The plan – overnight in Glasgow catching up with the family, an early (but not ridiculous) flight out, prompt arrival and registration with relaxing in Paris the rest of the day. The next morning, a gentle Parkrun to loosen up the legs, into the pub for a leisurely brunch and the football then an early night all ready for the race the following morning 😊
The reality – tortuous drive, skidding in snow and howling wind, partway to Glasgow, text from easyJet to say the flight cancelled (at least we missed the motorway in those conditions!) and about-turn. Hours on the internet trying to find another route to Paris in time for the race…flights out from Manchester but no trains to get there…eventually a short, anxious night before an epic overland journey in stops and starts by bus and train, overnight in a freezing hotel, up at the crack of dawn, hours in queues (if you ever see a cheaper flight somewhere that means travelling from Manchester, all I can say is rather you than me!) then landing in Paris (on a busy Saturday), crowded trains, too late for the Parkrun…rushing straight to registration with no time to spare or we’d miss the football…and an awkward overnight with stiff shoulders from too much sitting in the cold along the way. Not ideal race prep!
The Paris Semi Marathon is a most excellent race. I haven’t done many BIG races but it seems particularly smooth and well organised. You start in a corral based on your estimated finish time and, provided you aren’t too far out with the estimate, that means that even though it’s crowded, people aren’t all falling over each other. The roads are closed, the streets are wide, the views impressive and the route is lined with cheering spectators.
Things I love about the Semi de Paris:
- The quick moving crowds (the way I remember home time after the football on a Saturday) on the way from the metro to the registration, with bubbly, excited people laughing and chatting in ten different languages.
- The square trees along the streets.
- Your name printed on your race number, so if you’re near the edge people cheer you on by name “Allez-Anne!” Which is surprisingly encouraging 😊
- (Top tip: if cheers help you, run alongside someone in a superhero costume and you can kid your subconscious they’re cheering for you! 😆)
- Other runners are really polite – touching your shoulder if they want past (and faster traffic passes on the left in Europe!).
- Big, unmissable signs every km.
- Music along the way. Blues Bands, drum groups, brass bands, reggae bands….
- Pacers that actually keep to their designated pace…well why even have them, otherwise?
- Chip mats every 5k.
- Wee stick-on tags with your finish time which fit onto your finishers medal – and can be ordered retrospectively if you decide you want to remember it!
The race starts outside the lovely ‘Parc Floral’ beside the Chateau de Vincennes
, and after a few km on tree-lined streets and fancy suburbs, heads into the city. A few times you go through an underpass and can see another part of the race going over the road above you – cool! The route crosses over the Seine a few times (I counted 5, but to be honest I was pretty busy just keeping running so that’s likely not reliable), skirts the angel at the Bastille and passes Notre Dame before wending back to the Parc. I stayed reasonably steady for most of the race and made it to nearly 20k before I really began to struggle to keep the pace up. The last km is down a wide road so straight you can see the finish line, away off in the distance. By that time one foot in front of the other was about the height of my reasoning ability, and it seemed an enormously long kilometre, but you can easily imagine striding victoriously down that great avenue (cheering crowds optional) in carefully edited memories!
The conditions couldn’t have been better…cool and clear with hardly a breath of wind, no puddles to speak of despite rain in the days leading up; in fact no convenient external factors to blame for a less than stellar time! In the end I managed to grit it out to finish in 1:43:55, 25th out of 1026 vétérans femmes 2 (which I think means age 50 to 60), 712th of 12471 females. That’s 3 and a half minutes slower than last year, when, let’s be honest, the conditions were FAR worse with driving rain and biting winds, not to mention ankle deep monster puddles to freeze your feet into brittle paralysis. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a bad run! All things considered (yes, the epic journey to get there as well!) it was an improvement relative to the last race, and it was good to feel…strong!
Onwards and upwards!