Centurions Sandra Brown and Kathy Crilley ventured forth once again to the historic city of Bourges for the 21st edition of this 24 hour race.
Sandra and Kathy were joined by fellow Centurions: Guido Vermeir (BEL) and Christer Svensson (SWE).
The race is promoted by the local athletic club US Berry and organised by Dominique and Maryline Plee and a host of officials and volunteers.
For once it didn't rain. But what it lacked in precipitation it certainly made up for it with sub zero temperatures throughout the whole weekend. Saturday was quite nice in the sun but turn a corner and the icy wind hit us full on. This was how it was to be..
It is always cold and/or wet in Bourges at this time of year, but this year it was to be the weather which would be the deciding factor of finishing... survival......or not....
The weather forecast rather gloomily telling us that we could look forward to temperatures dropping to minus 10 degrees celcius overnight. With a starting point of 3 degrees celcius on Saturday lunchtime, the forecast wasn't too wrong! Yes, it was cold.... but we were lucky as further to the east it was minus 25 degrees, so I won't complain.
The start list had 32 men and 12 women - not bad for this time of year, especially as the Chateau Thierry 24 hours was three weeeks away (17-18 March). There was also a healthy participation in the 2 x 6 hour stage race.
The course was 2500 metres - cutting around 200 metres off the previous years route. Much better on two counts: easier to compute the laps and it cut out a much busier road.
As ever, the start list provides a guide to possible podium finishers. As ever, a 24 hour race can throw up a few surprises.
In the women's race, for me, it was easy to say that athletes Tatiana Maslova, Sandra Brown, Christine Davide, Claudie Bizard, Francoise Arnault would inevitably be ahead of me. I know this from experience!
Newcomer to race walking was French athlete Katrine Zeimer. Katrine was previously a member of the French national 24 hour running team. Fair to say she didn't endear herself to Sandra and myself as she and her rather large support team took over the table which was allocated to us. OK - not the first time this has happened, but we then had to share with another two walkers. 1 table for 1 walker / 1 table for 4 walkers... mmnnn. Slightly unequal.
It is always difficult to keep track of the race progress on such a course, despite the excellent chip timong results. As the race unrolled, Zeimer tracked Maslova lap after lap and at 100km the results show
13h10'36'' MASLOVA Tatiana ;
13h36'27'' ZEIMER Karine
13h41'54'' BROWN Sandra. But Sandra being Sandra would have none of it and ensured she moved up to second place and then made sure she jolly well stayed there in the last hour.
Myself - well I had my own battles. Francois Arnault has always beaten me in races - and to my surprise I found myself ahead of her. So I had to make sure that I did just that. Surprise walker was Marie Cain. Marie is the wife of Gerard Cain organiser of the 6 Jours de France and had never competed in a 24 hour race walk before. Indeed, Marie was not a race walker and had trained for this race for just 6 months. Chapeau, Marie. You walked brilliantly and proved to be a valiant competitor.
The mens race seemd to be quite open. Christophe Laborie,Florian Letourneau, Alexandre Forestieri ...? But with Belgian walker (and British Centurion) Giodo Vermier competing, anything could happen. Guido looked in control throughout the race and walked well - earning himself a well deserved 2nd place. Another familiar face was Ivo Majetic. Ivo competed in the French 200km/24 hour races in the 1990s, moved to the US and didn't do any race walking for 16 years. Now he is back! Well he came back a couple of years ago after a qualifying race in Bourges and then competing in the 2016 Paris Alsace.
As ever, the race organisation was superb. With chip timing, a monitor to show distance, position, lap time and pace after each lap and a large screen to how overall positions of competitors. The feeding station was staffed by lots of friendly helpful volunteers and a well stocked table and much needed hot drinks and delicious soups...
Thanks to Guy Destre for the photos.
Bourges 24 hours
The "official" hotel is the IBIS which sponsors the race (special rate).
10 minutes (pleasant riverside) walk to the race venue.
supermarket next to the Ibis hotel if you want to buy provisions.
easy to get to and from the railway station - 10 minutes by bus.
First aid: provided on site
Feeding station: basic provisions - hot and cold drinks, soup, fruit, biscuits, bread, cheese, etc.
Toilets: in the hall
circuit of 2500 metres.
Sunday: from 12:15 small lap of 629 metres
London Eurostar to Paris (Gare de Nord)
Paris Austerlitz to Bourges (10 minutes on the metro line 5)
Taxi/bus station- hotel.
Bus station is outside railway station- (Juranville) a couple of hundred metres from the hotel.