A couple of years ago I received a message from a university friend. Her husband had recently started running, and she wondered whether he could contact me for tips and advice. That was how I was introduced to Vince. He was training to run a marathon. His natural pace was good, reflected by his times over shorter distances, so his major target was to build up his training mileage in order to sustain him through a marathon.
Vince seemed to be unlucky. I pointed out to him that I run in any weather, since if it is raining on race day you will be out there anyway, and you wouldn’t want it to be your first time running in wet clothes and shoes. Vince went out and did just that the next time it was raining at the time he had a run planned. The result was that he came down sick.
But then Vince started to face much worse luck in the form of injury and illness. After eventually seeing a doctor about a numbness he was experiencing in one of his feet he found out that there was nerve damage that could only be repaired through surgery. Vince was back out on the road just a week after surgery, against the doctor’s advice. I will point out that I definitely do not recommend ignoring expert advice, and I have said as much to Vince, but he is full of grit and determination. However, he unfortunately was unable to complete the marathon he had planned.
My last race was on September 22nd. My next race will not be until April 6th next year. I have signed up to run the Paris Marathon, targeting a fast marathon before building up my distance for a crack at a good run in a 100-mile race during the northern summer.
Therefore when I found some cheap flights from Africa to Paris I realised that it would give me a great opportunity to check out the marathon course. I decided that I would run the entire distance of the course over two days.
For my first day I travelled out to the Arc de Triomphe since the race starts very close by on the Champs Elysee. Compared to the narrow start of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, it was amazing to consider the eight or so lanes of traffic that runners will fill for the start in Paris.
While touring through Botswana my tour group stopped overnight at a camping spot along the Boteti River just over 30 km south of the town of Maun. In the evening I chatted away with the tour guide while watching the sun set from a rickety pier over the river. When I was asked which direction the river was flowing I looked at the water moving from left to right, but was unsure whether he was asking me in which compass direction it was moving or to which country it was heading. It turned out that he wasn’t checking whether I knew compass direction, countries or even oceans into which it flowed.
The answer was that the river was actually flowing from right to left. As a very slow moving river the wind across its top, which was heading from left to right, was sufficient to make the entire river appear to the eye as if it was moving in the opposite direction. In the morning while I had my breakfast I noted that the river still appeared to be flowing from left to right. Then I set out for my run.
I ran a kilometre over a soft sand track to reach the road, and then would run along the “major” road until my turnaround point, at which I would retrace my steps back to the camp. I set off undecided on how far I would run, but was thinking that either 32 km or 40 km would be good.