spotted a woman behind so thought "right forget pain and run like its a fell race". I caught my friend from overnight up and together we ran the last mile and over the line together in a time of 33h 49' 39". I was very pleased to learn I was 4th woman and 2nd FV40 but even more surprised to later learn that I came 117 out of about 2300 starters and 1556 that finished. The overall winner did 22h 9' 8" and the 1st Lady 28h 13' 54".

Dave Sleath finished 376th, 4th V65 in 39h 40'49" - he also suffered from severe blisters and trench foot - looked more painful than mine even! Martin Sleath was 438th in 40h 39' 15", Amanda was 625th 11th FV40 in 43h 48' 7", Mark Spendlove was 633th in 43h 55' 19" (he says he owes it all to Amanda who got him round) and Andrew was 920 in 48h 52' 56". All 6 Brits that started - finished!

In the Half Raid Marriane was aiming for 24 hours and even though she was sick still clocked up an impressive 564th in a time of 23h 11' 50" and Mark's wife Kathryn dug in to come in at 751th in a time of 26h 29' 22".

Amanda and Andrew Heading organised the whole trip and I want to say a big thank you to them.


This is the link to the website Le Grand Raid - La diagonale des fous  - unfortunately all in French!