13th Nov…Race report on the Nice-Cannes Marathon

Well done to Ronan Boland who ran a new marathon PB of 2:55:47 in the Marathon Des Alpes-Maritimes from Nice to Cannes in the SE of France last Sunday. This race attracted nearly 6800 runners and Ronan finished 9th overall in his age category. This is Ronan’s race report…

Ronan1The 7th edition of the Marathon Alpes Maritimes took place between Nice and Cannes on Sunday last, November 9th. It’s a beautiful route which hugs the coastline for reputedly 97% of its meandering journey from the Boulevard des Anglais in Nice via the spectacular Cap d’Antibes and Juan les Pins before finishing on the famous Croisette in Cannes (think Cannes Film Festival red carpet etc.)

It’s been on my wish list since we had a family holiday in the area in 2011 while training for my first marathon. Because I was based in Antibes and had run around the beautiful Cape as well as up and down the coast in both directions I’d run on most of the marathon course before.

The race itself has doubled as the French Championships on a number of occasions in its short lifetime so it gets a pretty decent field. They also have invited elites which is reflected in an average men’s winning time of around 2:10. There were about 7000 runners in the full marathon this year. They also had 2 relay options, a 2 x 13.1 and a team relay. About 14,000 participated altogether.

Unlike most other marathons registration didn’t close until 5 days before the race so I was able to make a late decision to race the full marathon (I was originally planning to do the 2 x13 relay and had flights already booked). The registration process was straightforward and efficient. A medical certificate was however required which had to be completed and emailed, faxed or posted back to them. This proved only a minor inconvenience.

A nice touch is that they have preferential numbers for runners who can provide evidence of a sub- 3 marathon run within the previous 21 months or so. This meant that even as a late entry I was given number 155 and started in the “Priviligėes” pen directly behind the invited elites (all African, I think). In the pen we had room to walk around and stretch and limber up if we were so inclined. It was nice to feel like an elite for all of 15 minutes- at least until the gun went off!

The bag drop was efficient and I didn’t see any major queues for the loo-though that may because the French weren’t shy about going down onto the beach to answer nature’s call in full view of everyone! The first 10 or 15k is basically dead straight and starting up close to the front there was no problem getting into a rhythm immediately ( unlike, say, in Cork or in Dublin).

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As for the weather it’s a bit unpredictable on the Côte d’Azur in early November. Temperatures are typically in the low to mid teens (which is almost ideal) but the course is very exposed and if it’s windy (which it often is) it can have a large bearing. Because it’s a point-to-point course heading mostly south westerly the direction of the wind matters as much as how strong it is). I found the early part of the morning very humid. It started raining in the 2nd half of the race and became cooler and it basically didn’t stop raining for over 24 hours thereafter. It was really heavy with local flooding next day and it would have been miserable if it had been that wet during the race. That is unusual though, I’m told, and the conditions we had were certainly not bad overall. It would have been nice to see the sun as we ran by all the lovely coastline and yachts but it would of course have made it warmer.

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As for the course itself, I would say it is faster than Dublin, but not as fast as Berlin or London. The drags aren’t huge but they all come between 25k and 36k, predominantly around the beautiful promontory of the Cap d’Antibes. There is one section at around 15-20k at Villeneuve Leubet (the famous “Sail” buildings that you can see for miles around-for anyone who knows the area) which was a bit tricky- it includes a 180 degree turn and a fair bit of weaving on narrow undulating paths where the surface was only ok. But overall it’s a really nice scenic course and very different to city marathons.

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Plenty of water, fruit, food and sponges out on the course and lots and lots of enthusiastic uniformed stewards at all the nutrition stations. Finish area well organised. Loads of fresh fruit, food, energy drinks etc. The bag pick-up was easy. A very nice rucksack along with the medal at the finish. High quality “Tech” t shirt made by Adidas collected at the expo beforehand. It was very wet when I finished so I put on dry clothes and we headed straight for the train back to Nice before the bulk of the field finished in case there would be big queues for the train. We were back in our hotel in Nice within an hour of the race finishing so all very efficient.

Unfortunately the direct flights from Cork to Nice stop in late October so we did have to drive to Dublin, but the flights were relatively inexpensive and with an 11am flight on Friday it was easy enough driving up in the morning.

My race entry was €80 but it would have been less if I had booked earlier. I would highly recommend the event to anyone who wants to try a different foreign marathon and maybe to explore everything else this lovely region has to offer at the same time.

As for my race, I ran a time of 2:55:47, a PB by a small margin. Happy days!

Ronan Boland…Eagle AC

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