Friday, 19 May 2017

42.8km. A new marathon distance ... with an extra mile. Geneva 2017.

Going the extra mile is never easy.
Going after having run a marathon is crazy.

One of my favourite Bible verses talks about "going the extra mile" which means to do more than is needed. Running this year’s Geneva Marathon reminded me of this.A highlight was the opportunity to run “The Extra Mile” and raise funds for Unicef.  It wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

Crossing the finish line meant the usual good stuff:  medals, food, drink, high 5’s …. and stopping! And now you want me to go further!  What???  To butcher another Bible verse – “the spirit may be willing, but the legs sure aren’t!”
So having stopped and taken on fuel  I moved to the ‘start line’ of the Unicef Extra Mile. It wasn’t a real mile – more of a metaphorical 600 metres -  restarted my watch and …. wobbled like a newborn giraffe!  And stopped.  And walked a bit.  And started again. Repeat. etc.

But this concept of going the extra mile was inspired (and a first for this event).  Here was a microcosm of my marathon.  Doing it tough for others.  Perseverance.  Thinking not of yourself but what you can do for others.  All this happens not just in a (relatively) short  600metres but seemingly in a headspace of hours thinking about it during the run.

Why do I run? How can I help others?  See the type of things that go through my mind when I’m running marathons.  (Along with the all too often cry of “when can I stop!”)  But there was no way to stop in this extra mile.  This was for children. This was to build wells.  Wells of hope.  Funded by Mont Blanc (and conveniently right outside their store!).

This extra mile was for wells and drinking water for children and their families. For real people. Water has a particular fascination for marathoners and this event was no different. We get wonderful refreshments regularly.  And I spit most of mine out or throw it down my back! If you’re tired and thirsty, just wait a few kms and there’s guaranteed water.  That’s why I wear Janji clothing because they make running gear that generates funds for water projects. Running marathons for those who cant get regular safe water … the irony is powerfully motivating.

After my second finish line for the day a digital sign flashed the good news of how many people had done this.  Raising CHF10 each. Overall, nearly CHF40,000 (basically the same as US$).  Great work all of them.  Great inspired idea Geneva Marathon and great branding/sponsorship Mont Blanc.

So that was a highlight.

The rest of the event was equally impressive:  with all the very best of modern marathons. The ‘user experience’ was excellent and included all the good things that makes for a great marathon experience today -   free public transport, a great app, live runner tracking, lots of photos, etc etc.
If you don’t have these things nowadays you’re going backwards. These are what we’re expecting today and our Australian marathons will need to keep up or risk falling behind.
I guesstimate about 80% of the run was in the country
And beautiful countryside it is (but keep an eye out for the horse poo on these trails!)
Today there were 2,300 runners in the full event but 17,000 overall; aged from 7 to 86 across 8 events in a 2 day running carnival.  Well done Geneva – running is alive and well and your ability to mix the event with a social conscience shows the heart of Geneva as a home for NGOs and community involvement that is alive and well. Yes the event is sponsored by a fitness club but it is called the “Geneva Marathon for Unicef”. Impressive.
... and then you catch your first glimpse of the Lake and The Jet and you know you've arrived in Geneva
Ah, the Geneva Jet -landmark of the city

I get the feeling that this is Geneva putting its own unique spin on a marathon.  And it worked. I wanted to run it not just because I love Geneva but because of what this event stood for.  This is their 13th edition and, again in true Geneva style, runners represented 113 countries.

Interesting other events also included were a female only event for 1,400 to “Run like a girl” and junior races, even nordic walking events!  Also, the full marathon was a relay event for 350 teams of 4-6 runners.  It’s rather strange to be passed mid-race by someone with fresh legs and full energy as they start out on their relay leg ….


- the closing of Mont Blanc bridge for the finish line  was spectacular.  I always get excited when the very heart of a big city is closed especially for us runners.
Great finish line on Mont Blanc Bridge - right in the heart of the city

- Running with my Geneva running friends – the ‘Geneva Runners’. They are a great bunch of folk who run socially and there’s some handy athletes in there … this year we won the teams event in the Marathon, 3rd in the half and 2nd in the 10km.   Bravo!
Proud to be part of Geneva Runners

- Cool bibs - love the flag of the country (even though someone cheered on New Zealand within the last 100 metres!)
It was wet and puddly all day. 
And I think compression gear is the new black.  Compression is expensive and I noticed more than normal in this rich city.  I wish I felt its magic touch made that made difference.

A great expo

A chilly start ...

... soon warmed up.

No idea what this guy was chatting about (in french) but it went on and on and on mid-race!

First finish line of the day!

