24 Mar

Micro-adventures – Marathon running in Paris

ABTA’s Lizzie Andrews recently jumped on the Eurostar to take part in the 2017 Semi de Paris, find out more about her first micro-adventure.

Micro-adventures – Marathon running in Paris

Earlier this month 38,000 runners took part in the ‘Semi de Paris’ and I was one of them!

For my short city ‘micro-adventure’ break I packed my new running shoes, an umbrella, and of course sporty running clothes. I regretted not taking a cap, something that makes running in the rain a more pleasant experience! I also packed a second pair of shoes and smarter clothing for going out to dinner.

Despite the weather, it was pouring with rain on the morning of the race, it did not put a damper on the atmosphere and I was looking forward to my first overseas competition. Looking back, I remember the pumping music, and everyone stretching and warming up their bodies for a difficult 20km run which is equivalent to a half marathon (13.1 miles).

I was in Paris for two reasons, one to support my two friends who are in training for the London marathon on 23 April and two, to go on a ‘micro-adventure’ – which is defined as experiencing a destination in a more active way (ABTA Travel Trends 2017).

To prepare I had revised the race route and that was ingrained into my memory so I could pace myself properly. The 20km route started in the Château de Vincennes in Parc Floral de Paris on the east side of the city and then headed along the River Seinne to the halfway point, the Notre Dame. It then looped back up the river through Bastille and ends back at the park.

I was all set to go, however the start time was over 40 minutes behind schedule as the rain had held everything up. My shoulders were uncontrollably shivering and together with my running partners, we are anxiously waiting for the crowd to get moving. Finally we were off and runners disposed of their used rain macs, bin liners, foil thermal sheets as we got closer and closer to the start line. Nervous thoughts consumed my mind: “What if I actually break a leg?”, “Will I get hungry?” and “Why am I doing this again?!” Nevertheless, I knew these were all just thoughts of anxiety and once I crossed the start line and started running the first 1km, I began to enjoy the scenery instead.

Running is hard on your knees and body but I see it more as a ‘mind’ game since I have read a few books on this very thing, so whilst running through the streets of Paris I try to distract myself. I look at the other runners and try to spot someone running for a charity or weirdly feel happy when I see someone wearing the same trainers as me! Any distraction was good!

Although it was raining constantly, there were plenty of supporters cheering us along the route – clearly Parisians are hardy! Brass bands were dotted at every kilometre which kept me bouncing along. By 5km, I felt like I was on-top-of-the-world as it normally feels a lot further and I tell myself: “Only 15km to go...”

As I headed along the River Seinne, we crossed a bridge with a view of the Notre Dame to the left. We headed into the centre and ran through the streets, past the Le Centre Pompidou, an interesting building. I was happy to see more supporters through this part of the route, possibly university students or lucky Parisians living in the city centre. They cheer: “Courage Courage” and “Ale Ale”.

By 12km, we were well back on way down the other side of the River Seinne. The city buildings gave us more shelter from the rain than the wide-open boulevards, but we then headed into tunnels where fellow runners chant songs that echoed off the walls.

The snacking and drink stations were part of the fun too. They offered half a banana, a bottle of water, dried fruit and cubes of cheese. I remember seeing the final station at 18km from afar and beginning to form a strategy on how to keep running without stopping or bumping into someone. I adjusted my running by taking smaller and quicker strides and picked up a handful of cheese and a banana. Running and eating this amount of fat felt very unnatural so I consumed the fruit and chucked the lactose!

The run lead us back into the Château de Vincennes and at 19km, event photographers appeared at the roadside pointing their lenses. I stretched out my arms and put my thumbs up. Supporters shouted: “Just one KM to go”.

With 200 metres to go, I began to speed up. Breathless and wondering where my energy had come from I see the banner and take my last long stride. I finished in 1 hour 59 minutes and collected my medal with pride!

Exhausted and looking for the next snack station, I grabbed a handful of chocolate – definitely a plus of being in France – two bananas, two apples and a bottle of water.

Despite the rain the event was certainly rewarding. It was time to get dry clothes on, head to the massage tent whilst I waited for my friends and then plan for discounted Parisian brunch, a fabulous offer only for participants of the Semi de Paris.

We celebrated at dinner with a bottle of Cremant d’Alsace a softer tasting (cheaper) fizzy wine and enjoyed pizza and pasta (carbs on carbs, yes we deserved it!) whilst wearing our medals – something which was difficult to translate to the waiter!

The next day, we left our hotel by midday and took our weekend bags with us into the centre so we could go to the Notre Dame, we wanted to revisit it after running past it. We found refuge from the rain in a café nearby and I ate the best tasting omelette and chips I have ever had called the Le Parisien!

With one hour left to go in Paris, we took the metro back to Gare Du Nord station, hopped onto the 4:30pm Eurostar and arrived back in London at 6:30pm. It was a fantastic weekend away and a really different way to explore a city.

April is the start of marathon season with events happening in Milan, Rome, Hamburg, Madrid, Vienna and London to name just a few, why not research an overseas running event and use it as an opportunity to see a destination in a more active way, I’d highly recommend it!

To find ABTA Members offering active holidays visit https://abta.com/find-a-member