My Excellent Adventure: Day 13, My journey through the Marathon de Paris, by Larry Eder

In an earlier life, I ran 18 marathons, and qualified for Boston several times, with a best of 2:47:12. It took me six marathons of running too fast too early, before I broke three hours. On the first time I broke three hours, I want out slow, at 1:30 and came back nine minutes faster. It was a revelation. 

I forgot those lessons. I pretty much gave up running. 

Two decades later, I walked the Columbus marathon, after having lost just over a hundred pounds. I was one of the last ones to finish, if not the last. Just the singular act of finishing was amazing to me. For several years, I walked Disney half marathons after that. 

Today, I walk most days, about three to six miles, and have been able to get off insulin and am hoping to loose enough weight to get off the metaformin drug that is used. It is about diet and exercise. 

Today, before the Paris marathon, I spent 90 minutes walking down the Champs Elysees and past the Arc de Triomphe, over to Avenue Foch and through about 30,000 of my favorite new friends as they queued to the Marathon de Paris was a blast! 

Runners assemble in front of the Arc de Triomphe, photo by Larry Eder
The taxi dropped me off near Georges V and Avenue des Champs Elysees about seven in the morning. Already, some gendarmes were stationed, and a few runners were assembling. I did see witness a very colorful altercation among some clients and night vendors. Someone was thrown out of a taxi, to the knowing smile of a local constabulary. Ah, Paris! 

As I hit the Avenue des Champs Elysees, I turned to the left and saw the Arc de Triomphe, France's monument to its war heroes. With the clear sky, and just a bit of a chill in the air, the view was one of the most amazing I have ever seen at a race start. Runners were beginning to queue, but, this is France, and all would work out. 

I continued to walk up the Avenue, hoping to see a Media sign, but sensing, my journey was just beginning. All around me, taxis were dropping off runners, wifes were kissing husbands as they got out of cars, husbands kissing wives, and friends were getting that excitement that comes before a journey of 26.2 miles. Lots of running clubs, much more than in the U.S. 

As I was dodging a few taxis, I heard a distinct Midwestern accent among a group of guys, college age, who were obviously from New Jersey. I asked the guy where he was from and he said Madison, and noted that he did not stay up to watch the game (Wisconsin lost to Kentucky in Final Four Basketball action on Saturday). 

I hit the Avenue Foch and realized that this was what the Media guide was talking about. I needed to walk through the baggage drop off, through the finish and then, I would find our media center. I looked in front of me and smiled. 

30,000-40,000 runners, some in green shirts, (Schneider Electric loves their green), were beginning the near mile walk to the start. I just acted like I knew what I was doing, showed my media badge and walked and waved. 

I prefer the Joe Biden wave, not royal like, more like your buddy that you play pool with or have a beer on Friday night (seriously, I lived in Delaware for awhile, I love the Vice Prez. He is the kind of guy who would laugh at a good joke and tell you to get over it when you make a gaff on national television). 

So, I just walked and observed. A few curious costumes, although the French gentleman dressed up like Gretle, with a five day beard, bad make-up and a half eaten cigar in his mouth did make my day.

I continued to walk through the crowd, and noticed how mellow everyone was. I heard Irish voices, German, French, Italian, even American english (no wonder, there were 1300 Americans in the Paris Marathon). 

I also observed the volunteers. I watched at two tables while volunteers gently cut oranges and bananas. The smell was fragrant. I watched the men putting cases of Vittel water out and I was taken by the volunteers, putting the medals, one by one, on stands to give out in a few hours. I loved the sound so much, I recorded it and did an audio tape (watch for it tomorrow). 

After about an hour of walking opposite everyone else, I made it to the finish area. Well organized, with great signage and a unique media area to see the finishes. 

The media area was a two story temporary building just after the finish. I saw Fred and Nicholas, from L'Equipe and I knew I was there. 

I had made the journey in about 90 minutes, and enjoyed being a close observer to many people's final moments before their marathon experience. 

It was  a great start to what proved to be a fun race day. 

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