It was around 6 months ago that myself (Craig) and Matt decided we fancied taking on a marathon somewhere outside of the UK. Having run 10 marathons between us, we wanted one that we could train for during the summer and that wasnt too undulating as 26.2 miles is tough enough, let alone adding in hills!
So after a bit of research, we settled on the Riviera Marathon, a point to point marathon stretching 26.2 miles from the lovely city of Nice heading west along the Mediterranean to the stylish city of Cannes.
We treated the trip as a mini holiday. Both partners came out along with 8 month old Archie to cheer us on and it was great to spend a couple of days out in France either side of the race. Arriving on the Friday before, we headed straight to the expo to collect our race packs and have a look around. That meant we then had a free day on the Saturday to do some sight seeing and take in Antibes just down the coast. It was nice to stretch the legs and have a wander without overdoing it.
Then came raceday! It was an early start to the race so we were up at 6am to get fuelled ready for the 8am starters gun. Cereal, porridge & bananas were on the menu as this was pretty tried and tested and we knew this would do the job to set us up well. We headed for the start line for 7am, plenty of time to queue for loos (and they were long!) and take in the atmosphere that was being created by the 17,000 runners taking part.
Now, part of the reason for choosing the Riviera Marathon was the fact it was predicted to be 18C and sunshine which we thought sounded awesome. In reality, we encountered a night of thunder and lightening and as we neared the start, the sky was grey and threatening to say the least! It turned out to be good weather to run in and the light drizzle at the start kept you cool and the weather improved as the race went on.
We'd headed to Nice with the idea of getting round in one piece and enjoying it rather than pushing for a PB, so amongst the runners we found a 4 hour pacer and decided to stick with him. Unfortunately, so did a few thousand others! Being able to run a 4 hour marathon is a great achievement and there were a lot of runners who wanted to use the pacer to help them complete the job. We should give shout out to the Duracell pacers back here in the UK who regularly pace runners to their targeted times. Being able to get a group of runners around a course in a set time in some achievement (especially over 26.2 miles).
8am came and we were off. Runners from over 60 different countries wearing all sorts of colours headed off in the direction of Cannes. It was a really relaxed atmosphere and it definitely made us feel more comfortable as we headed off west along the coast. Part of the reason so many travel the distance to take part in the race is the chilled out feel to the event which makes everyone feel very welcome.
We planned to run the race together and this was the first time either of us had run a full marathon with someone and it was a huge motivating factor over the course of the race. We both experienced times where we were feeling it from either muscle fatigued, lack of energy or just general marathon hatred! Every 5k there was a 'feeding' station. Now I've come across water and gel stations, but here they had tables of food! Oranges, bananas, chocolate, raisins and even bags of Haribo. I took the opportunity to endulge on most.
The course hugged the Mediterranean. Going through towns like Antibes, Juan Les Pins, Villeneuve and on to Cannes. You couldn't ask for a more picture postcard route to run. Each km was marked with the distance and we ticked them off one by one. From 17 onwards we were both feeling it. Training had been ok for us both and we could maybe have benefited from a few more long distance training runs, but we helped each other out when either of us needed it.
There were spectators along most of the route with people sat on their balconies enjoying a morning coffee and shooting 'allez, bravo' as we ran past which was really encouraging. We must give a shout out to Amy and Laura (and Archie) who made it to three different spots on the route to cheer us on which gave us a boost each time. You can't beat seeing a loved one when you're feeling shattered near the end of a marathon.
The final few miles were tough but quite enjoyable and it was a relief to finally run into Cannes and along the final straight. We completed the race in just under 4 hours which was our aim but it wasn't about the time, it was about taking part in a great event with runners from all over the world. At the finish there were huge smiles on the faces of young and old that had finished, whilst spectators were waiting for those that had yet to cross the finish line. There was also a huge sense of relief at finishing but pride in what we'd achieved!
Even though I can still feel it in my legs three days after the race, the next question is - which race is next on foreign soil? After this race we've definitely got the taste for a mini break to take the family on and incorporate a run in at the same time so we're starting to eye up some others. If anyone has any suggestions then please let us know!
Craig & Matt