I dream. I dream about running in the mountains. Running free, with great vistas before me. I run strong on the uphills, powering through each rise and turn. I dream of running fast and free on the descents, skipping from corner to corner, feet barely touching the ground as I weave this way and that… I dream of running all day, under perfect skies and a glowing sun that isn’t too hot… I dream of a breeze, which doesn’t slow me but keeps me cool. I dream of running with legs that never tire; of a bottle that is always cold and refreshing.
I dream of running in the Alps, alone and free and pushing myself against giants of mountains with snow-topped peaks.
I had to free this dream and allow it to become real; to live it out and experience the mountains in all their glory. And now I’m alone; my legs are tired and I slow to a crawl on the unrelenting ascents that never seem to end. I shuffle only a little faster on the descents. My bottle is almost empty, but I can’t drink it anyway – my throat is hot and sticky. The sun is beating down, slowly cooking me. I struggle to lift my head and long for a cooling breeze.
I follow feet in front of me, while footsteps follow my own. When I look up, I see a steam of runners grinding slowly uphill. When I look back, I see shadows of my former self following each broken step. I’m ready to quit. I convince myself that nothing would be lost by turning back downhill.
There would be no shame; I have done well to come so far. Indeed, many runners pass me, going down to rest and refuel with food and water. Yet all around me, the views seem to grasp at what little breath I have. As my mind wanders and my energy dwindles, I look up and the mountains lift me, ever higher. I keep on running; I will not stop.
I’m alone, yet in a meandering chain of more than 2,000 runners, as we slowly grind out the 70 miles from Courmayeur in Italy around Mont Blanc and into Chamonix in France. I’m running, (at least I tell myself I’m running), the UTMB-TDS, or the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie, to give its full title. There are few races – indeed few challenges – for runners that command as much awe and respect as the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc, and for one who dreams of running in the mountains, well… need I say any more?
Turning a corner in the path, I long to see the summit: to see the top and an end to the climbing. But the path continues to rise up into the clouds and tricks me into thinking I am nearly there. The side of the trail is heavily populated with runners – sitting, squatting or splayed out on the grass – gasping for breath and sweating in the endless sun… I dare not join them. I dare not stop moving my legs as I’m afraid I won’t start again. So I keep my eyes forward and march ever onwards…………..
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Reuben Tabner is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Inverness. Using his surroundings and passion for travel, running and adventure, Tabner creates exceptional engaging images for a wide range of clients. www.reubentabner.co.uk // @ReubenTabner