In the shoes of Sébastien Camus, an Ultra Trail runner

Ultra Trail champion Sébastien Camus lives (and thrives) in Sospel at the gateway to Mercantour National Park and the aptly-named Vallée des Merveilles. Today, he is sharing his love of nature, passion for trail running and deep ties to the Alpes-Maritimes with our readers!

Alpes-Maritimes wide open spaces

… An exceptional playground for Sébastien Camus

The Côte-d’Azur and Alpes-Maritimes are extraordinary and unrivalled playgrounds for trail runners. And our sportsman is a master of the art of an even more extreme version, requiring extensive mental preparation: Ultra Trail running. He trains for 20 to 30 hours a week, so wide open spaces are a must. This is his paradise:

I’ve travelled the globe and I’ve discovered some magnificent places. But none of them live up to the place where I’ve lived since I was 18. We have the very best trail locations here, from Mediterranean shores to arid vegetation and very varied mountainscapes.

Nature’s finest

From Sospel to Casterino: outdoor sports sans frontières

The races are long and hard: 20 to 24 hours of non-stop effort, requiring considerable training. The size and diversity of the Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes de Haute Provence areas mean Sébastien can cover fairly large distances, with daily sessions of 60 to 80 km. He offers us an example:

I often start out from Sospel and run to the Vallée des Merveilles and Castérino for the night. Then, I retrace my footsteps the following day. Normally, the itinerary would take 3 to 4 days on foot, but for me it’s a half day’s training. I cycle too and take part in the Gravel Trophy. I’ve actually got another house near La Foux d’Allos which gives me access to the Turini and Colmiane mountain passes. It’s wonderful because it allows me to travel – my wife follows along with the kids so all the family enjoys a fun day out.

A state of mind

« There’s a start line, a finishing line and between the two there’s a unique adventure »

I used to hate running and cycling and only did them to get to university when I was a student. Then, little by little, it became obvious: I was finally learning to manage my body and mind. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to what we believe. I invite people to try out this sport to help them break down their mental barriers and spur themselves on to better things.

Surprising and inspiring, Sébastien’s approach aptly describes his vision of competition and allows him to adopt a stress-free attitude to upcoming races: condition yourself to always give your best. When the big day arrives, he makes sure he’s perfectly familiar with the start and finishing lines. But in between, it’s all about adventure and pushing yourself to your limits: values he shares with his father and brother who love the sport too, together with the close-knit Team Garmin Adventure.

An ambassador of his homeland

A competitor by nature

Sébastien and his wife have teamed up to promote their area and encourage people to come to Sospel. The concept? Welcome visitors and introduce them to the typical local scenery while sharing experiences and training tips.

A lot of people are contacting me already. I’d love to develop courses with training sessions in different locations every day.

And southeastern France offers an ideal year-round playground, with altitudes ranging from 350 to 2,000 metres and a dry climate. Sébastien’s deep connection with nature has evolved into a genuine philosophy when it comes to food and health: « I eat 99% organic, seasonal and locally-grown produce to help our producers. All the treatments I use are natural, for example essential oil of lavender grown in the region.« 

Stopwatch !

Sébastien Camus in 5 seconds

Which race has marked you the most? Why?
The Diagonale des Fous in 2015. I arrived 2nd but it was really unique: I swallowed up the last 60 km literally in a trance, I could feel myself pushing back my limits. It was incredible.
Your secret for pushing back your limits?
Daily mental preparation, extreme knowledge of my body and especially keeping it real.
Your best tip for trail running novices?
Track your progress! It’s essential, especially as Ultra and extreme contests are really in vogue, so a lot of people who don’t run much want to try them. You really have to prepare well if you want to progress without injuring yourself.
Your favourite local culinary speciality?
Sweet chard pie!
Your favourite spot in the Alpes-Maritimes?
Sospel of course! It’s set between sea and mountains at the gateway to Parc national du Mercantour and crossed by a magnificent river. Water is a vital part of life and it helps me recharge my batteries. I often find the scenery of drier areas rather extreme and aggressive, it’s less of an inspiration to me.