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How I Started Running in Paris

Heather and Bryan Running in Paris

After spending the first few weeks of 2012 in bed with the flu (twice), I felt an overwhelming urge to get back into shape. Or more specifically, to get a bit of energy back in my life. But I don’t like the gym, even the fancy expensive ones I used to go to, like L’Usine. I needed something that was fun and sociable.

The Hashers

It had been almost four years since I’d been a regular runner with the Hash House Harriers (aka: The Drinking Club with a Running Problem), but when I checked their website and saw that the Paris group was having their 800th run on February 18th, I immediately dug out my old running shoes and every piece of athletic wear I owned (I had five layers on top, three on the bottom). As some of you recall, February was rather chilly and wet. Somehow we managed to avoid the rain, although it was plenty cold as we ran through the Bois de Vincennes for two hours, singing songs, making jokes, and looking for the hidden beer.

Paris Hashers
Paris Hash House Harriers Run #800

I managed to finish the Hash with a combination of slow running and a lot of walking, but the next day every single muscle in my body hurt. Even my ribs! I needed to get serious and make a commitment to really keep at it. So I did something totally silly (maybe I was still buzzed from the beer): I signed up for the Eco-Trail 18k run on March 24th.

My First Race

Lucky for me, my colleague and fellow tour guide Bryan also signed up, so I had a buddy to train with. As neither one of us had ever run 18k, and only had about three weeks to train (after both of us got sick again the last week of February), it seemed like a totally silly thing to do, especially once I started reading blogs about how to train for half-marathons, or even 5k runs. My plan was to walk half the time (preferably on the uphills) and run the rest (on the flat or downhill parts), and just try not to overtrain and hurt myself.

Getting Equipped

To prepare for my first “serious” running event, I bought some appropriate outdoor running gear (the cotton gym clothes I had been wearing turned into cold, wet weights on my body halfway through a run). I avoided the fancy heart monitors, stuck to my old sneakers that I’d barely used in years, and in general tried not to go broke buying all of the fancy running accessories. The light polar fleece hat and the rain/wind-proof jacket with sleeves that zip off were by far the best two purchases I made. I hate being cold when I run. I also got a Nathan-brand belt with two small water bottles and a pouch for ID, keys and snacks from the Booge Store (they had a stand in the Eco-Trail tent when we went to pick up our bibs). Compared to the awkward, uncomfortable water bottle belts we saw in all of the other stores, Nathan’s are far superior; I hope other shops in Paris start carrying their products. Booge also has Vibram shoes for those of you looking (“barefoot running” hasn’t really caught on in France yet).

Munchies

As I felt like I was always starving as soon as I started running (no matter how much I ate), I also got some chocolate vegan protein powder to help me get enough calories so I wouldn’t pass out. Like health food in general, the French are a bit behind the United States in any type of protein powders. I didn’t want something that tasted like chalk and was full of dubious ingredients, so I found a distributor out of the French Riviera, Force Ultra Nature, to send me products from Sun Warrior and Vega (organic, gluten-free, vegan, etc.).

Gummi Bears
Haribo’s L’Ours d’Or

And instead of a bunch of gel packs (I’m afraid to even try them) and special PowerBar snacks, I took the wise advice from one runner’s forum to just fill my pockets with gummi bears to give me a shot of sugary juice during the run. As an aside, the French Haribo gummi bears are made with fructose syrup, gelatin, and fruit juice concentrate….as well as spinach, nettle and elderberry concentrate! I don’t think they’ve changed the recipe since they started making them. So we felt pretty healthy. We also took along some (less-healthy) peanut M&Ms, not because anyone recommended them, but because we love them, and it’s good to have something you love to keep you going those last few kilometers!

Where I Run in Paris

One of my favorite places to run in my neck of the woods in the Art-Deco-style Square René LeGall, behind the Gobelins Tapestry Manufacture. It’s quiet, sunket down from the main street so it feels secluded (and isn’t so windy), and I like how one complete circle is exacty 1km, making it easy to figure out how far I’ve run. I also like Parc de Bercy because there’s an elevated area along the river where I can run with my dogs.

We Did It! Race Results

So the results from the 18k Eco-Trail? We ended up running slowly the whole way, and finished in a respectable 2 hours, 25 minutes. Then Bryan went home to change for his afternoon guided tour gig (25-year-olds heal fast). I went home and curled up in bed with ice packs on my knees, popping Advil every four hours. The next morning I felt much better, so when Bryan forwarded me his confirmed registration for the Top Chrono Bois de Boulogne 10k on April 29th…I signed up, too. And next year Disney World?

Heather and Bryan Marathon
Heather & Bryan at the Medoc Marathon

Epilogue (September 2012 Update)

No one told me this running stuff is addictive! Not only did I run the Bois de Boulogne 10k and the Château de Versailles 15k, I also signed up for and ran the Marathon du Medoc in Bordeaux country two weeks ago (read my sidekick Bryan’s account of it here). And yes, I did sign up for the Disney World 20th Anniversary Marathon in Florida on January 13th, 2013.

I usually take photos with my crappy iPhone 3s on my runs around Paris, see the pics on my Twitter feed (or Instagram under ParisHeather). If you’d like to join me for a morning run (from the Place d’Italie), drop me an email!

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