Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Featured Country of the Month: France and Andorra

France is bordered to the east by the Alps and to the west by the Pyrenees, meaning that a considerable amount of the country is located as altitude.  The tiny principality of Andorra, which borders France, consists mainly of mountainous terrain, and has an average altitude of just under 2,000m.  While the steep inclines of the mountainous regions are most suitable for cyclists, the town of Font Romeu (1,850m) is a popular altitude training destination for athletes in a range of sports, including athletics, triathlon and swimming.  The ski resort is home to CNEA, the official French altitude training base.

Font Romeu is one of the most popular training bases in Europe, if not the world, and has been used by many of the world's best distance runners, including Paula Radcliffe and Mo Farah.  It has been one of British Athletics altitude training bases since 2010, and is a particularly popular sport among the Irish distance-running elite.

Font Romeu isn't just for elite athletes though.  The friendly town is suitable for anybody wishing to enjoy the great outdoors, and runners of all levels will appreciate the varied trails, and beautiful views.  Trail runners will find suitable routes in all directions, and speed demons can access fast, flat routes a short drive away. There is a variety of activities on offer, and a holiday in Font Romeu doesn't have to be based solely on running.

Pros: There are excellent facilities, including a track in the town, gym facilities and two swimming pools.  Numerous budget airlines fly to the airports in the region, including Perpignan, Barcelona, Girona, Montpellier, Carcassonne and Toulouse.  It is relatively easy to get to and from races around Europe during the track season.  There is an excellent choice of self catering accommodation.

Cons: Food and accommodation can be expensive during the peak season. It is necessary to travel to get to flat training loops.  English is not widely spoken in the town.

Photos of my visit to Font Romeu can be viewed via Facebook and FlickR

We've had a few guest blog posts about Font Romeu over the last year, including:

Q and A blog with Dean Cunningham, aspiring 10km runner who has trained in Font Romeu
Guest blog from young triathlete Sam Laidlow who studies and trains in Font Romeu
Guest blog from Irish International Steeplechaser Kerry O'Flaherty who owns an apartment in the town.

In addition, the following is a post that I wrote during my visit to Font Romeu in 2010:
Font Romeu Updates 

We'd love to hear from anyone that has done altitude training in Andorra, or elsewhere in France, particularly in the French Alps.  Please comment below or email info@altitudetrainingcamps.com.