LET'S TALK MOUNTAIN RUNNING EPISODE 7: CHARLOTTE COTTON (BEL)
The Uphill World Masters Champion in Madeira 2023, Charlotte Cotton (BEL) is synonymous to a big big smile any time to meet her. In mountain running, years of relentless training have honed her physique to a level of peak performance, but it is her unwavering belief in herself that truly makes Charlotte a successful athlete.
LET'S TALK MOUNTAIN RUNNING EPISODE 7: CHARLOTTE COTTON (BEL)
THE MOUNTAIN RUNNING SMILE
In the heart of the world's towering mountains, amidst the rugged terrain and breathtaking vistas, Charlotte Cotton (BEL) stands as a testament to the power of human spirit. The Belgian mountain runner has not only conquered the physical demands of our sport, but has also scaled the heights of international competition, claiming the coveted Uphill World Masters Mountain Running Championships title in Madeira. Her journey is an inspiring tale of perseverance, fueled by an unwavering passion for mountain running.
Charlotte Cottom (BEL), the mountain running smile started the season with a remarkable 7th position in the Montemuro Vertical Race on the second Golden Label race of the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup, from where she had a tough July with a 22° in the Montée du Nid d’Aigle, 16° at Vertical Nasego, Golden Label Valsir Mountain Running World Cup, followed by a commendable 21° in the Trofeo Nasego, just the day after.
Already in September, she climbed to the 5° position in the at the Canfranc Uphill, Golden Label Valsir Mountain Running World Cup, and an impressive 8°in the CanfrancCanfranc Classic distance just the day after the Uphill. Her determination propelled her upward in the final World Cup classification after an 8° at the Silver Label race, Primiero Dolomiti.
With this numbers, she arrived to the Finlaissima in Gran Canaria with the determination of making in the TOP10 of the overall Wolrd Cup. In the Uphill race in Gran Canaria she finished 7° and 5° at the Finalissima Sky Gran Canaria Classic distance.
At the end of the season, Charlotte Cotton (BEL) has finished 11° in the Women's overall Valsir Mountain Running World Cup, which together with her great perfromance at the Wolrd Masters Mountain Running Championships, have given her the nomination for the European Best Masters Award 2023.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM, WHAT IS YOUR HOMETOWN AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?
I'm from London originally, not the best place for mountain running, or running at all! I had next to no opportunities as a child even though my dream was to run in the Olympics. The few times I raced as a child I enjoyed beating the boys and I did pretty well for someone who did very little training. As a teenager I spent summers with my grandmother in the French Alps.
My parents wanted my brother and myself to play tennis but our Grandmother refused to let us. The only activity that she allowed me to do was trail running with a group of men, led by Sylvain Cacciatore, Paris marathon champion. I absolutely loved it.
They were really welcoming and supportive even though I was the only child and woman in their group. My grandmother was a very strong woman and I think she thought that I would toughen up a bit doing the sport! I suppose that my love for mountain running started all the way back then, though I stopped from about the age of 15, until I became a Master athlete.
British and Belgian, though I was brought up in the UK, I chose to run for Belgium to keep the tradition alive in the family: my Aunt, Patricia du Roy de Blicquy was an Olympic skier for Belgium and my Grandfather was also an Olympiad.
I currently live in Madrid, Spain, where I luckily found the sport once again and never looked back, 4 and a half years ago. The mountains are about an hour away from the centre which is a lot more practical than in London!
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE COMPETING IN THE VALSIR MOUNTAIN RUNNING WORLD CUP 2023?
Competing in the VALSIR Mountain Running World Cup has been a great privilege and a dream come true. I have been a part of it for 3 years now. It is wonderful to make friends with and compete alongside some of the best athletes in the World and to share incredible experiences together, discovering the mountains in beautiful corners of the globe.
Every year I am growing stronger and making considerable improvement, despite my age and that makes me happy.
I feel incredibly grateful and over the moon to be part of the crew.
