Nice Cannes Marathon 2021: A Photo Story

On the 28th of November 2021 I ran my 13th Nice to Cannes marathon. As the weather was magnificent I took along my GoPro camera to document the event. The following is my Photo Story of the experience using the 62 best photos. All the photos are shown raw with no processing to add a certain edge to the read. All the data shown is from my Garmin GPS watch.

It is 7h47 and the sun is just coming up over the horizon. We are on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, 13 minutes before the marathon start. As you can tell by my mask these are the Covid19 days so I am milling around at the very back of the field. My mood is cool and relaxed. My shoes laces are checked, my music is playing, my race belt is secure – all ready to go. The starting arch is about 500m along the road behind the camera. The thin blue bit on the right is the Mediterranean Sea.

Its is now 8h11, the race started a couple of minutes ago. In the distance you can maybe see the starting arch. Everyone is now moving forward in the queue to start running. I am still staying at the back well away from everyone.

It is still 8h11 and I am posing for the camera. On the rails you can see some of the outer clothes that athletes were wearing to keep warm before the start. These will be collected and donated to charity. The temperature is about 7C so it’s not really surprising. Behind me there are just two athletes left, one in black, one in yellow. The two guys further back in black have machine guns so I guess are not running. Maybe they are there to make sure everyone starts !

It is 8h14 and I am approaching the Starting Arch. Still walking. The guy in black gave in waiting and jogged past me. The guy in yellow is proving a harder nut to crack. Starting absolutely last in a city marathon is a mental game and not that easy. Maybe the machine gun guys will push him on.

[0.2km, 0h 1m 2s, 5m51/km, 141bpm] I have started my jog to Cannes. In the background you can see the Starting Arch as it disappears into the distance. Going over the line was really cool. I waited and waited then gave in just as the yellow guy started going. We fist bumped on the start line and set off together. A shared moment between strangers – bet no one photographed it. He is in front now as I have a plan !

[0.62km, 0h 3m 44s, 6m07/km, 147bpm] Here you see a classic Promenade des Anglais Nice Cannes marathon shot. On the right I am just coming up to the Hotel Negresco. On the left you can see the coast as it curves left out to Nice Aeroport. Is this not the most fantastic weather – all be it a little chilly. The last time I was here in this race was 2019 when we were in heavy rain and a massive thunder storm – but that’s another story.

2019 Edition: Just for balance here is a photo of me on the Promenade des Anglais in the 2019 (pre Covid19) edition of the race. A few moments after this there was a massive thunder clap and I half expected everyone to fall on the ground !

[0.62km, 0h 3m 44s, 6m07/km, 147bpm] As you can see I am putting in a bit of an effort and have already overtaken a few people.

[3.37km, 0h 20m 24s, 6m07/km, 143bpm] I am almost at the airport and passing the 4h30 pacer group. They have a number of pacers on the course who run to fixed schedules. In principal by sticking in their group you can achieve your desired finishing time. Personally I think that takes some of the fun out of this. I always feel I can do better at the start and always don’t by the time I am at the end. This pacer group is destined to overtake me in just under 4 hours time.

[3.37km, 0h 20m 24s, 6m07/km, 143bpm] On the left you can see the rest of the 4h30 pacer group. Overtaking lots of people now. Coming up to the airport. Unfortunately just left of centre we now have a blotch on the photo. I put this down to spilt energy drink, sorry but it’s going to be with us for the rest of the race.

[5.87km, 0h 35m 34s, 6m01/km, 152bpm] This is a general view of the road ahead. Nice Aeroport can be seen on the left. Everyone is nicely spread out so overtaking is relatively simple.

[5.87km, 0h 35m 34s, 6m01/km, 152bpm] The view back.

[7.40km, 0h 45m 54s, 5m55/km, 155bpm] Here I am approaching the iconic foot bridge just after the airport. Normally there is a real atmosphere here. The bridge would be packed with people waving banners and cheering as we pass below. I don’t know if they limited access this time or it was just a Covid19 thing as there are not many people at all. All the white cups on the floor indicate I am going through one of the service areas.

[7.40km, 0h 45m 54s, 5m55/km, 155bpm] A reverse shot in the pre footbridge service area. I liked the reaction of the girls behind when they realised I was taking photos.

[8.07km, 0h 49m 54s, 5m46/km, 154bpm] Back in the sunshine as we approach the beach area of Cagnes sur Mer.

[9.16km, 0h 56m 11s, 5m58/km, 154bpm] Passing the beach at Cagnes sur Mer. In the distance you can see the massive white sloping buildings of Villeneuve Loubet which we shall be passing eventually. On the very far left horizon you can almost see the dreaded slopes of Cap d’Antibes.

