Fit For Life Storms the Bastille !

Fit For Life Storms the Bastille !

It was way back in October that a number of us in Fit4Life decided it was about time that we had another away trip now that Covid restrictions were well behind us.

Siobhan Campbell tentatively suggested the Paris Half Marathon as she had done it before and really enjoyed it. We thought very hard about that for about 10 seconds before registering, booking flights and looking for hotels. Definitely something to look forward to!

The people who signed up for the race were:

Graham Bishop, Susan Byrne, Siobhan Campbell, Anne Garrett, Geoff Hamilton, Sam Hamilton, Anne Hickey, Ciara Keenan, Conor McMorrow, Laura McNulty, Sheila O’Hagan, Dawn Short, Edel Slevin and Sonia Taylor.

As Father Ted would say: “A great bunch of lads!” We had all levels of experience, some having completed marathons in the past, while some were tackling the half marathon distance for the first time. We did a lot of our training together, mostly meeting up on Sundays in the Phoenix Park to do our long runs, followed by the obligatory coffee and cake.

We built up our distance gradually, with the Trim 10 miler a good stepping stone. Unfortunately, Laura and Sheila had to pull out due to injury, but the other 12 set off for Paris.

Graham also brought his wife Michelle (also in Fit4Life) who gave great support, and Ciara brought her friend Denise Breen who was also running, and was soon adopted by the rest of us. The drama started in Dublin Airport, where Edel’s case was massively overweight (by about 20kg we were led to believe!). Speculation started to mount about what she actually had in there, and in the end we decided that Emilia must have been in there somewhere to give Edel some sneaky coaching tips !

Graham was on the same flight as Siobhan, but as they didn’t know each other, they didn’t meet up. In fact, nobody in the group knew Graham apart from Geoff, so it was reckoned that Graham was one of Geoff’s imaginary friends (he has plenty of these – just no real ones!).

There was no queue at the British passport control, but a big one at the EU one – the first benefit of Brexit! Edel was stopped at passport control and not allowed through – we reckon she might have tried to use Emilia’s passport instead!

Having sorted that out, we went to collect our baggage – with four strapping young men required to pick up Edel’s case.

The night before the race, we went to a nice Italian restaurant that Anne had booked for us before we left. We got the carbs on board with pizza and pasta, and hydrated ourselves with plenty of alcohol – just as recommended – right?

The craic was mighty and there was no sign of pre-race nerves.And so to race day: the weather was cool but bright, so we all proudly donned the white and blue of Dunboyne and made our way to the start.

With almost 45,000 runners taking part, there was a rolling start from 8am until 11am. Most of us had registered to start in the Green wave, which was due to start at 9.27am. This meant that the elites had all finished before we were even due to start! Although none of us would ever expect to win a race, it is a bit disconcerting to have this confirmed before you even start!

Although most of us had registered for the Green wave, a few hadn’t managed to change from their initial wave. We all desperately wanted to start together, and hoped that with 45,000 people taking part, the marshals might not notice a Grey or Pink wave entrant sneaking into the Green section. Most of us managed to get through unnoticed, but there was a bit of jiggery pokery to get everyone in. This involved numerous attempts to get by a variety of different marshals, and then eventually throwing a fleece out to be put on as a disguise. This seemed to do the trick. You’ll never beat the Irish! Especially not when they want to be in a Green wave!

After a long wait with runners being let off in small groups, we were finally off! The atmosphere along the route was fantastic – even better than DCM! The crowds were all shouting “Allez! Allez!”. Geoff told them he was “allezing” as fast as he could – he must be multilingual! The route went along the Seine, through the Bois de Vincennes park and along the Parisienne streets to finish at the historic Place de Bastille. The various bands – especially the large samba bands – dotted along the route were fantastic and generated a great atmosphere. Michelle popped up all over the course to give us great support too.

The noise from the crowds near the Bastille for the last 2kms up to the finish line was really special. They were shouting “Allez! Allez!” and banging the metal hoardings to create a wall of sound as we finished – we all had goosebumps there! There was one guy in 6-foot stilts that we struggled to catch – he finished in exactly 2 hours – amazing! We got some lovely medals and a handbag! Geoff did discover that RonHill shirts and manboobs are incompatible, but claimed that he had been shot by a sniper! We all got across the finish line in good times. This is not one of those reports where specific times are mentioned – it wasn’t about that. We just enjoyed ourselves and all had a great time. One special shout out to our 3 half marathon first timers: Graham, Susan and Conor. Where better to pop that cherry than in Paris?After the race, we were obviously very thirsty, so had to rehydrate in the usual way.

Sheila had very kindly booked us a lovely restaurant for dinner even though she couldn’t make it. In true Irish style, we drank so much we were late for the booking. However, Michelle is a much better timekeeper than the rest of us, so she and Graham turned up on time.

A great weekend was had by all. The Paris half marathon is highly recommended. The craic was mighty – why don’t we do this more often? Want to join us? Where next?

Here are some choice quotes from some members of the group:

“Couple of highlights for me…. absolutely fantastic weekend away with Fit4life group, so much fun was had within the group. It was a very well organised event, the support from the side-lines was super the whole way around & then for the last couple of k, the hordes of people of shouting allez, allez, the music blaring, words of encouragement from our team (thanks Siobhan) …what an absolutely phenomenal experience.”Edel Slevin

“It was a terrific few days from start to finish, lots of laughs. I did not know a lot of the group when we set off to Paris, but I would now consider them my friends after this weekend, such a friendly, good humoured bunch! The race itself was my favourite half marathon to date, such a wonderful atmosphere throughout the route, with bands along the way and French words of encouragement and cheers! Coming towards the finish line at the place de Bastille was amazing, it felt like a marathon finish with the crowds lining the streets! The post-race celebrations were brilliant, fabulous food, wine and most importantly the terrific company! I am already looking forward to the next DAC International trip!”

Ann Garrett“

With over 45,000 people running, the atmosphere was superb on race day. Lined with people shouting ‘Allez! Allez! Allez!”, the route went along the Seine, through the Bois de Vincennes park and along the Parisienne streets to finish at the historic Place de Bastille. The various bands – especially the large samba bands – dotted along the route were a great buzz. The noise from the crowds near the Bastille for the last 2kms up to the finish line was special. The race aside, the main highlight was the slagging and craic with the F4L crew from meeting at the airport until landing back in Dublin. No better crowd to run my first half marathon with. From the long runs and training in the months before right up to the finish line, they could not have been more encouraging and helpful to this running newbie.”

Conor McMorrow, Reporting for RTE Prime Time

And the final words from the person who started this all off:

“There were 3 highlights for me:1. That everyone that went enjoyed themselves so much 2. That, almost a week later I’m still laughing every time I think of the craic! 3. The goosebumps at the noise at the finish line, and everyone crossing the line being made feel like a superstar!”

Siobhan Campbell

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