3 years ago to the day I completed my first 50 mile race – and it was tough! After completing some longer distance runs recently it’s good to remember the first 50 miler and I wonder how I’d get on with the race a second time around.
Billed as a race featuring 92% trails around Paris and finishing up the Eiffel Tower it didn’t take me long to decide that this was a race I wanted to do.
Leading up to the race health issues related to Crohn’s Disease were threatening on preventing me from traveling to the race. Three weeks before the race I had started to develop yet another perianal abscess and two courses of antibiotics weren’t helping (they never do) so 5 days before the race I headed into hospital for surgery.
Having perianal abscesses on a semi-regular basis meant that I had met my surgeon before so he knew I enjoyed running and when asked whether I would be able to complete a race, he asked if it was a long race. Usually with perianal abscesses the wound is left open to heal (at least all the ones I’ve had have been left open) so I like to think that after telling him that it would be a race longer than a marathon he stitched up the wound which meant that providing I felt comfortable I would be able to travel to the race. A test run two days after surgery and I felt like I would be able to tackle the race.
The race itself started outside Paris and wound its way through a number of trails and suburbs towards the centre and ultimately the Eiffel Tower. The race is part of a series around Europe and consists of a number of distances from 10k through to 80k and with around 10,000 runners across all races. Taking place in March conditions can vary and on race day most types of weather were catered for including snow. Combined with a large number of runners and being the last group of runners to start at midday day meant that the trails gradually got worse until at many points beyond 30 miles the trails had become mud baths. According to race organisers the conditions were the worst they’d been.
The later start meant that unless you were quick there was going to be a large portion of the race ran in the dark which isn’t usually a problem but when you’re running along dark, muddy trails it’s going to be a slog and with around 10k left in the race I was moving towards the back of the runners so it would be tight to get to the Eiffel Tower by the cut off of 00:45 – 12 hours 45 minutes after the start.
The last few miles are on tarmac so it was an opportunity to run and try and get there in time but as the Eiffel Tower was getting closer a demoralising out-and-back section along an island on the River Seine to make up the distance to 80k meant that I was in the shadow of the tower when the sparkle of the lights to signify the closure initiated followed by it being plunged into darkness. I hadn’t made it in time. I arrived at the finish at 00:57, just 12 minutes too late. I received my t-shirt and medal in a dark corner outside the entrance to the tower, and that was it. It was such an anti-climax to a race and I was so relieved that my airbnb (a 1930s canal barge on the Seine) was just a few minutes away and I could snuggle up in my emergency foil blanket and shiver myself to sleep. The post-run celebratory beers I’d bought had to wait for the next day.
Completing the race was a big success, particularly based on how the week had started, and the fact it was the furthest race I had completed (I had DNF’ed at the Race to the Stones in 2017 at 49 miles), but I was left with unfinished business – I didn’t make it up the Eiffel Tower!
Each time an email comes through advertising the race I am tempted to return so that I can cross the finish line up the tower and when things get back to normal there’s a good chance I’ll return. With a few more runs of a similar distance under my belt I’d feel much more confident of getting the job done in time.