It sounds like a really good idea — run my first half marathon in beautiful Paris. Be inspired by views of Notre Dame, the Bastille and the Eiffel Tower as you crank out 13.1 miles on foot. Finish the race with champagne and cheese at the finish line with your four girlfriends from business school who ran the race with you. Finish the day with a delicious meal at a charming French brasserie.
That’s exactly what I did last weekend. And most of it went just as I’d imagined. I ran by Notre Dame and the Bastille, sipped champagne at the finish line with my wonderful girlfriends and supportive husband and ate crab salad and scallops at a charming French brasserie afterward.
The part that didn’t go so well was the race itself. It was the worst organized race my more experienced running friends had ever seen.
So many things went wrong, most of them related to the fact there were 32,000 runners on a course that simply couldn’t handle that many bodies. Here are the lowlights:
- 24 Porta Potties and 10 Porta urinals for those 32,000 runners
- The slow group — 2 hours and 10 minutes! — sat in the starting gate for an hour.
- The late start meant we ran during the heat of the day, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- They ran out of water on the course.
That last one was the kicker. After waiting in the starting gate and running in the heat, everyone was ready for the 5 km water stop. When they found it was dry, runners picked up abandoned half-full bottles off the ground and drank from them. I was one of them. That set the stage for the rest of the race. I went into survival mode, hoarding water and counting the minutes until it was over.
The bright spots were the sun shining on Notre Dame and the little French girl who handed me a yellow dandelion.
I did it. I ran 99 percent of the course. And I cried after I crossed the finish line.
In retrospect, I should have known better. You go to Paris for beautiful art, great wine, delicious food and romantic views, not for clockwork precision and buttoned up scheduling. My next half marathon will be somewhere more Teutonic, somewhere with a penchant for clocks.
And the next time I go to Paris, I’ll do it for the right reasons — beautiful art, great wine, delicious food and romantic views.