The last competitor (just ahead of the sweep bus)
This remains for me a highlight. I never fail to be inspired by the marathoners' human achievement, persistence and good old hard work, guts and determination. 


Dare I use the cliche "ran like a swiss watch"?  But it did!

Amazing drink stations. Water, sports drink, bananas, oranges, gels, even biscuits! (no, I don't know why either!)   Plentiful! We couldn’t ask for anything more. I even photo-bombed one of the official photos!

It’s more of a country run and less of a city run than I expected. Probably 80% is in the countryside along quite beautiful paths and trails.  It’s a flat course so a fast time is possible.

The winner was, unsurprisingly, Kenyan, in a course-record 2:10 and the last person just avoided the sweeper in 6:05. 

With much of the run in the country side the quietness of the country with few spectators is unusual. But the embracing of the event by the city makes it special.

Not bad (see above)
Very good for the size of the event. Right in the heart of town.   Post race-massage was very appreciated.

Classy.  Like the event and the city.
Runner’s pack
A bag, a performance finishers tshirt and plenty to eat and drink. 
One black toenail. The poor one that had just grown back :(

And, as always, the obligatory daggy post-run kiss the medal photo!


In summary, this was modern marathoning at its best. Everything we runners could want and need. And then adding the extra mile was a lovely touch.  Well done Geneva.  Bravo!
Running for others, going the extra mile, made it all worthwhile today.  For Unicef, for the kids, and for me.
5-6 May 2018

Friday, 21 April 2017

Paris 2017: the world's most beautiful city for 42,501 runners ... and me

The most beautiful city in the world had a big expectation that its Marathon could deliver the same experience.

In short, it did.  It's a magnificent Marathon in a really beautiful city.  Add it to your bucket list.
How this event is not one of the World Major Marathons I don't know.  Its every bit as awesome and right up there with New York and the other majors.

It delivers plenty of genuine 'pinch yourself' experiences .... yes, I really am running down the Champs-Élysées ......  with 43,000 other runners ...... with the entire road just for us runners.

Yes, there is the Louvre Museum. Yes there is the Eiffel Tower.  Got the idea?  If ever you need a 'pick me up' along the course this event delivers consistently.

Perfect weather helped - and perfect organisation too.  I'm always impressed when anyone can organise tens of thousands of runners.  Its a huge effort and I always appreciate (and try to thank) the volunteers and those who make it a great experience for us runners.

Some highlights:
Jose found me ... I think he could find a needle in a haystack!
* Seeing my friend Jose on the course. I had one friend with me in all of Paris  and - unbelievably - out of 42kms and 43,000 people he saw me and even ran with me.  A huge lift!

* The start...

Always inspiring..... wheel chair elites

Super portable toilets right at the start!!  Not really private but very practical!

Yes that is the Arc de Triomph just behind us at the start line

"Aller"  (Go!)

The cobble stones of the Champs-Élysées   

* Meeting other Aussies on the course.  I met Annie from Hobart and ran with her through the last 10km.  Immediate BFF!

So French!
* The best sign on the course:   "If Trump can run and win, so can you!"

* The course ....

It really is beautiful .....


Amazing drink stations .....   

These bikes were a little tempting .....

And a mid-race massage was tempting too!

Such a cool old Citroen (and the Notre-Dame Cathedral in the background)

I never knew there were so many drummers in all France.  Drummers drummers everywhere!

Oh look!  

So its perfectly ok to stop for a photo!

It was hot - 24-ish - and they took runner hydration seriously!

The 40km mark.  More drummers....

42.1km.  Just 100 metres to go...... poor runner :(

You getting the idea about lots of drummers!

Best view in any Marathon .. the finish chute!

Tourist or runner?????

My event ranking:

Organising 42,500 people for anything is hard. This ran like clockwork. Bravo! 

The best bits are the start and in the city. The parks at either end of the course are beautiful but I like playing tourist in the city more. 
Relatively flat - except for the last couple of km which seems to wind uphill .... so if you're up for a big last push - go early.  

Its Paris... who can't be excited!  You're running down the Champs-Élysées, you're passing world famous tourist sites. Wow wow wow/ 
Excellent. Cheering "Androo" in French took me a while to realise they were cheering for me!
And the finish chute where they were banging the walls was deafening and goose-bumpying!
Excellent.  But its a long way away.  Get ready for 13 stops on the train there and back.  Plan a long trip and not just a pop in. 
Runner’s pack
A bag, a performance finishers tshirt and a drink. And as much post-race food as you could eat. 
None! (I went too slow!)

And, as always, the obligatory daggy post-run kiss the medal photo!

9th April, 2017