Marathon de Bessans 10K, France, Sunday, January 12, 2014

Colin Blackburn

I was over in France and this 10K caught my eye. Bessans is a beautiful little town nestling in the Rhône-Alpes. It’s a wide valley surrounded by snow-covered alpine peaks. The 10K started shortly after its sister races, a marathon and a half marathon, and shortly before the children’s races of 5K and 2.5K, there was also a “Just for fun” race, yes they did use the English! As I would be running the Brass Monkey in just seven days I decided that the 10K would be a sensible distance. The pre-race build-up was great, lots of commentary and the race mascot, some sort of devil-come-bear-come-bull, running around annoying people.

Bang on 10:00 the main field was off with the half marathon doing a hilly circuit of the valley, the marathon covered this loop twice. At 10:15, and part of a much smaller field, I was off on the 10K which took a very different route for the first 6K. It was a fairly simple course: a trail dropping down to the river and then following it to the halfway point, then a long steady climb with a couple of short sharp hills back to the finish. For the most part it was a gentle descent but there were a couple of very steep drops that were technically difficult. Just as I got to the 4K-to-go marker I joined the main field – they’d done 17K by this point! This was not easy to do with a pack of elite athletes hogging the trail. Rather than get crushed I decided to pause – it was just after a sharp climb – and let them pass and took a breather.

The next 3K was what felt like a never-ending climb but it did end – after 3K! – and as I crowned the hill the finish area was in sight. It was then a fairly flat course in and I crossed the line in a very creditable, for me, 45:23. Even the 10K competitors got medals – and a bit of tissue to wipe the sweat (or worse) off! After the finish line there was a whole array of nibbles and drink, the French do this so well. I had a cup of vin chaud (mulled wine) and some cake. After waiting for friends who were doing the half and the marathon to finish we all headed for a post race meal, pasta with the local cheese and fresh yoghurt, before the long drive back to Geneva.

After looking at my GPS log I noticed I’d hit around 30kph on that steep descent, that’s some descending for me! Oh, did I mention that this was an XC ski race? No? Well, it was and I recommend that anyone who runs tries one if they can, they are great fun and almost always beautiful. My marathon race the day before on slightly different skis was a disaster, but that’s a much longer story and I don’t want to put you off.

I suffer the effects of snow blindness and exhaustion... and I'm not even racing yet!
photo courtesy and © Dagmar Junghanns
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