MOUNTAIN RUNNING IS A PHYSICALLY DEMANDING SPORT. COULD YOU SHARE SOME INSIGHTS INTO YOUR TRAINING AND PREPARATION LEADING UP TO THE WORLD CUP? HOW DO YOU TRAIN IN WINTER? DO YOU COMBINE DISCIPLINES SKI, BIKE, RUNNING?
Mountain running is a physically demanding sport and I also have a very busy Primary teaching job. This leaves me with very little if any down time to rest. This can be a struggle when it comes to September and October with key events in the World Cup calender and I often cut my training to rest.
Currently I don't combine my training with another sport. I have the coordination of an elephant and don't feel confident on a bike at the moment!
Let's see how things move forward next season after a small rest!
SPONSORSHIP PLAYS A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN AN ATHLETE'S SUCCESS. COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR SPONSORS/TEAM?
Unfortunately I have no sponsor at the moment, which is tough as the costs are high even for materials such as shoes. I teach extra lessons after the school day to help me with all my extra costs, although obviously this gets in the way of training and rest. I would love a bit of support from a brand with nutrition and shoes and clothing. I think that I deserve it with all the effort i'm making!
WITH 16 RACES IN 8 DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, EACH COURSE HAD ITS UNIQUE CHALLENGES. CAN YOU HIGHLIGHT...
Honestly I think that every race that I took part in was beautiful and unique and the world cup takes us to the most amazing places. This is the magic of mountain running.
- THE BEST LANDSCAPE RACE- Sierre Zinal was new for me and absolutely
- THE FASTEST- I think that in the end the modified Gran Canaria routes were probably the fastest races and the organisers did an incredible job of changing the.courses at the last minute due to environmental restrictions. Having said this by the end of the season we were all exhausted and perhaps if we were all fresher we would have gone even faster!
- THE MOST DIFFCIULT/TECHNICAL- Canfranc is always tricky but also so beautiful. The downhill is quite tough but I like the challenge and I like to push myself. Having said that I need to toughen up alot more. I have alot to improve and gain in this area.
THE COMPETITION IN THE MOUNTAIN RUNNING WORLD CUP IS FIERCE. HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN A COMPETITIVE EDGE AND STAY MOTIVATED THROUGHOUT THE SEASON?
Following the World Championships in Thailand, I injured myself badly in the illotibial band which was awful. I lost 4 months of training and had to start from scratch. Although age is not yet an issue in many aspects, I do recognise that it takes longer to get back to where you were. At the beginning of the season this year I was still improving and got much stronger by the end of the Cup.
Seeing my progression and my results improve as I raced my fellow competitors and friends was a great motivating factor and kept me positive, enthusiastic and raring for more despite the length of the season.
With the world cup over I'm still going although I just have one race left. I definitely need a break physically and mentally and to regenerate myself for next season.
CAN YOU SHARE ANY PRE-RACE RITUALS OR MENTAL TECHNIQUES YOU RELY ON TO KEEP YOUR PERFORMANCE CONSISTENT THROUGHOUT THE WORLD CUP?
Honestly I try to keep myself calm and collected. I like to spend time with Camilla Magliano before and after races. Particularly before we are good for eachother as we manage to keep our cool together. I'm sure I have alot to develop on the mental side of things.
FINALLY, WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE RACE/MOMENT DURING THE VALSIR MOUNTAIN RUNNING WORLD CUP, AND WHAT MADE IT SPECIAL TO YOU?
Gosh this is a tricky question. Can I be naughty and talk about the Masters World Championships in Madeira in September? I think that all my work in the World Cup came together, I had a very fast and fierce race: the race of a life time when I won by a couple of minutes. The following weekend I got to Nasego exhausted and this definitely affected my performance in Italy!
I also loved racing Camilla Magliano up the stunning uphill in Canfranc. She beat me by 10 seconds which is very little and I could see that I was making huge improvements! Then sitting up at the top and admiring the extraordinary views with my fellow competitors was wonderful before we headed back down for a doping test!
Pictures © Giacomo Meneghello & WMRA- Marco Gulberti