Race Report :: The Adventures of Captain Keith and Hop-along Harry

(AKA Paris Marathon 2018 Race Report)

Right Captain, you’re running for both of us this weekend (no pressure) are you sure you’ve got everything? I’ve got my trainers, passport and a credit card, anything else is a bonus! [sigh] it’s going to be one of those weekends….

0450hrs – remind me whose idea the early train was? Mine? Errr… right…. Well is was loads cheaper and we get the day in Paris to explore! We both feel like we have a hangover though and blearily make our way up to Ashford. Did we book a car park? No? Should we have booked a car park? We’re running late…. Let’s book a car park…. We should really be more organised.

The Captain is realising that Hop-along has packed a great looking picnic, however with crutches and escalators to navigate he’s going to have to carry it all. It’s still not even 6am and we’ve been up for too long. Remind me again why we’re doing this? Mandy texts, their later train isn’t leaving from Ashford and they have to go to Ebbsfleet to get a train that’s going to go back through Ashford again. Hop-along is quietly vindicated that she dragged them on the predawn train.

Gare-du-Nord. It is chaos! Head for the metro, the hotel have sent directions: Magenta RER to Haussman.

Dark pink and light pink metro signs point in pretty much every direction. Magenta is dark pink, Hop-along confidently states and we (The Captain) starts dragging bags down the concourse and into the subway. Several subways later it turns out that Magenta is a station not a line. Magenta station is closed. The pink subway lines (either of them) don’t go anywhere near the hotel.

Welcome to Paris!

Finally at the hotel, is it really only 10am?! Bags dropped, let’s head to the expo, we reckon it’s going to be quieter Friday than Saturday. Metro to the Eiffel Tower (surprisingly easy to navigate once you have a route guide and are not half asleep). Feeling hungry, Hop-along’s picnic turns out to be a fabulous idea as we drink champagne out of plastic glasses and ponder whether we should eat the cheesecake or the croissants. Well, when in France!

Gorgeous day for going up the tower, bright sunshine, but as we wander over the realisation that it’s school holidays starts to take a hold, dear Lord, are there really that many children screaming? Shall we just go sit in the park and drink more champagne? Should we have saved some for after the race?

Expo is a piece of cake. They don’t even look at the medical cert apart from to check your name on it despite the fact that Hop-along is having to lean on the desk while she shifts her crutches to get the form out of the rucksack. Entry stamped, number collected, branded rucksack donned and it’s on to the shopping zone. Hop-along notes that this is the most expensive rucksack she has ever bought so she’s not buying anything else. The Captain is already going doe-eyed over the new hoka trainers.

Mandy and Ian arrive and plans start to form for the weekend; where are we eating, any nice pubs, shall we do a river cruise? Hop-along is grumpy as the painkillers are wearing off. No one has
mentioned the run yet. Mark texts, he has just realised there are train problems, it would seem that this is not going to impress Mrs Mark and he is in the dog house before even leaving to UK.

There is a Park Run in Paris. Mandy is going to be a Parkrun tourist. Or at least that was until she had to get up and go…. It would seem that no one was keen to do Saturday morning!

Vic and Family, and Ruth and Dan have arrived to complete the crew of the good ship ATC. We all meet at the expo again. Hop-along is slightly perkier having discovered codeine. Lunch and river tours seems to be the plan for most. Carb loading begins and table booked for pasta party. Race talk begins… is there a beer tent at the end?

Vic has irritable child syndrome and can’t make the pasta party, Mark is tired and going to eat near his hotel (turns out later to be about 200yds from the restaurant the crew are in). Hop-along has been working hard on a support plan: Paris metro doesn’t do lifts and has a dubious track record of working escalators.

The Captain, Vic and Mark are in the 3.15-3.30 starts. Mandy, Ruth and Dan are in the 4.30 start which frustratingly leaves almost an hour and half later. This means that the boys
will be at the opposite side of the city to the others for pretty much the whole race. Still, rucksack full of jelly babies, Hop-along sets off at a steady 20-30 min/mile pace with a hope she can get to the 2km mark before the race starts…

The Elite athletes are incredible. They just cruise past looking like they’re on a park run, 5km completed in under 15 minutes, Hop-along feels a bit tearful as she scowls at her crutches. It’s 16
degrees already, the band start playing, The Captain, Vic and Mark wait for the signal, and they’re off.

