In 1602 the city of Geneva successfully defended itself against an invasion from the Savoyarde army. In order to celebrate the saving of the city thousands (in fact nearly 25,000) of runners take to the streets in the annual ‘escalade’ races. This years event took place on Saturday.
Starting at 10am, for the school children, the races go on all day, culminating in a fancy dress race in the evening. I’d entered the race as a bit of fun and to keep my X-Alps training on track. At only 7.2km it is not a terribly long race (in fact I’ve not run a race less than 18km before) but it winds its way through the cobbled old town of Geneva, climbing out of the Parc des Bastions, up into the old town itself before weaving through the narrow streets, down then up, then finally down to the Parc de Bastions again. 3 laps of this circuit make up the full race.
Saturday was extremely cold with snow and ice still on the ground. It had been about -5 deg C in the morning and was still well below zero as I was preparing to run with a 17:00 start time. I warmed up and only went up to the start around 5 minutes before the gun as I did not want to get too cold. This turned out to be an error – I pushed my way into the middle of the pack but as the gun went off I realised I was too far back and hemmed in. I had naively thought that after half a lap or so people would be spaced out but it wasn’t the case – with the huge number of runners and the narrow streets there simply wasn’t place to get past. I spent the whole first lap trying to get past people and was only getting into my stride as I passed through the Parc Des Bastions for the first time. Into the second lap I was still cruising past people but now there was a little more space and it felt easier. Darkness had fallen and with icey patches of snow still lurking at the side of the course it was sometimes a little dicey squeezing past people but nevertheless I felt I ran a strong lap and as I came through the Parc Des Bastions and headed up the hill for the last time I had to push hard to keep the pace up. Through the old town, past the drummers at the cannons and finally the last uphill – short and sharp - I used this to power past people who were now tiring and started striding out down the hill for the finish, still I had to slow due to people in the way again (it was either that or side step onto ice whilst hurtling down the hill at full speed!). I sprinted the whole final straight, and crossed the line in a time of 29:54 for the 7.25km. My net time was 29:21, given it had taken so long to even get across the start line!
I was genuinely surprised how well this race went. At nearly 15kmph average on such a hilly and windy course I ran much faster than I usually would. I guess the training is paying off!
- Escalade site: www.escalade.ch
- Results: http://services.datasport.com/2010/lauf/escalade/RANG013.HTM