Lessons I Learned Running in Paris

Last night on what felt like my hundredth (second) lap around the Marina, I tripped and stumbled off the edge of the trail as the girls and I dynamically attempted to pass another group of runners.  Yes, fellow runners – that would be the Dizzy Lizard almost taking a digger into the fence.  Yes, I do that a lot.  It’s awesome and no cause for alarm.  I promise, if you run with us long enough you will get used to it.  I recovered from my bad judgment quickly and without further incident finished up three very strong miles.  This reminded me of running in Paris this summer and I thought I would share because well, it is a good story for an overcast Wednesday morning.

The boy and I had spent yet another evening in the Jardin des Tuileries drinking wine out of plastic cups (and directly out of the bottle) and eating baguettes out of paper bags while watching the city of Paris light up.  And around 10 pm we wandered out of the park in search of dinner.

How do you not love spending every night like this?

We of course didn’t have to look far.  It is, after all, Paris.  Dinner is served late into the evening and there really is a café on every corner (and a Starbucks and McDonald’s).  We set ourselves up at a little café and set about ordering up some wine, cocktails and food.  (I’m going to let you in on a little secret:  The dinner fare in Paris is only okay.  And if you are a vegetarian, good luck with that.)  Anyway, I ate more bread (which was of course delicious and theoretically vegetarian) and consumed more wine than I ever thought possible.  We stumbled back to our tiny little hotel room in the wee hours of the morning and were unconscious in about five seconds flat.

The Place du Concorde and Arc de Triomphe from one of the fountains in the gardens.

I am not sure what is more amazing:  The fact that I woke up at 7 am feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed or the fact that there was absolutely no trace of a hangover.  In either case, I felt absolutely fantastic and decided to go for a nice long run while the boy slept.  I laced up my running shoes, put in my ear buds and headed out across the street back to the Jardin des Tuileries.

I have to say that after running a trail lovingly known as the Ditch Trail or around a man made marina week in and week out, running through Paris was absolutely surreal.  On one end of the park, I was treated to views of the Louvre, on the other end the Place du Concorde and Eiffel Tower.  And as I made my way from fountain to fountain, meandering down statue lined paths, I could even see throngs of cars make their way up the Champs Elysees toward the Arc du Triumph.  Unreal.

The Louvre at night as seen from the gardens.

I ran laps through the park, logging mile after mile at a nice leisurely pace with still no signs of the hangover I deserved after a night of indulgence (we later calculated no fewer than seven bottles of wine were consumed over the course of the prior evening).  I felt strong.  I felt great.  I felt safe.  To say I felt safe running alone in this beautiful setting is an understatement.  The park was well patrolled, yet did not feel overly policed.  The staff was out working and all smiled, waved and said bon jour each time I passed them (this was a stark but rather pleasant contrast to my cultural experiences elsewhere in the city).  Another tip:  If you are going to Paris, be sure to go for an early morning run Jardin des Tuileries.  You won’t regret it.  Back to the story:  A handful of other runners were also making their way through the park along with countless dog walkers and doting parents pushing strollers.  And then THEY appeared.

THEY were a band of breathtakingly beautiful men in matching gray tech shirts proclaiming their running club in large white letters and bright red shorts in their late twenties to early thirties moving effortlessly through the park like a herd of gazelles on the Serengeti.  They laughed and joked with one another in lilting French, flashing gorgeous smiles as they combed hair back from glistening brows.  They were as chiseled as the marble statues I spent hours admiring throughout the city.  They were the absolute picture of masculinity and athleticism.

Okay, I am sure I am being overly dramatic here.  It could be the wine.  It could be Paris.  But I will tell that in that moment, I literally stood in awe and watched them like a hungry lioness in the bushes.  Yeah, I’m not proud but they were absolutely gorgeous – and fast.  Very, very fast.

Eventually I regained my composure and continued to run (at my race pace, I might add) and eventually the Parisian running gods caught up to me – just in time for a spectacular and classic Liz moment.  You see, the Jardin des Tuileries has marble staircases leading from one level of the park to the next.  These are old marble staircases.  Old and worn, with grooves where countless feet have tread upon them over the years.  And since I was trying to look cool and composed and like a serious runner (of unusual size), I was going to bound up those stairs with the effortless grace of a gazelle myself.  In short, I was going to show off my great running prowess (of which I have none).

It didn’t go so well for me.  I made it half way up when my foot slipped off a particularly worn step, sending me sprawling back down the stairs to dirt below with a bloody knee where I found myself surrounded by sexy sweaty man runners.  One, the apparent leader of the gang, helped me up and said in perfect English (apparently he also knew I was from New Zealand.  Wait, I haven’t shared that story yet have I?  Next time) with a beautiful French accent, “You are a beautiful and talented runner.  Come away with us and we shall show you the wonders of marathon running in Europe.”

Actually, what he really said was, “In Paris, we never run the old staircases.  We walk.”  As if one cue, each delicious piece of eye candy delicately walked up the stairs, smiling back at me before darting off for another lap.  When the last had gone, the leader added, “Enjoy your run.  It is a beautiful day to be in Paris!”  He smiled, carefully executed the stair climb and joined his pack.

I am not exaggerating that last part at all.  That really happened.  Yes, I know they were humoring the poor girl from New Zealand (or Australia, Canada or England, but for some reason NEVER the States) but they made me laugh in spite of myself.  And oh, they were so very pretty.

Later that morning...The gardens are behind me. And the hangover struck as noted by the dark glasses.

And they were also right.  It WAS a beautiful day in Paris.