For project ‘get a Championship qualifying time for London 2024’, Jacek Cieluszecki went a bit left-field for his choice of marathon. Heading over to the Auvergne Rhône Alpes region of France for a unique course situated between a lake and the mountains, the Marathon du Lac d’Annecy was the one he opted for. The breath-taking backdrop may have been one attraction but it’s also a very flat course, with roughly the same elevation level as the Berlin Marathon and that’s thought to be the fastest course in the world.
It’s also a marathon with an international flavour, with athletes coming from other countries to take part. That includes some Kenyan and Ethiopian runners who come over to contest for the top prizes. It’s one of the most popular marathons in France with close to 3,000 runners lining up for it.
The Annecy Lake Marathon has been going since 1980, so one year before the London Marathon was conceived.
For this particular marathon, JC decided to prepare for it in a different way. Reducing the number of miles he does in training and the amount of speed work he does, he introduced more threshold training and more runs to feel. It was an experiment really and the results of this marathon would determine how well it had gone.
It was quite a big difference to the usual type of training Jacek indulges in. He’s more accustomed to being over the Purbeck on extremely long routes with big elevation but still managing to get round at pace that most runners couldn’t get near. His main strength is usually his climbing ability but of course, at the Annecy Lake Marathon, that wasn’t going to be required.
He hadn’t really done many races in preparation for the Annecy Lake Marathon either. He did do the Weymouth Half Marathon though as part of a longer session and in that race he ran the first 10 miles at around 6 minutes per mile, which was his intended marathon pace, before picking it up to 5:35 for the last three miles.
He also ran the Lytchett 10 in February in a time that was actually close to his fastest ever time for the race. On the day he was at the front of the field with Harry Smith, in the end having to settle for 2nd place in a time of 54:38. The performance he produced in that race surprised him somewhat and made him realise that he was perhaps in better shape than he thought.
Because none of his training runs had been over 20 miles though, he was a little worried about what might happen in the marathon when he goes into the last 10k. His target pace was between 6 and 6:05 minutes per mile, which he felt like he should be able to do without any major concerns.
There a couple of useful Kenyan runners in the field for the Annecy Lake Marathon, along with Ethiopian Getinet Male Gedanu and some very high standard French runners who were looking to make a name for themselves.
The pace at the start was fast and furious and JC was right up there, putting in a 5:36 split for his first mile. He then settled into his intended pace of just over 6 minutes per mile and kept to in metronomically for the next 12 miles, reaching the half way point in 1:19:35.
He went just below 6 minutes per mile for the 14th split before getting back to 6 minutes or just over for the 15th and 16th miles. Still feeling really good at this point, JC then started to accelerate. For the next six miles he going at mostly just over 5:50 pace, taking him to the 23rd mile. He then began to push on even more, going under 5:50 for the 23rd and 24th miles.
Closing the race out with a 5:42 and a 5:38 mile split, he was then approaching the finish and ramped the pace up even further before getting to the line.
The crowds were raucous at the end and JC was milking the applause, Hulk Hogan style as he raced towards the line. Finishing in a time of 2:36:38, it had been a textbook marathon performance from JC. He’d gone at a pace that felt comfortable to him for the first 16 miles and had then had enough in the tank to keep increasing the pace for the last 10 miles. It was a really impressive show of strength.
That put Jacek in 14th place overall and he was the first non-African, non French runner. He was also 3rd in his age category. There were 2,532 finishers out of the 2,866 who started the race.
Unsurprisingly, it was one of the Kenyan runners who came out on top in the end but what was surprising was by how much he was clear by. Martin Cheruiyot’s blistering pace blew everyone else away and he motored round for a 2:12:57 finish.
As marathon wins go, it was as emphatic as they come and the second placed man, Titus Kirwa Komen arrived almost 13 minutes later, clocking a time of 2:25:44. The Ethiopian athlete Getinet Mele Gedanu was absolutely spent before making it to the finish and even stopped and started walking at one stage. That gave Frenchman Julien Masciotra the chance to seize third place right at the end, crossing the line in 2 hours 29 minutes exactly.
Mel Gedanu had to settle for 4th in the end with his time of 2:29:14, with Alexandre Labbe arriving in 5th place in 2:29:22.
Ruth-Waithira Kajarnja was first female, completing the course in 2:43:14. That put her in 26th place overall. Emilie Lasserre was 2nd female in 2:50:06 which saw her take 75th place overall. Carine Loyer was 3rd female, getting round in 2:57:58 which put her 150th overall.
JC will be back in his element over the summer when he lines up for the OCC race at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. That’s an entry that has been carried over from pre Covid times. Jacek had forgotten all about until they emailed him to tell him he could still use it for the 2023 edition. He wants to make a light approach to the event for that one and not put too much pressure on himself to be at his peak. No doubt he’ll be ready for it though when it comes round and will excel as he always does.