Wow… April has been…. rapid… exciting… surprising… exhausting.. MASSIVE!
I should let go of writing about all that has happened. But I just can’t. I’m on a plane right now, heading to Belfast after running in Cape Town, Paris, Boston and London. I’m sick, with a sore throat and stuffed nose. I’m tired, having only slept four hours a night for the last few nights, trying to do pretty much everything and make sure I don’t miss my flight. I spend more time travelling to airports than I do in the air…
But here I am above the clouds again.. Everything’s fine up here. I don’t have to think so much, I made it to my ride for the next destination. For a little while I can just let my guard down. The tough part is writing without falling asleep! Ha..
But I don’t know anyone in Belfast, except maybe Gary from the Rome Marathon. For the next few days I’m going to try to catch up.
I’m going to start with the Paris Marathon and hopefully make up some ground. I’ll break up the stories into several parts so they’re easy to upload and digest. I have to explain a little of what happened to Daz here too, so hopefully it all makes a little more sense.
I stayed in a hotel before the race. A really lovely place actually, just a few hundred metres from the Arc de Triomph. Daz was staying over at Clément’s – my amazing friend from the Marrakech Marathon who was in the midst of one of the world’s greatest adventures, the Marathon Des Sables. It was the first time that we’d been separated before a race, so we agreed for him to meet at my hotel at 7am, but I knew that Daz, being Daz, would go out for a few drinks with his friends.
I’d been to the Paris Marathon expo with Eric Heine, a friend of my great running pal Kevlar Lieberthal from home. Eric is a classic world marathon traveller, who engineers his family holidays around his passion. He and his wife had immigrated to Australia from South Africa many years before and as I have previously said, those SAFAs have running in their blood. He’d done many international marathons, including Venice, which sounded pretty cool. His wife Chyrisse and son Josh were there supporting too, enjoying the adventure. We had a great time looking about the expo and later had a lovely meal – and they shouted me! Too much.
As I was meeting them for the meal, I was stopped in the street by John. He was an Aussie touring with Travelling Fit, who’d organised my entry. He recognised me from my site and brought me back to introduce me to his wife, Jenny and two friends, Jenny and Alan. I was rapt to meet them and we all agreed to gather in the morning and head to the race start, just nearby.
In the morning, I got up early and got prepared. 7am came and went, no Daz. 7:30am, tried to text him… Nup. 8am, was off to meet the crew. Tried calling… Nada. I figured I’d see him on the track someplace.
I met up with the Aussies at the other hotel. I was pumped to be able to head down with a group. This was going to be fun. We got to the Champs Elysees and the crowd was just HUGE! I got to my corral and found my other awesome French friends, Elisa and Lawrence near the entry! They were there with racers from their club. You may remember that I ran with Lawrence in Verona and she smashed her PB! Elisa had even been gracious enough to come and meet me for lunch the day before. They truly are two of my greatest supporters. Thanks for being there girls!
We got in and the vibe rose and rose. The idea of running through the streets of Paris was never super exciting for me….until I got there! I, like many others, have had my good and bad experiences in Paris over the years. That day, the tone was to totally reset in my heart. I was excited, I was with great people, I was being supported by locals, I was happy to be in the Paris marathon!
It took quite a while, but we finally got moving. The cheer wasn’t loud, but people were excited to be moving. Even better, we all paraded down one of the world’s most famous streets, just to get started. We went past monument after monument. Not many cities can boast about the extraordinary mix of art and culture that the Parisians are surrounded by. The streets were packed with runners and there was enough support too.
What I did notice immediately though, was how packed the run felt. We all seemed to be looking for space to get through. It was just John, Eric and myself in the first kilometres. Turns out John’s fastest times were around the 3 hour mark (was it faster John?). I half expected him to drop us flat and take this marathon by the tail. The excitement among the 3 of us was palpable though, looking all about us at the scenery and the people. There were quite a few cool costumes and I met a hot Batgirl early on who looked up the site later!
We cruised through the streets and further out along the river Seine, passing the Louvre and eventually the Zoo. It pretty much turned into parkland for a while out there, an area called Bois de Vincennes. I was loving all the costumes by this point, meeting a gorilla and a transvestite. I slowed down to converse with a lot of people, then sped up to catch the boys. After about 10km, we lost site of Eric. He was above his tempo and I had appreciated running with him. Not too long later though and I heard a “Tristan!” I turned to see a very fit looking girl bounce up next to us. She was wearing a Travelling Fit touring top, with Australia on it, another of the Aussie group runners.
