REVIEW: Lausanne Half Marathon

Lausanne MarathonEvery October since 1992, the city of Lausanne, Switzerland plays host to the Lausanne Marathon. With over 10,000 participants, and a number of different races on the day, the event is set over one of the most stunning backdrops in the world, Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps.

There are 9 different events to choose from on the day. Obviously the main event is a full marathon, but also available to participate in is a quarter marathon, 10km walk, ‘mini’ races for children and a handcyles half marathon. However, the most popular distance (with over 3000 more entrants than the full marathon) is the half marathon.

The starting point is a 20 minute train journey away from the finish line, in La Tour-de-Peilz, a cool 13.1 miles away. Handily, your running number is your train fare, but the train runs almost side-by-side with the running route, painfully showing you just how far you have to run to reach the finish line back in Lausanne.

1:30 pacer

1:30 pacer

The standard of runners is very high in Switzerland. The fastest time in 2009 was a 1:05:58. Brilliantly, this means that there are pacers everywhere. These athletes, with coloured balloons strapped to their backs, position themselves at the correct starting points and run at the right pace, so that if you follow them you will match the time written on their balloon. I followed the purple 2:00 balloon (having not trained nearly enough and feeling very out of my depth). I didn’t see a balloon with a pace slower than 2:10 on the day, which goes to show the calibre of the runners there.

The actual race was fantastic. The road back to Lausanne follows the coast line of Lake Geneva. With the lake on your left the entire journey, you pass through some incredible countryside. However, this does mean that the level of support is very sparse. While you do pass through a couple of small towns, there aren’t many people around to cheer you on until the last half mile. This race is the first that I have run with headphones. Obviously, at one point an ambulance used the route, which I of course did not hear and was pushed to the side of the road by an angry Swiss man. Luckily, my French wasn’t good enough to understand the profanities being hurled my way.

Drink stations were frequent and the road was wide enough to allow a good spread of runners. It was quite congested at the start and around the pace setters, but after the half-way mark the congestion had thinned out. The course did seem to be a constant uphill climb, albeit not very steep.

I crossed the finish line (outside the Olympic Museum in Lausanne) after passing the 2 hour pace setter, in a time of 1:58:13 (a personal best for me). Considering I had only really trained by doing one long run each weekend for the previous month, I was very pleased. The cool weather and clean air must have played a part!

The Lausanne Half Marathon is a very well organised event. It costs around £30 to enter and for the number of people participating the facilities are impressive (ample toilets, free pasta party, an expo, good quality medal and a courier system to transport your belongings to the finish line).

You can enter here for next year but if you do I have three pieces of advice for you:

  1. Learn how to convert kilometres to miles. Being a European country, all distance markers are in kilometres and I was forced to do some tough maths in my head to work out if I was going at the right pace to finish in a good time.
  2. At the finish, make sure you park your car at the bottom of the hill. Lausanne is full of incredibly steep hills and walking up them at the end of a 13-mile run is not recommended.
  3. Hang around a little at the end. If the podium frees up enough you can get some great pictures!
My two running buddies Gemma and Matt

My two running buddies, Gemma and Matt

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