Our worldwide renown local ultra-trail* runner
*An ultra-trail is a trail-running race in nature which is any length more than a marathon distance.
Second in the UTMB® (behind the “extra-terrestrial” Kilian Jornet), third at the Diagonale des Fous (Reunion Island), winner of the Grande Traversée des Alpes (from Lake Geneva to Nice), the Grand Raid du Mercantour, The North Face Endurance Challenge (Chile), three-time winner of the Libyan Challenge (205km autonomous race), twice winner and record man of the Transgrancanaria.
This is a mere extract of Sébastien Chaigneau’s extensive hit list of podiums and records. A major figure in the ultra-trail running world and a great role model for any trail running enthusiast.
© Mouss Films / Sébastien Chaigneau
This ultra-trail runner does all his training in his backyard on the Glières plateau when he isn’t racing or checking out new course routes in other mountains and valleys. At a youthful fifty he is still running an average 6,000km per year and around 4,500 of them are in Glières, which he knows like the back of his hand.
“I spend 90% of my time gallivanting in my backyard on the Glières plateau trails and never get bored. How could I when I can run a different route every day and see ibex, chamois, stags, and capercaillies; I’m incredibly privileged to be able to train in a genuine wildlife park.”
© Mouss Films
Originally from the Vienne region, Sébastien discovered high-performance sport through athletics from the young age of 10. He would train diligently twice a day until he would be forced to stop due to time constraints when he began his biotechnology studies.
Yet, throughout his life, even if he wasn’t doing it in a professional capacity, sport has always been a necessity. He began his professional career in various fields including working on DNA sequencing, vaccines, the rabies virus, and research projects. During his military service in the Chasseurs Alpins he climbed around thirty summits effectuating around 45,000 metres of vertical elevation. But it was when he tasted the thrills of rock climbing that he was drawn back into intensive sport and naturally running was integrated into his training programme, never to leave it behind him again.
© Mouss Films
A professional calling
In 2006, he settled in the little village of Thorens-Glières, in Haute-Savoie, (France) and was very quickly approached by The North Face; and so began his position as a professional athlete and ambassador for the brand where he started his career on the national circuit before being integrated into the international elite team in 2009. He took the UTMB® start line twelve times; this race is the ultimate Grail for any ultra-trail runner. It is on technical races with the most elevation gain where Sébastien feels most at home, you could say he has a mountaineer’s heart.
In 2020, him and his wife founded Outdoor Sport Live, a production company that films and live broadcasts trail-running races that take place worldwide. A collective of three production companies each with their field of expertise: production in situ, filming, and directing. With his teams – runners, mountain-bike riders, elite sports people skilled in operating drones or cameras – they work hard to bring back thrilling images of these intensely powerful sporting exploits. The company is in full boom as it currently covers over twenty-five races each year, including the UTMB® which is broadcast live on the Équipe channel. He needs to give his full attention to their new enterprise for a few more months and then he will be able to return to racing.
© Mouss Films
His base camp: Thorens-Glières
Since arriving in Thorens, many have joined him on his Sunday training sessions, responding to his Facebook invitations. “Some Sundays, there were as many as one hundred runners and some would even travel from Paris“, Sébastien says with astonishment. A craze that gave birth to “La Triandine” who organises weekly outings for running enthusiasts and whose meeting place is the shop La Triandine in Thorens-Glières. A passion that is proving to be a unifying factor for people from the village and the surrounding area.
Sébastien and his wife are very attached to Thorens-Glières village where they bought and renovated an old building. His wife established her business here, Mouss Films, an audiovisual production company focusing on sports. These two outdoor enthusiasts choose to live, work, and create a bond with the locals. They have made it a priority to contribute to the local community spirit by creating jobs and offering employees a privileged living environment; it’s possible to nip out on the one-hour lunch break on the Glières plateau to get some air!
© Mouss Films
Following in Sébastien Chaigneau’s footsteps
Cycling, skiing, or running, Sébastien tirelessly explores his playground in Glières whatever the season. Here are two of his favourite itineraries where you can easily follow in his footsteps:
- For amateurs, an 11-km circuit takes you onto the Glières plateau near the Bornes plateau where you will enjoy spectacular views across the entire mountain range.
- For the more experienced is a 20-km route with 14,000 metres of elevation climb starting from Thorens, with an ascent up to an altitude of 2,000 metres on Sous-Dine, to plunge down into the valley via the Balcons d’Usillon. There are breathtaking panoramic views, climbs, and descents!
© Mouss Films
Going to Glières this winter
The Glières plateau, which is at 1,450 metres above sea level, was historically an important site for the French Resistance but it is also Haute-Savoie’s leading Nordic ski area in terms of visitor numbers, with 29km of groomed tracks especially for Nordic skiing (cross-country and Nordic), as well as several kilometres of pedestrian trails. The perfect place for nature lovers, sportsmen and women to enjoy its vast expanses of unspoilt nature where serenity reigns, and for its magnificent panoramic views across the Aravis and Bornes Massifs and neighbouring Fillière region.
© Monica Dalmasso
As it does every winter, and to facilitate access to the Glières plateau, Grand Annecy is setting up its Mobil’Hiver offer. The buses run from 14th December to 26th March, on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays (and at night on Thursdays from January to March), and every day during the school holidays in zone A (fare of €1.50 fare – free for season ticket holders). A discount on the ski pass is granted on presentation of the transport ticket.
- © Mouss Films
Journalist: Aude Pollet-Thiollier
Translation: Kate Dawson