Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Tale of Two Marathons (part one)

Note:  This is part one of a two-part guest blog from Bridget Robinson, Race Director of the mighty Point Douglas Run.  Bridget recently ran The Paris Marathon and The London Marathon back-to-back.  This is her story.  Stay tuned for part two.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. 

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Ten years ago, I had never run a marathon and was quite happy to think I never could or would run one. Then, out of the blue, an old school friend, Lisa, who I hadn't heard from in twenty years invited me to join her in running the Paris marathon. In 2005 I crossed the finish line holding Lisa's hand and grinning euphorically. That was the start of a "marathon-a-year" tradition, that would have continued indefinitely had Lisa not  enticed me out of my comfort zone. 

This time it was with an invitation to run the London Marathon. No sooner had I signed up, than Lisa mentioned that the Paris marathon was the weekend before and it would be foolish not to take advantage of the close geographic and calendar proximity and run both.  It was far enough in the future for me to suspend my incredulity and I also liked the symmetry of my first and tenth marathons being the Paris marathon, so I registered for it too.

We took the Eurostar from London to Paris which takes roughly two and a half hours, traveling at speeds up to 300 km/ hour.

What a treat to carbo-load on warm baguette from the local boulangerie. I hardly slept the night before due to the 7 hour time difference. We excitedly bounded up a Montmartre stairway en route to the underground which provided free transit for runners. The Spring sun shone brightly as we made our way to the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in front of the Arc de Triomphe, the most dramatic start line I've experienced. 

Bridget and friends; Paris Marathon
There were plenty of porta-potties and clover-leaf urinals near the start. There were seven different start times staggered over about an hour based on expected finish times which was very effective at minimizing congestion. The atmosphere at the start was very festive and the energy was electric. Runners had been provided with garbage bags with head and arm cut-outs to help stay warm at the start but after the first couple of kilometers I was poring water over my head and neck to cool down due to the hot sun. We ran through a gorgeous tree filled park the Bois de Vincennes which is a tenth of the size of Paris on the eastern side. The park was a Royal hunting preserve in years past. Beautiful blue-green birds flitted amongst the tree-tops.  After running down towards the Seine, my first glimpse of Notre Dame Cathedral was breathtaking. 

A t-shirt with a cheery "bonjour y'all" made me smile. It clouded over and became comfortably cool for running. I wasn't properly trained and occasionally questioned my ability to finish, but the numerous distractions along the way, such as the Eiffel tower also the energy from the other runners was up-lifting. Refreshment stations were laden with bananas, oranges, raisins and sugar cubes. We ran next to the river which was beautiful and then through a tunnel which reverberated with energetic rock and roll and was dramatically lit with multi-color laser lights. Spring was in the air everywhere from blossom laden Chestnuts to verdant green Linden trees.

Before the finish on Avenue Foch, (on the opposite end of the Arc de Triomphe) we ran through the Bois de Bologne on the western side of Paris.  A girl running ahead of me sported a T-shirt asking "Where the Foch is the finish?". 

About a mile from the finish line I passed a group of friends having a champagne picnic on the side of the road. Two sported their medals and smiled heartily as we ran by. 

I'd love to bottle the feeling of a marathon finish line. A sense of peace and joy over came me as I got my medal and a beautiful navy fitted t-shirt. A happy reunion with friends and my husband strengthened the feeling of no better place to be and no better activity to do. 

As we emerged from the underground a while later several elderly Parisians, spotting our medals, chatted to us and beamed as we told them how beautiful their city was and how very much we enjoyed the marathon. Further along people sitting at an outdoor cafe cheered and smiled at us as we walked by. 

Dinner high on Montmartre was the perfect end to a perfect day. It's a good day to be alive.

Bridget Robinson
Race Director, Point Douglas Run
Bridget and Lisa

Save The Date
Saturday, September 20, 2014

No comments: