Chamonix, France – runner Flore Vargas today demanded a refund of his entry fee and all associated travel expenses as he crashed out of the Ultra Tour du Les Alps, the 166km run around the Alpine mountain range, almost immediately it had started
“Nobody told me there was going to be hills,” bemoaned Vargas, as he sat in an ambulance at the start in Chamonix. In-between bursts of oxygen administered by a medic, he continued, “I fell asleep on the bus from the airport, and when I woke up in Chamonix I looked around and all I could see was snow-capped mountains. I assumed that this was just where we were staying, and that we’d be taken down to the start line at some point.”
Vargas, who grew up near Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, one of the flattest places on earth, had rarely seen even a slight slope in his 22-year life. Residents of his home town once petitioned the council to lower the height of pavements as they were getting vertigo while crossing the street.
But when the race started, Vargas was shocked to find a hill within the first few km. “I started running with all of the others, and I had my feet stabbed by people carrying walking poles,” he told The Runion. “That was the first surprise. Then, after we came out of the first aid station, the ground just went up. I couldn’t believe it. I said to the marshal, ‘Where are those other runners going?’ He told me that was the next stage of the race. I had no choice but to give up my race number.”
The main issue was that the race information did not warn that ascent and descent of slopes would be required, nor traversal of snow fields. “I’m used to extreme distances. I’ve done a 10K charity race near home twice in the last two years, which gave me enough points to enter, but they must have made a mistake – it’s totally, totally flat there. The race information just talked about how we’d be passing places called Col du whatever and Val something. I had no idea we’d have to run up and down hills. I think the organisers should be liable for the lack of information.”
Vargas estimates that the trip has cost him US$8,000, about half of which was flights, accommodation and entry fees, the other half coming from a can of Coke and some snacks from one of the local cafes.
At time of going to press, the race organisers were not in a position to comment.