By Alice Hunter Morrison
Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, a writer for RunUltra, author of “Dodging Elephants: 8000 Miles Across Africa by Bike” and Special Correspondent for IRUN4ULTRA.
August 25, 2016
Blazing sunshine bounced off the white peaks of the glaciers in the Swiss and French Alps today as 1200 runners took on OCC (Orsieres-Champex-Chamonix) “The Small Swiss Cousin.” The course is 55 kilometers (km) long and is the shortest one in this week-long series of races at
UTMB in Chamonix. It is a fast course but has plenty of climbing with 3300 meters of ascent.
The start time was 8:15 a.m. in the Swiss town of Orsieres. The runners took off through the winding narrow streets of a typical Alpine village. They were soon out in the mountains with a steady climb towards the first major peak of La Glete.
The favorite from the start was the young Frenchman, Xavier Thevenard, who has already won all the other UTMB races: TDS, CCC and UTMB (twice). He needed to win this one to make it a full house.
He led from the beginning in a tight band with Moroccan, Rachid El Morabity right behind him. The course winds through stunning scenery – high glaciers, thick pine forests, lush green pastures – but the runners had no time to savor the views.
By the time, they reached Vallorcine at 36.5 Km, Thevenard was leading El Morabity by nearly five minutes. In his element, the Frenchman stretched out and doubled that lead as he pounded down into Chamonix and the waiting crowd.
He took first place with 5:38:37. El Morabity was second with 5:43:23 and Thibaut Thevenard, another Frenchman, was third with 5:43:48.
The women’s race was dominated by the super-strong Spaniard, Mercedes Arcos Zafra who won with 6:54:13. The real drama of the race unfolded behind her, however, with second and third place separated by only a few seconds. Lara Crivelli came in at 7:34:06 and Sonia Locatelli took third with 7:34:19
IRUN4ULTRA will be following all the action tomorrow as the last two races of this festival set off: CCC and the big one, UTMB. Follow our