Running up mountains


Pett Level-based athlete and elite Ultra trail runner Amelia (“Milly”) Voice returned recently from a gruelling 65-kilometre event in the French Alps.

Running for more than 10 hours, the Trail du Tour des Fiz takes place in the mountain region of the Fiz with the start at Plaine Joux (all in the Chamonix-Passy area, so perhaps well known to some of our readers who ski). The start line is already around 1,350m – nearly 4,500ft – above sea level and before they finish, competitors will have had to cope with a further 5,000m of uphill running over terrain that is regarded as particularly difficult, technical and rocky, as can be seen in our pictures.

Like so many athletes, 28 year-old Milly glosses over the difficulties of the race, although even she does admit to problems with the extreme heat (remember the summer?) “which I suffered with acutely at one stage (about 50km in) and it cost me time”, but even then, the concern was losing time rather than personal discomfort. “I was still able to finish with a pretty strong result.”

A strong result, indeed. She finished third in her age group (26 – 30 years old) behind two French athletes, the first British woman to finish and mere 27 minutes behind the overall first place after 10 hours and 21 minutes of racing.

First rule of running in mountains – whatever goes down is going to have to go up again soon

So how does someone based in one of the flatter parts of the country manage to train for running in the mountains?

“In terms of training,” she says “although my family and I are based in Pett Level, I spend a lot of time in mountainous regions and have had many opportunities to exercise very well at higher altitudes around the Chamonix Valley area. I have a coach and I mix my training up between short hard training runs and long ‘big days’ at an easier, endurance pace – always off road. I have been racing for the past four years, and over time I think my body has adapted to take on tougher stuff and to keep pushing to the next challenge/high mountain path!”

So has she always been into sport and these high-adrenaline ultra events?

“I got into running later than one might expect (I was not particularly sporty at school) and I entered my first ultra-marathon in 2014  – the OCC  – which is part of the UTMB series in Chamonix. It is approximately 53km, with a 3,000m height gain, and before competing I had only raced as far as a half-marathon, in the UK. I was the 8th woman and first GB woman for that race.

“My advice to anyone who wants to run far but lives in a flatter region such as Rye or Pett is that it is totally possible! I raced a marathon on the South Downs in March, and it reminded me how great the landscape is around Sussex to get in long endurance days (and even some ascent!). Consistency is key, so the more days you can get out, even at a nice slow pace, the better – but always build up slowly and seek advice where you can.”

The BBC currently has a strapline they use with many of their sports programmes: “Get Inspired”. We certainly should.


Photos: Carlton Rowlands

Image Credits: Amelia Voice .

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