14 May Geneva Marathon – Jon Lewis reviews
Geneva Marathon 6th May 2018
Nestled along the shores of Lac Lemon is the cosmopolitan city of Geneva. Home to FIFA, the United Nations and The Red Cross, it is a city that hosts the international community with consummate ease and style. The number of super cars on the road is indicative of the wealth that is on show. Hotels that charge handsome rates per night, bottle of house wine that come in at £80 a pop and a glittering array of designer shops are what is in store when you arrive.
Despite that, the Harmony Geneva Marathon weekend is all about fun and that comes at no cost whatsoever. Aside from the Marathon, there is a half on offer, a 10km, a Nordic race, a night race and several kids races to immerse yourself in. There is no racing hierarchy here. Every participant is treated with the same respect and warmth as their counter-parts. There is a real community involvement. The racing weekend is an important component to the City – an opportunity to showcase what the City has to offer and to do so in the most-friendly and supportive atmosphere I can remember.
Having run the Geneva Half Marathon in 2016, my return to the City was long overdue and certainly much anticipated. I had promised myself 2 years earlier that I would return to complete the marathon. Family in tow, we arrived on Saturday and found the Expo and assorted entertainment in the cloudless skies beside the Lake. It was already abundantly clear to me that the following day’s task was going to be under similar weather conditions – not something that I wanted nor trained in. It seemed only a matter of weeks ago that myself, Peter Trott and Mark Taylor slipped and slided our way through the snow ridden streets of Cardiff. I could remember the advice of those more gifted at running than I when similar conditions befell the London Marathon only 2 weeks earlier – just enjoy it, forget the time, it is all about the experience. That is what I tried to tell myself, but secretly yearned for dark clouds and a significant drop in temperatures.
The Marathon itself starts just south of the Lake and in an area of the Old Town of Geneva. The route takes in about 16 miles of countryside. Not just any countryside however. Fields of 5 foot high flowers and reeds, Swiss chalets surrounded by trees that had been there an eternity, a backdrop of The Alps and, if you were looking the right way, the snow-capped summit of the highest peak in Europe – Mont Blanc.
As you run, you are within inches of the French border. You weave your way through narrow country roads and paths with green fields either side of you. There are no hills. There is no shade. There is limited support in such a rural setting, but the beauty of the surroundings are such as to make all of that rather insignificant. What support there is, relentlessly yell allez, allez allez. Children with cow-bells rattle a tune as you pass. The water stops are awash with fruit, hosepipes sprinkling water and Swiss chocolates and biscuits. It is hard not to stop, to take whatever you can and admire the enthusiasm in which these treats are offered.
After 18 miles you start to make your way back towards the City. You head towards the Lake, run past the Jet D’Eau and the countless number of small eateries that line the streets as you finish on the Pont du Mont Blanc. The support in and around the City is more obvious. It seemed, to me at least, that this really mattered to the locals who came out to support their home marathon.
My efforts were someway short of matching the spectacular beauty on offer. I am not sure whether anyone who reads this will agree, but for me, I know how things are going to go within a short space of time from setting off. By mile 10 I felt like I had already done double that. It was a struggle in the
heat but I wasn’t alone. Medics on bikes went back and fore. Competitors lay flat out on the sides of the road. Others were held up by the volunteers at the water stations. In fact, such were my struggles that at the last water stop I was taken hold of before toppling over. I was ushered towards a waiting tent only to regain enough composure to set off again knowing that the last 2 miles were all that were ahead of me.
There is a real international feel to the whole weekend. The number of UK runners saw them 3rd in the list of countries being represented – behind Switzerland and France. It is not hard to see why it has such a draw. Would I return again? In a heartbeat. Would I recommend it? Unquestionably. Should you do it? Allez, allez allez.