What a fantastic few days! This summer has been...different. I spent too much time in school, a week away on a course and never really felt I'd had a break from work. So the few days we'd planned away were just what I needed.Semi-Marathon. There were five runners and one supporter in our group, and we followed the ups and downs of the Covid travel restrictions carefully over the following months. We planned as much as we could and had the inevitable mad scramble to sort out tests and certificates and, eventually, early on Thursday morning we were on our way. Paris was warm and sunny when we arrived at lunchtime, we did touristy stuff that was great fun but not really the subject of this blog, went out for dinner, drank red wine - all that good stuff. Friday morning was BEAUTIFUL so, of course, we went for a run - a 5 mile gentle sight seeing trot and photo shoot. There may have been a little grumbling about 'food babies' and slightly sore heads but the run certainly sorted us out and we headed back to the hotel for a hearty breakfast.
Saturday is parkrun day. I'd already run the parkrun in Bois de Boulogne prior to the 2019 Paris Marathon so I was keen to go somewhere new. And if I am totally honest I am not 100% convinced that I could have found the start of that one again - which would have been embarrassing when travelling with friends. Luckily there is another Paris parkrun: parkrun de Montsouris and after some research we realised that there was a bus route that took us right from our hotel to the park.
Of course, the main reason we were in Paris on this particular weekend was to run a half marathon and I'd be lying if I said that the fact that the French call a half marathon a 'semi' didn't elicit some childish sniggering! When we booked the race we had no idea of what mass races in a Covid era would look like. We'd put in accurate time predictions for finish times and not thought too much about it. The final race instructions put us into something of a panic. The start times were spread out over much longer than we had anticipated, While four of us were due to start at 9.18am one of our group was not timetabled to set off until 11.05am. We had a 5.15pm train to catch and we'd all quite like to be able to shower first. Another consideration was the heat, Paris was, in comparison to Hampshire, roasting hot! The thought of having to run from 11am until 1pm didn't appeal. We began to consider how we could smuggle our friend into our starting pen with us but, just on the off chance I thought I would ask at the expo. I was amazed at how easy it was - I just explained that we were worried about missing our train and asked if a change of starting pen was possible 'Mais bien sur!' was the answer much to our relief. Trying to change t-shirt sizes was a whole different story!
We arrived at Place de la Bastille on Sunday morning to a seething mass of runners. Paris races don't seem to have an army of volunteer marshals, so it can be a little daunting trying to work out where you need to go! We showed out blue armbands that proved that we had been vaccinated so that we could get to the baggage drop, some of us braved the portaloos and are forever scarred by the experience, and made our way to the start. There didn't seem to be any designated pens - we all sort of wandered towards the start line and were released in waves - I think we crossed the line at about 9.35am.
The route was, very roughly, the first half of the Paris marathon but in reverse. Shade was at a premium as the sun beat down. I ran the first 5k with Husbando before we went out separate ways. I wanted to run this as a 'teensy bit faster than marathon pace' run - but I am useless at pacing so just ran. I looked forward to the shade of the Bois de Vincennes - forgetting that the roads were so wide that there was barely any shade.
I'd forgotten that there is so little 'crowd control' on races in Paris. In London races the the whole route is pretty much lined with volunteer marshals, often with loads of railings to stop pedestrians wandering into the route of the runners and crossing points would be manned. On Sunday we often had to avoid people darting across the road (with or without children in tow), cyclists and electric scooters on the route. I think these were slightly less dangerous when they were coming towards the runners as we could see them approach - when they tried to overtake us it was terrifying! One lady, very smartly dressed, got quite upset at the runners trying to pass her as she stood in the middle of the road with her five, large, German Shepherd type dogs - one of whom was relieving himself in the middle of the road!
I dashed off back to our hotel rather than hanging around - I wasn't braving those portaloos again - and I swear that the 450m walk to the Metro station took me far less time to walk than it took me to run the last 500m of the race!
It was a fabulous weekend! Great friends, great food and great to be running abroad again (even if we seem to have spent hours doing covid tests and completing forms). I enjoyed the race, loved my post race hydration and was thrilled to be able to run a half, have a fabulous lunch and be back home in Hampshire by 9pm that evening all ready for the start of a new term on Monday.