Royan Marathon 2021 - Virtual

 Last time I posted, I had just started marathon training for the Royan marathon. I had also just finished "Dry January". I was planning on continuing alcohol free but I'm ashamed to say, that was a failure. Oh the perils of living in France and being so weak willed. However, I am pleased in that I don't drink as much at the weekend and I did even go some weekends without anything at all. Moderation is key I keep saying to myself.

As for the marathon, well it got cancelled due to Covid. 

I had trained for it last year too and then it was also cancelled. Frustrating!! In fact I was so frustrated that this year I decided to run it anyway - on the day and at the same time and with Bill. Saturday 29th May @ 07h30. 

The organisers had planned a virtual marathon whereby you sign up, pay a small fee which goes to charity and then you receive a bib number and a t-shirt. I signed up immediately  as that made me committed. There was even going to be a leader board of "non-official" results. I was motivated and ready to go!

Training actually went quite well. Bill was going to run with me as the chances of me getting lost were very high. I wish my internal satellite functioned better but somehow it appears totally non-reparable. Is that a female thing I wonder? The organisers must have heard my pleas as they kindly decided to mark the course with big yellow arrows. It was an out and back double loop, mostly along the coast and I imagined that it could be hot and windy.

Race Report

We had a good 5 hour drive from Limoux to Royan, taking our time. It just felt so good to be able to travel and to feel free again. Our rented studio was right on the sea front and a 10 minute walk from the marathon start point. We did a walk about when we arrived and found that the organisers had even set up a barrier showing the start and finish along with the yellow route arrows. 

Départ Royan Marathon
Royan Marathon Départ

The morning of the race, we were up at 6:30am. We both felt very calm as there was no pressure of it being a 'real' race, although we did plan to take it seriously. I had originally hoped to do it in 4 hours but as training progressed, I realised that was not so likely. 

It was nice and cool as we strolled to the start point and we did think there would be other runners as there was a lot of chit chat on Facebook about it. But in the end it was just us 2 at the start line. I think I made Bill nervous from the start when I said that we could chat on the way round. He likes to concentrate!

7:30am and we were off.

 It was cool, quiet and we both felt good. There were a few hills to start with that we hadn't anticipated, but nothing too hard. All was going great. I chatted, Bill listened and he steered me in the right direction as we followed the yellow arrows. It was a double loop along the coast so we parked our car at a spot which we would pass every 10km. We had stocked up with water, electrolyte fluid, Tuc biscuits, apricots and oranges. The first couple of car stops we were pretty efficient and probably only stopped for a couple of minutes. We were on a roll.

Water Stop
Water Stop

We started off at a pretty steady pace (decided to try and control ourselves for a change) with our first aim of having a steady run and our second aim of just to finish. I had decided to run by power. This meant I set my watch just to show power and nothing else. I had no idea of HR, pace or time except when my watch beeped for each km. It was a bit of an experiment which I though I would do since it wasn’t an official race.

By 20km, all was going great. No aches and pains, going with the flow and feeling relaxed. 

However as usual in a marathon, things change! 

We hadn’t anticipated the hills which certainly challenged us in the second half and then by half way it began to get hot and the holiday makers and cyclists began to appear. I remember in Amsterdam that I got cramp shorty after half way so it was a relief when that didn’t happen. However I did suddenly get really hot and I was finding it hard to get air in my lungs (rather like at the end of  the Amsterdam marathon). 

At around 28km I started to feel dizzy (help!) so sat on a bench for a few minutes. I really did think that I was not going to finish if it got hotter, but we managed to make it back to the car for our last water stop at 30km.  The first couple of car stops we had a pretty quick turnaround but the 30km stop was way longer and I certainly considered stopping at the point but my competitive spirit knew that I would be gutted, so off we set for the final loop.  

We were now tired and hot and I certainly wasn’t chatting anymore. We had to continually dodge walkers, cyclists and push chairs but in a way it was good as it gave me something to focus on. We did start to see other runners on the second loop and we would each give  a little nod between gritted teeth. Some looked worse than us which lifted my spirits!! 

Those last 5km seemed to never end. I think it is always the same in every marathon. Not having spectators to cheer you in certainly made it harder. I fixated on the sea front barriers and just ran from on to the other, saying to myself that I had trained for this so I could do it. 

Finally it was over. It was pure relief to press the stop button on my watch. We both slumped on a concrete barrier over looking the sea. There was no drink or post race food or anyone to give us a medal and say well done. It was just the 2 of us and passer bys who were in their own private world. Eventually we slowly manged to hobble back to the appartement. It was a kind of surreal feeling to know that we had just run a marathon but without the pomp and ceremony that normally goes with it.

Marathon Royan

Looking at out stats I was pleasantly surprised. I know it wasn’t a PB or even close, but I was happy with how relatively steady our pace was. In the past I have nose-dived in the second half. I can see it was a bit up and down in the second half but that was often due to dodging walkers and cyclists.

My Stryd power meter had predicted a time of 4:28 (plus or minus 6 mins) so I think 4:33 was close enough considering we had to do our own water stops etc.  In fact if you remove the water stops, it was 4:28:07 so pretty spot on! 

We were also happy in that the next day we felt fine. In fact I have never ever felt better after running a marathon. Our legs had no aches or pains and even our toenails were intact!. 

Royan Marathon Stryd
Royan Marathon Pace & Power

So I still didn't break 4 hours but maybe I need to stop focussing on that and just enjoy the run. I am now 61 so perhaps I should just be happy that I am still running. 

Bill is already planning our next race. He has his eyes set on 100km.....