The Vierge du Mas Rillier sits above the town of Miribel about 10km out of Lyon. At more than 32m tall it is the tallest religious statue in France and stands like a sentinel above the town, visible for miles in any direction. When navigating the Grande Parc near Miribel it is a way of keeping on track and at least heading in somewhat the right direction: if I’m heading towards the statue then eventually I’ll hit the river, and if I hit the river I can follow it back to Lyon.
I’ve climbed up there by bike a few times but I’ve never run there. It sits atop a hill which is a reasonably steep climb on a bike but which, on foot, is less difficult as you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, right? I had glanced up at it a few times and thought about climbing the hill but always decided against it. While it is only a few kilometers out of the way of an out-and-back loop to the Grande Parc, those kilometers are uphill and so add a degree of difficulty to an otherwise steady long run. Thus, I have always left it to another day to climb the hill and get to the statue.
That day would be today.
The goal of the run was two-fold: get in a couple of hours on my feet, and reach the statue. I should be able to do both on the familiar trail next to the Rhone and then be back home in time for lunch. Keeping it steady and rounding out another 50 mile week, I would be in good shape for the CIEC 6 Hour race next Saturday.
The weather was forecast to be rainy but still warm (11 to 13 degrees celsius) so I left the rain jacket at home and took only my waterproof cap. After a couple of kilometers I realized that I was sweating a lot under the hat that, while great at keeping the rain out, is not all that good at letting the sweat escape. I took it off and ran with it in my hand instead as I moved along the Rhone towards Miribel. This is a favorite trail of mine and I know the distance markers pretty well: about 6.5km to the train station at Crepieux, about 10km to the road beneath Neyron and Miribel, and then closing in on 11km by the time I hit the bridge from Miribel to the Grande Parc.
Usually I take the bridge over to the Grande Parc and make my way back to Lyon but today I continued into the village of Miribel and then turned left to climb the hill to the statue. There’s about 300m of dead straight road between the village center and the start of the hill and, looking up, it’s enough to give you pause. Still, this was what I had run out on this Sunday morning for so I was ready to tackle the hill.
There are three different ways up to the top. There’s the staircase which, while direct, is so steep it would have required walking and I just wanted to run. There’s the ‘old’ route that is a little steeper and more direct than the third route, the ‘new’ route, that is a longer, less steep, and better maintained. I chose the ‘new’ route and kept a nice steady pace as I wound up the road to the hill.
At the top I bounded up the staircase to the terrace in front of the statue, clicked pause on my Garmin as the 14km mark came up, and snapped a couple of pictures of the scenery. From this point I could see the Grande Parc, the new OL stadium at Decines, all of Lyon, and the grey skies promising the rain that had been forecast. After I had caught my breath and put the phone away I headed back down.
I took the more direct ‘old’ route back down the hill, then hooked onto the same trail I had taken on the way out to get back home. There were puddles all over the place which I mostly avoided and I encountered a couple of other runners out for their own Sunday morning efforts and nodded a ‘good morning’ as I passed.
Reaching Crepieux on the way back I was at the half marathon distance and I was feeling like I needed to walk a little. Knowing it was only about two kilometers until I reached the paved walkways across from the Cite Internationale, I willed myself to keep on going and not drop the pace. This I did, and then I kept pushing on a little further, and a little further again. I entered the singletrack trail that would take me back to the Croix-Rousse tunnel and, when I climbed the stairs to exit the singletrack and cross the road, I clicked stop on my watch with 27 kilometers banked and without having taken the walk I wanted a half hour before. Mental toughness for the win, right?
It was a good run, a nice way to close out the week, and I was happy with the pace I maintained (4:48 on average) throughout the run. With only a couple of shorter efforts left before the CIEC 6 Hour next Saturday, I think I am going to have some fun there.