The pictures are entirely unrelated to the content of this post. I went up the Arc de Triomphe for the first time today - and the view is much better than any documentary of the run...
Appearances are important in Paris, there's no doubt about it. Regardless of whether or not you yourself care how you look, everyone is up to the scrutiny of hundreds of thousands of Parisians. It leads to a city full of well-dressed and composed people.
A major appearance faut-pas seems to be athletic clothing. Unlike in America, synthetic fabrics and tights definitely don't double as daily wear, especially in fluorescent colors. I don't care how many looks I get, if I need to take the metro to a run, or go to the store after the run, let them see my sports clothing. I'm proud of my synthetics and bright colors.Yet it seems that Parisians almost hide their keen interest in exercise you so rarely see people decked out in spandex.
But not today. Today was the day of the Paris Semi-Marathon, which is the french way of saying half marathon. Organized the the giant company ASO (the same company who puts on Le Tour de Franceand numerous other important bike races), 40,000 participants run a marvelous loop from the Bois de Vincennes (a beautiful park in the SE of Paris) to Notre Dame and back. The route goes through forest and city, and you see such landmarks as Notre Dame, the Seine, Hotel de Ville, Rue de Rivoli, the Marais and Bastille. Pretty cool.
As they do for most things, most of the runners took the metro. It was a great ride seeing so much spandex, and so much color. Such a rare, refreshing breath of comfort and acceptance.
After my cycling future in Paris didn't pan out, I signed up for the semi marathon to keep from getting fat. I signed up four months in advance and planned out my training. It was going to be perfect.
Over the time, due to sickness, traveling and above all laziness, the training plan wasn't followed. I rarely if ever ran more than three times a week, and my longest run was maybe 8 or 9 miles, and just over an hour.
When I signed up, I wrote that I'd be finishing in the 1 hour 35 minute group, thinking it an achievable goal and with the motivation of a decent spot on the spot line. As decent as possible with 40000 participants...
After my pitiful training, I really didn't see that happening. A came in with a new game plan. The major goal was to finish - the secondary was to break to invisible and for me still shameful barrier of two hours.
The morning before was nearly perfect. Except that I woke up feeling super sick. My throat was scratching, I was super congested and was coughing up a storm. I ignored it and went because I had seventy euros invested in the event. Other than that, the pre race routine was spot on.
Runners, and athletes alike, live by their pre-race routines. Mine involves a lot of coffee, banana and oatmeal and honey for breakfast, a thorough trip to the bathroom, a specific run and set of stretches and drills, down to shaking the hand of the runners on either side of me and saying good run or good luck or here: bon course.
A combination of good juju from the well-played out morning routine and severe underestimation of my athletic abilities left me shocked. The gun went off, I chose a man and I stuck with him until I passed him. A few K later my legs and feet started hurting like crazy and the run got harder, but I realized I wan't slowing down much.
It was actually wonderfully running in kilometers. Since they are shorter than miles, they break the race into more manageable pieces. With each kilometer at approx. 4:30, I was able to pace myself easily and mentally take it one doable piece at a time.
Regardless, at about 12 K, things started hurting. Positive thinking got me through. I've been in a weak, dark place in the past where I give in too easily, and I felt as if this was a changing moment. So much of me wanted to stop, but I persevered.
I pretty much limped to the finish. My legs were moving independently of my brain. It was as if I was stuck in the running action, only to be ceased by the finish line. I crossed just a minute after my original goal, my wonder rivaling my pain.
Before I finished so wonderfully, before I even started running, I was going to write my post-race blog post on responsibility. It seemed fitting that at my new internship, where I cook and translate (more to come on that...), we talked on Friday about how no matter how much you try to blame circumstances or other people involved, we can always find fault in ourselves.
Its an interesting hipocrisy that we are so quick to take credit for success, yet equally as quick to point blame elsewhere. Internally, I had already recognized that although I could try to blame the difficulties or running while traveling or while sick on my time, it all came down to me. We dictate our futures, and control our actions. I don't need to fault myself for my inadequate training because I was successful, with a personal record of 9 minutes, but at the same time, I should take responsibility for what I could have done had I truly trained.
Success or failure, the race was illuminating on the control we have on our lives. We can push through adversary we can take control of our own lives, and take ownership of all our actions and decisions. And we can improve our lives in that manner.