Running the Paris half-marathon
I was not ‘born’ a runner. I used to do sports, but it involved a lot of dancing and very little hard-core running. It wasn’t until much much much later (let’s say only about 5 years ago) that I picked up on running properly. I started by doing short runs around the park. The kind where you felt a sense of accomplishment after completing one round. Then it progressed to two rounds, and then before I knew it I was running 5 km easy. I challenged myself to try a little bit further, and started running 10 km races. It wasn’t ever about the timing. It was always first and foremost just the aim to ‘cross the finishing line’. A year and a half ago I upped the ante again, and completed my first half-marathon. 21.5km is not short; even though you may think so riding in a car. Sure it’s not as ‘tough’ as running the full marathon, but hey everybody has to start somewhere right?
I chose to run my first half-marathon in Malaysia, my home. I thought it would be apt, plus I was fully acclimatized to running in the tropics. It was also my way of paying homage to my home. And perhaps one day I will write about it as well, how for the first 10 km I didn’t even bother putting in my earphones and preferred to hear the sounds of my city waking up.
I chose to run my second half-marathon in Paris. A city I had madly fallen in love with and a place where I had left a piece of my soul in college. It would mark my return to the city after the first time I fell head over heels in love with it.
The Paris half-marathon isn’t held on the same day as the full marathon. Its not even in the same month. It starts at Chateau de Vincennes and cuts across the city all the way to Chatelet before looping back to the park.
Things you should know about running this race. Go to the bathroom before you even get to the park. And then forget about even using the port-a-loos. The queues are ridiculously long (I waited for 30 minutes to get to the front of the line) since they only have 6 port-a-loos for ALL the participants. By the time you get to the front, everyone’s excrement is literally to the seat of the port-a-loo. Not.Cool.At.All.
When you start running, you may notice people darting to the left and right and then dropping-their-pants and just going wherever they can. That’s how bad the facilities were. People were literally taking a dump in the middle of a public park in Paris.
The run itself is quite nice, though I only really enjoyed it once we escaped the park and broke into the city. I ran past places I used to hang out at, and loved watching the Notre Dame come in sight.
The streets are lined with curious supporters, yelling out at you to keep going. People underestimate how much it matters to have someone support you. I pick up my pace as I started heading back to the park, with yells and high fives of little French children yelling out at me “Courage Madame! Courage!”
Heading back, the organizers placed an uphill run at km 17 and km 19. You underestimate how much it hurts! To be going uphill that late in the game.
Finally, I spy the finishing line right in front of the Chateau itself. What a beautiful sight! What a wonderful delight! I loved running across and watching my French friends out to support me. My friend C dressed in her Parisian best, a beret on her head and a cigarette dangling on her lips.
It was a fun run, and even the gloomy weather and the people pooping all around me couldn’t put a damper on it. The Paris half-marathon can be fun, but doesn’t go through the sights you would have loved to run through, like the Eiffel Tower, or the Arc de Triomphe. They save them for the full marathon. Perhaps it’s a good incentive to train up to run that. And remember, even in the Paris Marathon, go to the bathroom before you even get to the venue.
***Note: I was in worse shape running the Paris half-marathon than I was running the KL half-marathon. Always remember to train-up (and I mean all the way up to, and not running off to Oslo half-way through to see the Northern Lights) to the race. Your knees and thighs will thank you after