Just back: running a marathon in Annecy

Whilst half the world was packed onto the capital’s streets for the London Marathon last weekend, I was on the shores of Lake Annecy representing Britain in a much more sedate, local marathon. Choosing to amalgamate my passions of running and travelling were key in deciding to leave the multitude of British runs behind to try something a little different.

An overnight stay in Geneva and limited day’s exploration of Annecy’s Old Town was all just a preamble to the moment when we joined over 3,000 runners lining up at the lakeside departure point loosening their toned, sinewy forms to motivational anthems – ranging from Queen to generic French electro-pop – blaring through the speakers. The throng soon settled and a thirty second silence, immaculately observed for the Boston Marathon tragedy, showed the solidarity that I believe all runners felt after the event.

The starting gun was sounded and jostling began as the lycra-clad procession made its way along the lake’s edge before circling around and cutting through the Old Town below the beautiful Palais d’Isle – a former palace straddling two canals that gives the town it’s most iconic sight. The route then settled onto cycle paths permanently keeping the lake stretching out to one side and undulating green hills to the other.

The Annecy Marathon is a quintessentially local race and the antithesis of the big, brash London Marathon with it’s huge crowds and constant wave of energising noise. This was a run where self-motivation was key as the relatively quiet route passing through rustic villages and farmland offered little to distract from the building muscle pain except beautiful views of the lake with the imposing, cloud-crowned mountains in the distance. The soothing calm of rubber soles rhythmically padding in unison on the tarmac was only intermittently interrupted by enthusiastic cowbell-wielding locals and shouts of Allez Francois, Allez Michel and even Allez John.

The weather remained overcast throughout the weekend and the mild temperature made for very kind running conditions. The drawback being that the promised spectacular views – whilst still pleasant – never truly attained their potential as they were continually masked in a disappointing grey shroud.

A very satisfactory race finished where it started to cheering crowds in Annecy in 3 hours 42 minutes – a time that showed grit and determination to overcome a body that didn’t look like it had the potential to do it. After collecting a medal and a ridiculous gold survival blanket before limping back to my hotel for a much needed nap, the morning’s massive exertion extended permission for extreme indulgence.

A hearty plate of tartiflette – a local speciality consisting of potatoes, lardons and onions covered in melted Raclette cheese was the perfect post-run helping of stodge. The low-key atmosphere of the day so far was also mirrored in the Old Town’s subdued Sunday night watering holes as we treated ourselves to a few well-deserved local beers. Afterall, this is, to some extent, why we do it.