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Paris 20k 2002

The day began like most other race days – horribly early, 6.30 am to be precise, when my husband and I took the train from our home in Brussels, to Paris for the annual 20k race. As I was eighteen weeks pregnant, with an ever-increasing belly and a consequent slowing pace, this was to be my last race for a few months, and my long-suffering husband decided that in the interests of safety, he should run with me, despite not being the keenest runner in the world!

We arrived to a cold but clear Paris morning, and made our way to the starting area next to the Eiffel Tower, where we collected our numbers and our championship chips, together with the warning ‘lose chip,15 euros’! This is the only race that I have ever taken part in where all runners were required to provide a medical certificate, which my doctor had given me on the basis that I didn’t get too hot and drank lots of fluids. As it was still only 10.30, and with a start time of 1pm, we decided to take a trip up to the third floor of the Tower, saving our legs for the race by taking the lift rather than walking. When we reached the top however, it had begun to drizzle so we warded off the cold with a particularly un-nourishing pre-race meal of hot chocolate and donuts.

The location of the start was fantastic – on the Point de d’Iena right in front of the Eiffel Tower, and by this time the rain had stopped and there was no wind, making for almost-perfect running conditions. The usual collection of fancy-dressers and fun runners were conspicuously absent from the 12,000 participants perhaps because of the race’s 2km uphill start, but both the atmosphere amongst the runners and the crowd who had come out to support us was good. After about 2 km, we arrived in the Bois de Boulogne, where we stayed for the first half of the race, and with only slight drizzle, all proceeded smoothly. From there we headed back down towards the River Seine for a very pleasant stretch alongside its banks, but the second drinks stop at 12km was a complete shambles, as not only had the water run out, but isotonic drinks were provided in a ‘help-yourself’ bucket and plastic cup scenario, which resulted in a huge backlog of runners. We left the banks of the Seine and began a 2km stretch along the main road with its inevitable underpasses, and although this made a break from the increasingly heavy rain and dropping temperatures, it would have been much more enjoyable had the other side of the road also been closed to traffic, so we didn’t have to breathe in lungfuls of carbon monoxide.

Heading back over the Seine to its left bank, we reached the 17km marker. By this point, I was beginning to feel the effects of running for two people, and my back was getting quite sore. As with the previous drinks stop, the third was a complete scrum, so we decided to give it a miss and continue on to the finish, and running through the barrage of photographers we crossed the line back at the Eiffel Tower in 1.52 – almost half an hour slower than my usual time, but not bad given my current situation. The post-race refreshments were organised well, with drinks, slices of oranges and cakes, and no more than five minutes to wait for our bags to be found. My most lasting memory of the day will be changing into dry clothes next to a man who had run the entire race with his tiny little poodle – that’s the continent for you!

Time-to-Run thanks Rachel Haggar for her contribution.

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