A few weeks ago, I ran the Paris 20k. ‘Tis the season for half-marathons and almost half-marathons. In the spirit of fit feminism, bravos to Jennifer, Bettina and Nicole, who shared their race reports.
As many of you know, my relationship with running races is not always unicorns and rainbows. These past few years, I have not been excited about signing up for races. I have enough other performance pressures in my life. A race adds one more potential for disappointment. And, given the number of years I’ve run moderately seriously, a race is an exercise in reminding myself that I will not run the times I did 10 years ago.
Yes indeed, those feelings are all in my mind. No one cares how I do in a race, except me. I had my usual approach-avoidance for the Paris 20k, including severe foot pain on Thursday, before the Sunday event. I asked an energy healer friend, to send me long distance curative zaps for my foot. Along with the CBD balm and lots of arch stretching, by Friday afternoon my foot felt race-worthy again.
Saturday was a lovely day of half sun, a common weather pattern for autumn in Paris. I had some pre-race crankiness, which chafed throughout the day. My legs felt more tired than I’d hoped.
Sunday morning dawned warm for mid-October. Crankiness gave way to straight up jitters. I was about to join 25,000 runners at a starting line. The instructions on just getting to our corrals were lengthy and imperious.
I booked an Uber electric bike from up in our apartment to get to the race start, hoping to save my legs. But when I got downstairs, the battery was hanging by a cord and the bike was clearly out of service. I ended up on a Velib (the shared bike system in Paris). Then, of course, roads were closed and the closest dock for the bike was further than expected. As I jogged to the start, I kept reminding myself that I had lots of time.
In fact, I had more time than expected. Because it turned out that it was super easy to find my access point and there was no crowd jamming the entry. People were flowing smoothly into their corrals. I had a few moments of panic once I’d made my way into the heart of the crowd. I don’t love being vacuum packed in a crowd anymore. In these unstable times (and maybe particularly in Paris, because I was here during the Bataclan attack and ended up locked inside a bar around the corner, while storm trooper types jogged by in formation outside), I get anxious about attacks. I sat on a concrete block against the fence and closed my eyes to breathe and wait.
It’s been a long time since I’ve done such a massive race. This one was as seamless as I’ve ever experienced. They began to send off groups of runners around 10 a.m. and then kept the runners flowing in waves starting every 3 minutes. When the horn blew for my start, I was running within 15 seconds. The crowd was dense for the whole race, with lots of weaving between other runners, but always manageable. Because of the rolling starts, there was no way to gauge yourself against any other runner. Which was good for me. I settled down inside my head to enjoy the hot, sunny day and the familiar sights.
The course was classic Paris: a cobblestone street up to the Arc de Triomphe; continuing to the Bois de Boulogne; passing through a central artery in the park; back down to the Seine; along the river on the right bank; through successive traffic tunnels; emerging each time to a new view of the city; crossing to the left bank over Pont Royal; a couple of kilometers on the pedestrian way beside the river and the final 500 meters up to the base of the Eiffel Tower. Finishing where we started.
I felt good from the first step to the last. Sure, I got tired. I got hot. I wished I didn’t have my running jacket tied around my waist. And my 5k splits show that my second 5k was my fastest. Still, I didn’t fall off a cliff. The saboteurs inside my head were quiet. I felt strong and steady until I crossed the finish line. It helped that the last part of the race was on my regular Paris running route. I could say to myself—I know how it feels to run right here.
Nope, my time wasn’t anywhere near what I was running 10 years ago. Still, I felt good about my performance and it turned out, I’d exceeded my expectation.
I admit it—I am pretty thrilled with my result. I recognize its fragile, temporary nature. I understand its impermanence. The luck of the day.
There’s even this tiny thought—that I have nowhere to go but down.
At the same time, I did it. And I feel good about it. So much so, that I couldn’t resist sharing the news here. I have mixed feelings about telling you. On the one hand, it feels like a brag, to be avoided. On the other hand, it feels like we (women) are told often not to draw attention, that to celebrate our successes is self-absorbed. To downplay our accomplishments is the female default.
We all have races we are proud of. Let’s share them and make a point to celebrate each other.