The Marseille-Cassis Race

The Marseille-Cassis raceOne of the running world's most beautiful competitive events must undoubtedly be the hugely popular race from Marseille to Cassis, which takes place every year on the last Sunday of October.

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The Marseille-Cassis race is open to everyone and has a "silver label" classification from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), placing it among the top 50 running races in the world. Its official title used to be the Classique Internationale Marseille-Cassis.

In 2012, having shortened its route very slightly by 308 metres / 337 yards, it became the simpler Marseille-Cassis: 20 km / 12.75 miles. However it is still sometimes, inaccurately, referred to as a half-marathon.

The first race was held in 1979 and attracted 700 runners. Today, 15,000 runners take part from all over the world.

The date for the Marseille-Cassis race in 2014 was 26 October and the winner was Titus Mbishei from Kenya who completed the course in 59 minutes and 11 seconds. The record remains with Ethiopa's Atsedu Tsegay who completed the course in 2011 in 58 minutes and 11 seconds.

Route for the Marseille-Cassis running raceIn 2014 the women's title was taken by Jepchirchir Peres from Kenya, who completed the course in one hour, ten minutes.

But, while the super-swift visiting African athletes tend to run off with the top honours each year, everyone who participates can now take home a personalised medal with his or her name and race time engraved on it.

The starting point of the race is near the Vélodrome Stadium - home of Marseille's legendary football team Olympique de Marseille. Click on the map to enlarge the image.

The runners take a route through the Gineste pass (327 metres/1070 feet above sea level) and the plateau of Carpiagne.

The downhill home stretch winds above the calanques - the stunning rocky "fjords" that score this section of the coast - down to the picturesque ancient port of Cassis (pictured below).

While some runners might find the race to be on the short side, it also has long uphill and downhill stretches and is certainly no breeze.

Participants pass through some of the most spectacular scenery in France and the road is closed to traffic during the race. Enthusiastic supporters and volunteers guarantee abundant supplies of refreshments and a Tour de France-like party atmosphere all along the route.

Warm and pleasant but no longer sweltering, the weather in Provence is - if the fierce Mistral wind isn't blowing - ideal for running at this time of year.

Such is the popularity of the Marseille-Cassis that it has inspired another event, L'Autre Marseille-Cassis (The Other Marseille-Cassis).

Runners in the Marseille-Cassis race arrive in CassisThis is a more leisurely ramble along much the same route the day before the race, designed to introduce participants to the beauty of the calanques and raise awareness of the environment.

The Marseille-Cassis is open to participants over the age of 17. Many entrants are French, but the race is open to all comers and attracts top international contestants. If you would like to take part, you will be required to supply a medical certificate.

Enrolment for the Marseille-Cassis opens in the early spring (in 2014 it was on 10 March). The race starts here, and you are advised to move fast, very fast: past events have been fully subscribed within an hour. Website for the Marseille-Cassis race and for the Other Marseille-Cassis hiking day.

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