On December 1st, runners from all over the Geneva area will be lacing up their running shoes for the 35th Course de l’Escalade. Taking place in and around Geneva’s Old Town, this annual race kicks off a week-long celebration of l’Escalade, a date recognized each year in early December.

In 1602, the Duke of Savoy launched an attack on Geneva in the middle of the night. A group of soldiers set up ladders to scale the city walls, but their efforts were thwarted when a patrol happened upon the invaders and sounded the alarm. In the ensuing battle, the Savoyard army suffered defeat and retreated. Today, Genevois commemorate l’Escalade with a race the first weekend of December and various events, including parades and re-enactments, one week later.

Photo courtesy of Escalade.ch

Runners in the Course de l’Escalade are organized by time. The youngest female entrants (girls born in 2006) start at 10:00 and groups are staggered throughout the day. To find the schedule of start times by group, click here. Not all age groups follow the same route; an interactive map of all the routes by age group is available here.

Photo courtesy of Escalade.ch

Registration is now closed, but if you’re interested in going to see all or part of the race, the best places for spectators are:

  • Departures: La Treille (near Place Neuve and Rue de la Croix-Rouge)
  • In and around Old Town: Place du Bourg-de-Four, rue de la Pélisserie, rue Saint-Léger, and rue Etienne-Dumont
  • The finish line: Parc Bastions

Photo courtesy of Escalade.ch

Spectators should arrive early! Last year, my husband and I walked around the area during the race and sidewalks were very crowded, especially later in the day when adult men and women were running.

If crowded sidewalks aren’t your style, the entire race is broadcast live on a giant screen near Place Neuve, and it is replayed on local television the next day.

Participants in last year’s Marmite race. Photo courtesy of Escalade.ch

At the end of the day, a different kind of event takes place on the race route: the Marmite race, which begins at 18:30. The Marmite is not a timed event, and no prizes are awarded for coming in first. Instead, participants dress up in costume, each trying to one-up the next person with their creativity and originality.

Last year, it rained in the evening, but the rain did little to dampen everyone’s spirits. Hopefully conditions will be even better this year!

Participants in last year’s Marmite race. Photo courtesy of Escalade.ch

More information about the Course de l’Escalade is available here: www.escalade.ch

More information about l’Escalade is available here: www.1602.ch

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website athttp://www.aiwcgeneva.org/.