"The Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes, or rather more prosaically, Nice to Cannes Marathon. My third marathon of my first marathon year. 3:22:16 in Rotterdam where I learned the hard way that you really have to respect the distance and unfortunately that equals hard miles on the road. Thought I'd done that for Berlin and got to 3:00:05 but again clearly hadn't learned the lesson as I died in the last 4KM. Oh well there was always Rotterdam, Edinburgh and Berlin again in 2012 to go for sub-3 and Nice to Cannes would be good throwaway experience for that.
So 8 weeks to do the day that I'd lined up at the Brandenberg Gate in Berlin I found myself, with several dozen other male runners, on the Nice beach facing the Med and peeing into the sea with 15 minutes to go until the start. A picture post-card just crying out to be made.
The start was at 8 am which meant leaving my hotel at 7 after a breakfast of peanut butter on bread. It was still dark as I set off and approaching dawn when I got to bag drop off at 7:30. By 8am there was a beautiful red sun rising from the East towards Monaco. Very atmospheric.
As I pondered on the start line in the 3:15 pen I thought about aims - this was in the planning an end of year jolly with no real expectations. In that spirit I thought I'd experiment with fuelling and pace. I didn't bring my own hydration belt so wanted to use drink stops and (to convince myself post-Rotterdam I could) and wanted to run an even pace race. I did have 4 gels however on a Hilly armband.
So we start at 8 and there's no wind and we start from sea level - the first 5kms go by with a steady gradient but ultimately only a 17 ft gain in all. First drink stop and I'd read on a website that the way to drink from a cup whilst running is to pinch the top in the middle and drink from the 'lower' spout - worked an absolute treat and I used it every 5kms throughout the race. That and not rushing it so I got the drink but only drank it some 30 seconds after collection so I'd got back into my rhythm.
10km came at 42:54 (gun time which was about a minute off net time) and I felt pretty good - it was all pretty flat and getting warm up to 20km which I crossed in 1:29:52 (gun time) and crossed half marathon on my garmy at 1:29:46. Felt pretty good at that point and had kept the Runners World 3hr runner in sight all through the first half.
So the second half of the race - different! We had hit Antibes then and, well, its a headland and is hilly. We basically ran around the headland and so into and out of the wind as well. The elevation went from 9 feet at mile 15 to 113 feet at mile 17 and this into a headwind. At about this time I started to feel a bit of cramp in my left calf and the first drop outs were sitting at the side of the road. At 25km I took coke and dark chocolate at a drink stop just before the climb and luckily as we climbed 'I'll be your commander' by Kelly Rowland came on the iPod - what a tune to climb to! I've also been doing single leg squats over the past few months and now have buns of steel - I needed them!
We started to descend out of Antibes after 18.5 miles and that was great - gave my arms a stretch out on the descent and felt ok again. Except that from mile 20 it starts to undulate on the run in to Cannes as you go over flyovers/road bridges and we hit the headwind again.
Anyway it was now some 10kms to the finish and I was waiting to blow up as I'd done in Rotterdam and Berlin - I'd passed the Runners World 3hr runner at the last drinks stop and he hadn't passed me so I knew my pace was ok. At 30km I had a gel and at 35km took a quarter banana from a drinks stop. 7km to go and we were still going up and over bridges. At 37.5km I took my last gel and cracked on. At 40km the road levelled and I took another quarter banana. Passing lots of runners and walkers at this stage. Got to 42km and looked at my garmy 2:57 and knew I had sub-3 nailed - still felt good and sprinted the last 200 yards to finish in 2:57:53 net time (2:58:06 gun time). 286th overall and 137 in my category of V1. Get in
Post race caught the 11:26 back to Nice and was back in my hotel room cracking a half bottle of 25 Euro minibar champagne by 12:15!
So my first marathon year closes and I've achieved what was a dream at the start - a sub 3 hour marathon. Even better a sub 3 hour on the hardest course I'd run a marathon on all year! If I'd run that well in either Rotterdam or Berlin which are much flatter and were'nt as windy I'd have gone sub 2:55 for sure! I can only put it down to experience, upping the mileage and of course the fantastic help, support and advice of selfess clubbies who deserve a massive thank you."
Baljit's full race report can be found HERE and you can keep up with all his exploits in his DIARY on the forum.