The 21st Annual Semi-Marathon de Paris is history, having wrapped it up on a sunny, but chilly 0 Celsius day in downtown Paris. Having successfully scalped my way into the race, thanks to my new best French friend, Boris, I joined the staggered start at the Chateau de Vincennes (not a bad backdrop to start a race) at 9:00 a.m..
A quick history lesson about this little Chateau — It was constructed for Louis VII about 1150 in the forest of Vincennes. In the 13th century, Philip Augustus and Louis IX erected a more substantial manor: Louis IX is reputed to have departed from Vincennes on the crusade from which he did not return. Philippe III (in 1274) and Philippe IV (in 1284) were each married there and three 14th-century kings were born at Vincennes: Louis X (1316), Philippe V (1322) and Charles IV (1328).
The staggered race start left me in two races within a race — the overall race and my island of a time group, released 20 minutes after the official start. Making sure I didn’t appear as a rude American, I gently managed to maneuver my way to the front of my Group 3 start. With the Black Eyed Peas and the theme to Rocky blasting at the start (I kid you not), I was off and running. The course wraps around museums, monuments of gold and bronze statues of men and women. The streets are lined with French enthusiasm as if today was their Independence Day. Unlike the Peachthree Road Race which is run on our Independence Day and I have to say, draws a similar crowd, when you’re surrounded by architecture and history that’s older than 30 or 40 years, you feel a certain sense of freedom.
As a handful of us broke from Group 3, it was apparent we would catch Group 2 quickly and we did. That’s when we were forced to dodge people, cars, bikes, strollers, running through construction tunnels, around barriers … whatever it took to not be consumed by the thousands in front. As the race progressed, we were able to move thousands into our rear.
Catching up to Group 1, I noticed this talk specimen of a man running at what looked like an 8:00 mile pace. As I passed him at my under 7:00 pace I thought, this is what a human would look like if Steve Jobs could design an Apple-like man — He was about 6′ 2″, wearing a tight white, long-sleeve top and tight, black pants. He was black with I’m guessing about 5 percent body fat. I wanted to say, dude, take my hand and give me some of your strength, together with my heart, we could win this thing. Of course, he didn’t understand English so I was out of luck and left the Human IPhone Looking Man.
Another thing that I think is interesting in this cross cultural running paradigm is that in America, when we run a 10K race, the course shows you how many miles you’ve completed vs how many KM you’ve finished. In Paris, you’re running a 13.1 Mile Half-Marathon yet the course is marked with KMs. Anyway, I like KM courses because you get 21 mental rewards instead of 13. And on this cold, crowded day, I enjoyed each and every one of them.
Reminding myself that I’m in Paris and must venture out into St. Germain En-Laye today, I’ll wrap this up with closing data based on what I know. Overall time: 1:30:23. 1st Race (Overall — Field of 40,000): Results Forthcoming. Second Race (Time Group 3 — Field of 10,000): 4th Place. Merci!