The clocks go forward this weekend, and that signals springtime in Paris – a cherry-blossom dreamworld where day and night everyone strolls down the picture-perfect Champs-Élysées and drinks wine on the idyllic banks of the crystal-clear Seine. (Ask any Parisian, especially a waiter or a commuter on the metro.)
Today it seemed that we skipped directly on to summertime in Paris – the sky was blue, the sun blazing and the temperature around 20 degrees Celsius, warm for the season. Running this morning, for the first time this year I wore shorts.
As you know, I don’t do the running tights, so I was in tracksuits bottoms all winter. Being in shorts makes me feel like the training period is over and the real running begins – only three weeks to the Paris Marathon, after all. In fact, I decided to wear the gear I will wear in the race itself.
I set out this morning with the intention of doing laps of the park on an island in the Seine, not the Île de la Jatte formerly of Sarkozy, but the Île Saint-Germain further up the river, just as it bends after passing the Eiffel Tower. The park is only open during daylight hours and I don’t usually run there at weekends, but this morning I only wanted to do a short and leisurely few miles.
However, on my way there I came upon a long line of trail runners, some with camel packs of water on their backs but all wearing numbers – it seems there was a race on, passing through the park and island. So I fell in with them. It felt good to run in a pack – the way cleared of obstacles, but also a buzz and dynamism that got me in the mood for the upcoming marathon.
The trail runners wound their way through the park and out the other side – so I decided to follow them. The route took them out onto the busy quayside at Issy-Les Moulineaux, along a dusty verge with cars speeding by on one side and skips of powdery cement on the other – not great for the lungs but these trail runners must be made of hardy stuff. I had never run along this way before, and only the safety of numbers (and race officials who stopped the traffic at one busy junction) persuaded me to take this otherwise hairy route.
We passed the Parc André Citroen, at eleven o’clock already full of sunbathers and children at play, while the hot-air balloon there floated on its tether above us all. I went up in that balloon once; despite all my hard wishing it didn’t break free to float around the world in 80 days…
Just as the runners came to the France Télévision building at the Pont de Garigliano, I decided to part ways rather than continue on with them until (I presume) the Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Mars. I took the bridge across the Seine and ran along the quiet riverside street of Boulogne, heading back up towards the Île Saint-Germain. Inadvertently I was on part of the Paris Marathon route, just before it turns off the river bank and heads up to the Bois de Boulogne.
Running in my marathon kit and along the race route, as the sunshine warmed me, I felt great. I have to admit that for a few minutes I daydreamed of being like John Treacy winning an epic Olympic marathon silver in the Los Angeles heat.
The hard training of winter is over. With spring comes good weather and the excitement of my marathon. I must remember how I felt today and call on that feeling in the race itself.