Two weeks ago I ran the Riviera Classic. A 23.8km race that starts in Italy, runs through France, and ends in Monaco. Alex and I did the race (I did the 10k back then) in 2012 and after finding cheap flights, cheap accommodation (on the French/Monaco border!) and needing a nice long race for our London Marathon training, decided to go back again this year.
We stayed at the Résidence Quai des Princes which is conveniently on the border of France (cheap) and Monaco (walkable to the race start). As with all of Monaco the rooms are dated and stuck in the 70s, but they’re clean with great kitchenettes. The grocery store is a 10 minute walk so we loaded up on cheap wines and good cheese and had a few great meals on our terrace.
The race expo was smaller than I remember and you did have to give them your medical certificate even if you uploaded it during registration. Tshirts were mens & womens sizing and there was nothing else memorable about that.
The races tarts in Ventimiglia, Italy and your race bib gets you free train travel to the start from anywhere along the coast. There were engineering works on the day of the race, so there was only 1 train the runners could catch. It was big enough though and a somewhat pleasant 30 minute journey. Once you arrive in Ventimiglia, you can use the toilettes in the train station or there are a few portaloos down by the race start. The bag drop was the least organised I’ve ever seen (including other races in France) as the volunteers were writing numbers on tags (not your race number for some reason) and then writing that tag number on your race number before securing the tag on your bag. The race start was delayed about 15 minutes because of the chaos.
At the start we moved around a bit (a few false starts in the crowd meant we had to actually turn around and walk away from the start at one point) and tried to keep warm on the not-very-Riviera warm morning. At least the pouring rain had stopped and it looked like at least a brighter day ahead.
From the start you run straight uphill for almost 2 miles. It’s a long slog but the views get better as you get higher. There are quite a few tunnels along the route (hence the odd GPS spikes) which were cool to run through but so so so humid without the sea breeze.
We ran through the border (and I got yelled at for having my camera out!) which was really cool and from there it was a beautiful run along the beach in Menton.
The next big, huge, massive hill came near Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and like the first one it went up and up and up. Through a few tunnels, and along a few switchbacks it was one to just keep grinding up. I found it quite nice after such a long stretch of flat and again, the views were amazing.
At the top of the hill there was another water stop with cake and fruit. Not one to ever pass a picnic we had a bit to eat (is there anything better than a slice of orange while running?) and then began (what felt like) the longest downhill of my life.
Before the race I had focused on the uphills as the difficult sections, but should have realized how much a long downhill on the roads would take out of me. The views were still amazing, being able to see Monaco around the corner of the coast was cool but it just didn’t feel like we were getting any benefit from the downhill in our speed.
Finally, coming into Monaco we ran through the F1 tunnel under the Fairmont (and Alex took a great race selfie) and then along the marina past all the super yachts towards the finish on Hercules harbour.
As we collected our medals we noticed our times coming up at the finish line, and seems like it’s another win for the Laura Stewart in the ongoing Stewart’s Running Challenge.
Other than the weather it was another great race put on by Monaco Run. When we tell people we are going running in Monaco everyone thinks we are crazy and prefer to burn money rather than spend it wisely. The race itself is €20 and even with our Easyjet return flights to Nice it still cost LESS than the North London half marathon. Plus we got a longer race and more beer.