[9.65km, 0h 58m 51s, 5m49/km, 155bpm] We are now in Cagnes sur Mer proper. In the distance is the official city arch followed shortly by a service area and the 10km marker.

[10.00km, 1h 1m 24s, 5m52/km, 158bpm] Here we are at the 10km banner. So far everything is feeling good – just out for a jog in the sunshine. Technically this is no surprise as I generally do further than this on an average training run. My best time to here was 11 minutes faster in 2014. Today’s time is OK, not my worst. Remember I am trying to pace this though. Anyhow that is Marathon Part 1 of 4 completed !

[14.89km, 1h 31m 41s, 5m49/km, 156bpm] Somehow I managed to miss out on taking photos for almost 5km’s. I missed the entire Hippodrome section where we run past a big horse racing track. I went there with a group from our office many many years ago. We had a wonderful meal followed by an evening of light betting on horses racing.

It was also an interesting section because many years I was “racing”, rather than “running with” our son Christopher. He must have slowed a little at about 11km as I saw him in the distance so put in a mighty effort to pass without him noticing. A km or so later he caught me and was mega surprised to see I was leading him. It didn’t last, I think he beat me to the end by about 40 minutes. This was also the area I passed my friend Vicky one year.

Anyhow this photo was taken passing the sloping building of Villeneuve Loubet. It’s sort of a fun part as we race west, turn around a pole then race east, thus the people on the other side of the blue tape. It’s a brilliant time to see the people I have passed and those immediately in front.

[15.51km, 1h 34m 01s, 5m48/km, 160bpm] Having made the turn I am now running back to Villeneuve Loubet on the other side of the blue tape. It’s very thin here which is probably why my heart rate has upped a bit due to dodging around people.

[17.05km, 1h 43m 24s, 5m58/km, 158bpm] Running through the Villeneuve Loubet complex now with the yachts on the left and the shops on the right. Usually lots of people cheering but not so many this year. Parts of this section are a disaster to run as the tree roots have deformed the surface so much that it can be very easy to trip up. I have seen it happen. When the rain (?) is really bad these deformations create big puddles which you have to try avoid to keep your shoes reasonably dry.

[18.31km, 1h 51m 41s, 5m55/km, 157bpm] The white sloping Villeneuve Loubet complex now begins to disappear behind me. The blue arch and all the people on the right of the photo are part of a relay changeover station. The relay system allows a group of people to complete the route by each just running one section. This is a brilliant system for the less athletic, but it can drive me nuts when I am jogging along in my own world and people come streaming past at an unsustainable rate because they have only just started running.

[18.81km, 1h 54m 42s, 6m00/km, 161bpm] Is this not the most fantastic section? It’s the long flat road from Villeneuve Loubet to Antibes. This road is impassable during a storm as the sea dumps rocks all over it. (It’s sort of strange, but a similar road in 90 minutes time I will describe as really tough and mentally straining….. Happy and jolly for the moment though !)

[18.81km, 1h 54m 42s, 6m00/km, 161bpm] Here is a reverse view back to Villeneuve Loubet . Note the snow capped mountains in the far distance. The far right headland is Nice Aeroport.

[20.00km, 2h 3m 2s, 6m12/km, 160bpm] So we come to the end of Part 2 of 4. Still feeling good. Still within normal training run distance so no stress.

[21.00km, 2h 10m 14s, 7m02/km, 158bpm] A few minutes later I arrive at the 21km point. In another 97m will be the official Half Marathon timing mat. Very pleased with 2h10. A few weeks earlier I had done the Greece Ironman 70.3 triathlon which ended with a very hilly 21km I completed in 2h15. A few weeks before that I did the 21km Nice Semi Marathon in 1h58. So today I was doing really nicely. It turns out however to be one of my worst times on this course as normally I go much too fast at the start. In 2014 I was here in 1h48 Really trying to control the pace this year. Anyhow, half way there!

[21.00km, 2h 10m 14s, 7m02/km, 158bpm] Looking back from the 21km sign.

[23.84km, 2h 25m 44s, 5m44/km, 163bpm] In front is the wall of the old town of Antibes.

[23.84km, 2h 25m 44s, 5m44/km, 163bpm] Behind me is the massive Port Vauban. Home of many Mega Yachts.

[23.99km, 2h 27m 13s, 6m47/km, 168bpm] Now we hit the first of the hills. Actually feels like running up a cliff. This short hill up to the Ramparts of the Antibes Old Town wall is always a massive shock to the system. It’s only 200m but boy is it steep. One year I was running with our son Chris, “with” not “against”, and I was really struggling on this hill. He shouted “Come on Daddy”. A guy next to him then turned and shouted “Come on Daddy”. Within the space of a few seconds I had 10 or more people all shouting “Come on Daddy” as I made my way to the top. It was hilarious.

