Paris to London Run 2003
230 Mile - Eight Day Challenge
Sunday 6 April to Sunday 13 April 2003
Standing just a few yards back from the start line of the 2003 Paris Marathon I wondered what I was letting myself in for.
This was not going to be an ordinary marathon race. I was about to embark on a challenge that I had only read about three months earlier in the Winter edition of RRC Newsletter - a 230 mile, eight day run from Paris to London, finishing on the last day with the Flora London Marathon.
This was my inaugural Paris Marathon, so I was already excited at running this popular marathon race for the first time.
I started the race at a brisk 6.20 pace having trained hard for the overall challenge for many months.
I thought I should put my 50 to 80 mpw to good use and at least attempt a personal best time. I ran well over a very enjoyable, flat course in and around Paris that will now rate high in my list of favourite continental marathons. There was good crowd support, atmosphere, sights and the whole event was well organised. I finished the race rather jubilant, in 2.55 - one minute short of my pb - not bad considering what lay ahead of me!
Day 1 - Paris Marathon + finish to Colombes - 30.7 miles Finish time: 2 hrs 55 min
Day 2 - Colombes to Lavilletertre - 31 miles
Day 3 - Lavilletertre to Montroty - 26.5 miles
Day 4 - Montroty to Pommereval - 32 miles
Day 5 - Pommereval to Dieppe + Newhaven to Telscombe - 26.3 miles
Day 6 - Telscombe to Lingfield - 31 miles
Day 7 - Lingfield to Blackheath - 26.2 miles
Day 8 - London Marathon - 26.2 miles Finish time: 3 hrs 04 min
The inaugural Paris to London Run had been masterminded Gareth Davies from the UK and Tobie Meyer from South Africa. The challenge had attracted 11 runners, five English, three South African, two French and one Belgian runner. Two of the English members did not make it to Paris for one reason or another leaving nine at the start line. The nine of us successfully completed the Paris Marathon rounded up Day 1 with a further 4.5-mile leg from the finish to Colombes on the outskirts of the City.
Rural France - The long and winding road
The following six days took us through rural north-west France and the south of England. For most of the way we were blessed with fine, clear blue skis and relatively cool temperatures - ideal running conditions. The route was well chosen negotiating picturesque villages and rural roads making our daily marathons most enjoyable. However, the mileage took its toll in the early stages and by day four only six of the nine runners remained in the challenge. We slept in a variety of different locations ranging from youth hostels to village halls - two of these facilities were kindly provided by the mayors of the French villages through which we passed.
Pasta Meal - French gites
I ran much of the way with Glyn Marston, a member of Sneyd Striders. We were fairly equally matched in both ages, experience and running abilities and Glyn’s excellent company made the time pass well. We ran at a conservative, five-hour marathon pace for most of the way, saving our legs for the final stage, the Flora London Marathon.
England now in site
After more than 200 miles of running in seven days we arrived at Blackheath where the organisers were busily erecting gantries and barriers in the bright afternoon sunshine. Our mission was almost accomplished and I was amazed that I had got this far without any blisters or any significant injury other than general wear and tear.
The Home Straight
The following morning I found myself standing several yards from the ‘green start line' of the 2003 Flora London Marathon. As the gun went off I cheekily increased my pace to seven minutes a mile. Having been on the road now for eight days, I never really expected to maintain this pace for more than a few miles. However, I surprised myself and found myself running better than I had in Paris a week earlier. My pace remained at around seven minutes a mile for almost the whole distance. I briefly broke my journey at 25 miles - Cleopatra’s Needle - to deliver a miniature Eiffel Tower to my charity organisers, the PDSA. I proudly handed the landmark icon to Lee, the charity's fund-raising manager who was clearly bemused at how (and where) I had actually been carrying this six-inch tall French landmark since leaving Paris! I continued on to Big Ben where my wife, Anne, and a group of friends enthusiastically greeted me. I stopped for a few welcome hugs then continued on briskly into Birdcage Walk and the finish was in sight.
Less than a mile to go and still looking fresh!
230 miles on I completed my last marathon, joyously jumping in the air over the finish line in 3.04.36! I was amazed as anyone at achieving virtually another 3-hour marathon and shattered the theory that one must never 'over-train' the week before a big race!
I have raised £507 in sponsorship for the PDSA - a tidy sum for this worthwhile animal/people charity. Only five of the 11 intended Paris to London Challenger’s completed the distance - sadly, organiser Gareth Davies dropped out during the London Marathon with sickness having completed just 5 miles.
My thanks go to Gareth and Toby who had organised and co-ordinated an excellent inaugural event that perhaps now has the makings of becoming a ‘race’ in 2004!?
You can read more about the Challenge at www.runparistolondon.com
Thinking of Running Paris to London? - A few tips based on my experience...
In respect of route planning - I would simply put a request on a good computer route planner with the shortest distance from Paris to Dieppe avoiding busy A roads. You should come up with a plan to run around 26 – 30 miles a day over the six days. (4 days in France and 2 days in England) going through the many country lanes that are pretty traffic free.
A motor caravan would be good to have as a support vehicle. You can buy a book called the Aires of France that gives details of free mobile home camp spots through France. The Motorhome gives you free accommodation. You could consider hiring one. Saves trying to detour to towns with B&B’s that would add extra miles.
Just jog the six legs through France and enjoy the scenery. Take 5 to 6 hours each day then it fills the day nicely. Just carry a bladder pack and a few bits to eat. Don’t expect the support vehicle crew to follow you the six hours. It is tedious for the driver/crew. Personally I would set off and find a 3 hour half way RV point with the crew. Then carry on and RV at the finish point. The crew should be allowed to go off and do a bit of sight seeing while you are out running. This makes the whole experience better for everyone.
I have seen crews literally following the runners behind for much of the way to protect or offer drinks etc. This is not necessary, it is tedious for the driver, often dangerous. Just wear high viz tops.
Hope you enjoy it, it was one of my best running experiences ever.