It had been over a year since I was last in Paris. Despite insisting that I would return regularly to see my friends, the ability to travel between Manchester and Paris has turned out to not be as simple as first thought. While the two cities are reasonably close, the cost and travel time between them is surprisingly substantial. Plus life has gotten in the way and my grand return to my favourite city just never eventuated. Until last weekend.
A few months ago, I received a desperate text message from my running buddy, Becky, asking me to come to Paris to participate in a group run. It was a long way to go for a 5 kilometre race, however I was willing to accept any excuse to get me back there. Unfortunately one of our other team members had to pull out and so we never signed up for the group run. Instead, the week after completing the Manchester Marathon, while still feeling the high of running 42 kilometres, I googled “Run Paris 18 19 May” et voila! There was going to be a half marathon starting from the Bois de Bologne and heading out through the banlieue to St Germaine-en-Laye that weekend. I told Becky, we signed up and suddenly a month after completing a marathon we were doing a half. Mon dieu.
The race started at 8am, an hour earlier than both Becky and I thought. We then discovered it would take us 50 minutes to get to the start line. So working backwards, we realised we would need to get up at 5.45am to eat breakfast, get ready and arrive at the race on time. Yay.
We played ‘spot the runners’ on the metro out to the Bois de Bologne, as more and more people wearing lycra, race numbers and carrying the plastic bags we had been provided to transport our belongings got on the train. The weather was beautiful – clear skies and a nice light breeze. Perfect conditions for the run.
The race was fantastic – described as being 50 per cent urban, 50 per cent vegetation, the route started in one of Paris’s wooded areas before heading towards the suburbs. We passed through small villages, dodging cars, jumping over curbs and turning sharp corners on footpaths. We then headed along the river Seine, running along a sandy path with the water on one side and huge mansions with amazing manicured gardens on the other. It was very beautiful and peaceful. The two hill climbs were less peaceful and my poor legs, which haven’t seen a decent hill in over a year due to Manchester’s ultra flat terrain, were a little bit shocked. However Team Blonde managed to encourage each other up both hills and we made it to the top without stopping. GO TEAM.
There were two issues with the race:
- There were no toilets along the route. This is fine for the french men who are able and willing to go to the toilet against any tree, fence, pole or open space they can find. Not so easy for the ladies who either had to drop their dacks in front of hundreds of people or simply hold on.
- The water stations served water in paper cups. Have you ever tried running with a cup of water in your hand? Have you then attempted to drink from it? I dare you to try it and if you manage to get more than half of the water into your mouth and not up your nose, all over your hand or on the ground then I will kiss your feet. Perhaps it was therefore a good thing that they were filling the cups with a high pressure water hose so most of the water jumped straight out and you were served a cup that was only a quarter full. Not great. Water is quite important when you’re running 20 kilometres.
The race finished at the Chateau in St Germain-en-Laye which has views over Paris and the surrounding suburbs. It was extremely pleasant to stretch our legs with such an amazing view. Plus we both managed to finish in under two hours (my time was 1 hour 57 minutes) – very pleasing results considering the warm temperatures, the painful hill climbs and the lack of water and toilets. Definitely one of the prettiest races I have ever completed. And I have discovered that a half marathon is less than half as difficult as a marathon. The painful bit of a marathon hits after you have reached the 30 kilometre mark. Becky and I both agreed that 20 kilometres is the optimum race length – not too short and not too long. Now I just need to find another race so that I can add to my ugly medal collection.