As much as I enjoy my usual running route and always find it stimulating, I figured that a change of scenery might help me kick my post-marathon slump.
So, yesterday evening when I stepped out of my home for my run, instead of turning right I turned left.
It was a turn for the better. I had a good run, felt fine afterwards, and discovered new corners of the town where I live.
The novelty and sense of pioneering exploration were refreshing to my jaded legs and mind. Also, not knowing the route meant I was forced to go at a slower, more cautious pace than usual. This was all part of my plan.
Last night’s run started by going uphill, but in the opposite direction to the local climb feared by Paris-Versailles competitors. Instead it was just a short and less steep ascent before the streets levelled off. After a year and a half of living in this town, I had never been in this neighbourhood.
It turns out that I live near the former home and studio of the sculptor Rodin. The quaint old house is now a museum of his works, a companion to the better-known Musée Rodin in the centre of Paris. Last night the house lay in darkness behind iron railings and gates, so to get a better look I’ll have to return in daylight, perhaps even as a visitor rather than a runner.
A little further on, taking up an entire block, is an enormous military hospital complex. It was here that the ailing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was brought in a coma until his death in 2004. Across the street from it is a laundry, ‘laverie’ in French, called Lav’Story – perhaps a pun on ‘Love Story’, the 1970 weepie that, like Arafat, ends in a hospital. English is highly fashionable in Parisian pop culture these days, but the locals seem to think that any random combination of English words is instantly cool. Back when I was writing about French music, some bands here had terrible names such as The Bewitched Hands On The Top Of Our Heads, Jil Is Lucky, and (Please) Don’t Blame Mexico. The music wasn’t much better, and that’s partly why I now write about running instead.
Turning back home a different way, I chanced upon a small, picturesque neighbourhood of narrow, winding streets. The local bar was closing up – one of the old-fashioned French places with a tobacconist counter at one end, horse racing on the small television hung up in one corner, and steak tartare on the menu. On a sunny afternoon it might be nice to sit outside for a coffee or a beer and watch the world go by – another place to note for further investigation.
Just around the corner is a spectacular stone viaduct that carries trains out of Montparnasse and towards the south-west of France. Completed in 1840, soaring 30 metres above the suburbs, at the time it must have needed a mind-boggling amount of labour and ingenuity to build – what would such a project entail today?
And so I headed home. The relaxed pace was kind to my legs, and the new sights stimulated my brain. All in all, it was a successful trip. I don’t know how far or how long or how fast I ran, but I know how much I enjoyed it and most times that’s all you need from a run.