Claire Bannwarth et Mickael Berthon s'imposent sur le Legends Trail 2024

Claire Bannwarth and Mickael Berthon win the Legends Trail 2024

In the tough world of trail and ultra trail running, victory is never guaranteed. But when mud is added to the mix, it becomes a challenge of an entirely different level. However, for Claire Bannwarth and Mickaël Berthon, the Legends Trail (275km and 10,000 D+ in the Belgian Ardennes) was just another opportunity to show their resilience, strength and determination.

Mickael finished on top of the podium, winning the race in 45 hours 55 minutes and beating the runner-up by 1 hour 37 minutes. He also set a new event record. Claire took 1st place for women and 3rd overall in 51 hours.

Read the exclusive interview with our two 2024 Legends Trail champions.  

What was your equipment?

Claire : I used the Ultralight MP+ jacket, the one that weighs 150 grams and is just brilliant. I had the MP+ waterproof gloves and I'd also packed the waterproof over-gloves and trousers in case the weather turned nasty. For my bag, I carried an 18L Responsiv.

Mickaël : I used a Responsiv 12l bag that I know like the back of my hand, an Ultralight 2.0 MP+ jacket that's always with me, a long-sleeved R-Light T-shirt that's one of my favourites of the winter and R-Light tights that are a sure bet for their comfort and large pockets. Not forgetting the ACTIV neck gaiterfor sweat and tears. 

Did you have a nutritional strategy? If so, how was it organised?

Claire : I don't have a food strategy as such. I try to eat as regularly as possible. On ultras, I eat what I feel like eating and what gives me pleasure. When you're on a long, or even very long, run, food is a comfort, so I don't force myself to eat particular things. As for hydration, I drink water of course and quite a lot of coke for the caffeine. 

Mickaël : simple because effective, nutrition every hour with an intake of various sugars and mineral salts, then I took advantage of the 4 base camps to eat a hot dish with slow sugars and proteins. The dietary strategy starts with training, by testing the snacks you're going to eat during the race and getting your body used to eating them regularly in small doses.

How do you deal with sleep deprivation?

Claire : On a race where I know I'll take less than 72 hours to finish, or even 80 hours, which is the limit, I know I don't need to sleep. If I feel I'm having a slump, I'll take a micro nap. Basically, I don't need much sleep, 6 hours a night is enough for me. For the Legends, I had a mini nap. For the objective races, I pay a lot of attention to my sleep in the days before the race. For intermediate races, like the Legends, which I see as training sessions, I don't pay any particular attention.

Mickaël : You get used to it, and the experience of long-distance races allows you to become familiar with how to manage the effort and hallucinations caused by lack of sleep. I try to build up a good night's sleep of at least 8 hours in the week before the race and I train myself to take regular naps of around 15-20 minutes during the day. For the Legends Trail, I had plenty of energy and all I had to do was close my eyes for 11 minutes on the 2nd night to get myself going again. This helps to 'unburden' the brain, although it's not really restful.

What was most difficult to manage during the race.

Claire : I broke my pole at k100, which made the rest of the race a bit harder. 

Mickaël : This race is very special because of its winter conditions and very 'wet' terrain. One of the most sensitive points was managing the condition of my feet. So I wouldn't say that it was difficult, but I would say that it required particular attention. When to change shoes? Socks? What type of socks to use on this section? Apply anti-chafing cream... Knowing that we make our decisions alone, assistance is forbidden. With fatigue, we can sometimes be incoherent.

The worst moment of the race.

Claire : At kilometre 30, we had to cross a river. I was up to my chest in water. It was a bit of a surprise 😅 I was completely soaked. I had to wait for the next base camp, which was 40km away, before I could change completely.

Mickaël : I drowned my phone in a river in the first few hours, which cost me dearly. 

The best moment of the race.

Claire : At sunrise on the second night, I knew that I only had 60 km left and that I wasn't going to spend another night there.

Mickaël : I still had a lot of energy left in me in the last section and it was exhilarating to realise how much energy I could still muster. I hadn't planned to beat the record for the race, but when I realised it, I found it really nice and I have to thank the 2nd place finisher for that, because he also set a very good time and pushed me to do more.

What are the differences between a marked and an unmarked race? How do you approach an unmarked race?

Claire : experience is gained from other races. The more you do, the more you learn to read the terrain and trails. Races without signposts require a lot of attention and vigilance. You always have to look at your watch. As you go along, it becomes a reflex. As I get used to it, I accept that I might take the wrong route, I don't panic and I don't get upset.

A signposted run is much more comfortable. 

Mickaël : A signposted race allows a certain 'relaxation' that doesn't exist on a non-marked race; each intersection can lead to an error that will be added to the final time (and there are some over 275km). It's undeniably an additional parameter to take into account, and one that costs a lot of energy to add to the many that already exist in classic ultra-distance running. 

I regularly go out with my navigation tools during my training sessions, planning unknown and complex routes to improve in the weeks before an unmarked race. This way, I arrive at the start line confident in my knowledge and the use of my equipment.

Are you planning to take part in the Legends Trail in 2025?

Claire : Yes! The organisation is top notch. The Belgians are really nice. It's a great race. I'll be going back just for the atmosphere.

Mickaël : The Legends Trail is unique and belongs on the very small and fairly confidential list of the most demanding races in Europe. It's exactly what I like and I have to thank the organisers for the spirit they bring to their event. It's rare and difficult to organise something like this. Every year the course changes, but now that I've got the time record, I'm going to wait for an excellent athlete to kick my ass next year so that I'll have another excellent reason to come back in 2026.

 What are your next objectives?

Claire : The MIUT 120km, the Tahoe Rim Trail, the HardRock100, the UTMB and the Backyard World Championships. Above all, I'm going to try to do UTMB, SwissPeaks and TOR des Géants in succession. 

Mickaël : I've got some great races planned for this season, but I'm focusing on 3 major objectives. The first was the Legends Trail, the second will be an attempt at the FKT in the summer and my main 'competition' objective will be the TOR des Glaciers in September.

1 comment

  • francisco manuel castillo carrascal

    he corrido con con claire en varias carreras y es una corredora extraordinaria, no para en nigun momento y tiene un ritmo constante muy bueno, es como un motor diesel que no desfallece en ningun momento