[23.99km, 2h 27m 13s, 6m47/km, 168bpm] A little look back down the Ramparts hill.

[24.06km, 2h 28m 01s, 6m44/km, 168bpm] A couple of the official photographers on the Ramparts just before the 24km sign..

[24.23km, 2h 28m 32s, 6m46/km, 165bpm] Passing the impressive Picasso museum on the Antibes Ramparts. No, never been inside. The distance of 24.23km exactly matches my longest run at the recent No Finish Line charity event. That in itself was the 2nd longest distance I had run since the Marrakech Marathon in Morocco 22 months ago, just before Covid19.

[24.31km, 2h 29m 12s, 6m17/km, 167bpm] Looking back along the Ramparts to Nice in the far, far distance.

[25.79km, 2h 38m 34s, 13m32/km, 143bpm] After the Ramparts, which can still be seen over the sea in the distance, we pass around the Antibes beach and into another service area. Here you can see, almost blotched out, our friend Corinne filling the cups. I had a good stop here as it was time to refill my onboard bottle with water and energy stuff. I knew this was about to get serious !

[26.10km, 2h 42m 23s, 6m49/km, 160bpm] This is it – the moment of truth. I have spent the last 26km merrily jogging along the coast with only the Ramparts section being anything like a hill. Now the hills start as we go up to Pointe Grenille and then over the Cap d’Antibes. Many times have I hit this section and ground to a halt. Not today. I have been dreaming of this moment for the last few weeks. I know what to expect. I am pure of heart. I will not fail. I jog on.

[26.38km, 2h 44m 04s, 6m12/km, 164bpm] Looking back to Pointe Grenille and down the hill to Antibes and the Ramparts, in the distance on the far right. Yes I know I should have had my hair cut. I managed to persuade my wife, Penny, to leave the cutting till after the race. Gosh am I going grey?

[28.74km, 2h 58m 31s, 7m40/km, 170bpm] Hard to tell from the photo, but this is the longest, biggest hill on the course up and over Cap d’Antibes. This is so hard that a few times it has been marked on the ground as a Strava Segment with start and finish arches. I successfully resist the urge to walk and carry on jogging. As my longest run this year has been 28.62km in August (Monaco to Cap 3000) this is now officially the furthest I have run since the marathon in Marrakech in January 2020.

[28.74km, 2h 58m 31s, 7m40/km, 170bpm] The view back down the hill.

[29.85km, 3h 7m 25s, 5m58/km, 157bpm] Once over the top we head down the other side towards the bay of Juan les Pins. I’m always amazed how hard it is to run quickly down this hill. My legs are now starting to feel stiff. It was pretty windy here as you can maybe tell by the branch on the road.

[30.00km, 3h 8m 32s, 5m41/km, 157bpm] Once round the corner we find the 30km board and the end of Part 3 of 4. One year, with Chris, we arrived at this point having jogged continuously from the start and both just ground to a halt. It’s definitely a head thing. Today my head is in a good place. Time wise I am still pacing it. Only twice have I been slower. My best was 30 minutes less in both 2009 and 2014.

[30.46km, 3h 9m 54s, 6m02/km, 160bpm] As you can see we are now back down at sea level, literally. It was really windy here, see the waves breaking over the rocks. Sometimes on this section I have actually been sprayed with sea water. The town across the water is Juan Les Pins. In the far distance on the left is the start of Golfe Juan. Both of which I will be passing through.

[30.46km, 3h 9m 54s, 6m02/km, 160bpm] In the far distance to the left of my head are the magnificent mountains of the Esterel. Definitely not going there today.

[30.56km, 3h 10m 53s, 6m27/km, 161bpm] Passing through another service station. Note all the food on the right. Brilliant catering. The many side roads that join on to the circuit here are all blocked by trucks. After the 2016 terrorist attack in Nice they are very, very serious about keeping us all safe. We are talking machine guns and trucks not metal barriers and marshals.

[32.87km, 3h 27m 24s, 6m33/km, 162bpm] Passing through Juan Les Pins. Normally packed with people and over flowing street cafes. Not this year!

[34.19km, 3h 36m 22s, 6m47/km, 167bpm] Mentally this section between Juan Les Pins and Golfe Juan is really tough. The flat road between sea and rail track just disappears into the distance. One of the hardest places to not slow to a walk. My legs are really feeling it now. Just keep on jogging……

[34.19km, 3h 36m 22s, 6m47/km, 167bpm] Looking back towards Juan Les Pins and in the distance on the right the hills of Cap d’Antibes.

