Centurions, Sandra Brown, Kathy Crilley, Karen Lawrie and Tony Mackintosh were in Bourges for this prestigous race. Sandra, Karen and Tony in the 24 hour race; Kathy in the 2x6 hour stage race along with Lee Corkill (who is hoping to become a Centurion this year). All superbly supported by Kerry Martin. Centurion Christer Svensson from Sweden was also competing. Christer qualified in the Isle of Man a few years ago and became a US Centurion in Owego (NY) in 2016.
Karen and Tony had travelled over from the Isle of Man in Tony's camper van picking up Lee and Kerry along the way. Sandra and Kathy went by train (which is a very good service - Paris Bourges direct). The organisers do provide large tents, tables and chairs for those without campers which is very useful - but not as warm as the inside of a camper van though! Power supplies to the campers and tents also provided.
Chip timing is the norm in French races and as the race HQ was inside a hall a large monitor was placed so walkers could check the distance covered after each lap, position, average pace, etc. This year (for the first time) a even larger screen showed distances and positions. If Centurions can remember the old manual method whereby organisers moved individual names up and down a large board every so often - well this is now automated. Truly, a fantastic innovation as it was updated instantly (see photos below). There were separate "views" of the 24 hour race and the 6 hour stage race, again showing distances and positions in the mens race and womens race.
The actual course (2688 metres) is quite pleasant despite a bit of traffic on one section during Saturday afternoon. There are two sections which have a slight incline although as the hours wear on, they seem to gain mountainous proportions! The worst section is the car park itself where the "Village Marcheurs" is - full of pot holes (always has been...) but with the torrential rain it becomes more like a lake ... with hidden pot holes.
Starting at the back, Sandra maintained a steady pace for the early hours as did Karen and Tony. Lee was hoping to accomplish over 50 miles in total - early preparation for Bury St Edmunds. Kathy just hoped to survive the first 6 hours (not having walked more than a few kilometres in the past 4 months, was testing a badly injured foot).
Posted on the Centurions Facebook pageafter 6 hours, Kathy Crilley writes...
"the 6 hour race stage done. Lee is in 6th place with 43.6km and I'm 10 fem with 32.86km. And since I have not walked more than 4 miles since the end of October - I'm pleased with that. My legs and feet aren't though.
Sandra Brown is 2nd lady with 54.35km, Karen is 4th fem and Tony is 29th male - both with 51.66 km. The 24H times are after 7h 03mins.
The rain stopped around 2pm and the sun eventually came out but there is a very cold wind. The rain started again around 7.30! I need a beer.....
Will post more when they update the screen.
Whist Lee and Kathy rested in the camper van ... Sandra, Karen and Tony valiently carried on. The promised rain and thundestorms thankfully stayed away during the night but it was bitterly cold. A 6am call from Kerry in time for the start of stage 2 of the 6 hour. Lee manfully got ready, but after a very painful night, Kathy erred on the side of caution and decided another 6 hours on a swollen foot would be foolish.
more on Facebook at 07:43 Sunday
Sorry for long delay in updating. 1st lady Sandra at 142.97km with Karen in 2nd place with 137.6km. Martine Navarro who was 1st lady has now dropped to 4th. Tony has moved up to 17th male with 137.6km.
Centurion Christer Svensson was in the lead but now in 2nd place. In the 2x6h... Lee has dropped a place to 5th man but is 7th overall. I've just simply dropped out. The foot was very painful last night and has swollen to balloon proportions this morning, so I decided to be sensible ... :(
Josy is 1st lady in the 2x6 hour and Benedicte 2nd.
Posted later Sunday morning
Well the pace is hotting up (whilst the weather is getting colder)... Sandra Brown is in the lead for the ladies race with just over 100 miles. In 2nd place is Karen Lawrie having moved up a couple of places overnight. But Maggy Labylle is hot on her heels. With just 1 hour and 45 mins to go - anything can happen. Tony Mackintosh has moved up to 13th man. Both he and Karen have completed 156.4km.
10:26:Should have mentioned Christer Svensson who just now seems to have abandoned. Christer was in the lead for a good while but overnight started dropping places.
Well just one hour to go. The rain has eased off a bit. Karen and Tony have completed their 100 miles and hopefully will keep ahead of Maggy Labylle who is 20 minutes behind. phew :)
Thankfully the rain has stopped. Next time round they will all start on the small lap of 540m where it tends to get fast and furious!
In the French races, usually 1 or 2 minutes from the the end, a pistol is firedonce, then at the 24th hour the race is stopped by a final pistol shot. Each competitor has a plaquette with their bib number written on - this is placed on the ground and the competitors then complete the lap whilst the final distance is measured by a surveyors wheel.
So a good start to the year for many athletes who "survived" the weekend in Bourges. Whether it is always so cold and wet on race weekend or whether it is purely because British walkers are there. The French came up to us, pointed at the sky and the rain and said " ah - c'est comme Angleterre" and laughed!
On arrival in Bourges, Friday afternoon was very mild - around 17 degrees. Alas, come Saturday morning it was a different story. It rained non stop until around mid afternoon. Not only rain but with a bitter cold wind as well. And it was this sort of weather which takes its toll on this kind of event: blisters, sore muscles and stomach problems right at the outset as opposed to half way through the race, as is usual. This was, after all, the French National Championship but many athletes abandoned and probably thought - well there is Chateau Thierry in a few weeks time (especially those who are hoping to qualify for the 2017 Paris Alsace).
Congratulations to Tony who has received his invite for the 2017 Paris Alsace. Tony also set a new inaugral Manx M45 record. What a star!!! Well done Tony.