04 July 2017, 7am
Harmony Genève Marathon for Unicef
Sun 7 May 2017
Eclipsing all previous records a total of 17,404 runners and walkers from 113 different countries took part across the eight race formats on offer. The popularity of the event has become such that the shorter distance races on Saturday were as busy as the Sunday races. Overall the event attracts equal numbers of men and women with over half competing in Geneva for the first time.
Thousands of spectators gathered near the finish line on the iconic Pont du Mont Blanc to support the Marathon runners in the final stretch. From the lead pack to the back markers all runners were spurred on by the noise along the finishing straight as the crowds welcomed them home from their 42.2km journey passing through 13 towns set in the beautiful countryside surrounding Geneva.
Over the last four kilometres Marathon runners benefitted from the support of champion Swiss runner Viktor Röthlin, 2010 European Marathon Champion, who distributed Isostar gels to struggling runners to help them reach the finish line. One who did not struggle was William Yegon of Kenya who set a new course record.
Further back, after finishing his 76th marathon, Belgian runner Dirk van Thuyne was jumping for joy after the finish line on the Pont du Mont Blanc. “I’m ecstatic. I finished in under three hours and set a new personal best. It’s been a perfect weekend of running in a beautiful city.”
Within the field of Marathon runners 350 teams of colleagues, friends and families joined forces to complete the distance in a series of relay legs of between 4–10km. Enjoying the festive atmosphere they were able both to take part in the Marathon and encourage the individual runners along the way at each of the relay points.
Earlier in the morning 6000 Half Marathon runners and four wheelchair athletes had set off from Chêne-Bourg. They were encouraged by Tadesse Abraham, European Half Marathon champion and Swiss Marathon record-holder with 2:06:40. Snaking through the city centre and out into the countryside they returned by descending along the lakeside to finish on the Pont du Mont Blanc. Among them was 85-year old Briton Dierdre Larkin who set a world age 85+ best of 2:05:13.
Having travelled across the country from Zurich for the Half-Marathon, Kevin De Verteuil, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, enjoyed his first running experience in Geneva. “The course along the lake is stunning. You run through the vineyards and the colza fields and then there’s a DJ spurring you on before the descent. It worked for me — I got a new personal best and ran seven minutes faster than in my last race.”
Over 3000 runners from the Sunday races went that extra step by covering an extra 600m after having crossed the finish line on the Pont du Mont Blanc. By taking part in this Unicef ‘Extra Mile’ their efforts were rewarded by the Montblanc Group donating CHF 30,000 to Unicef, the official charity partner of the event.
The weekend of running had got underway with 1300 junior athletes, aged from 6–15, taking part in races of between 1–5km. Cheered on by family and friends, many of them were participating in their first-ever race.
Following the Junior Races it was the turn of the women’s-only 6.5km La Genevoise #LikeAGirl by Always race. Setting out from Chêne-Bourg, 1400 runners headed towards the Jardin Anglais. British runners Louisa Koe and Isabelle Howell were taking part for the first time: “It’s great! It’s a distance that is accessible but a nice little challenge as well. Hearing ‘Allez les filles’ all along the course is great.”
As the sun began to set across Lake Geneva thousands of runners and walkers set off in the 10km race — to be welcomed by a wall of noise along the finishing straight. The popularity of this race was such that all three formats were sold out well before online registrations closed.
Swiss runner Jean Cingria had already done the Half Marathon in Geneva, “But this was my first 10km here. It’s a great event, I love seeing it grow every year and becoming recognised everywhere. It’s a perfect day out.”