The Paris Marathon

Last night I watched a DVD of ‘Burn After Reading’.  In this film political thrillers and computer dating get the Cohen brothers’ treatment.  That is, they make farce out of them.  David Edwards of the Daily Mirror described it as ‘………comedy genius’.  That is what Joel and Ethan Cohen are all about.  George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, and Brad Pitt must have had great fun playing their parts to perfection.

This morning I walked to Monbos and branched off to Ste Innocence from where I returned to Sigoules.  This was a two and a half hour trek in the heat of the day.  And I do mean heat.  As I marched along, carrying a bottle of Perrier, a woman getting into her car told me it was very dangerous walking in this without a hat.  She didn’t quote Noel Coward at me, and I didn’t mention that I was suffering a slight hangover after my second bottle of Adnam’s last night.  I had not realised it is 6.7%.

The scratting of crickets in the hedgerows and of cicadas in the trees reminded me of the latter creatures at The Gite From Hell (4th. June).  I could feel the heat rising from the tarmac, the tar of which was, in places, melting.  It clung to my sandals, just as it had in Stanton Road in 1947, when I returned from play covered in it.  I expect my poor mother had to scrap my clothes.  Even the sunflowers turned their backs on the midday sun.

I have described the church at Monbos before (8th. June), but that was when I was not illustrating my posts.

At Ste Innocence I met a Dutchman called Emil who has a house there.  We swapped stories of such impulse buys.

As I staggered back into Sigoules, I thought of the Italian runner in the lead who was disqualified at the first London Olympics because, as he was wandering all over the place, someone helped him across the line.  I wasn’t marching any more.  The ice-cold water I had set off with was now almost ready for the cafetiere.  I put what was left of it in the fridge and got out another bottle which I consumed pretty quickly.  Rivulets ran down my neck for a while.  My soaking T-shirt soon dried in the 40 degree sauna that was the back yard.  I was in neither the shirt nor the garden at the time.  I had been as relieved to enter the cool shelter of the stone-walled No. 6 rue St. Jacques as Jackie would have been.  She wouldn’t have left it in the first place.

When running a marathon it is essential to drink water at regular intervals.  If you wait until you are thirsty it is too late.  This refreshment is taken in brief sips on the run.  You become accustomed to this by carrying water in training.  On one of our shared holidays with Sam and Louisa and our late wives Ann and Jessica, Don decided to help me out.  Meeting me at regular intervals on a two hour run, he provided the drink stations.  Driving to agreed points on the route, he brought me wonderfully cool, fresh, water.  We called this service ‘Le wagon d’eau’.  Don, where were you today?

That is why, in properly organised races, there are regular drink stations.  In the Paris marathon, some time in the ’80s, there were refreshment stands like no others.  The first was the only one at which I saw any water.  From it were distributed large plastic containers of Evian.  Those, like me, who managed to grasp one drank slowly and passed it on.  Big mistake.  Other tables contained nuts, bananas, and chocolate, none of which I could bear to think about.  Only at the last oasis did I see anything resembling liquid.  Huge containers of yoghurt.  I grabbed one and guzzled the lot.  Second big mistake.

I was quite used to congestion at the start of capital marathons.  In the London one it would take me ten minutes walking to reach the start line and a futher ten to take up anything like my normal pace.  Paris, however, just had to provide a blockage at the finish.  Ten minutes in a situation that reminded me of The Drain (6th. July).

Marshalling during the race was equally chaotic.  There are cobblestones around The Tower in one small stretch of the London event. These always need careful negotiation by the runners, who are left in peace to get on with it.  Not so in Paris, which had far more cobbled areas.  Any spectators wishing to do so seemed welcome to try their luck pacing alongside the contestants.  Cyclists were granted similar freedom.

A French friend, Arnoux, claiming to be there to meet a famous English runner; which, I hasten to add, I am not; smoothed my final passage through the drain.  As I was taking a welcome bath in our friends’ home, up came the yoghurt.  It supplemented the bath water.  I then had to explain why my ablutions had taken such a long time.  It was with considerable relief that, on the ferry home, I learned that even the elite runners had suffered similar embarrassment.  I never ran Paris again.

This evening I exchanged the back garden sauna for the one outside Le Bar for a deliciously tasty fruits de mer pizza with a plentiful side salad.  This was complemented by one glass of rose and a bottle of fizzy water.  After last night I thought I’d be careful.  An excellent creme brulee followed.

The problem with dining alfresco is that it tends to attract the local fauna.  Flies can be dismissed with a wave of the hand, or Australian salute as they tell me in Perth; ants need a well-aimed flick; the cat needed a little more persuasion to desist from climbing up my bare leg in search of my fruits de mer.

5 responses to “The Paris Marathon”

  1. Yesterday I was at home drinking cold French lager with lemonade – getting into training. Next week I’ll provide the water stops if you are mad enough to take long walks in 30+ degrees and providing you do a circular trip passing your house every now and then. Looking forward to sampling fruites de mer (?) like that one the four of us shared last time we were in France together. Remember?

  2. That is really spooky – Bill and I watched it on 27th!! We recorded it months ago and randomly decided to give it a go on Friday. Great minds!! Glad you enjoyed it too. It is such a clever film, isn’t it? I think Cohen is actually spelled Coen, but would have to look that up. Cohen looks right too. What do I know? xx

  3. […] in the 1940s, people owned neither fridges or freezers. This was particularly problematic in the summer of 1947, when tar melted in the streets. Butter and milk had to be stored in sinks full of cold water that […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.