Overseas Archives: Grand Raid, “the crazy walkers” of 1989

The edition of the Grand Raid 2020, which was to take place this weekend, will not take place. The health situation does not allow to organize this exceptional race. The Overseas Archives invite you to come back to 1989, during the first “Marche des Cimes”, which has since become the Grand Raid.

In Reunion, in October, the whole island is preparing to receive runners from all over the world, who have come to try their luck in the most famous and legendary race. This is the Grand Raid, this very special event, now known worldwide, which has taken place every year in different forms since 1989.

The race that makes you dream and cry

The Grand Raid and its height differences has become a benchmark. The race is known to be one of the toughest in the world. It winds through circuses, paths, plains. It alternates the reliefs between desert landscapes and dense and humid vegetation. A difficult and magnificent course which makes all the charm of the race which makes runners dream as much as weep.

The start of the story

In 1989 a few “crazy people” decided to organize a race that would cross the island, but all at once. It is the “Marche des cimes”, 112 kilometers of trails to be covered and 6000 meters of elevation gain. On the starting line, around 550 runners crazy enough to participate in the race that is already called the “Diagonale des fous”. It consists of crossing the island in a North – South direction, from Saint-Denis to Saint-Philippe.

Look at this 20-minute magazine from RFO Réunion, November 1989:


“Great crossing” then “Grand Raid”

In 1990, the race was renamed “Grande Traversée”. The departure is then from Langevin, in the town of Saint-Philippe and ends at the Port, passing by the cirque of Mafate.

In 1993, a new title and route changed: “La Course de la Pleine Lune”, started from Cap Méchant and arrived at La Possession. That year, the race had its ups and downs, following the passage of a cyclone. It is also the first time that the organization is associative and based on volunteering.

Since 1994, we speak of the “Grand Raid”, the name has not changed since. This year, the health situation linked to Covid-19 does not allow the organization of such a large sporting event. The 2020 edition, the thirty-second, will therefore not take place. But as long as the Reunionese trails will make you dream, there will be some crazy people to walk them.

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