You may ask what a delectable almond morsel has to do with the lunaticical activity of running 42.2kms ‘for fun’. It’s simple, run the jolly race and you can eat as many macarons as you like. That’s what I told myself and I did – both!
Yes, I’m alive – having survived the marathon and four weeks of traveling with a toddler. Both not without the odd challenge, but outstanding experiences that I’d repeat in a flash. Well, maybe after I can walk again.
My next few posts will be belated travel tales, peppered with memories of sublime food (and even some recipes). Except for this one – it’s indulgent and all marathon.
Paris was as to be expected – fabulous. So, they’re not so good on public conveniences and negotiating the metro with a buggy is an exercise in weight lifting. But when it comes to fashion, food, monuments and just plain style, it’s a hard city to surpass.
Our apartment (booked through airbnb) in the 7th arrondissement was just minutes walk away from sumptuous Rue Cler, with its impressive array of fresh fruit, flowers, boulangeries and restaurants. Breakfast at Cafe Central became a fav, it was a euro or so more expensive than elsewhere but the coffee was good and croissants light, crispy and large (very large). The orange juice was freshly squeezed and the wait staff friendly, professional and downright pleasant.
We were a couple of minutes walk from the metro, several supermarkets and any closer to Napoleon’s tomb, we would have been bunking down with him.
I’ve never been as nervous as I was the day before the run – I was a jittery unfocused mess. That may have, of course, still been the shakes from having given up alcohol 10 weeks prior. Seven months of training and I was petrified something (else) would go wrong. That evening the boys cooked up mountains of pasta and I alternated between pacing the apartment, sewing the all important silver ferns onto my running gear and making sure everything was ready for the morning.
The morning of the much anticipated day dawned clear but cold. Thankfully, we’d been given plastic running bags and a piece of stretchy fabric that could be used as a hat or neck warmer (or, I guess in summer, a boob tube) as part of the pack collected from the most fabulous running expo you can imagine. Mind you, it’s hard to complain (and I didn’t, see above) when you’re offered free massage.
Parisians don’t seem to rise early so it was fellow athletes we came across on our way to the metro and on the trains. Things were pretty relaxed on the Champs-Elysees as the crowd of 40,000 waited for instructions and qeued for the bathrooms. I reiterate, they do not do toilets well in Paris. After lining up for almost an hour my newly met mates in the toilet line and I gave up. I’d been assured there were bushes early in the course.
It took our wave 45 minutes to pass the start line. The morning chill meant I didn’t shed my stylish bag until six or seven k’s into the race. I spent most of that time skipping over bags others had turfed away. While on the subject of avoiding dangers, the drinks stops were truly unique. Not only was there water, but chopped bananas, oranges, raisins and sugar cubes. None of this would have been an issue if the bananas and oranges had been provided without skins – alas, they weren’t. So, for about 100 metres or so every 5kms, you had to negotiate a slippery mess of discarded banana and orange skins. The irony in this is that we all had to provide a doctor’s certificate prior to entering the race – it was OK to kill ourselves during the race due to food hazards as long as we were healthy when we did so!
As the k’s rolled on, I tried to remember where I was and take in the atmosphere – which was festival like. Bands, kids, and happy Parisians cheering you on. The sliver fern was worth the $2 investment. I had the odd person call out ‘go Kiwi’ or ‘go All Blacks’ and several people jogged up from behind me (yes, there were people slower than me) and ran along side sharing their fondness for New Zealand (I didn’t have the heart to respond in the negative to the English chap who liked Palmerston North). A little fatigue set in at around 26k’s when I walked a couple of hundred metres, but from then it was onwards and upwards to the finish (except through those crazy drinks stops).
It was great to see the support team at the 25 and 35km marks – they had their own metro marathon (via a visit to Notre Dame) going on, swapping lines and trains so they could yell at me for a brief moment. Luckily I run so slowly so they got more of a view of me than supporters of more elite athletes would have.
I tried not to get too ahead of myself and to enjoy the moment. And, given my track record it was highly likely that I’d pull something slipping on a banana skin. As I passed the 40km mark, I let myself begin to think about the finishing line. And once I got to 41k’s, I knew I could crawl a kilometre if my body failed me. It didn’t and across the line I went in a time of 4.44.07.
It was a bit anti-climatic initially – supporters were some distance from the line and it was a cruel long walk to the reuniting spot. My moment of the marathon occurred at this random, lonely but ecstatic, time. An elderly gentlemen turned to me and said in broken English, ‘I’ve just run my first marathon’, to which I replied, ‘me too’. At that, he grabbed me in an enormous hug and kissed me several times on both cheeks. You have to love the Italians – so demonstrative. It was just what we both needed.
I took Kerre Woodham’s advice and proudly wore my medal out that evening, and the next day. I wasn’t the only one and it was great to relive experiences and chat with those we met out and about from Holland, England, Venezuela and the US.
I may have caught the ‘bug’ – some of the other marathons they recommended sound pretty appealing. I know it’s luxurious to fly around the world to go for what is a long jog – but I’m pretty sure I paid for at least half of my flight through wine not purchased in the months before!
Part #II will cover off the macaron making (and eating) at La Cuisine. Here’s a taste of what to expect. And I promise it won’t take another month to write.
Lastly, a big yay to my colleague and fellow blogger, Laura from Hungry and Frozen, who has just had a cook book deal sealed. Go Laura.