Judy had read about me when I answered a Travelling Fit email that puts all the travellers in touch with each other. I’d announced my mission to the group and asked them to come say “Hi!” Well, I certainly got my wish! I introduced her to John and we compared target times – all about the same at 3:30. Actually, this was only Judy’s second marathon! She’d run Melbourne in October, but then a week later was hit by a car on her bicycle, so ended up having a broken collar bone.. I couldn’t believe that she’d been able to put all her training in place to show up and do this race after an ordeal like that. She told me of the massive pin in her shoulder and excitedly said if she had her iPhone, she’d show off an awesome photo of the x-ray… Gutsy chick!
We’d been striding behind the 3:45 pacer for a while. That cowboy had it all wrong and was definitely way ahead of pace. We eventually got past him, but it took a bit of doing. By this time, we’d made the turn and started heading back into town. The closer to the city centre we got, the more supporters were out. It was getting hectic, both on and off the track! I was surprised to find that we were still in the thick of the traffic.. I ran for a little while with Rebecca, an Aussie from London, who it later turned out knows my good mate Brenno Peel! I then began running next to a couple of Aussie lads living in London, called Mick and Westo. Good lads and we talked about the race and how they were feeling. They seemed to be going well and I was distracted by the fact that I was meeting a reporter, Alexandre from L’Equipe near the halfway mark.
I saw him in the distance and slowed down for our chat. L’Equipe is a large sports newspaper in France and Alexandre wanted to do a human interest piece on a number of runners. I seem to be the perfect fit for this type of article! But even slowing down in this river of people was dangerous. I literally had to turn and edge against the torrential flow, just to get over to talk with him. People were so tightly bunched in the thin streets of Paris, I thought I was going to create a massive pile up.
We chatted for a few minutes. I told him how much I was loving the whole experience. I mean, Spring in Paris with a massive running festival all around me.. Phenomenal! The photographer snapped some pics and then I was off, dropping into the flow of the river again. Now I was alone though. I’d really enjoyed running with John and Judy. I wanted to get back to them if I could, but must have already lost close to a kilometre. I knew it would take some doing, but I figured it was time to step on the gas anyways. Off I went.
I don’t like weaving through the crowd so much. Too much of a tendency to trip when tired runners in front of you don’t feel you coming and stop or veer suddenly. With the streets so packed it took all my focus to go fast and not cause a bingle.
Eventually though, I started to see runners I’d passed previously. I went past them again, looking at their tired faces and musing at how hard it is to just do that one marathon that they’d been training so consistently for months to get through. I had more stamina now, so the pain would come later, but I could feel it in their faces. I smiled anyway. What else you gonna do when people want to stab you for looking fresh?!
Eventually I saw the two Aussie singlets in the distance. It had taken me about 7kms of steady speed to catch them up. I sidled up and said, “G’day Aussies, looking good, looking good!”
“Eh heyyy”, was the response, “there he is!”
I was back! A little bushed from the burst of speed, but happy to be in good company again. We were just in time to run under a couple of bridges together. In fact, as we entered one tunnel (that must have been about 2km long!), something very strange happened. It was dark and the heat rose from all the bodies around. Everyone was chewing up the leftover oxygen, exhaling more carbon dioxide and heat. It can be an unfortunate feeling to suck in that thick, sticky air. But just when I was beginning to sweat it and looking forward to emerging into the light, a rumbling sound began behind us. Somewhere back in the tunnel, a train must have entered. No tracks though. It got louder and I started looking over my shoulder, for the lights of a lorry. Nothing still. Faster and faster the sound came, as the rumble became a roar. I realised that it was the sound of thousands of runners creating an aural Mexican Wave! Ha! I chimed in as the sound washed past us!
Hahaha! It was AWESOME! It came back again and I tried to capture it on my camera. Didn’t really work. Absolutely amazing and exhilarating and kinda frightening too! Loved it…. Loved it! I was giggling with the thrill of it as we exited the tunnel.
It wasn’t long before we were passing the Eiffel Tower. I saw Josh and Chyrisse on the track and soon after, Elisa and Lawrence again. So much fun to have a couple of people to say hi to along the way. I got a few pics and kept running. I met a little Kiwi girl in her All Blacks running gear. They’re a proud bunch and she was running well. I said hi and gave her a little encouragement too. She was killing it though!
I’d lost my team yet again, so tried to jet one more time. I caught them within a km, panting, “You guys need to slow down, you’re getting difficult to catch!” They were really both looking strong though. John was powering, marching through each kilometre like a soldier. Judy was coasting along next to him. I checked my watch and asked what time we should adjust for. Still 3:30?? “Yeah, let’s just see how it rolls out”, says John.
“We’ll need to grab another 15 seconds per km for the last 10km”, I say.
“Sure”, he responds, though not too enthusiastically.
“I will if I can hold it”, she replies. Thatta girl!
