Saturday, 19 April 2014

Paris Marathon 2014 - stepping back into the light

Now is as good a time as any to reconnect with you on the sandwagon. I ran my first marathon on April 6. It was the Paris Marathon and I've been mulling over how to report it ever since. 

The race started and finished in sight of the Arc de Triomphe. In between I covered 26.2 miles of cobbles, ran along the River Seine, up, down and through eerie traffic underpasses, saluted the Eiffel Tower and saw the Pyramid at the Louvre for the first time. African drumming bands stood out among the entertainment laid on by the race organisers. They were upbeat, positive and full of life. 

Fire fighters cheered and supporters waved flags, pom poms, hand-painted banners and danced. Wigs, hot pants, rock bands and dog walkers featured. Elsewhere unimpressed faces looking blankly out of restaurants at the stream of heavy joggers in the latter stages of the route. 

The Arc de Triumphe gives me goosebumps. Always has and still does. Thick-set and overwhelming in comparison to delicate Parisian wrought iron that dances over balconies and up lampposts. Lining up for the marathon on the Champs Elysees, the marble Arc dwarfed me and did not bid me bonne chance

Fighting through the wall at mile 25 and rounding the bend out of the Bois de Boulogne to tackle the final yards, there was the Arc. It was aloof and said: 'you're just passing through'. 5 hours and 2 minutes later.

Crowds lined the final stages. There was genuine passion in the shouts of allez. Maybe it was fatigue, but the French language never sounded as foreign as it did in those final few minutes. Cobbles, an unknown towering monument and the Arc up ahead, beyond a packed finishers' enclosure. It was over and without fanfare or fuss I collected my medal. Months of training in the making and revelations about running. Success! One 10 euro beer and a metro ride home to our backpacker hostel close to Canal St Martin. 

Next year I'll finish faster and the Arc with applaud.


Room: Peace & Love Hostel for a comfortable bed, no frills, good value hospitality and access to the kitchen at 6 am to make porridge, peanut butter on baguette and black coffee.  

Food & Drink: Chez Papa (Metro: Louis Blanc), champagne at Chez Prune (Canal St Martin), Point Ephemere, Pasta party at PastaPapa (Metro: OpĂ©ra) and more. 

Flights: BA and Air France from London Heathrow.

Sightseeing: Shakespeare and Company book store and various landmarks for 26.2 miles around Paris including Notre Dame, Lourve, Bastille, Place de La Concorde and Eiffel Tower.  

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