Uncle Derek, Neil, Lucas, Lesley and Aunt Elaine in the snow at the start in Place du Milan
For the first time in my life on opening the curtain to see the outside world white with snow I was disappointed. I love snow, but with 26.2 miles (or 42.195 kilometres as we were in the metric world) to trudge round in sub zero temperatures, I was not feeling the vibe. I’d actually travelled over from the UK not even aware it would be so cold, so had been grateful for the long sleeved T-shirt supplied for the marathon the previous day to act as an under layer to my CFT T-shirt. I’d also been purchased a Swiss hat by Elaine and acquired some gloves. I pulled on an extra pair of socks, hoping this wouldn’t lead to blister issues and, in the absence of my union flag shorts and even flag, painted a union flag on my face. (This was after we’d found some face paints the previous day, a challenge in itself). This was complimented (??!!) by three union flag styled napkins safety pinned to the bottom of my t-shirt. Looking as British as had been possible with the lack of union flag attire on sale in Switzerland and a myriad of layers and unthought through clothing, I was ready for the race. Our roommate, Ivica (Serbian living it Zurich) wasn’t so sure, debating if he’d still run the half marathon as we left.
The only part of me exposed to the cold was my calves/shins. I stripped down to my running attire, with the extra coverage of a CFT poncho keeping me vaguely protected from the elements as we waited around in the snowy Place du Milan as the snow came down fairly heavily and the breeze bounced about. After we’d taken a few pictures and I’d had several amused looks over my war painted face, I lined up for the start, jumping about to keep warm. The poncho was finally discarded with a minute to spare before we were set off at 10:13 exactly. (three minutes after the front pack). Not sure how they split the runners into groups as I was aiming for 3:30 or faster and yet started with the 3:45 or slower pacers! I therefore found myself not far from the front of the pack in the first kilometre, a novel experience for me! I passed the support team as we left Place du Milan and headed off out towards the shores of Lake Geneva in a strong flurry of snow and head wind – not my idea of fun. I’m led to believe the temperature was about -2°C at the start! Being I lost feeling in my toes before I started and by 5km had numb hands, despite the gloves, I wasn’t surprised. I had, however, almost caught the 3:30 pace group.
The route followed the Lake shore through Pully, Lutry, Cully and onto Vevey tot eh east. The snow finally eased off after around 10km, but the wind was bitter as we rounded vineyards and up a gentle climb. Despite this and the fact I could feel my hamstring pulling; I retained my pace fairly well. I was also comforted that my facial art work had not gone amiss as many “Angleterre” or “Grande Bretagne” were shouted at me as I ran past.
Into Vevey and my hamstring continued to pull and my pace had dropped a little. But i was buoyed to see the fan base had made it over on the train and were at the 19km point to cheer me through. I passed through halfway at 1:42, over 4 minutes behind my schedule, knowing it was not likely to get much better. We turned round shortly afterwards to make the return trip. Amazingly, the front runner had only gone past in the opposite direction about 5km’s ahead of me. This wasn’t a world record breaking course! As i neared 24km, clan support were just back from their tea break to see me through and take my order for a Mars Bar for the finish line! (Something else I’d forgotten).
Coming through 19km in Vevey
My Aunt Elaine has been suggesting I come run the Lausanne Marathon (Switzerland) for a few years now, being the city in which she lives. (for those accuracy people, she actually lives in Epalinges, on the outskirts on the north of Lausanne). I finally decided it was time to venture over to the city which lies on the banks of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman as the Swiss know it) and enjoy the stunning beauty of the Alps as I ran my 29th 26.2mile route. (Again, for the purists, the 27th as two marathons have not been definitively the full 26.2 miles).
I travelled over with three supporters, Neil, Lesley and my Uncle Derek – himself a previous marathon runner. They joined Aunt Elaine as the support crew, with my Swiss uncle, Alain, opting for a day’s peace and warmth of the flat in lieu of the roadside – his support was in the form of supplying wine and other alcoholic beverages and food each evening. (Aunt Elaine also contributing heavily to the food side). I’d headed down to the registration the day before the run, whilst it attempted to snow/rain. By the evening, it was snowing heavily and settling in Epalinges, 300 metres higher than the start line. A hearty pasta and fish dish was expertly prepared by Elaine and Alain before we bedded down for the night - the forecast being 0°C and light snow for race day.
It had set a new record as my coldest marathon – the first time I’d run in sub zero temperatures, first race in gloves and also a first to have my face painted. I was impressed the war paint lasted the course of the route too! I was also grateful to Neil, Lesley, Uncle Derek and Lesley for braving the conditions and standing along the sidelines waiting my arrival – a colder experience still as at least i was moving! For Neil and Uncle Derek, it wasn’t the best way to inaugurate them as supporters, but both had enjoyed themselves. I fully understood the logic of my Oncle Alain – the warmth of the flat had much to recommend and he seemed highly amused at my mad behaviour. I can also confirm our roommate, Ivica, did complete the half marathon. At least I’d not ended up looking like a snowman or Mr Freeze – just a tribal warrior instead!
Neil, Lucas & Lesley dreaming of a Mo Farah type result!
As we made our way out of Vevey we were offered warm drinks – soup I believe, which I found very welcoming. Up the only steep hill of the day out of the town – and past the 26km marker at which point I finally conceded to the hamstring pulling in my gluts and had a stretch. With 10 miles left to cover it was gonna be tough – I was now 11 minutes behind schedule – reflecting my space dropping dramatically. I managed to run, albeit somewhat slower, to the 30km point before the stretches and brief walks became common place. The temperature had surpassed zero it seemed as the snow at lake level had melted with the sun making a brief appearance, but the snow soon returned in a light flurry as we entered the final 6 miles. My approach now being to run to each kilometre marker and then have a brief walk of up to 100metres to the half marathon kilometre marker and then back to a running motion for the next 900 metres.
Once we hit 37km’s I decided to put more effort in again with just over 3 miles left. Whilst I was willing the hamstring wasn’t so pleased and pulled even more. However, I concluded that as I was nearly finished and had no further runs to get through for 5 weeks I’d grimace and ran the bulk of the last 3 miles. I even picked up quite a bit of pace for the final 1.2 miles to start overtaking people again and was then forced to maintain it as I ran past Elaine, Derek, Neil and Lesley and over the line in 3:55:38 and a face of pain! I felt like I’d barely sweated the entire route and had been cautious every time i went to wipe my dripping nose to ensure I didn’t smudge my war paint! I was rewarded with the early ordered Mars Bar, my medal and a plastic blanket. And my serviettes had survived the race too, much to Lesley’s surprise!
The finishing area the day before the Marathon
Elaine & Derek braving the snow before the start
Applying my “war paint” - my union flag face
24km’s and time to order a post race Mars Bar as the hamstring is beginning to pull more
Approaching the finish line
Uncle Derek interviews Lucas for Meagor TV
With Aunt Elaine and Uncle Alain later in the day - sorting pictures