I pressed forward, checking the pace on my Garmin. They both followed for a bit, but it wasn’t long before I was alone. I slowed again and then tried to lead them forward. Nup. Not today. It’s wrong to push people in an event like that. I’ve tried it before and made the experience bad for my partner. I slowed again and ran with them. Judy was in solid wall territory, but she was still gliding. John was a bull, stampeding through the streets. I looked about at the support and realised that I’d been missing the French crowd increasing both in numbers and volume. We were getting closer to the end and their support was growing to compensate. We passed a huge horse racing track… I didn’t even know it existed!
We began to lose Judy. She’d pumped out a very brave 34kms. I looked at my own time and realised that if I was to break 3:30, I’d have to really start powering now. I thought about it and ditched the idea. With so many people in front of me, running fast was going to be frustrating and tiring. I was so enjoying running in step with other people that I decided to just let it go for once. I dropped back to Judy, who was still on pace for a massive PB and gave her my last GU. “Have it in about 1km from now and good luck!” “Thanks”, she grinned, “see you at the end!”
I caught John again and ran alongside him. We entered another parkland area and tried again not to fall over the crowd. We passed Jenny, Alan’s wife. She was going well, but said an old injury had flared (her knee, I think) and was giving her trouble.
We exited the park and ran onto a huge leafy boulevard that was tracing back toward the Arc de Triomph. The crowds were cheering and the runners were responding, pushing on toward home. I felt like I was seeing Paris in a new light – fresh Spring air, supportive locals, a sense of kinship in the racers. I liked it.
I’d hit my wall too though. I was beginning to flag and was glad that I hadn’t tried to run too hard in the last 10km. I found it difficult to keep up the pace now. Maybe all that travel from Cape Town had been more draining than I thought. It took us 28 hours to get from Cape Town – Dubai – London – Paris. If I could afford a direct flight, I’d buy it.
I held on to John though. We rounded a couple of bends and the crowd was going absolutely bananas as we ran onto the wide Avenue Foch that leads up to The Arc de Triomph, just past the finish line. The finish was still a few hundred metres away, but runners had started to sprint for the line. One girl powered past me on my right, her face contorted in pain, tears streaming down her face. She must have been trying to break 3:30. I wish I could have caught that moment. My words cannot express the feeling I got from someone I didn’t know, in such obvious distress, as she conquered her fears and lived her dream. She was beautiful…
I pulled my camera out to get the final metres on film. I went to turn it on and almost got bowled over as a big man came up behind me saying – “Hey!!! It’s you! Man, I read about you in the Sydney Morning Herald!” He was Aussie Jay, a tall, strong looking dude who was working in New York, but here to run in Paris with his mates. His buddy Billy told me later that he’d jumped into the race in the final 1km, running next to Jay for the final metres to encourage his pal. But Jay was tired and looking withdrawn. Then all of a sudden his eyes lit up, like a fox seeing a rabbit, he blurts out, “Hey, that’s that guy” and he darts forward and tackles some fella with a camera up ahead. Happy to be the rabbit Jay!
We crossed the line and I got some pics and videos. People were collapsing all over the place. Ha! I got some photos with Jay and John. Jay told me where they were meeting later and I agreed to try to find he and his friends. Judy crossed the line shortly after. She’d nailed her PB by 7 minutes and gave me a hug. It was just nice to know someone at the end. So cool to be out there with the Aussies.
We found Judy’s mum after an exhaustive search. Couple of pics in front of the Arc, then agreed to meet later and headed back to the hotels. I went with John and retrieved my phone. There was a message on it from Daz. Basically it said “I just left accidents & emergencies. I’m ok. Don’t know what happened. Will sleep and see you later.”
Damn… Not cool. I was glad he was safe. I left it at that though. Something had happened and I would find out more soon enough. May as well let him sleep and sort myself out. I had another night in the hotel, so I texted him back to say I’d see him the following day. I wanted to celebrate my big day on the track, but had to find an ice bath first.
I got a text from my mate from Melbourne, Narelle Bruhn! She was just nearby at the Arc. She was in Paris quite randomly at the same time, taking a sabbatical to get some travel under her belt. She was just cruising around by herself too! So brave. I went off to find her. We met up and she told me how she’d been on the track and then at the end looking for me. Must have been near impossible to see me in that crowd though. She helped me sort an ice bath, which I ended up having over at Eric’s hotel room. That guy is far too generous!
Then it was off to catch up with our new friends..
K… I’m gonna take a little break and then fill you in for Paris to Boston. I’m cramming a little here, but these are my notes too.
I’ll do more videos too, next week. But if you love the way this story is unfolding (god knows I am!), then please do one of 2 things:
Donate to UNICEF – $10 is the cost of a movie ticket and I reckon all that you’ve read and seen so far is worth at least that.
Suggest on Facebook – please recommend my Facebook Page to a few of your friends. This is equally helpful as it allows the numbers to grow and prove my value to potential Sponsors. I still don’t have ANY Sponsors! Haha. Help a brother out….
One more thing you could do…
You’re all CHAMPIONS!!
T to the Bone.