Races & results
Championship of France, 23rd-24th February 2019
qualifier for Paris Alsace 2019
Report from Kathy Crilley C933
Well, it was quite a good turn out for the French Championship 24 hours: 51 men and 14 ladies for the main 24 hour race. Plus the 2x 6 hour stage race and individual 6 hour with an additional 5000m and a 10km race as well on Sunday. Wow! [as an aside, the shorter distance races on Sunday provided an excellent demonstration of race walking at its best. It was a pleasure to watch these race walkers of all ages in action.... as they lapped me several times !]
As ever, the organising club, US Berry, put on a good show and everything ran smoothly throughout the weekend. They also managed the weather as well... and so, like in the UK over the weekend, the temperature was very spring/summer like. Overnight, it was a very different story however, as the temperature dropped relentlessly after midnight until it reached 1 degree at 6am (and stayed there for the next 2 hours).... On the bright side, this was around 10-15 degrees warmer than last year....
Both the men's and ladies races were "wide open" as naturally a Championship race attracts the best walkers: Christophe Laborie, Christophe Erard, Alexandre Forestieri, Emmanuel Lassalle, Gilles Letessier, Florian Letourneau, Saadi Lougrada, Mathieu Olivares, Jean-Marie Rouault, Cedric Varain, Pascal Biebuyck (BEL), Ivo Majetic (USA / US Centurion). In the ladies race - Claudie Bizard, her daughter Emilie Bizard-Planchot, Sylvie Maison (a previous Champ) Christine Davide, Vera Mirochnitchenko (RUS) and our own Sandra Brown.
As ever, a start list provides a guide to possible podium finishers and lower finishing positions. In the women's race, for me, it was easy to say that many of the female athletes - Sandra, Christine, Claudie, Emilie, Sylvie, Vera, Francoise Arnault would inevitably be ahead of me. I know this from experience!
However, a 24 hour race can throw up a few surprises. There were many "unknown" names on the entry list and you will see from the results I missed some walkers out from my original assessment... quel surprise....
The start was at 1pm and it was already quite warm and strangely, many walkers looked slightly overdressed and eventually many had to stop and take layers off. Inevitably, some walkers went off far too fast (and later paid the price).
As usual, chip timing was in operation with a big monitor in the hall to show individual progress as one went over the mat. Unusually, this time, it only gave an overall posiiton. This was slightly annoying as an overall position didn't tell me, nor any other walker, where we were in the (ladies) race.
On a 2500 metre lap it was also very easy to lose the plot as to who was where in the race - especially during the night, when some walkers retire for an hour ot two perhaps, But equally, it was very easy to count on the fingers of both hands...10 fingers/2 hands = 25km...
That said, when I checked the monitor at 137.5km, the distance seemed to stick at that distance for the next few laps. Was I delirious? Was there a problem with the computer software...? Yeah, OK, it was the former. But I did waste precious minutes querying this.
It would be eaay to say that the good results posted by many of the walkers are because they have super support teams. Cyclists accompanied Rouault for the entirety of the walk offering food, drink and support. SPOILER ALERT: he won! .
But not so for Sandra (and myself). We take a few "bits and pieces" with us and also just use the official feeding station and are totally unsupported. SPOILER ALERT 2: yet Sandra managed to walk the socks of the ladies and many of the men.
It was a good race - many battles took place over the 24 hours. I have to say, though, I was pleased as punch with my result, especially beating the Russian walker, Vera, by a mere 113 metres!. Sandra did much better by coming over 10km ahead of her nearest rival, Marie with 176 568km
Jean-Marie Rouault came close to 200km with just over 198km. A very rare event these days.
And the surprise results?
Marie Cain won the French 24 hour Championship with 167 902km.
So what is the surprise? Well, Marie only started race walking in 2017!
Marie is the wife of the previous 6 Jours de France organiser, Gerard Cain, and as such witnessed the many race walkers over the years in this 6 day race. Capably coached by race walker (and now judge) Josie Pannier, Marie is a brillaint example of what can be achieved with a bit of dedication. This was Marie's only third ever ultra race walk: 2018 Bourges: 142,837km; Roubaix 28H 2018: 185 km 860; Bourges 2019: 167 902km. An amazing lady.
Also, there are many ultra races (some multi day races) in France - many mostly running but some with a walking category and it is both interesting and encouraging to see that many runners are now turning to race walking... and walking well with such good results.
see Full results
Just three weeks to recover before the next one: Chateau Thierry 15-16 March.
The images below show many familiar faces to Centurions who have competed in France. Also, for those who may have an inkling to compete in 2020, an idea of the course.
photos courtesry of Guy Destre
photos courtesry of Guy Destre