Checking out the route at the expo. Realising I was running off out towards the French border!
Water fountain at the expo. It turns out Geneva is very proud of it’s water – I got a free water bottle at the expo and at the end of La Genevoise 5k on the Saturday. I loved that there were drinking water fountains ALL OVER the city centre.
Harry and I celebrating our races with a beer on the Sunday evening.
I think a marathon relay is a great idea. You get to experience the occasion and atmosphere of the marathon event, without the effort or pressure of training for the whole distance. But, after running in a marathon relay, I also think they might be quite a lot of faff that isn’t worth the effort.
I’ve got quite into lists on here of late, so here’s some not so great parts of the Geneva marathon relay:
The half marathon, marathon and relay marathon all start at the same place in Chêne-Bourg, a 15 minute tram ride out of the centre of Geneva. The relayers, then head to a park and ride site a further 10-15 min walk along the main road. Our bus for the second leg was supposed to leave at 8:15, it eventually left over half an hour later. It was all a bit boring and I don’t love spending my Sunday hanging out next to a multi-story car park. It didn’t help that the half marathon started at 8:30 so I was sat on the bus (not moving) thinking ‘I could’ve just been running by now’.
The start of leg two was at FC Choulex, a small football club in a rural town outside of Geneva. There was one toilet, no cover and it was ruddy freezing. We had over an hour wait. I was happy to run off out of there.
We didn’t get the start line atmosphere or finish line glory. There were around 300 people starting our leg together, but all at different times. The ‘finish’/swap over at leg four was even more sparse. We just got to a sort-of ‘lay by’ set up in the middle of nowhere… then just stopped.
I entered the relay as a team, but in reality I saw less of the three girls in my team than I would’ve done if we’d all just ran one of the other distances as a ‘regular’ race. Leah handed over to me, then I handed over to Kiera, but the few scrambled seconds in between legs was all I saw of them. (I was then a rubbish team mate and missed Beki doing the finishing leg as I was desperate for a shower.)
The good stuff
The good thing about this race was running my leg with Billie, from the second Team Naturally, Run team. We had leg 2, which was 10k-21k of the marathon course. If I was running on my own I probably would have hated it. The route was through fields, woodland, vineyards and small villages. The only supporters were families out at the end of their drives. The scenery was stunning in parts – mountains and little castles flying Swiss flags off in the distance. There were some points with slightly soul destroying 90 degree turns, where you were running out along one side of a field and then turning and running along the other.
The actual running part I enjoyed. 7 miles was a pretty perfect distance, and exactly 4 weeks after the marathon, it was the first time my legs didn’t feel absolutely and completely mashed up. The actual race was fairly well organised (other than the super late running shuttle bus at the start, and having to wait a while to get one back to the finish in the city centre after our leg), with the usual stuff such as expo, aid stations and medals all being top notch.
I don’t think I’d run a race as a relay again, for me it meant I lost all the parts I enjoy about racing – the city centre location, the crowds, the atmosphere. But it meant that I got to run through some of the Swiss countryside that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise and it was a different racing experience. I don’t think I would’ve enjoying running the half marathon distance so soon after the marathon anyway. This was just a very small part of a brilliant running weekend away with friends.
Fairly often, after someone has run a marathon, they either say in passing, or in a race report, that it was “the hardest thing they’ve ever done.” As much as I think it’s important to carefully consider your decision before signing up to a marathon (it’s not something to be entered into lightly blah blah blah…), I also want people to know that if I can do it, anyone can.
Really, that is the truth. No one is more surprised than myself that I ran a marathon. I’m sure anyone that was with me or heard about my experience at the Copenhagen half would also agree. Pretty much anyone I went to school, college or uni with wouldn’t have seen it coming. But even still, it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And here’s why:
I’ve been spinning. And spinning is the devil’s workout. It’s hard, it hurts and more often than not, it’s boring as hell. (Admittedly, I’ve recently been to a couple of Bangs‘ classes at Boom Cycle, which are, by all accounts, the antidote to the usual spinning crappyness.) But if you can survive the torture of spin on a regular basis, you’ll be okay.
I’ve been to track. At track you have to run really fast and try not to cry. Or be sick. And then you have to do it at least seven more times. You’ll feel like an Olympian when you’re flying round the corner into the straight, but again it’s hard and it hurts. But when you’re running your long, slow marathon pace it really will feel like the easiest thing in the world.
I had a lot of long run practice. Although a couple of the distances were altered slightly, I don’t think I missed a single one of my long runs during marathon training. And once you’ve conquered 18 miles on a Thursday night after work when the only thing keeping you going is thinking of as many words as possible beginning with A, then B, then C… Or had a mini tantrum at the entrance to Hyde Park 17 miles into your 20 miler because you had more than enough half an hour ago… Or broken down in tears in the hail in Greenwich Park and sulked off onto a bus… Or had to talk yourself out of a panic attack on a busy, sunny Saturday afternoon along the Embankment… then the glory of the day itself will be easy.
I’ve been heartbroken. This may seem a bit melodramatic, but during the marathon when I was having a tough time during the 30-something kilometre section, I thought back to December last year when I was lying on the sofa bed in my old flat crying harder than I ever have before. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to feed and dress myself that day, let alone do anything else. That day was exactly 16 weeks out from race day. For the next six weeks I hauled myself to work and out for runs whilst I was numb and sad. I rattled around my empty flat on my own. I searched for somewhere else to live when it was the last thing I wanted to do. But I got through it. And I did think back to that time when I was in so much pain, and the pain I was in whilst running paled into insignificance in comparison. If anything, it helped. I was actually having fun in comparison.
