Run 41 : Switzerland – Geneva

RTW Suisse 3

Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 3rd January, 2015
Time : 48’ 29”
Total Distance Run to date : 410 km
Run map and details :

Fiona and Max love the Swiss mountains. A passion I’ve shared ever since my parents moved to Geneva in the, um, last century. Skiing in the winter ; walking in the summer. Not available to everyone in the world – but hard to beat if you’re lucky enough to have access to it. So when they invited us to spend New Year with them in the aforesaid mountains, we accepted with alacrity.

To give you some background on our hosts, I’d heard of Fiona before I’d met her. More specifically, I’d heard of ‘fionamallincakes’. Initially, I wasn’t quite sure what these were but I soon learnt that these bespoke cake extravaganzas were essential to a proper birthday party. (The fact that we’ve been known to buy the girls’ birthday cakes from the local shop was, of course, another example of the fact that other people’s parents are much nicer than us.) And her cupcakes were a staple at any self-respecting gathering of more than three people.

Fiona is married to Max who is a barrister (as was Fiona before she became North London’s Queen of Cakes). He is also a chess player, a skier, a linguist and an aspiring white collar boxer. All admirable talents. However, I’m sure any cultured person would agree that his finest quality is that, as a Wolverhampton boy born and bred, he knows Dave Hill. Yes, that Dave Hill. The bizarrely mulleted, toothy member of glam rock band Slade. The one about whom Stuart Maconie wrote : “he usually wore a jumpsuit made of the foil that you baste your turkeys in and platforms of oil-rig-derrick height. All of this though paled in comparison with his coiffure, a sort of demented tonsure with a great scooping fringe”

This is all extraordinarily exciting for me as Slade were my first Favourite Band. And when an act is your Favourite Band you not only buy as much of their music as you can afford (not much in those days). You also support them like a football club and want them to beat all the other bands in the charts. It’s a concept that, I guess, fuses my two lifelong obsessions – sport and music.

Back to the present and, after a few days with Fiona and Max, whose hospitality is up there with their baking and ‘knowing rock Gods’ skills, we were in Geneva on the way back to the airport.

Now I’d always imagined my Geneva run would involve seeing long lost friends and lots of media coverage about the return of the local boy on his frankly insane Run the World Challenge. However, there we were in Geneva, the rain had stopped, and we had some time before our flight.

We therefore decided I should go for it and I arranged to meet Liz and the girls in 50 minutes at the Jet d’eau. 50 minutes being about the amount of time it takes me to run 10km when I’m fit. And within a minute of setting off from near Place Molard, I discovered that I wasn’t fit. I was wheezing and unmentionable substances were spewing out of my lungs. The problem was that, shortly after returning from my recent East African trip, I’d come down with a nasty coughing and vomiting bug. And, perhaps because I’d been physically pulverised by the nine runs in nine days in east Africa, I hadn’t been able to fully shake it (or do much training).

Still. The route was flat, didn’t involve crossing many roads or running through crowds of people, and it was a cool afternoon. Perfect running conditions and a beautiful course to boot. West down the Rhone for few hundred metres before crossing the river and east along the north side of Lake Geneva as far as the Jardin Botaniques. Turn around, back along the northern shore before crossing the Pont du Mont-Blanc and heading east along the south side of the lake. Past the Parc des Eaux-Vives to Geneve Plage (whose roof we spent some time clambering over at 2 am one morning for some reason that I can’t recall). And then back to the Jet d’Eau – the landmark fountain in Lake Geneva. One last coughing fit, and almost vom, and I was ready for the photo in front of the Jet d’Eau.

Except there was something missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And then I realised that the 100m high jet of water that I’d been admiring throughout the run was no longer there. It had been turned off. And that’s why the picture at the top of the blog is one of me and the girls with nothing in the background.

I could reminisce for ever about life in Geneva but this is already a long blog so I’ll restrict myself to one, rather sad, story. Geneva airport’s baggage reclaim is unusual in that you can see the people waiting for you through glass walls. On arrival I found myself automatically looking for my mother and father who used to collect us, and our various friends and companions, when we came to visit them. It was my first time back in Geneva since my mother died of cancer (just over a year ago) so I was thinking a lot about her. I particularly remembered her warm and loving welcome, tempered by the occasional sigh at my latest hair style and even an “Oh no, darling, honestly” when I showed up with an ear piercing. A welcome I won’t see again.

I’ll never stop missing her and I’ll never quite be whole again. She’s the reason that I’m raising money for Cancer Research and I know they’d greatly appreciate any donations :

About Run the World

I'm running 10 km in every country in the world - a total of 205 countries - by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. I'm doing the Run the World challenge to promote the benefits of sport and physical activity and to raise money for cancer research following the death of my mother from cancer. If you'd like to donate to Cancer Research - - then I know they'd be very grateful.
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4 Responses to Run 41 : Switzerland – Geneva

  1. Pam Stephens says:

    Dan you’ve got me in tears thinking about the lovely Kristin and how lovingly you speak of her.
    Time to donate – first one this year! Happy and Healthy and safe New Year to you and your family.
    Love from Pam and Geoff

  2. What a lovely note – thank you! Best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful 2015!

  3. Ruth Thomas (née Stephens!) says:

    I’ve just read this and it’s brought tears to my eyes too Dan. Though it was an age ago that we left Geneva and I was barely 11 when we left, I remember visiting your parents house and remember your Mum in particular and the great friend she was to my Mum (Pam). And of course I remember all the trips to the airport to greet visiting family and friends and for our trips to and from the UK so your description evoked incredibly vivid images for me. What you’re doing sounds amazing … I’ll be donating too and will very much enjoy following your progress!

  4. Thank you Ruth – great to hear from you!

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