The website also showed these great photos of the route overlooking Lake Geneva. It looked wonderful. There was just one important thing I didn’t consider and that was, if the route overlooks Lake Geneva and you start at lake level, that means there are some big hills to climb.
|Photo from the Urban Trail des Singes website|
I’m not exactly a half marathon virgin. I run a few a year and already had run two in the two months I’ve lived in Switzerland. Plus, I run for fun… a lot. But when I showed up at the Urban Trail des Singles, I knew I was in trouble. My first clue was that there were only about 500 people running the event which I thought was strange especially as the route was so scenic and even took you through an UNESCO heritage site. I mean…why wouldn’t you want to run it?
My second clue was the type of runners who did show up. These were not your every day runners. These were serious runners.
I arrived about two hours too early as I didn’t expect the bus to arrive as quickly as it did, which meant that I had a lot of time to study my fellow runners.
Normally in a half marathon you have a mix of people. Some of them look super fit and you know they will be the elite that finish first. You have normal looking people like me that finish in the middle and you have the first time people or people who are out there to walk it and have fun. They are a little more average looking and usually come with a friend.
This race didn’t have any of the average people at all. This was not a "bring a friend" type of race. In fact, most of them looked like they were in the elite level as they were lean with muscular legs. You can tell they trained for hill running. I, on the other hand, did not train for hills. Mostly because running hills is not fun and I’m a lazy runner.
In other words, I was going to be in trouble.
HILLS SUCK…A LOT
I’m going to post my disclaimer that I probably should not have run this race. Not because I was not in shape (which I wasn’t), but because I had severe allergies and getting over bronchitis at the time – so even walking would cause me to hack up stuff and left my lungs straining. But I really didn’t want to miss out on the scenery.
There's also something else you might need to know and that is that I never look at the race map in advance. I figure, "Why bother? I'm not going to be first anyway so I don't need to know the way." Besides, I like to be surprised.
In this case, looking at the map might have prepped me for how many hills there were. But then maybe I may have chickened out as it was hard.
The race began and within minutes we were already climbing – and by climbing, I mean like 200 meters nearly straight up the hill. Instantly, I was glad that I only signed up for the half and not the full marathon.
The first hill I pushed through but then realizing there was not going to be any “flat” running sections in this race – only steep ups and knee-breaking downs as we wound through the vineyards, I gave up. I was completely out my fitness league so decided to just enjoy it. I jogged the downs, then walked the ups which seemed to be the strategy most of the other mid-level runners like me had adopted.
I know we sound lame, but really, on many of the hills, even walking the “ups” you had to be bent over as the incline was so intense.
In reality, this was not a race where you would achieve your personal best. Not only were the hills more extreme compared to the average marathon, but the route involved climbing narrow stairs where you were at the mercy of going only as fast as the person in front of you (I didn’t mind the slow climber ahead of me as I used the time to catch my breath) and there were also narrow single-file trails to jog through.