History as 300-km race in France no one had finished gets first winner

Sports teacher and ultra distance runner completed the mountainous course in 71 hours, as five racers complete superhuman feat

The first five runners to complete the trial: Sébastien Raichon, Mickaël Berthon, Albert Herrero Casas, Benoit Bachelet, Nicolas Moyroud
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One of the world’s most gruelling ultra distance races finally has a winner, after a French sports teacher crossed the finish line after almost three days of running.

The Chartreuse Terminorum, which sees runners complete five loops of a 60km mountainous track in Isère, has been held five times, yet before Monday morning (June 19), not a single person had finished the course.

This year’s edition of the race saw five runners complete the superhuman task, however.

A combination of perfect weather and collective spirit pushed the racers to the finish line.

Sébastien Raichon, the newly crowned champion who finished the race first, is a sports teacher by trade, but also one of the world’s leading ultra distance runners, having a number of events under his belt even before his latest – and potentially greatest – success.

“I thought I could do it, even if it's not that easy!” he said on the race’s Facebook page after the victory.

Although the race can no longer claim it is unfinishable, organiser Benoît Laval is already looking for ways to make the competition “a bit tougher for next year.”

Read our previous article: This is the French ultra trail race that no runner has ever finished

Five laps in 80 hours

Although the race is not set up to be impossible, it is designed to test “the frontiers of the possible,” said the organiser. It takes inspiration from the Barkley ultramarathon in the US, which sees runners compete in a 60-hour, 100-mile race through Tennessee woodland.

The Chartreuse Terminorum race sees runners complete five laps of a 60km course which loops around an isolated monastery in the Chartreuse highlands, within a time limit of 80 hours (just under three and a half days).

Racers therefore have little time to sleep or rest during the race, which includes running at night through the forest and traversing rocky terrain with no clear paths.

The race course is not marked and runners are not allowed GPS to help them, and are only given a map for navigation.

Alongside the sheer length of the route – which totals to 300 km overall – runners will also climb the equivalent of 25 km during the five laps, due to the rugged and hilly terrain.

Only 12 of the 38 participants completed three laps of the course before tapping out.

Read also: Man ‘breaks world record’ for fastest marathon… running backwards!

Winners only receive their names on trophy

Last year’s race saw only one runner attempt a fourth loop of the circuit, yet this year saw an incredible five racers complete their laps before the 80-hour deadline.

Alongside ‘winner’ Mr Raichon, the other finishers included competitive runners from France and Spain, as well as a former French ice hockey player Benoît Bachelet, who competed at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

“I'm aware of my abilities and I'm one of those people who don't think it's possible to finish this race," he said before the event, proving himself wrong over the gruelling weekend.

And what is the prize for finishing the race?

The winners have their names engraved on a wooden trophy, specially crafted on Sunday afternoon when it finally seemed likely somebody would complete the race.

“It's in keeping with the spirit of this race to offer nothing other than an entry into the history of the Chartreuse Terminorum… I’m very happy,” said organiser Mr Laval.

The race has a few other quirks: It only costs €3 to race (in contrast to the hundreds or even thousands of some prestigious races), and each participant must bring a bottle of alcohol from their place of origin (in a nod to the race’s Chartreuse heritage).

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