Using poles in trail races

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This week I received my runner photos from the Marathon du Mont Blanc events last weekend, and they reminded me that this same race last year was the first trail race where I had not used poles. I did not use them in 2011 as I was preparing for the Zermatt Marathon, where they are not allowed. In the Chamonix Cross they too are not allowed, but yet for the marathon they are. I know that I have used poles in the past for trail races of marathon distance, but really don’t understand how they can do anything but slow you in a event of this distance.

This year, as the photos show, I didn’t use poles at all. It really made me realise how much traffic those using poles create, due to bunching on the single track trails as runners struggle to pass those with poles. I definitely could have taken an easy half hour off my time, if passing had been easier. I’m not whinging though, as I ran these two events as long training runs towards the goal of running the UTMB for the second time in late August, so to go slow and steady was always the plan for me. This year was my forth Mont Blanc Marathon, so I’ve run two with poles and two without.

As someone who has run this event with and without, and I still find poles useful for ultra marathon distances, I would ask that the Mont Blanc Marathon organisers review the allowed use of poles for future events. In my opinion the number of runners, allied with the damage that poles definitely causes, and the narrow nature of the trails, indicates that banning poles would help both the runners and the environment in which we are running. Whatever happens, I’ll be there for future events, but my poles will be staying at home!

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