[36.06km, 3h 49m 24s, 6m47/km, 164bpm] Passing through Golfe Juan. Like Juan Les Pins this is usually one of the highlights with packed cafes and people cheering. Not this year!

[36.06km, 3h 49m 24s, 6m47/km, 164bpm] Golfe Juan. Smile for the camera.

[36.61km, 3h 52m 34s, 7m54/km, 157bpm] On the photo this hill (?) honestly doesn’t look like much at all. In reality it is a long steep hill up from sea level, over the railway line and on to the dual carriageway into Cannes. It’s a very tough jog at a very bad moment. I force myself to jog up it.

[37.29km, 3h 58m 54s, 8m03/km, 156bpm] I am now up on the dual carriageway “voie rapide” or “fast way” into Cannes. This is a totally soulless place to be. It’s 2km long, goes up and down like a roller coaster and, as you can see, is totally closed to traffic these days. In the old days we used to have the carriageway towards Cannes to ourselves, but the other side was still open to traffic. This ended up in one big traffic jam as most of the cars were slowing to cheer us runners past. It was all quite entertaining. Now it’s just silent, apart from the occasional train on the left. Totally soulless. Distance wise I am still about 5km from the end. Time wise I have just passed my best ever finishing time of 3h 53m 27s set in 2009. That was the last time I went sub 4hrs on this course.

[37.29km, 3h 58m 54s, 8m03/km, 156bpm] Making the best of a soulless moment.

[39.37km, 4h 15m 14s, 7m38/km, 158bpm] Scattered along the route are all sorts of musicians. I remember seeing a drum group, a brass band, an electric hard rock group, a DJ doing his thing and these guys on the way into Cannes. They really add to the atmosphere which unfortunately was a little lacking this year.

[39.53km, 4h 16m 24s, 8m01/km, 155bpm] This railway bridge is another of the land marks on this course that, for me, have reached mythical status. It’s the point where we descend off the highway, under the railway and back down to sea level. It marks the start of the last bit – no more hills.

[39.69km, 4h 17m 44s, 7m40/km, 158bpm] Back at sea level. On the left of the horizon you can see the Iles de Lerins islands which we are definitely not going to. We are going to the headland directly in front about 1km away.

[40.00km, 4h 22m 16s, 7m15/km, 160bpm] And so we come to the end of Part 4 of 4. Technically I still have 2.195km to go but as that doesn’t fit into my 4 part system I generally don’t think about it. Until now!

[40.00km, 4h 22m 16s, 7m15/km, 160bpm] At the end of this line of buildings we turn 90 right and cross the Cap de la Croisette before entering our 4th and final bay – the bay of Cannes.

[41.11km, 4h 28m 24s, 7m46/km, 163bpm] This is the final 90 right as we pass across the headland to the bay of Cannes. You can sort of see by the trees there was suddenly a massive head wind here. In a few moments I will be able to see the famous, think Film Festival, conference centre in Cannes.

[41.90km, 4h 35m 04s, 6m52/km, 163bpm] Jogging down the Croisette in Cannes I see my magnificent support group. My wife Penny is shooting with her phone while my daughter, Caro, is on the grass with my camera.

[41.90km, 4h 35m 04s, 6m52/km, 163bpm] Here is the photo Caro took. The little thing in my hand is my GoPro camera. In the past I have kept it in my race belt and only taken it out for pictures each 10km. This time I carried it for all 42km taking pictures whenever I felt like it. In my other hand I carried my trusty 500ml refillable Powerade bottle.

[42.10km, 4h 38m 55s, 6m02/km, 167bpm] The Finishing Arch approaches.

[42.10km, 4h 38m 55s, 6m02/km, 167bpm] A final look back at some of the people I have beaten 🙂

[42.195km, 4h 39m 04s, 6m55/km, 168bpm] The actual moment I stepped over the Nice Cannes Finishing Line timing sensor for the 13th time. Nice to have a lady on stilts standing by just in case.

Finished! I just have to beat my way through the photographers now to collect my 13th Nice Cannes Finishers medal.

And here is my 13th Nice Cannes Finishers medal.

Well that went really well. I managed to jog the full distance with an average moving pace of 6m26 per km. The 4h 39m total time was my 10th best time at Nice Cannes, one minute slower than 2015 and the fastest since 2017.

Out of the 100,000 plus people who have completed the Nice Cannes marathon I understand there are less than 30 of us who have finished every edition over the years.

Overall that was my 24th marathon finish since I started sport in 2003. That’s 24 not counting the marathon distance crawling bits at the end of each Ironman Triathlon or the “jog on the beach” marathon distances I have covered on the mis-named Marathon des Sables races.

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