Geneva Marathon - Europe's Happiest Marathon
After a couple of full on weeks that comprised of pacing London Marathon, the Running Awards and doing some after dinner speaking I was looking forward to seeing what sort of race shape my legs were in.
I was lucky enough to be invited to Geneva Marathon. Being honest this race was not really on my radar, after all there are a lot of marathons out there. However, after a little bit of research it was very pleasing to read good things about the race, especially how pretty the course was. So, on the hottest weekend of the year so far I joined some other great runners and journalists and landed in the city which is nestled, rather prettily, in the Alps.
The day before race day Geneva was drenched in glorious sunshine. Perfect weather for the planned outdoor activities. This started off with relaxing yoga by the side of the lake. I do a fair bit of this so it wasn't too much of a shock to the system. Next up, something which I presumed I would be totally and utterly abysmal at.. Stand up paddle boarding!
With all the poise of a human sized newborn deer gingerly trying to balance on a large blancmange I ventured out with the gang on to the lake. Encouraged by the patient instructor I wobbled with every tiny ripple on the surface of the clear water but managed to maintain a bit of dignity and not fall in. It was great fun and I vowed to try it again.
Next up was a cable car ride up the nearby Mont Saleve to peek at the fabulous view of Geneva and on the other side the view of the snow tipped Alps. It was a perfectly clear day, we could see Mont Blanc. A majestic view of the mountain would reoccur several times during the race itself.
The evening saw the first of the races of the weekend kick off. The races are wonderfully inclusive. The 10K incorporated runners, Nordic walking (very popular!) and walkers. There was also a women's 6K. We picked a spot about halfway in to the 10K and clapped and cheered as people of all abilities, from the super fast, to relaxed walkers streamed past looking ludicrously happy in the chocolate-box pretty village. In the balmy evening the atmosphere was wonderful.
Race day promised to be a hot one. I had umm-ed and ah-ed about downgrading to the half marathon as my achilles and calf had been sore all week. Part maranoia, part real pain, I was worried about the impending races I have lined up very soon. But I had come to run a marathon, and run the marathon I would. Rather than go for it I decided to tone down my pace and absorb some of the jolly atmosphere and enjoy what had been promised as a beautiful route. The route did not disappoint. The backdrop of the snowy mountains at odds with the rising temperatures and fields full of bright flowers, the course weaved through 13 villages on the way down to Geneva itself. Each village had cheering crowds and lots of different music - Oompa band! Dance music DJ! Harmonica player! Rock Band! - and just when you begin to wonder why Geneva doesn't appear to be getting any closer, at about mile 21, the course starts to gently incline towards the lake. My calf hurt, but didn't seem to get any worse, so I decided to pick up the pace a bit. This lasted about 1.6 miles, it was rather too hot for any of that business.
The crowds get thicker as you near the finish line. You loop back on yourself, nearing the finish flume which is next to Geneva’s iconic Jet d’Eau Fountain.
As I neared the finish line I was aware of the real mix of runners taking part. I had crossed the line with team relays members hand-in-hand, and full marathon runners. We all had one thing in common - everyone was smiling.
I can honestly say Geneva Marathon was a superb race. Real PB potential, good quality race, great course; it's the happiest marathon I've ever seen.
Also - as luck would have it - it's the land of cheese and chocolate. Post marathon food heaven. No wonder everyone is so happy.
Thank you to Geneva Marathon & Freestak for the race weekend.
Pictures- Geneva Marathon/Rick Jenner