|Report from Sandra Brown
Kevin Marshall and I went to Bourges last weekend for the 200kms. We arrived on Friday in heavy rain (in N Europe it had been raining and snowing for some days), but we were ready for 24 hours of rain if necessary. Unfortunately the organisers weren't quite ready for what happened.
We got up on Saturday to a Christmas card scene - thick snow lying and still falling. This continued all day. At 15.00 the race started as scheduled, pretty much with everyone in their woolly hats, gloves, jackets etc. There were lots of jokes about needing our skis. The going was hard as it was typically snowy conditions with feet slipping and sliding, especially whenever there was a corner or slope on the 2.6kms circuit. There was, surprisingly, no attempt to grit or sand the course, until a truck appeared after about 5 hours and sanded a stretch along a main road, which was about a quarter of the circuit - but only that.
Suddenly, after about 6 hours, we were told "last lap" as we passed through the hall where the organisers and recorders were. I must confess I protested - although the conditions were bad, walkers had come from several countries (including Bernardo Jose Mora from Spain, and others from Holland and Belgium, as well as we two from the UK) all with the intention to walk for 24 hours. And of course some of us had walked 100 miles in snow and ice in Golden, Colorado, and knew it was possible, so long as you walked steadily and were well wrapped up. Of course the organisers were bound to take a risk averse approach - and I think everyone fully understood their decision, and sympathised with them in their terrible dilemma. I also sensed that the organisers were frustrated that the local authority didn't come out with grit and sand for the roads.
In any event, by 21.00 hrs (ie after 6 hours) when the race was stopped, the weather forecast was for temperatures to fall to minus 5, so the snow and slush would have frozen and lead to very dangerous conditions. So the decision to stop the race was probably very wise, but of course many walkers were very disappointed. The organisers made presentations on the basis of positions after 6 hours, when many walkers had completed 50kms or more.
Given the weather, the turnout was surprisingly good, from all over France and beyond. Some big names who were down to race, including Urbanowski and Rodionov, did not turn up; I expect they had listened to the weather forecast! Kora and I were walking together for several laps, until she sprinted off with a lap or so to go, obviously expecting the race to end shortly. The race organisation seemed very professional and helpful (a new club has taken over the job following the cancellation of the event last October.) Bourges is also a lovely town, very historic and attractive, especially coated in snow! We would go again with pleasure, not least to show solidarity with the organising club for whom the weather was very bad luck. On Monday, when we made our way back across France, the melting snow had caused quite a bit of flooding in the fields around Bourges and further north. Let's hope for better weather next year!
|1. S.Dvoreski (RUS)56.007 km; 2. S.Paille (FRA) 53.340 km; 3. P.Langlois (FRA) 53.340 km;
11(2nd Lady). Sandra Brown (SWC) 50.673 km