Go Little Legs!

After two Saturdays of training, the Paris-Versailles run finally arrived. I was really looking forward to the challenge – 16 kilometres with an apparently evil climb and a seemingly long finish. I knew I was going to be able to complete the race, so I added a few additional challenges to push myself – no stopping at any point and complete 16 kilometres in under one hour and 30 minutes.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning as Becky, my running buddy and fellow Equip-Top-Gâteau-Vitess member (we made up that awesome team name while waiting for the race to start), and I stood underneath the Eiffel Tower with 21000 other runners. The race didn’t start until 10am, a very comfortable Parisian time of the morning to begin a running race. We had to wait for 20 minutes before the start which meant being squished by Parisians who have no concept of personal space and many of whom had spent the last half an hour warming up and therefore stank. Yum.

Paris sky

A beautiful sunny day in Paris – great weather for running.

The race finally began with competitors being sent off in groups of 300. We were the 23rd group to go, heading off at about 10.20am. The run took us from the foot of the Eiffel tower and then west along the south bank of the Seine. We ran through the outskirts of Paris, under the peripherique and then into the banlieu or outer suburbs of the city. It was fun looking around and discovering different parts of Paris while running with a large mass of people – firstly through newer commercial areas, high density residential zones with ugly concrete apartment blocks, past sand factories along the river, and then we hit Issy-Les-Moulineaux.

Paris Versailles run map

My Garmin map of where we ran

Issy is a town/suburb/I don’t know what you’d call it, situated just outside of the peripherique of Paris and it was here that I discovered what a hill is. Before the race, Becky and I had learnt that there was a ‘hill’ in this race that many people warned was particularly painful. The incline of the hill wasn’t anything more significant than the two hills we run up most mornings so we figured it would be fine. No worries. Hmmm…

It turns out that while the incline wasn’t any greater than our normal climbs, when the hill goes for almost three kilometres you discover that a hill is not just a hill. It’s bloody awful and it HURTS. Oh how it hurts. There were quite a few turns as we went up and each time I thought, “Oh maybe this is the end.” But as I rounded the corner, another mountain was waiting for me.

I am very proud to say that I kept to my challenge and I didn’t stop. Both Becky and I overtook people who were struggling with the slope and we made it to the summit without dying or rolling back down. It was a great personal achievement. And I have to thank Jens Voigt for providing me with the “Shut up legs and do as I tell you!” inspiration.

We then ran through a beautiful forested area that eventually turned into a down-hill gallop – people were speeding past as fast as they could go, causing a few potentially dangerous moments.

The final three kilometres into Versailles were long but I picked up my speed for the final two and really pushed myself in the last kilometre to attempt to make my one hour and 30 minute goal. The actual race was 16.3 kilometres and I came in with a final time of 1 hour 31 minutes and 19 seconds. According to my Garmin watch, I reached the 16 kilometre mark in just under one hour and 30 minutes. I think that made me happier than crossing the actual finish line.

Paris Versailles race

Post-race crowds

It was such a great feeling to finish and to know I had actually pushed myself a long the way. I have never been this fit in my life – I have very strong memories of being at primary school and making up excuses to not have to do cross-country running. I now love being able to run long distances and not feel dead at the end. While my legs were a bit tired, I could have kept going. Plus all of this exercise means that yesterday I could eat two pieces of cake, which really is the best reason to run from Paris to Versailles.

Paris Versailles medal

I got a medal!

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