|The island monastery of Mont St Michel|
The race lies over 550 km from our home and so, with the help of my mum who looked after the kids (Thanks!), my wife and I were able to make a special trip of it. We stayed with friends in Brittany the night before and got to St. Malo after a leisurely drive along the coast, taking time out for a relaxed lunch and to walk the dog along the beach.
The reason we headed to St. Malo is that it's the location of the marathon village. Mont St. Michel itself is a small island occupied entirely by an abbey. Oh and some bars, restaurants and tourist shops. The registration process was pretty slick once we cleared up their questions about my medical certificate and the expo was pretty much what you expect for this kind of thing. For the first time, though, we went to the Pasta Party which was a great way to spend an evening, especially as it included a lovely few kilometres walk there/back on the beach with my wife.
The course is pretty flat with the only long hill across the first couple of km as you climb away from Cancale. The hill was fairly gentle and served as a great way to throw off the last chill from the starting area. Descending again to the coast, we caught our first sight of the Mont at about 4k. It was just a tiny bump on the horizon with the spire of the abbey clearly visible even at this distance. Fortunately, we frequently lost sight of the it behind buildings and woodland so we were spared the illusion that we were never getting any closer.
The rest of the first half was delightful as the day gradually warmed to more comfortable temperature. I had dressed for the predicted warm day ahead so I was glad to soak up the warmth. I saw my wife at around 9km and headed along the coast through picturesque villages and past traditional Breton musicians to the halfway point. I hit the half-marathon at a very pleasing 2h10 although even now I was feeling a little worn.
In parallel with the marathon, there was also a Duo event. Two runners share the marathon distance with a change over at 20k. The first runner gets a shorter distance but the hill at the start. An unexpected consequence for me was the demoralising factor of being passed for the next 10k by all these fresh relay runners who just blew past me like I was standing still. I kept hard at it, still gradually losing pace until I passed the second cut-off point at about 3h10. At this point I knew that I'd make it to the finish within time but also that I'd burnt myself away too soon. By 31k the 4h30 flag went past me and I tried to keep pace with them for a few hundred metres without success.
I was reduced to a jog/walk routine for several kilometres but still had the presence of mind to enjoy the changing scenery as we moved off the road and onto paths through land reclaimed from the sea called Polders. The shade from the trees lining the route was also very welcome.
At last, I got properly under way again, running along the causeway towards the island. I could feel the sun finally starting to bleed past my sunscreen and also burning my scalp through my hair but I just pushed forwards. Thankfully, the finish was at the foot of the Mont as, after the EcoTrail de Paris, I'd had quite enough of ending a race with a climbing challenge.
|At the finish line|
We headed back to the hotel in St Malo where we enjoyed a meal in the restaurant and then a romantic walk along the beach where we were treated to a spectacular sunset. All in all, a fantastic race experience. I have no doubt that the great weather contributed massively to the whole thing but the organisation, scenery and spectacular route also played a great part.