Race Report by Cathy McKeown
Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes (Nice to Cannes Marathon) 13.11.16 (plus Breakfast Run on 12.11.16)
We came across the Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes (Nice to Cannes Marathon) on our search for a ‘warm’ winter run … and it looked perfect … running along most of the coast road from Nice to Cannes with a little running inland and fairly flat. It was described as being a “marathon for all” and included a 2 x 21.1 km event where two runners could each run a half marathon between Nice and Cannes and a formula relay for 6 runners (designed for companies) with runners taking in distances from 3kms to 10.8kms. How much more idyllic could you get?
However in June there was a terror attack along the Promenade des Anglais where the Marathon was scheduled to start from and a number of people were killed. Needless to say the security in Nice after the attack was stepped up with armed Police and the Army patrolling the area and the race organisers sensibly altered the start of the Marathon to the Allianz Riviera stadium (some 8kms away) which is home to the local football team OGC Nice.
We picked up our bib/race pack at the Expo at Place Masséna on the Friday which included a nice little backpack and souvenir box with cous cous, a bag of crisps and a mini pack of haribo. As always there were the usual suppliers trying to sell their wares and entice you to sign up for other runs. Whilst there we did sign up for the 5km Breakfast run the next day – just a little jog to keep our legs a jiggling.
Saturday was Breakfast run day and it was a really casual affair, a chance to meet the Marathon pacers and some of the other runners, have a few photos, run up to the port and along the Promenade des Anglais on a beautiful morning. We weren’t really bothered about the pace and the fact that it wasn’t even 5kms as advertised – it was just nice to be out running!
Sunday – race day – was to be an early start as transport to the Allianz Riviera stadium was due to pick us up from the station between 5:45am and 6:15am with the race starting at 8am. We were up at 4:45am to get ready. The hotel laid on an early continental breakfast from 5:30am and it was already heaving with runners when we got downstairs and we managed to eat a bit but not the usual pre-Marathon food we would normally have, luckily I’d bought bananas and energy bars for us to take with us. We stood all the way on the bus for the 45 minute journey, the traffic was a bit chaotic as we got to the stadium.
We made our way to find the loos and baggage drop, only 26 toilets and 10 urinals for all the runners taking part and the queues were already 20 deep when we got there. I’m not sure if all those who were stood waiting made it to the start line in time. After dropping our bags off it was still another 30 minutes to the start and despite trying to jog/jump up and down on the spot we were both frozen. At least the different times zones set off in 5 minute intervals so we didn’t have too long to wait to get going once 8am came.
The first 5kms saw us heading from the stadium up to the Promenade des Anglais and close to the Aeroport Nice Cote d’Azur, a nice steady pace and mostly downhill at this stage. A right turn saw us cross over the river Var and then head along the Route du Bord de Mer with the sea and sun our left hand side. The warmth of the sun was most welcoming now. For the next 7kms we carried on with the sea to our left along the Prom de la Plage and Prom de l’Hippodrome before turning right and a gentle downhill. However the next 1.5kms was a kind of a zig-zag and you could see the other runners when you looked across the side streets. The last part of the zig-zag was slightly uphill and then turned back on to the Prom de l’Hippodrome.
Kilometres 13 to 17 saw us running via Villenueve Loubet Plage which was slightly undulating and then we doubled back on ourselves, we also passed one of the many marinas – Quai des Grandes yachts – where there were huge fancy boats moored. I had previously passed the 4:30 and 4:15 pacers but could see the 4:15 pacer wasn’t that far behind me now (she was running towards me and about 0.5kms away) so thought I had better step it up a bit. I was still running a steady pace and looking at between 4-4:15hrs – so well on target.
It was virtually a straight, flat run now all down the coast up until the half marathon stage, this is where the 2 x 21.2km relay teams had their handover. It was a bit disheartening seeing ‘fresh’ runners heading off into the distance – I was wishing I had their ‘fresh’ legs! The next 2kms saw us looping round Antibes Harbour and yet more pretty boats, then it was slightly undulating for the next 6kms until we reached 29kms along Boulevard J F Kennedy!!! This is where it went a bit skewwhiff for me with a bit of a hill and signs about ‘hitting the wall’! At least I managed to run up the hill albeit very slowly … something akin to Illmington (well it felt like it). I was so glad to reach the top and to then jog gently back down the other side (about the same descent as the ascent) but I never really recovered from this and my ‘runners buttock’ pain started to come back which I’d not had over the previous 29kms.
From here until the finish the course was undulating, going through little seaside villages like JuanLes-Pins and Golfe-Juan, passing a museum dedicated to Pablo Picasso along the way, pebble and sandy beaches, blues seas, warm sunshine and yachts/boats moored at the marinas. I had stopped at 37kms to take on some Coca-Cola and a snippet of banana (both very welcome) and found it difficult to get going again. It was around this point that the 4:15 pacer with her group of followers passed me and I tried to keep up but my legs were having none of it …. and they easily edged ahead (not my legs but the other runners!). I was still on for my target … just … but it would be close (I had actually started in a slower time zone initially so had some time in hand).
As we headed in to Cannes along the Boulevard de la Croisette the support was terrific … it’s so nice being coaxed on with ‘Allez Cattee (Cathy)!’ I always try to have something in reserve for a sprint finish but I was worn out and had no energy left and kind of hobbled over the line to collect my medal, t.shirt and goody bag.
I was just outside my target time, however both Geoff and I clocked around 42.46kms on our Garmins so slightly longer than the normal Marathon distance … we had noticed as we were running along that the kms clocked on our Garmins were coming ahead of the distance markers along the course.
Rating of the Marathon:
Overall correspondence/admin = 9/10 (some of it didn’t translate well in to English and I didn’t get one of the final emails regarding my bib number)
Race Village/Start = 5/10 (cold, nowhere to shelter – it may have been different if the start had been along the Promenade des Anglais, not enough toilets)
Course = 8/10 (not flat – basically a course of 2 halves with more undulations in the 2nd half and there was the alteration to the start)
Scenery = 9/10 (stunning, mostly blue sea and pebble beaches)
Support = 7/10 (lots of marshals along the course and at the drink/food stations but not many spectators apart from at the start/finish and some of the larger villages – there were long stretches where there was no-one at all)
Goody Bag = 10/10 (medal, t.shirt, drink, apple, orange, banana, grapes, fizzy Haribo, cake, sandwich)
Overall it was a lovely run in a lovely part of France. We are considering going back next year as we have the second half of the course to conquer hopefully in a faster time than this year! If anyone is interested it is being held on 5th November 2017!
Cathy McKeown = 4:16:50 PB
Geoff Sanders = 5:29:31 PB