Northern France Tourism : official website

Runners climbing a slag heap.

Untouched and wildly crazy

There is not one, but many races. There are 8 if you count the slag heap trek. A 10 kilometre health walk. The “P’tits Quinquins”(from 700 to 1,200 metres) is for  younger participants. Prepare your calves. No one fears the “Familiale”, 3 kilometres and flat.  Then it gets a bit more complicated. The “Furtive” climbs 2 slag heaps, the “Authentique” 3 slag heaps, and the “Sauvage” is 25 kilometres of exertion through beech groves and paved Roman routes, weighted down by the red schist clinging to your running shoes. And then there is the “Allumés” (crazy) race which is started with a hunting horn at 8.00pm. You feel like the prey. So you run. Fast...

Runners on a slag heap in the distance
  • It is a packed route covering several kilometres and with about one hundred metres of varying gradient
  • © Eric Desaunois

A very difficult race

The miner’s lamp for avoiding stumbling, a whistle in case you get lost, and a foil blanket in case things get complicated...La Cafougnette is a number 7 trail race on the scale of 10. As a result, certain precautions are imposed by the race regulations. And a mobile phone if possible. The 250 participants take off at 6.00am for 59 kilometres of 100% nature, through forests, marshes and 11 slag heaps. The equivalent of 900 metres of accumulated slope. The runners finish exhausted and covered with mud, but happy to to have finished such a tough race.

Exhausted runners scaling a slag heap
  • Bravery and a good pair of trainers are your best bet for this race
  • © Yves-Marie Quemener

The region’s green lung

The Scarpe-Escaut natural regional park is France’s oldest. Listed in the European Natura 2000 network, it is situated on the Belgian border and includes the Raismes, Saint-Amand and Wallers forests. One can say that the slag heap race is an immersion in luxurious nature:  5,000 hectares of oaks, hornbeams and scotch firs. The scotch firs were planted by the Germans in 1918, as compensation for war damages. There remain several vestiges of the mining period in this green lung. There are breathtaking views from the 2 Sabatier slag heaps which feature in the most of the races.

View of the Raismes forest on a slag heap at sunrise
  • The Raismes forest is a real haven of peace
  • © Samuel Dhote