Ah, Paris! The city of love and lust, home of fashion, art and culture. I went to the famous French city to run La Parisienne – a 40,000 woman only road race under the Eiffel Tower and around the ancient city.
I took the train from Germany – a very fast, very cool, very comfortable multi-hour train ride through the countryside. I read French Vogue to get me in the mood for my big city adventure. I packed leather pants, cropped jackets and my favorite black heels. The Parisian ladies did not disappoint. I rarely saw locals in pants or shorts. They were decked out in summer dresses, sandals, kitten heels and wide-brimmed hats. On the subway in every direction were lovely ladies who looked like they walked right out off the runway with Chanel bags and red soled heels. The cafe lined streets had well positioned chairs to take in the sights and smells of the French women walking by – their floral perfumes lingering just for a minute behind their freshly combed hair. In the morning I had an espresso (in the worlds tiniest cup) among handsome men with pressed shirts and women with cigarettes dangling from their thin, manicured hands.
And then there was me. Those poor leather pants never saw the light of day. It was hot and walking a large city with my 4-year-old side kick meant two things: shorts with pockets stuffed with crayons and very comfortable shoes. While the locals pulled out jewel encrusted mirrors from their Chloé handbags, I pulled out day-old juice boxes and antibacterial wipes out of my TJ Maxx travelers pouch. Sexy.
Sunday morning was the big event – the road race. Everyone runs for a different reason. Some for time, for cancer, for spite, for revenge, for health, for camaraderie. I run for Parkinson’s and for my dad so he knows (right around mile 4) that he’s not suffering alone – I’m pretty miserable too.
The race was advertised as beginning at 945am. That might have been true, had you gone through security at 5am. I woke up at 7, got ready, walked the 2.5 miles to the race site and proceeded to spend 30 minutes in the security line only to be escorted to the chute – a half mile long gated area where we were corralled like cows to the slaughter. They released a few hundred women across the starting line every 7 minutes which meant they’d get to my group around Christmas. As luck would have it, my heat went at about 12:15pm. I had been walking, jogging or standing for over four hours and the race hadn’t even begun yet.
Around 11am, with my phone about to die and the 1pm apartment check-out looming in front of me, I started to panic. I legitimately tried to bail and leave the corral but I could not. There was no exit, no gate I could sneak through and no personnel to recruit for my great escape. I had no way out. I thought of two things in that moment. First, I thought of yelling “BOMB!” and the ensuing stampede but I had blown my budget the day before and didn’t have enough left to post bail. My next thought was of was my father. I know there are times in his battle with Parkinson’s where he wants to escape his body but there’s no place to go. There are plenty of people who have illnesses, depression, jobs they don’t like, marriages they don’t like, with no escape. So I kept going. I ran for them.
The race itself was really fantastic – probably the greatest display of pageantry of any race to date – and I’ve run a lot of races. About every 500 meters there was entertainment of some kind. Several amazing percussion groups, singers, dancers, I’m pretty sure the entire cast of La Cage aux Folles and a drag queen or two. (or six.) My favorite was a small orchestra dressed as chickens playing the theme song to The Muppet Show. It was fantastic.
Around mile three, my left foot started to ache, my phone’s battery died and my tampon reached max capacity. (Did I make you wince? It gets worse.) I finish the race at around 1245. (I’m sure someone kept time but it was a giant party so no one seemed to care.) I made it back to the apartment 30 minutes late and my host (though I’d rather not call him something so inviting) had already cleaned the bathroom and would not allow me to shower. So here I am, having walked a collective five miles, ran five miles and was probably covered in more blood than an amateur boxing ring. And I had to ride on a train like this for the next five hours.
Paris has a motto – Fluctuat Nec Mergitur – Latin for
“She is tossed by the waves but does not sink.”
I thought about bailing on the run but I didn’t. I thought about bailing on this entire expensive, exhausting, navigationally insane endeavor to run Europe for EU Parkinson’s but I can’t quit. You can’t quit. We have to keep going – keep being intentional in our lives and relationships – keep going no matter the obstacles – keeping encouraging each other to Run to Win.