Asics Beat the Sun is an extraordinary ultra-marathon relay race around Mont Blanc, where the main opponent is travelling at 220km-per-second and is 150 million kilometres from Earth. The star of this show is, of course, the Sun and a pace of around 9km-per-hour is required to complete the gruelling 140km course between sunrise and sunset.
Tuesday, 21 June was the longest day of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere and that certainly was the case for the eight continental teams of six athletes – representing 23 countries and six continents – who set out from Chamonix at 5:44am with 15 hours, 41 minutes and 35 seconds of sunlight available to complete their task.
Each team of six runners included three amateurs who had been selected from over 30,000 online applicants after an intensive 16-week training programme. Team Europe North contained two British athletes – Matty Hynes and Rory MacDonald – along with Jonas Buud and Anna Sofie Nelsson from Sweden and Erben Wennemars and Chris Berendse from the Netherlands.
Expert runner Matty Hynes (Gateshead Harriers) was 17th at London Marathon in a personal best 2hr16min and he was paired with James MacDonald, an IT consultant with an active lifestyle who has participated in a variety of sports. The relay format requires each pair to complete two out of 12 stages together and Team Europe North returned to Chamonix to a rapturous welcome in 14:50:00 to beat the sunset by an incredible 51 minutes.
Team Europe South also beat the sun by 12 minutes and Team Central Europe finished third but couldn’t quite match the sun for speed around Europe’s highest peak. The Americas 1; The Americas 2; Africa; East Asia and Oceania-Pacific were the other teams who tackled 9,668 metres of crippling ascent in snow, driving rain and wind in what is rightly billed as nature’s toughest challenge.
Full details of this astonishing event are at the Beat the Sun website