Big surprise: I went running again

April 22, 2024 · travel run

Over the weekend, I escaped the dreary windy weather of Amsterdam and ran the Nice half marathon to a personal best time. I’m extending this post from a diary entry to present the experience.

Coming here makes me think back to two years ago when I visited Barcelona for a half marathon. This one is much… nicer. Pardon me, won’t happen again. Just wish the name of the place was not such an obvious pun in English. I’m sitting now at a burger place since that’s what’s open without a very long line on a Sunday and is suitable for solo dining. Plus I think I earned a big bag of fries. I’m sitting indoors to eat because I had plenty of sun already.

Speaking of that, the main event today was the race. I woke up with an extra knee ache to accompany the nagging Achilles of the past month, this one likely inflicted by all the hiking I did yesterday. Of course that didn’t stop me from going, and all told it was much less troublesome than last month in Tokyo. In the end I ran faster than ever before, finishing in 1:28, despite the leg discomforts and a bit of an ordeal at the start with getting into the right corral.

Race Prep

As mentioned, my left Achilles has been quite outspoken for the last month after any run longer than about 40 minutes, so I’ve just been doing my best to cling on to whatever was left of my marathon training fitness. I arrived in Nice on Saturday morning and treated myself to my French favorite: butter and baguette. I often try to find walking tours when I visit cities, but somehow the seaside atmosphere of this place made it feel more appropriate to just take it extra relaxed at my own pace.

Though somehow “extra relaxed” turned into 25000+ steps and a hike up to the hilltop castle. 🙈

always best to have a perfect excuse to carb up!
Flower market, of course with much more than just flowers!
wouldn't exactly recommend hiking in carbon supershoes, but hey, gotta travel light, and the view is worth it!

Race Time!

The course glues itself to the Promenade des Anglais, the main seaside boulevard, for the vast majority of the race distance. The full route consists of a waterfront out and back and out and back plus a short “buckle” looping into the city to connect the two round trips.

This construction means that the race was very flat and extra fast, helped by ideal weather on the morning. After being starved of sunlight for the past month in the Netherlands I felt recharged by the sun and sea.*

Crowds were not especially active this early on a Sunday, but there was certainly enough cheering to keep me from forgetting I was in a race. All the overlapping segments where I passed other runners also provided motivation, but mostly I stayed focused on my own pace.

I mentioned a bit of corral confusion at the start. The cause was that one of the signs was flipped, and I wound up behind the gate for runners targeting 1h50+. I double checked by giving people around me the eye test, but they all looked dressed for speed, so I was convinced I was in the right place. Or I am looking for the wrong characteristics. My assumptions of speedy runners: expensive shoes, light clothing.

The mistake might have impacted the first couple of kilometers, but once I was clear of that pack the boulevard was wide enough that I didn’t feel held up by any congestion.

There was plenty of water and food (including a bizarrely placed station at 0.7 km) on course. I made two very quick water stops and fueled with half of a carb gel I bought from Decathlon (it tasted terrible).

I'd call this California weather, they'd call California Mediterranean weather; either way it feels great!

Post Race

I really enjoy the half marathon distance. For me, it’s long enough to feel like I’ve accomplished something notable but not too long to take my legs out of commission for the next few days. I opened the writing of this post in burger place at lunch after the race. Well, after that, I boarded a bus and let it drive me up the cliffs to the medieval village of Èze, perched high above the coast. This bus journey filled me with so much wonder and anticipation that I felt a tiny bit guilty to be enjoying spectacular views around every bend at the price of a single public bus ticket. That’s not to mention how grateful I was to let the machine do the 400 meter climb instead of my legs. For me, the Tour de France this year is an absolute must watch when they come to the finish in Nice along these same breathtaking roads during the individual time trial on the final day.

This village of Èze is tiny but it feels like it was time portaled directly from the Middle Ages without any architectural change in the last 800 years. Going there feels like walking in a museum. The area is small, but it is densely layered; every single path is either rising or descending at a steep slope (or a staircase).

enjoying the millionaire views for 1.70€
a little peek at Èze

Next Race? 🧐

Ah, now is the time to finally give my battered legs a chance to recover. I have no plan for any more running races until the fall, but I’ll probably have some kind of post here before then. And no, you don’t win an award if you guess that I’m going to write about some sort of crazy bike ride and end up correct!

*side note: I actually did visit the beach once in Holland during this time period for another race… what a trauma…

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