In my last post, I mentioned the reasons for our late departure on our bike ride, an absolute no-no in the summer time. The main reason was not the Tour de France. It was that they were riding into Paris and I am psychologically incapable of walking away from anything Parisian. So, as promised, the Paris post. Actually, the first Paris post. As I was writing, it became obvious that I needed to break it up into several posts (or at least two). So here is part one, the Paris Marathon
The first time that Alan and I went to Paris, we went as part of Fred’s Team to run the Paris Marathon. Fred’s Team, which was named after legendary runner Fred Lebow, founder of the New York Marathon, raises money to fund cancer research at the Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center. Because the organization was quite small in 1998, Alan and I were the only ones from California in the small group of about 20 runners. We didn’t care, we were there to see Paris.
The concept of Fred’s Team, like the Leukemia Society’s Team in Training and the Arthritis Foundation’s Joint’s in Motion, is for the participants to raise money for the cause. In exchange, they receive an entry into a particular event, plus transportation to and lodging at the event location. Alan raised money this way for Team in Training for many years (running the Honolulu Marathon multiple times), and he is very good at it. To go to Paris, between us we raised $6,000. I should say Alan raised the money, because like I said, he’s very good at it. Fred’s Team paid for our airfare and hotel for four nights. For a few extra dollars (plus our own lodging expenses) we were able to extend our trip to 10 days.
Our hotel was about two blocks from the race start (which is just the other side of the Arc de Triomphe where we’re standing in the picture). It was miles from the race expo, though, which meant that shortly after checking in, we were having our first experience traveling the Paris Metro.
Coming from Southern California, I had never ridden a subway before. I loved it! It became our primary mode of transportation around Paris. I quickly became an expert at getting us from point A to point B, and from there to point C.
The marathon itself was quite an experience. First of all, Alan and I were totally surprised by the amount of participants. More than 25,000 runners toed the line that day, most of them men back then. The race is like a tour of Paris. From the starting line on the Champs Elysees, the runners head east, pass the Place de la Concorde, the Musee de Louvre, the Bastille, all the way to the eastern end of Paris, where the runners loop through the Bois de Vincennes, then start to head west.
Much of the western route is along the Seine, passing Notre Dame, the Musee D’Orsey, then at mile 20, the Eiffel Tower across the river. The course continues west to the Bois de Boulogne, where it again circles back, finally finishing on the other side of the Arc de Triomphe from where it started.
Also different was to calculate the race in kilometers instead of miles. A marathon has 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers. While the metric system makes the race sound longer, it also makes each measure seem to go faster. By this I mean, my 8.5 minute per mile goal is about 5:20 per kilometer. Fast!
Each time we’ve run the Paris Marathon, Alan and I have run together so that we could enjoy the experience together. We also carried cameras (old-style disposables, so excuse the quality) to record our memories.
The above pictures are from our first Paris Marathon in 1998. In 2001, we went back (on our own dime) and ran again. This time we stayed in the Latin Quarter and took the Metro to the race start. With a race start time of 8:30, we were on the Metro by 6:30 so that we would have plenty of time to get situated at the start. When we first got on the train, our co-passengers were mostly the homeless and couples on their way home from evening dates. The closer we got to the race, the faces began to change, until finally, the train was loaded with athletes, nervous and excited about running a marathon.
Our first order of business, after dropping off our dry clothes, was to find some coffee (our hotel wouldn’t make us any). We finally located a bar near the start, open all night and now filled with runners wanting coffee. The lone barman would only make espresso, so we ordered and downed a couple shots. Then off to the start line!
Only to find, with so many people, we could barely squeeze in! We ended up much farther back that we would have chosen, destined to walking for the first mile and slowing again to a walk at all the water stations in the first 10 miles. Oh, well, we were there to enjoy the experience. And we did!
I think if there is any race that could lure me back to running the marathon distance, it would be the Paris Marathon. It’s a fun course, a beautiful route, lots of enthusiastic spectators, and it is well managed. It also usually has perfect marathon-running weather, cold and misty. And, being Paris, it has plenty of amazing food to refuel with (although we were not vegetarian when we where there last time). And, simply because it is Paris.