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My Favourite Runs - Lake Geneva

The airplane approached Geneva’s Cointrin Airport from the northeast. Lac Léman (Lake Geneva to most of us) lay below and in front of us. As we gazed out the window, we could see the Jet d’Eau billowing into the air and my feet itched for a good long run along the promenade. We stayed in Grand-Saconnex, close to the Intercontinental Hotel and it was not long before I discovered a tunnel from the Botanical Gardens to the lake.

Despite my terrible sense of direction I was let out “on probation” to train for the Geneva Half Marathon. On the second outing around the lake I went a bit further than the previous day, not knowing that the tunnel would close soon. This being the only route I knew, I decided to run through the Parc William Rappard and along the lakeshore before returning. It seemed like a grand plan at the time. The only thing that could happen, did happen, which is that I got confused with north, south, left, east, up and west (wait, where was I going again?!) By the time I asked someone the way back to the Intercontinental (my landmark), I was informed by a perplexed man that I was halfway to Versoix, so I turned back toward Geneva and jogging turned to sprinting as I realised that I would probably not be allowed out by myself again. The gate to the tunnel was closed, so I had to scale a fence to get home, as this was the only route I knew. Although I was late, I’d made up enough time to prevent too much anxiety for my angel, which meant that I could return on my own again the next day.

The moment spring arrives, people start flocking to the lake for sunbathing, picnics or exercise. Especially in the evenings, the lake is crowded by eager runners, cyclists and people just out for a stroll. Maybe it’s because of the fact that their winters compare in extremity to our summers. The lake has a life of its own with restaurants, boats, curio stalls, grand hotels and gelato shops dotted along the promenade and the lake. Depending on the distance you choose to run, there are many sights, exhibitions and other activities around the lake.

So at long last – after months of looking forward to this – the day arrived to pick up my race pack for the Geneva Half Marathon. The goody bag contained a nice T-shirt and an assortment of gifts from the sponsors. It wasn’t exactly what we’re used to receiving at Comrades or Two Oceans, but still very nice. The morning of the race I found the tram to the start easily and set off with a peculiar sense of excitement. The atmosphere when we arrived there was like a carnival, with a live, traditional band and everyone running to and fro to warm up. My angel enquired if I was not going to warm up like the rest of the people there, and I looked at her with what must have been a quizzical look on my face. She knew I’d always considered the first couple of kilometers to be warm up enough. It was only then that I saw a small two-way track that had been put up for people to run around to warm up. I just shook my head and made my way to the start.

We were set off in blocks a few minutes apart, so the narrow roads didn’t affect the flow of 6,000 athletes too much. The course first took us through a couple of small towns and some canola fields. Their yellow blankets combined with the old buildings to create an idyllic picture. Then suddenly we were next to Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), only slipping away for a short time to run through some of the beautiful urban thoroughfares, and then returning to the lake, finishing in the Jardin Anglais. Even more amazing than the race itself was the fact that when we walked along the lake later that afternoon, there was no evidence that there had been thousands of runners and supporters only a few hours ago. It left such a good impression that I invited a friend to join me two years later. Both of us were astounded when another South African handed both of us a Fizzer (a proudly South African fizzy toffee)! He had heard us speaking Afrikaans and quickly made his way to us. Although the weather was terrible on that day, the runs along the lake and the race itself have remained some of my most treasured runs ever.

Lac Léman definitely gets my vote for a run.

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