I recently ran the Nice Semi Marathon International. Here is my race recap.

I love Nice and when I found out there was a half marathon in April I just had to see what it was like. I contacted the organisation and they kindly gifted me a press place for the event. During the week leading up to the race I had been quite unwell. Prior to leaving the UK I checked my blood oxygen, monitored my resting and active heart rates and sleep. I do not recommend running while unwell, however I took precautions and would not have ran if I felt unwell on race day or if any of my health metrics were irregular. I arrived in Nice Airport early Saturday morning to be greeted by a cooler temperatures than I had anticipated and overcast skies. This didn’t phase me because I was focused to get on the tram to Nice and collect my race number from the village. During the 27 minute tram ride from the airport to Jean Médecin I considered my readiness for the race. Honesty is the best policy and I was soul searching. It felt like the moment I got off the tram and breathed in the cool, clean and fresh air I felt stronger and much better.

I walked 10 minutes to the race village located by the Théatre de Verdure. After a swiftly passing through security I headed inside and briefly caught up with the organisers, collected my race number and t shirt. I headed to the hotel to see if I could check in early and to my surprise they checked me in straight away. I headed up to my room, unpacked what was necessary and took a well-deserved guilt free nap. One of my mantras is listen to your body and I feel it is even more important to do so when recovering from illness. I woke up fully refreshed, changed into the race t shirt and headed out to the race village. The temperature was in the mid-teens and I was feeling much better, I attribute it to a good rest and the fresh sea air. In less of a rush I strolled soaking up the sight and sounds of Nice. Security smiled at me as they recognised me and I went inside and started an Instagram Live introducing the village, the race directors, partners and other events with stands. Job done I headed to Monoprix to pick up some fruits and food to the evening and after the race. As I was in recovery mode the last thing I wanted was an unknown vegan burger delivered. I then headed to the old town which I almost always get lost in. I visited Illia Pasta and enjoyed a delicious vegan pasta meal. After catching up with the owner I headed back to the hotel with my belly filled and feeling rather relaxed. I retreated back to my room, put on the TV and then has another nap. Later in the evening I went to the hotel’s gym to do some core work. In the lobby I met three Kenyan athletes Patrick, Stanley and Paul. I shamelessly requested selfies, wished them luck and retired to my room for the evening.

Race morning I woke up early, feeling refreshed and surprising ready to go. The sense of caution was replaced with confidence and I was excited to get the show on the road. I went through my morning rituals, made sure I had everything, grabbed my poncho just in case and headed to the start line only eight minutes’ walk away. Rain was forecasted but as I walked to the start it was quite warm and I didn’t feel cold at all in my singlet. I entered the secure area and noticed to my left a coach blocking a road to prevent the horrific tragic events of 2016. The organisers take security very importantly and the army and police presence is reassuring. I stashed the poncho which was too big and impractical to run with and entered the starting area on Promenade des Anglais. With around 15 minutes to go the energy was increasing with dance music booming through speakers and announcements being made. Time passed by quickly and then we started to move forward slowly towards the start line. I set my watches, pressed play on my headphones and crossed the line heading west. The first few metres were a bit crowded and busy with people finding their pace or weaving to race ahead. It was interesting as both the 10km and 21km started at the same time so it was important for me to not lock into anyone’s pace but my own as they could be running 10k. Just as I was getting a stride we looped back by Le Négresco heading east on Promenade des Anglais. We then turned left to run parallel with Jardin Albert 1st, crossing the tram lines, passing Place Masséna on our right. Shortly after 2km we turned left onto Promenade du Paillon, crossed the tram tracks once more and ran through the Jardin Albert 1st. I enjoyed running past through the natural beauty of the Côte d'Azur Garden Festival which I had visited the day before.

We exited the park, turned right onto and like de ja vu we were back on Promenade des Anglais running west once more. As I crossed the start line for the second time I felt quite relaxed and focused as pushed on. I broke my own rules and looked at my watch quite frequently to check my pace. The focus wasn’t speed but to ensure I wasn’t going too fast and over exerting my body. Just before 5km I took on some water at the aid station. I was aware that it was warm and dehydration could strike. There was light rain so the heat wasn’t too bad. To my pleasant surprise I saw Arina a member of ASICS FrontRunner Sweden and she absolutely cruising. Just after 6km we turned left and looped back east on Promenade des Anglais. Closer to the beach and Mediterranean Sea I soaked up the views and took deep breaths of the fresh sea air. I was calm, comfortable and in tune with myself. As we passed the Jardin Albert 1st on the left and the finish line on our right we headed along the Quai des États-Unis. At this point I saw Fran ASICS FrontRunner France Community Captain. She was speedy, heading in the opposite direction to me. This was the first noticeable climb of the race as we approached the castle and the famous I love Nice sign. We continued to climb and then as the port was visible on our right we had a decline on Quai Lunel. I was relieved at this point but also concerned that we were going to take the winding paths up to the castle. As I had not studied the course I had no idea what to expect. However, nonetheless I was enjoying the surprises and rollercoaster ride. We turned left on Rue Antoine Gautier and then left on Rue Emmanuel -Philibert, headed south and then turned right on Quai Lunel to tackle a climb and loop around the castle. Once more we passed the I Love Nice sign but this time to our left. At this point I could see far into the distance beyond the finish line along the coast. We made our decline along Quai des États-Unis heading towards the start once more.

At this point I could feel that the climbs had taken energy out of my legs. I checked my watch, focused on my stride, breathing and pushed past 15km along Promenade des Anglais. Just after 16km I took water and hydrated once more. I was getting tired at this point and had to focus and dig deep to be able to maintain a pace. At 17.5km we turned and headed east along Promenade des Anglais to the finish line. I counted down the KMs in my head, it was raining heavier and at this point I just wanted to finish. It felt like an age between 20km and 21km and I laughed at the irony when as it began to pinch Method Man’s song Bring the Pain came on my headphones. The song’s opening line “I came to bring the pain hardcode from the brain” seemed quite fitting. I pushed on and on and on trying to maintain my strides and then there it was arrivee. I slightly turned right, then left and entered the finisher’s funnel. I could see the finish line getting closer and despite the rain falling there was support, there was a vibe and the time for celebration was closing in. I raised my arms, upped my pace and the spectators responded with cheers. Their support fuelled my final strides and I crossed the line, smiled, stopped my watches, paused my music and took a moment to soak it all in. Yes I was wet but moments like these shouldn’t be rushed. I congratulated fellow runners and made my way to collect my medal. I walked over to the elite tent and congratulated Stanley one of the Kenya athletes I had met the day before, on placing 3rd. The post-race goodies included fruit, energy bars, sweets and a water bottle. I waited for Arina to cross the line, congratulated her and took some photos and then headed back to the hotel to get dry. On my way I was pleasantly surprise by Céline an amazing athlete who I have been friends with on Instagram for a while. We briefly caught up and congratulated each other. After checkout I caught up with Kenyan athlete Paul who came 4th and he shared some wisdom with me. I am so glad that I didn’t see the course as I am not a fan of loops but this worked so well. There were laps but no junk miles and the race was so well organised that there was no course congestion between 10km, 21km or the faster and slower runners. A great race and I’m looking forward to next year’s edition. Hopefully the sun will shine next time.

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Rey Smart

Personal Trainer from London



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