British Columbia

1st Tour de France Footrace sees B.C. man cross the finish line

Alain Dubé was just one of 17 runners to complete the inaugural 2,800-km Tour de France Footrace - overcoming painful blisters, gruelling hills and sweltering heat.

Alain Dubé was just one of 17 runners to complete the inaugural 2,800-km race

Alain Dubé was just one of 17 runners to complete the inaugural Tour de France Footrace, a gruelling 2,800-kilometre journey spanning 43 days. (Supplied)

If you think completing the 2,800-kilometre Tour de France is an amazing accomplishment...Try running it, with blisters, in a sweltering heat wave.

B.C. man Alain Dubé is one of just 17 people to complete the inaugural Tour de France Footrace, a 43-day gruelling journey that sees runners average 65 kilometres per day.

The 47-year-old works as a full-time care aide at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital and spent three years preparing for the race. (CBC)

Dubé, who works as a care aide at Saanich Peninsula Hospital, spent three years training for the ultramarathon but was caught completely off guard by the extraordinary heat that greeted him on race day. 

"The toughest part for me was France had their biggest heat wave in 14 years," with temperatures as high as 43 C at the start of the race, he said.

"The asphalt was melting. My shoes were sticking to the roads."

Dubé recalled running through the French Alps, at one point climbing for 22 kilometres straight before hitting a stretch of flat road.

"The body hurts. The foot, the blisters, all of that. You really have to disconnect from that," said Dubé, who says he spent just as much time preparing for the race mentally as he did physically.

Finding his rhythm

Dubé said he didn't know what to expect the first day, unfamiliar with his competitors and with the terrain, having never been to France before.

"It doesn't take long to get into the race and into your bubble," he said. "Days after days, you just come to a routine. You just go."

Each leg of the race had a cut-off time between 5.5 and 6.5 kilometres per hour, based on the difficulty of the terrain. 

After completing the day's run, athletes would convene at a designated meeting spot where volunteers had pitched their tents, prepared meals and deposited their personal luggage. 

"Lots of those runners were quite set up with a family, with doctors, with foot care, with massage, which I didn't have."

The runners slept in tents like these each night after completing each leg of the race. (Supplied)

Finishing strong

Out of the 25 runners who began the race, just 12 out of 17 finishers managed to complete every leg within the designated cut-off times.

Dubé missed six of them at the outset, due in large part to the unexpected high temperatures, he said.

He won two stages in the Alps and placed in the top three at least a dozen times.

"To do the Tour de France, you see the entire country — on foot. There's incredible places you visit. I can't describe them all."

To hear the full interview with Alain Dubé, listen to the audio labelled: Brentwood Bay ultramarathoner runs the Tour de France in 43 days.