By Terry Welsh
Take a look at the Course Profile of the race I did on the French Riviera last week.
It’s an 8k race in the village of Biot, up in the hills from the Mediterranean. It’s organized by the local club Biot AC.
When you did the Marquis de Sade at school, did your teacher tell you that he was a Frenchman from Provence ? Here’s the proof .He was probably a member of Biot AC.
The race was a lot harder than this looks and it was also boiling hot. You went round this profile twice.
When I took the bus to Biot from the coast, there were people doing normal summer holiday things. Swimmimg in the warm blue sea, lying on a sunny beach, eating and drinking wine on outside tables, watching Andy Murray on a big screen outside the Irish bars.. Languid hedonism stretched all along the coast. Except for 165 people with madness in their souls, including the representative from Claremont, who chose to line up for Les Foulees Bitoises.
Biot is a 16th century village built on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. It attracts tourists for the pottery and glassware where craftsmen have specialized for centuries.
The race starts in the 16th century square, enter on the day, no bother, 5 euros. A line up ,a whistle and you are sent hurling round the streets, past the cafes and the craftshops and art galleries and into a narrow medieval ally and get as crushed as you would when trying to get into the bog at St James Park at half time.
Then you drop, or tumble or plunge. You have steps and dodgy cobbles under your feet and there is a railing down the side of the alley to try and catch if you lose it. Then there’s a steady middle bit on a road. All too soon they make you climb again, back up to the town. This bit isn’t a race, or a run. It’s a trudge.
That gets you back into the town and that last bit you can see is not a simple straight line, It’s a twisty turning zig zag of sharp corners through streets, alleyways, staircases, somebody’s back garden, and a churchyard. And back to the main square where its all tumult, pandemonium,whistles blowing, French shouts of Bravo and Allez. A bit like the crowds on the mountains at the Tour de France.
Then its that drop again, as you plunge into the horror of a second lap. Mostly incoherent delirium. Why were the French runners crying out to the marshalls for mercy as they passed them.?
I finished dehydrated, burnt, sore, exhausted, and completely knackered. A personal worst for 8k of 48 minutes and 142nd out of 165. My body proceeded to melt on the church steps. But I was extremely happy. As long as you enjoy it that’s what counts. And every runner won a towel to wipe themselves down.
I got a lift back to the coast from an Irishman who had driven down from Derry in the days before to run a Biot. He runs there every year. He’d be suited by Claremont.
Back on the coast life had passed on. Holidaymakers had swum, sunbathed and drunk their wine. Murray had won. Pleasant sunny afternoons had been spent.
Anybody down on the coast that I babbled to about Biot found the notion of running there on your holidays incomprehensible. Or they thought I was completely crackers. And I think that would have been the view of all except a few hundred people on the Cote d’Azur last Sunday.
But I reckon that most of the people reading this race report would have absolutely loved to have run at Biot.
So if I’m crackers, I know where there’s a clubful of them.