Hop-along and Mrs Vic start leapfrogging down the course watching the boys through (well Mrs Vic and mini Vic’s may have been leap frogging, Hop-along was just shaking her crutches at impatient people who kept pushing past on the Metro).

Mandy and Ruth are getting ready at the start, mildly amused that the boys are nearly halfway already. Ruth is happy though, as if you run too early the fit firemen aren’t in position for you to high 5 and swoon at.

Everyone is keeping a cracking pace. Hop-along follows the crowds through the grounds of Châteaux de Vincennes, gosh it’s stunning, must remember to put it on the list for visiting on another trip. It has a moat. The crowd starts jumping down into the moat and out the other side. Hop-along sees a flaw in this plan. Some time later, moat navigated, The Captain and Vic seen, can’t wait for Mark as the moat will take some time again and on a tight schedule.

The metro is getting crazy, people running in every direction with flags and placards. Is that person wearing a race number? They don’t look like they’ve dropped out….

Ian has managed to see the girls at several points. No one seems to know where Dan is, Hop-along rather guiltily realised she didn’t know his surname so can’t track him, damn not being on Facebook!

Searching for Mr Ruth didn’t work.

Hop-along makes it to the finish with minutes to spare to see The Captain finish. The tracker app worked perfectly, unfortunately it also shows that Vic (who started after Keith) is going to finish in
about 5 minutes and beat The Captain to the winning club time. Should I tell him straight away or let him enjoy his PB for a while?…

Vic finishes, looks a little sore but strong. Hop-along and The Captain head to the recovery tent. Wee before wine, Mandy had sagely adviced before the start. It’s beer though, so The Captain gets stuck in.

Hop-along keeps looking out for Vic, it’s taken him ages to get to us, is the bag pick up queue huge? No? Mrs Vic hasn’t seen him either. At least I haven’t had a call from the medics, she nervously laughs. It’s been half an hour, this is ridiculous, it’s only 400m from the finish, where is Vic!!! They won’t let anyone back down through finish area. Mrs Vic is getting stressed, we decide to
relocate to a central location to plan the search and rescue mission. It’s been 45 minutes, Hop-along can’t decide if Mrs Vic is worried or just really mad that they might miss their train home! Don’t panic, Vic has called, he’s on his way up, (Mrs Vic is definitely furious now if there was any doubt before). Mark finishes, Vic makes a dash for the Eurostar and we wait for the rest.

Mandy and Ruth have been barely 4 minutes apart at almost every 5km checkpoint but neither of them knew! Both were looking strong but towards the end injuries were worsening and the sun was really hotting things up. They finish within a couple of minutes of each other. Hop-along and The Captain screamed them across the line and then dashed as fast as a pair of crutches and marathon burnt legs could carry them to the recovery tent and ordered 4 cold beers.

We were going to be the best support pair ever when they come out of the competitor area. We stand with outstretched beers, but they both appear to have been sucked into the same vortex as
Vic. My knee has gone, Ian is carrying me back to the hotel, came the first response. The Captain looks sympathetic…. and starts on Mandy’s beer. I’m having my feet syringed, eeugghhh, Ruth that’s disgusting! The Captain looks a little ill…. I’m not sure I can drink 3. Well the nice couple from Mersey Tri helped with that as the crew fell back to their hotels to nurse various wounds.

A race of mixed outcomes, hot, slightly longer than 26.2 miles according to all watches, but a great club achievement to see 6 determined ship mates navigate the streets of Paris.

After a few hours of recovery, celebrations are in order. It turns out that agreeing which pub we are going to meet in is the hardest thing the crew have done today! Rehydration complete, Mandy and Ian makes sure Mark gets back to hotel as his sense of direction appears to be degraded by the marathon effort. We all wonder when he’ll discover all the pictures on his phone after he foolishly left it on the table.

The crew finally disband, having promised to (maybe) do it all again next year.

Hopefully a few more will join the good ship ATC and cheer the Blue. Bring on Paris 2019.

Bon Voyage.


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