I had wanted to do the St. Petersburg marathon this year but it would have conflicted with our summer vacation, so I looked at various spring marathons in France and settled on Nantes. I knew very little about this city beforehand and since have learned of its dark history as a key port in the 18th century slave trade, and it was not untouched by the Germans or Allied bombing during WWII. Today it is a quite historically intact city, has endless, beautiful streets to discover, and a wonderful castle in the middle of the city (Château des ducs de Bretagne) with a moat that has been turned into a well frequented park.
The marathon itself was one of my most enjoyable. I thought I would get a better time, but I ran very easy and steady the whole way, and felt quite strong throughout the second half. The heat from the overhead noon sun and the long inclines definitely slowed me down, but I'm happy with my 05:05:54. The minimal but year-long training that I do doesn't prepare me for speed but pretty much guarantees that with a few months of slightly longer training runs, I can complete a marathon in around five hours. At this point, I'm in it for my health and keeping this level of fitness certainly keeps you healthy. And running a marathon every year is an enjoyable way to get to know Europe better and get more fluent at its languages.
To anyone who runs marathons, I can definitely recommend Nantes. It's a city marathon which pretty much keeps you inside the urban district, e.g. not sending you out into the countryside like some city marathons do, e.g. Luxembourg. And because you stay around the city center, you loop around a number of times, which enables you to come into close proximity of the fastest runners and run with them for a few steps as they pass by you, e.g. I was lapped by the top runner at 14K while he was 25K.
The marathon route also takes you down onto L'île de Nantes, which was an area of factories and ship building in the 19th century, today a unique, repurposed area with restaurants and wide areas for long walks which has conserved much of the industrial history there, an area that you might not otherwise visit on a short stay in Nantes.
The finish was fantastic. I had power until the end, the weather was beautiful, and as always, emotions on high all around. After walking back through the city to my hotel on a georgous day, I enjoyed a nice, evening victory meal at the Place Royal, a wonderful way to wrap up the day of marathon #26.
The half-marathon 1:30 tribe.