Last month, I did a 14km (8.74mi) trail race in Burgundy called La Madone. The race is named after the gold Madonna statue at the top of the hills we ran around, and is one of the more popular events in the region. There were about 700 participants across the four distances offered: 25km, 14km, 8km, and 3.5km (the 25km was unique to this year, since it was 25th anniversary of the race).
I decided to do the 8km just a few days before the run—since I’m only in Dijon for a year, I wanted to take advantage of the iconic Burgundy trail races while I could. But, I didn’t want to strain myself too much; my more serious racing season had concluded with the Lyon Half Marathon a month before.
On race day, however, I decided to switch from the 8km to the 14km. According to the local friends I went with, you would only get the see La Madone up close on the 14km and 25km courses (as it turned out, not even the 25km went up to the statue). I was a little hesitant to switch, but it just didn’t seem right to run a race named after a statue you didn’t even get to see haha.
Since I’d really struggled with a 12km trail run just a few weeks before, I thought that La Madone would be a repeat of the aching legs I’d experienced. That grueling trail run was my first real workout after 2 weeks of rest though, so timing wasn’t ideal. This time, I’d more or less recovered my lost fitness level.
We ran just for fun, or PP (pour le plaisir) as they might say in France. My official time ended up being 1:42:04, which was definitely more of a back of the pack finish. Even so, I didn’t mind since I really did enjoy the run and the gorgeous fall landscapes.
Here’s my take on the race:
You can sign up either online, by mail, or in-person the day of. Online registration closes a couple days before the race. I signed up the day of, and it was 3 euros more expensive than signing up in advance (original prices ranged from 9-15 euros). On the day of the race, they only take cash or check.
Since entry fees are pretty cheap, you really don’t get much swag. We were given a decent race belt though–you could snap your bib on and also put your keys in the little pouch (I’m wearing the belt in the first photo).
As is customary in France, you need a physical or medical certificate to run any race. All the document needs to say is that you’re healthy and that running won’t post any risks to your health. Make sure to bring a copy of this physical to give to race organizers, as they need them for insurance purposes.
The trails are incredibly scenic, but great views often only come with big climbs. According to my phone, there was 1078ft of elevation gain. There were two major hills that I remember, and most participants walked up them. Fun fact: apparently you’re supposed to walk up hills during trail runs, since it’s an inefficient use of energy to run up them.
Some spots on the course were unfortunately pretty muddy since it had rained recently, making the hills a little slippery. But I suppose hills and mud should expected on a trail run 🙂
Also typical of a trail race, there are no kilometer/mile markers, so you really do need a GPS watch or phone to track your distance.
Overall, the scenery really is stunning, especially with the fall leaves. As you’ll see in the next photo though, the Madonna statue isn’t anything super special (it was actually under construction). Still, I’m glad I picked the 14km since we got the views at the top of the hill.
There’s one fuel stop, right before the second big hill. If I’m not mistaken, it’s around 5-6km in (the Madonna statue is around 8km). For the rest of the race, you’re on your own.
At the mid-race fuel station, there were bananas, oranges, dark chocolate, multigrain crackers, and pain d’épices (basically gingerbread, but in pound cake form). To drink, there was water and coke. The finish line fuel was basically the same, but there was also tea and hot chocolate.
One cool perk is that they hire a professional photographer, and you can download the shots for free (instead of paying 14 euros per photo, as is the norm). Unfortunately, the albums aren’t sorted by bib–the albums are based on certain time frames, so you have estimate where you were at that time and dig through all the photos. I didn’t mind too much though–at least they were free!
I have a special talent for taking ugly race photos; these gave me a good laugh. I can’t tell if I look like I’m smiling or grimacing or constipated in the one below.
Tips + Summary:
- Only the 14km goes up to La Madone, so be sure to sign up for this distance if you want to see the statue. It’s not super impressive, but the views at the top of the hill are stunning.
- Sign up online at least 3 days in advance to avoid the 3 euro price increase on race day (or don’t sign up in advance so you can change your mind on race day, like me haha).
- Take a copy of your physical or medical certificate to turn into race organizers.
- Bring your own water/fuel–there is only one fuel station about halfway into the 14km.
- Track your run with your phone or GPS watch since there are no distance markers.
- Smile pretty for the free photos! (not like me).
If you want to run a scenic trail race in Burgundy, I highly recommend this race. La Madone takes place in Velars-sur-Ouche, just short drive from Dijon. If you get in contact with any of the running clubs in the area, people are sure to be participating and won’t mind giving you a lift.