One for the bucket list

Posted on March 26, 2012


Last September, a wine-fuelled evening with my fab friend Saz resulted in a plan to meet this past weekend in Paris for the annual EcoTrail de Paris

Fast-forward six months and I write this post from a sun-filled kerb-side Parisian café, the day after the big run. My legs are screaming yet I have to admit that we’ve still managed to trawl Galleries Lafayette in search for the perfect new GFS (gifts for self) and within minutes of reaching the finish line, post-run hydration came in a bubbles-filled flute … some things must never be sacrificed!

This was the 5th edition of the EcoTrail de Paris … the jewel in the crown of the French ultra scene and a race that attracts some pretty awesome runners. The final kilometres are run along the Seine by night with the finishing line up the Eiffel Tower … yes, that’s a lot of stairs to climb after an 80km run (!) … which must make it the world’s most breathtaking backdrop in which to stage a race. The terrain was around 80% off-road taking us through enchanting woods, endless trails and dense forests, a few quintessential French villages, the palatial grounds around Versailles and then along the Seine itself, past floating bars and canal boats.

It was all pretty stunning albeit tough. Around 2,500 started I believe and I’m not sure how many finished although I passed my fair share of  bonkers, heads between legs, turning a light shade of grey … not helped by the hot temperatures I imagine. The weather has been glorious and race day was no exception giving us piercing blue skies, brilliant sunshine and just the slightest breeze.

Of all the international races I’ve now done, this must be the one with the least international competitors … I’m not sure why this is but there must have only been a handful of non-French … a few Italian, a few Spanish, hardly any Brits.  This gave me the ideal opportunity to scrub up on my once fluent and now rather scant French … and of course, got me lots of (well-received) attention!

I’d say this event was probably my greatest learning experience in terms of races to date …

  • the aid stations were so far apart (up to 20km+) but I should have just scheduled in my own fuelling instead of gorging on calories and then having severe stomach cramping
  • I should have used my backpack more in training, instead of severely bruising and cutting my collar-bones and back … (a scabby neckline ain’t such a good look)
  • I should have had a back up plan on realising pre-race that my bladder tube was mouldy so had to stop and physically remove my water bottles to drink
  • I should have brought a better headlamp and not my ‘emergency back up’ to avoid going over my ankle more times that I care to remember when it got dark
  • I should have had some physio to address the ongoing niggle in my Achilles which started playing up just a few klicks in

These issues aside though, hitting the Seine and seeing the city lights twinkle with the Eiffel Tower glowing in the distance made my heart soar.  My legs were jelly … my calves cramping and my quads killing but somehow, the beauty around me gave me the boost I needed to crack on. I could taste the finish … or should I say, I could taste the champagne I knew would await me au fin!

The EcoTrail de Paris is really a magical race that can’t fail to leave footprints forever so I think it deserves space on any runners Bucket List. Besides, being placed in the heart of the style capital du monde it’s also the ideal opportunity to spend a long weekend with a girlfriend shopping, gossiping and partying … nevermind the French wine, crusty baguettes and to-die-for charcuterie.

Finally, if the thought of the full 80km fills you with fear, you can pick 18km, 30km and 50km … something for tout le monde!  My partner in crime, Saz did the 30km although I suspect she could have done more seeing as she was back in her sky-high Louboutins within 24 hours of the run!

A la prochaine …


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