The alarm clock goes off at 6 am. It hurts as I am tired from a long day yesterday: two flights, seven hours airborne, minus-three-hour-time difference, and 120-mile drive before reaching the hotel located in Death Valley at 1:30 am. The night was really very short! I take my immunage® powder, an orange juice, and a bagel in a bit of a hurry as I got up at the last minute, and it’s already time to get going.
It takes me forty minutes to drive the distance to the starting point of the marathon. It’s already light and the sun begins to rise on Death Valley, a fabulous sight! The huge mountains turn red and the desert starts taking on its colors. The road starts as a long and endless straight stretch followed by many curves before crossing a pass. A sign indicates thirteen miles down to where we are to run the marathon. The scenery is stunning! Already in films, these landscapes are amazing, but seen in real, it’s breathtaking (But I’ll keep some breath as I want to run!): It makes you feel really small.
I reach Furnace Creek Ranch, where everything will happen. It’s an oasis in the middle of the desert with cabins to rent, restaurants, bars, stores and superb palm trees.
I get my bib at the Corkscrew Saloon and go back to my car to get ready. As it was very cold in the morning, I was ready to wear the same outfit as for the Memphis and Miami marathons (three layers on top and two leggings), but the sun starts to heat up and I think that one layer of clothing is enough (It turned out to be the right decision). I do not take my gloves, nor my ear warmers. It promises to be a nice day. I go toward the start area looking for the gear check to drop my bag. A member of the organizing team in charge of the marathon runners gear check tent tells me to leave it right there on the floor. That surprises me, and I ask him if he really wants me to do that as my entire life in the US is packed in this bag. He answers that he has been doing that every year and there’ll be no problem. He assures me that he will carefully watch the bags. I decide to trust him (and indeed, I’ll get my bag back at the end of the run as promised) and I go to the start. There are about a hundred runners for the marathon, and I think that it won’t be easy, particularly because I feel tired. However, I quickly forget about it as I’m too excited to run a marathon in such a majestic scenery.
The marathon director is a real showman who gives us instructions with a great sense of humor. He asks where people are from and I hear in front of me someone say “France!” I meet a small group of French and American women, and one Italian man. They are really nice and we talk together before the run. They live in Portland and run the 10K. What is written on the back of my shirt puzzles them. I explain the challenge I have undertaken (52 marathons within a year). They think that’s great and ask for my site in order to follow my next runs. While we are talking, I don’t hear that the start is given, but fortunately they do. We say good bye and catch up with the runners. We start by running down for quite a while at a pace faster than 9 min/mile, before running up for two more miles. I carry my camera in one hand and a little water bottle in the other hand as we were told there will be aid stations every five miles. Actually, they will be aid stations every 3 miles. I won’t use my bottle on my way out, but it will be quite handy on my way back because of the heat.
The scenery is out of this world: sweeping expanses of the desert and immensity of the mountains as far as you can see. If you need to work on yourself, it’s the right time and the right place! You are facing nature alone, only listening to your breathing and the sound of your steps on the asphalt.
I feel good and keep the same relaxed pace. People are cheering and encouraging us, and they will do so until the finish line. The ambiance is great and super friendly, even though we are so few participants. I talk with a Dutch runner who offers to take my picture. Cool! A little farther, I talk with an American runner who tells me it’s his fourth marathon. During the San Francisco marathon, he says, he took off his shoes to cross over the Golden Gate Bridge. He will do the same here in a few miles. He also wants to follow my next marathons. He takes off. I will catch up with him a little later.
I get the first five kilometers under my belt in 25 minutes and swallow up the 10K in 58 minutes. A few half marathon runners pass me before the 10K where they turn around. Three runners pass me after the 10K. Their pace suits me and I stick with them. They will stop longer than I do at the half-way aid station which I leave before they do.
And then, as I feel fine, something triggers in my mind and I decide to speed up. I run the 15 km in 1 hour 27 minutes, I feel like I have wings and I reach the 20 km in 1 hour 56 minutes. I finish the half marathon in 2 hours 3 minutes (my personal record baseline): 49th position but I need to slow down as it is too fast for what I want to accomplish this year! However, I can’t go against the “Machine” as my friend Vincent calls me: The wheels are turning, the mind is blocked on “go on,” mental concentration is at maximum, and I pass the 25th km in 2 hours 27 minutes. I maintain the momentum and reach the 30 km in 3 hours 03 minutes.
From now on, my legs start to feel tight and I try my best but relentlessly slow down. I really had fun during the last twenty kilometers, and when I woke up this morning, I would not have believed it to be possible. I play cat and mouse with a few runners: We take turn passing each other over several kilometers. At km 33, the French runners I had encountered before drive by and encourage me. They’ll also be there at km 38 and will stop at km 40 to take a picture. We’ll meet again at the finish line for the final picture. Real nice people! I go on enjoying the scenery around me. At km 38, I walk up a very steep stretch, the only one I will walk. I look up the time. I have known for a while now that I will finish in much less than five hours. However, I decide to finish on a high note in four hours 50 minutes.
I pick up for the last two kilometers up at 10.9 min/mile until the finish line that I pass in 4: 48: 46 and where my new supporters greet me with applause and kudos! Thank you guys, again!
I speak with an American runner at the finish line about recovery after a run and Immun’Âge®, my magical antioxidative product. He is from Las Vegas and will watch me run in two weeks, he says, at the Red Rock Canyon marathon. I find this incredibly nice.
I am amazed by my performance as I would not have bet on it this morning. What the brain and mind are able to accomplish is incredible. The mind said “Let’s do it, I feel I can do it” and the brain gave the body the order. The mind can really change everything in all areas: sport, pain, wounds, sickness and more. Believe me, I know what I am talking about.
In short, this run and this day were in general simply fantastic: stunning scenery, perfect running conditions, beautiful encounters in a friendly atmosphere, and on top of it the pleasure of finishing under five hours… What else should I ask for? If you have the opportunity, I recommend this marathon. This course is on the top of my list and a great moment in my 2016 challenge.
Thank you for a great marathon organization: The road was not closed to traffic but signals were posted to warn drivers (they were few) who were directed by organizer’s cars to the opposite lane. It was very well managed. Kudos to them!
I hope you feel like going to Death Valley now! Let’s meet up again next week in the suburbs of Phoenix for a marathon that I think should be more classic.