So the point of this post wasn’t to moan, or for pity. It was to say that we are all much stronger than we give ourselves credit for. We are adaptable. We’re capable of not only coping, but doing well under pressure. We all go through a lot in our professional, personal and fitness lives, and sometimes it’s good to reflect on this.
Take time to appreciate how toughness (big or small) has made you tougher. You are stronger than you think.
After getting up before 5am, an hour long wait on the runway at Gatwick, but then a super quick and painless flight, yesterday we arrived!
After checking in, grabbing some pasta with an obligatory petite bière, hunting out a local supermarket for Swiss treats and heading to the expo to pick up race numbers, it was time to head over to Ashley and Bo’s gorgeous Geneva apartment. They kindly offered to host us all for a couple of hours of cheese, wine and chat to welcome us to the city.
Myself, Harry and Charlie then wandered around the centre for a while on the way back to our hotel, stopping off for frites and another petite bière at the Lord Nelson pub on Place du Molard.
This morning, after the ace little breakfast buffet at our hotel, we went for a wander around the city again, taking in the sights and beautiful buildings. The women’s only 5k race that’s part of the Geneva marathon weekend, La Genevoise, is held at 2pm at the afternoon, possibly the strangest time of a race I’ve ever taken part in. I didn’t want lunch before the race, so instead fuelled with a pain au chocolat and coffee.
After more wandering, we met the rest of the girls near the start and headed across the bridge to the start. It was a sea of very enthusiastic ladies in frankly hideous pink v-neck t-shirts (probably won’t be wearing that one!) and some very loud dodgy dance. It was a really fun atmosphere though.
Soon enough, we were running through the inflatable arch and off to the left towards the lake. The first half mile or so of the course was super busy, narrow and congested. The race was full of all kinds of abilities mixed together (as was the point of the race) so required quite a lot of weaving. I said to Leah about how I had considered trying to PB at this race, but it clearly just wasn’t going to happen.
The route was an out and back along the side of the lake, and the sun came out whilst we were waiting at the start, so running along the water was really lovely.
Just before the turn back, the course opened up a little and I sped up. By half way, I could really speed up and decided to see how fast I could go. I ran the last (almost) mile at 7:45 pace and crossed the finish after running down the brilliantly noisy and spectator filled final straight in 25:42, well over a minute faster than my previous 5k PB. The course came out at 2.95 miles, but even still I’m taking it. I’d heard that post marathon is a good time to get a shorter distance time, and today felt really good for it.
A lovely little race with a lovely little view and a great way to shake out before more running tomorrow.
Tonight, we’ve been going through the race prep motions proper in readiness for the half marathon and marathon relay tomorrow, not that you’d be able to tell from our dinner…
I was very surprised, to say the least, that no actual tears fell from my eyes until at least two minutes after I crossed the finish line. After being told that I seemed “determined” to make the whole experience as emotional as I possibly could, I sort of expected to spend the whole weekend weeping from one hour to the next. However, it was only once I walked up to the line of people giving out medals that I finally started to cry.
Medal round neck, orange wedges grabbed and bag collected, I plonked myself on the tarmac in the middle of the finishing area. It felt a little bit like being in a marathon warzone, as a medical vehicle drove through in one direction and a man on a stretcher got carried in the other. I changed into my flip flops to reveal what really had been going on in my left sock (just a massive blister, thankfully – and don’t worry, I’ll spare you that photo).
Medal selfie taken and uploaded, I got a text from Steph, letting me know that her, Leah and their respective support crews were waiting just outside the gates of the finisher’s zone. I waddled over and the hugs from both Steph and then Leah really set the tears off properly.
I actually really love these two photos that Steph took of me – I might be crying but I’m also smiling, and I don’t think they could’ve captured how I felt at that point – literally 10 minutes after finishing my first marathon – more perfectly.
After a while, we headed back to our hotels for a shower and nice long sit down. As I was let into the Metro with my medal as a ticket, it felt like a proper marathoner’s moment. I phoned my Mum and just said ‘I DID IT!’ (well, and a few more words that might have contributed to this month’s slightly silly phone bill).
That night, I met up with Shane, Martyn and Leo for a race debrief over dinner, where I bought a ridiculously expensive half bottle of Champagne which I couldn’t even finish, because surprisingly enough, running a marathon makes you pretty tired. Not tired enough to actually sleep that much though, and after only about 6 hours sleep that night, I woke up wide awake before 8am the next day.
The next day was equally as beautiful as the marathon day itself. After talking it up quite a lot, I woke up on the Monday and decided I did actually want to mark the achievement in a more permanent way. Shane and Tika accompanied me to the tattoo shop (I went to Abraxas), where I got something typically Parisian inked on the inside of my right ankle. We then went for a celebratory drink, before meeting Nadia and her boyfriend Matt for a spot of lunch. It was a gorgeous day in Paris and we sat outside soaking up the sun and post marathon relaxed holiday vibes.
Then we headed over to the Eiffel Tower for a bit of a medal glory photoshoot. Honestly, my phone is full of these, but here are the highlights…
Along with my favourite shot of my new ink. My Eiffel and the Eiffel. What a bloody fantastic weekend.