Long runs on Sundays

This morning, a little later than planned (due to that bout of bronchitis), I had the first long run of my Paris Marathon training schedule. Eleven miles today; the long run will get longer in February and March as I put in serious mileage (or kilometreage) before the mid-April race.

Today’s run was a shorter version of the long route I worked out for my Dublin Marathon training last August and September. The shorter run gave me the liberty to have a bit of a lie-in, so I only set out at 10 a.m. (When I get up to 18 and 20 miles I’ll be out the door at 8:30 to catch my route when it’s still quiet.) I allow ten minutes for each mile, as I’ll be starting off in a shuffle and not stepping on the pace at any stage. The long run is for distance, not pace.

Off I went, then. My Paris satellite town is fairly hilly but I don’t want to hit the climbs straight away before I’ve got into a rhythm – so the first mile takes me around the hill and along the Seine. Then I turn in from the river for a steady three miles up a long drag, passing a bakery and butcher’s that are preparing for the usual mid-Sunday-morning queues. (When I first saw queues outside a bakery on a Sunday morning, I wondered if France was some sort of totalitarian state gripped by food shortages.)

At four miles my route levels off – I’ve reached the top of the hill and entered the forest. Others are running and cycling on trails but I stick to the long, straight tar roads that shoot like arteries through the woodland. Later on Sunday these roads will be busy with cyclists and walkers and other runners – the busy-ness used to annoy me but now I see the good side: lots of walkers on the road mean that the cyclists must slow down and are less of a risk to me. Two miles of straight road lets me build a rhythm and I feel myself moving faster without forcing it.

I leave the forest at the six mile mark, coming out between a motorway and a business park. In my 18 and 20 mile run I turn right and go into the empty roads of the business park – but today I go left onto the motorway flyover. This takes me into another town centre, where people pull their very French shopping carts behind them as they shuttle between the bakery and the Sunday morning market. The streets are a little more animated here, so I have to be aware of pedestrians and cars. But my run isn’t impeded, and I pass through town and out the other side. From here on, my run is all downhill.

Another forest lies ahead, but first I run along the outside of a park. When I first ran up here I was delighted to see a quiet park with tarred paths where I could possibly do a few laps, but something seemed strange. Then I realised that this park had been converted into a cemetery, and I could spot tombstones beside shady evergreen trees. So, no running in there, but I come around the other side to an area of sports fields. The fields are fenced in and synthetic. Most Sunday mornings a local group of fire fighters rock up in their fire engine and play rugby there. (My female friends would be most interested in that.)

After the plastic fields I run down another forest road, this one quite steep, and then past some old men fishing at a very green and sickly-looking lake. At nine miles I head back into the main town of the area. Of all the churches I pass en route, the one in the centre of this town seems to be the busiest – great sermons and stained glass, perhaps, or because it’s beside one of the rare supermarkets that’s open on a Sunday morning. From here it’s just another mile downhill and home. Eleven miles in a leisurely 1 hour 50 minutes, exactly ten-minute-mile pace as I intended.

Lie-ins are great but I love my Sunday morning run. It finishes off a good week of training, and it sets me up for a relaxing day of reading the papers in front of the TV. ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’, sang Morrissey once – how great would that be?

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