Adventures in Paris (in which we run a marathon then have to walk afterward)

IMG_3644Yesterday was the big day – the Paris Marathon. I’m relieved it’s over because now it feels like our trip can really begin. If only we could walk, it would be perfect (just kidding, sort of). We all finished and our virgin marathoner, Judy, posted the best time of all of us (not surprising as she is the fastest runner of all of us). Chuck finished in 5:50 and I finished in 5:12. I’m not sure I have any more marathons in me, but I guess time will tell. I don’t really enjoy the training or the running and I certainly don’t enjoy the first few days afterward, either. that combination says to me it’s time to rethink the activity.

Our hotel was perfectly located for the start: we walked out the front door, turned right, walked a block and were at the corrals. Unlike US marathons, the Europeans have expectations of their runners, and the last corral was for a finish time of 4:30, which meant it was the corral for everybody who expected to take longer than 4:30 to finish – in other words it was a big ass corral full of runners of all different levels of ability. There were close to 40,000 runners signed up and it was far and away the largest field of runners in which I have ever run. I had agreed to pace Judy for the first 13 miles so she wouldn’t burn herself out in the first half (a common newbie mistake). From the time the clock started it took us about 15-20 minutes to get to the actual starting line, but since the race used timing chips, it didn’t really matter.

The course started at the Arc de Triomphe, ran down the Champs Elyssees, down past the Louvre, through the Bois de Vincennes, back past the Louvre along the Seine, underneath the Champs Elyssees (passing through the tunnel where Princess Di was killed), then up to and through the Bois du Boulogne finally finishing on what (looked to me like) the back side of the Arc de Triomphe. The weather was cool and breezy with some sun. I decided to wear a shot sleeved top and by the end was regretting my decision – it was nippy out there! Given the hoards of people, the support was phenomenal. They had lots of water for everyone (and actually handed out bottles you could carry versus the small cups we’re used to in the States. There were orange slices, bananas, raisins and sugar cubes as well every three or four miles. Lots of people came out to yell support and cheer runners on (given the street closures, they probably didn’t have much else to do!). It was a very international race: they limit country quotas, for instance there were 1,000 Americans running) so we heard all languages spoken on the course.

I burned myself out completely pacing Judy (though she only went about ten miles with me before taking off). My calves started cramping something fierce at about mile 18, so the last six miles were a brisk walk for me. Chuck ran a smarter race than me and refused to try and keep up with anybody, doing his own thing and finishing in 5:50 which was within 5 minutes of his planned time. I, on the other hand, ran the first half in 4:15 time and the last 13 in 5:30 time which resulted in a 5:12 finish time for me. Not bad, considering we hadn’t trained as hard as we should have (oh yeah, and Chuck is all of one year out of chemotherapy). I was reminded again of how little I care for the 26.2 mile distance – that is a LONG way to run! But we have our medals, and now we can spend the rest of our trip enjoying ourselves and not thinking and worrying about the upcoming race.

We each took a few pics on the course (I used my iPhone and Chuck used a little Canon) but we both flaked in the last half, which is indicative of the effort we were putting into the race.

Most of our friends left today (and I can‘t imagine flying 12 hours after running 26.2 miles, but that‘s their problem!), so we spent the day enjoying the sights. It was cooler and windier than yesterday so we couldn’t sit along the Seine without freezing our tushes. So we decided to visit churches, going to Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur (where we opted NOT to climb to the 300 steps up to the dome, thank you very much). The crowds weren’t nearly as crazy as on the weekend, so it was much more pleasant walking around. By the time we had trudged up the second or third massive staircase, however, both my calves and my thighs let me know what they thought of me. And it wasn’t pretty, let me tell you. Still, we had fun, joking about our semi-infirm state. The day after a marathon is never pretty and this was no exception. I’ve been sitting typing this entry and I know that when I’m done and stand up it’s going to be ugly. But so it goes.

We did make it back to the Louvre and the crowds were greatly reduced, having either gone home or woken up unable to move, so we actually got to go in and see the inside of the pyramid, which led us the the Carousel of the Louvre which led us ti – oh, be still my beating heart – Paris’s Apple Store! And it was like coming home, only cooler. We didn’t buy anything but it reminded me of my first trip to Europe lo these many years ago (are you reading this, Cheryl?) when we would go into American Express offices wherever we were to just for a few moments feel like we were home.

Tonight we went to dinner at, of all things, an Italian restaurant that had very good food. We walked back to the hotel, enjoying the evening and all of the people still out and about. I realized that I am and always will be an American, and so will always struggle with the inferiority complex that goes along with that fact: I will never feel as as sophisticated as an Frenchwoman, and will always feel like a rube in a fancy store on the Champs Elyssees. But that’s life, and at this point in my life, I am finally, once and for all, over being embarrassed or apologetic about it. But I am also ticked that American schools don’t introduce each and every school kid to a foreign language from day one. Traveling in France and speaking so little of the language makes me feel like the loseWeight Exerciser kid in school, who knows that people are talking and maybe laughing about them behind their back, but has no idea what they’re really saying. Pics are here, and growing as I get a chance to upload.

Tomorrow we say au revoir to Paris and continue our adventures in Bristol, England.

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