A couple of weeks ago, I was one of 11,165 runners who took part in the 5th edition of the Marathon des
Alpes-Maritimes Nice-Cannes, continuing my quest to run the world.
The race, which was first run in 2008, has become an important event on the French race calendar, and for the 3rd consecutive year the site of the French Marathon Championships.
It has also become a prominent international race, with 28% of the runners coming from outside of France and representing 58 different nationalities. By selecting Peace and Sport, an organization which promotes the values of tolerance, respect, sharing and citizenship to be its official charity partner and welcoming 100 runners scheduled to run the cancelled New York City Marathon, the race increased its international profile even more.
In addition to the marathon, there was also a marathon relay and 385 teams consisting of 6 runners covered various distances from Nice to Cannes. I ran a marathon relay earlier this year, so I know how great it is to have that sense of camaraderie of running with a team and to have all the excitement that comes with running a marathon without having to run a full marathon.
“Yes we Cannes. It’s very Nice” was the tag line for the race, which started on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and going through several villages along the coast – Saint-Laurent-du-Var, Cagnes-sur-Mer Villeneuve-Loubet, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Vallauris Golfe-Juan – before finishing on the famous Croisette in Cannes.
The race had been on my radar since I ran the Nice Half Marathon in 2011. After failing to gather 5 other runners to run the relay portion with me last year, I decided to run the full marathon myself this year and enjoy the beautiful coastal route and the scenery of the sunny Côte d’Azur.
That part about running while enjoying the scenery of the “sunny” Côte d’Azur. Yeah, not so much. My hopes for this scenario were dashed several days before the race, as rain was predicted on every weather forecast I checked. In the end, the weather wasn’t as bad as was predicted; it turned out to be overcast and cool, with some light showers later in the race.
The grey skies and rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for the race, however, as spectators, bands and DJs and 1,600 volunteers lined the course from beginning to end, providing entertainment and support along the way.
As I started the race, I tried to keep in mind the advice of long-distance runner Mike Fanelli, who suggested dividing
the race into thirds, running the first part with your head, the middle with your personality, and the last part with your heart, and made kilometers 14, 28 and 42 my mental “milemarkers”.
Kilometer 1 – 14 – Head
I’d say that I succeeded in running the 1st part of the race with my head. I didn’t want to repeat the mistake I made during my first marathon when I started off way too fast and ended up paying for it later. I picked up a pace bracelet at the expo and managed to not only stay on target
with the splits, but was about 1 minute ahead during this portion of the race.
Kilometer 15 -28 – Personality
While I managed to stay slightly ahead of the splits on the pace bracelet during the first third of the race, by the time I got to kilometer 21 (half-marathon point), I was slightly behind, and got further behind as the race continued. It’s also at this point that I start to feel restless, and after repeatedly looking at my Garmin and being irritated by my earphones, decide to just take them off. I thought I’d give myself a break for a few kilometers, but I ended up running the duration of the race without them. This part of the race became less about my personality than just following my own advice to enjoy the journey.
I listened to waves crashing, the sound of my footfalls, and often labored breathing. I was able to hear spectators cheering me on, as was the case in Luxembourg. I also engaged a bit with other runners, with some of them encouraging me to allez when I began to falter, and me encouraging others when they were ready to stop.
Hearing the crowds and connecting with other runners was really a big deal for me because I felt an
incredible sense of loneliness training for this race and also on the day of the race because I didn’t have my family or friends there to cheer me on. The rain held out until about kilometer 27 (mile 17), and even then it was nothing more than a little drizzle, just enough to keep me cool, but not rritated. The irritation came at kilometer 28 when I ran smack dab into the wall. To be honest, I hit the wall way before kilometer 28. I hit it before the marathon even started, with about 4 weeks left in my training. With my previous marathon, my longest training run was 35 kilometer (22 miles). I also did two 32 kilometer (20 miles) runs. This time around my longest long run was 27 kilometer (17 miles).
8 kilometers (5 miles) might not sound like much when you’re training for a marathon, but I think it makes the difference between fully prepared to go the distance or not.
Kilometer 29-42 – Heart
So I’ve hit the wall: there is no heart, no mental toughness. In fact, I find myself contemplating escape routes. I’m just joking. Kinda. But with 2/3 of the race under my belt, I realize that the fastest way to be finished is to finish. I try to concentrate on the scenery and take things one step, one kilometer, one hydration stop at a time.
At around kilometer 40 I burst into tears (dry heaving would be a more accurate description, because at this point my body was much too dehydrated to produce tears). While the finish was only 2 kilometers away, I was upset because I still couldn’t see the finish line or even hear any of the fanfare associated with it.
But soon I did see my goal. Just as the rain started to get a little heavier, I turned onto the Promenade de la Croisette and crossed the finish line, just steps from the legendary Palais des Festivals, where the Cannes Film Festival is held. Marathon number 2 is on the books, and I am a finisher of the Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes Nice-Cannes.
“Yes we Cannes. It’s very Nice.”