Things I Learned from My Half-Marathon in Paris

By: Brenda Stallings Semi-marathon de Paris, 5 mars, 2012. I love running and I love Paris so it’s no surprise to my family and friends that I decided to run the 2012 Semi-marathon de Paris.  Last year, I volunteered for the 2011 Paris Marathon and manned the water stop at 21K (mile 13.1) and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Immediately upon my return home, I started making plans to run the Semi-marathon. During the summer months, as I waited for registration to open, I secured an apartment and purchased my plane ticket.  I received notification that registration would open September 15, 2011 at 4am CST.  The day before registration opened, I notified my credit card company that I would be making an International transaction so that my credit card would not be rejected.  I set my alarm, woke up and registered.  The cost was 27 Euro ($36).  However, one thing that is very different with European races is that you must submit a medical certification (Doctor’s clearance) and submit the certificate to complete your registration. From the date of registration in September until leaving in February, seemed like an eternity and then all of a sudden, I didn’t have enough time before boarding my plane.  Four (4) ladies from my running group, Black Girls RUN!, (Nikki, Carol, Sheila & Gwen) accompanied me on this running trip along with my sister, Pattie, and her husband, Steve.  Pattie and Gwen volunteered during the race and I was ever so grateful to see a familiar faces on the race course. There are seven (7) lessons I learned while running an International Race:  (1) Study the city before arriving.  Practice getting to the start line the day before the race. Check and see if the city has an adequate transportation system.  Paris has an excellent Metro system; however, I was a little concerned that Line 1 which normally doesn’t run until 10am on Sunday would not be working early race morning but my worry was unfounded.  The city made sure all necessary metro lines were working race morning. (2) Learn the language. It’s just polite to know how to say Hello, Thank you and Good bye.  It’s also essential to be able to ask for a toilet, “Ou sont les toilettes?”  And just for the record a porty potty is called a porta loo.  Be mindful, that there were no porta loos on the race course. (3) Hook up with a local running club.  Before leaving, I made connections and joined the Paris Fit Club group. During packet pick-up, I met the Paris Fit Club members. This really worked out great.  With over 30,000 registered runners, I never found my BGR! friends before the race started.  However, because of my connections with the Paris Fit Club members, I wasn’t left by myself. I also met a great runner, George H. from Houston, Texas, and of course invited him to the Little Rock Half Marathon, March 3, 2013 … Yes, that was a plug. J (4)  Be careful at water stations. The Semi-marathon and Paris Marathon water stations had bananas, water bottles with caps, sugar cubes, raisins and oranges.  Since I’m a middle of the packer runner, the water stations were a slick mess. I had my hydration belt and was able to bypass the water stations. I was very careful running during the race. (5) Never gear check important things like keys, camera, phone, passport.  Carry important items in your hydration belt or leave them in your hotel lock box.  Be aware that gear check would only accept bags that had zippers (not our normal plastic bags), some of the volunteers didn’t speak English, and the line was 30 minutes long. Also, let me always suggest that you never check your running shoes while traveling in your luggage. If your luggage is lost, you can always by running clothes; however, it might be impossible to find your running shoe in your size in a foreign country. (6) Go into the race with no objections other than to finish.  Preceding the race, I ate croissants, crème brûleé, and macaroons so I knew that I wasn’t going to run a personal record (PR).  I ran at a comfortable pace, tried to look at my surroundings and enjoyed the atmosphere.  The French are delightful people and welcomed us as we ran the streets of Paris. (7) Savor the moment.  I think Audrey Hepburn said it best, “Paris is always a good idea.” Brenda Stallings BGR! Ambassador, Little Rock, Arkansas Half Fanatic #1823 (Mars) 30 Half Marathons 20 States 2 Countries


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