The first hit out of the year: Lurdunum 2016.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, this was something of a mystery race. Details about the course were not released and the only thing I had to work from were a starting line (Place St Jean) as well as a distance (22km) and an approximate elevation gain (1000m).  It was just going to be me and 300 other runners cutting our way through the Lyon night, headlamps blazing, and wondering what set of stairs would be next.

I felt like I was ready for this race. I had taken yesterday off from training and I got into work at 7am so I could take off early at 4pm to get prepped for the event. My race gear was ready to go, I chowed down on an early dinner, and I slammed down some coffee to make sure that I would be wide awake for the night ahead.

The only changes I decided on from the gear I had prepared the night before were a change in shoes and the addition of my iPod and a buff.

With the weather fine the ground would not be slippery but knowing the run would take us up and down Fourviere, I thought there might be a chance we’d hit the grassy and muddy slopes of the Piste de la Sarra. Not wanting to lose footing, I pegged for the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger‘s after all.

The iPod? Well with 45 minutes to burn before the off, I though I’d keep psyched up with some tunes before the gun. My Shuffle weighs next-to-nothing and I would stow it in the Camelbak when things got going.

And the buff was there to keep my neck warm, act as headgear if it got extra cold (I had decided to leave the hat at home), and it’s a nice reminder of the first ultra I ran in Ploeren.

Then, at around 7:15pm I left home for the walk down to the Old City, a little nervous but more excited about what the night would hold.


A group of between 250 and 300 (or so I estimated) gathered for a pre-run photo outside of the Cathedral St Jean. After a few more minutes we took off up the first of many hills and I was happy to be in the first ten or twelve places. However, after about 600 meters, I got the first surprise of the night.

We stopped and waited for the other runners to catch up.

We ran a little further up the hill towards Fourviere, then waited again. And when we finally got the Basilica, we waited again. It seemed that this was going to be a group run where the group would run for five minutes, then wait for five minutes.

For four and a half hours.

I have to admit that this was not what I expected. However, I decided to make the best of it and enjoy the hills, the staircases, the ups and downs, and the group atmosphere. What’s more, it wouldn’t hurt at all to get another long period on my feet in the books ahead of the St Fons 6 Hour Race next month, even if 2 of those hours were standing around waiting for the mid- and back-packers to catch up.

The route took us around Fourviere for a while before we crossed over to the Presque Isle and then would our way up to Croix Rousse and Caluire. There were plenty of stairs around here, including a few that I hadn’t climbed before. A lot of the route was familiar, however, including the traboule on our own street, a traboule Jamie refers to as ‘the secret passage’. He’ll be excited to know we ran through it.

The half way point was in Cuire and we rested for probably a little long before moving into some of the most interesting running of the night. It was also the point where I was happy to have my trail shoes as we spent about two kilometers first descending and then climbing on trails.

We cut back towards the Saone, then moved back onto Fourviere via Valmy. Not long after we descended the Piste de la Sarra as I thought we might, and again I was happy to have the right shoes. Indeed, it would have been quite dangerous at points with smooth soled road shoes; I hope no one slipped too badly.

We messed around in the Old City for a little, then made our way up the final long staircase to the Parc des Hauters. These are the same stairs I’ll be climbing in the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra and, somehow, I managed to PR on them this evening. That this came after four hours of being on my feet was a surprise, but a pleasant one.

We finished up not too far from Fourviere and I stayed around only for a minute or two. I was in the first ten or twelve to arrive, and people were still streaming in when I left. As there was mainly beer and Coke to drink, and as I don’t drink either, I was happy to cool down walking back home.


I can’t say I got the run I was looking for out of Lurdunum. I was hoping for something nice and challenging, and the opportunity to run with some people at a good training pace. What I got was a very jagged profile – which I loved – but a stop/start rhythm that meant I spent a little more than two-and-a-half hours running and one-and-a-half hours not  running. I think that I’ll try it again next year, but I’ll be better prepared for what is essentially a long group run at a very slow pace.

Distance: 22.4km

Elevation: 790m

Time: 4:12:49 (2:36:35 moving)


Image by Lyon Ultra Run.

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