France’s François D’haene is one of the best ultrarunners in the world. He’s won some of the hardest 100-mile foot races out there like the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in Chamonix (3-time winner) and the Hardrock 100 in Silverton, Colorado (he’s the 2021 champion and course record holder). But he’s not a one-dimensional athlete, he’s stood atop over 50 podiums in both running and ski mountaineering. And in addition to being a freakishly good athlete, he’s also a wine producer in Beaujolais.
But the father of three children and takes a refreshingly chill approach to his success: there’s no rules, no training plans, no strict diet. We chatted with D’Haene as he was gearing up for the 2022 Hardrock this weekend.
GQ: When you’re training for a big event, like the Hardrock 100, what time do you usually wake up? What’s the first thing you do?
François D’Haene: When I’m training for a big event, what time I wake up is different every day because I have to adapt every day—I also have a job and a family. I don’t have a regular plan!
Can you walk us through what a typical day looks like?
There is no typical day for me, but I always have something to do. This week I was cycling on Saturday (a casual 230-mile bike ride that took nearly 19 hours), with my children on Sunday, and wasn’t able to train on Monday because I had to deliver some wine to a few huts in the mountains by foot. Each day is totally different.
How do you balance training, raising three kids, and your wine business? Is it difficult to do all those things well?
It’s hard to manage it and get everything done, but I don’t want to make any compromises so I try to do as good as possible. I train when I can. I try to get some long days in the mountains and keep some moments for training, some moments for the business, and some for family. I work on my calendar with my wife. Of course, I don’t have so many moments for rest but I have to make room for the things I love.
What kind of workouts are you doing each week? How much mileage or how many hours do you spend training? How much vert are you getting in? Are you self-coached? Has your training in physiotherapy helped you develop your training plan?
I don’t have any regular training and I don’t want to have any regular training or workouts. I really just try to adapt myself and be happy with that and play in the mountains when I can. Because of my schedule, I don’t have a coach. I discuss my race calendar a lot with my team manager and we try to make it as good as possible. I just have to adapt.
Do you remember when you first fell in love with trail running or racing ultramarathons? Was there a specific moment?
It’s something that built up slowly over many years. I remember when I was a kid I always loved being in the mountains. For me it was a dream to understand what happened between the earth and the top of a mountain. I started to build my relationship with the mountain and adventure and trail running. When I was finally able to go by myself with friends (at around 16 or 17 years old when we had a car) I was so happy. The adventures became longer and longer and I fell in love with trail running. That was in 2002, so 20 years ago, and I’m still passionate about it.