After reading Stephen Clarke's 'Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French" I have been inspired to recapture my experiences of running with the Frenchies in the Paris Marathon using the same format. Although the commandments are the same, their application will be slightly different.
1. Tu Auras Tort (Thou shalt be Wrong)
Being a foreigner who is lucky enough to run on French turf and who is priviledged enough for the French to even allow you to run behind their scrawny spandex butts, you WILL yeild to all French runners who decide at the last second to turn 90 degrees and run straight towards the refreshment's table to get a bottle of water. Should you happen to catch a piece of their heels at this sudden and unpredicatable motion, then shame on you. Lucky for you, your French is still so bad that you have no idea what insult he is yelling.
2. Tu ne Travailleras Pas (Thou Shalt Not Work)
Although there are plenty of port-o-john's and even portable urinals at every possible place for runners to use prior to the race, standing in line would be just too much work and effort. Instead, it would serve you better to just pee on the street while waiting for the starting gun to go off. Lucky for the people standing downslope from you the Champs Elysees is composed of cobblestones that allows the pee to percoloate around the cobbles on which you stand instead of around your shoes.
3. Tu Mangeras (Thou Shalt Eat)
Why settle for pre-packaged Gu's and Power -Gel's to be given out near the end of the course? Instead demand fresh seasonal fruit such as oranges, apricots and plums. If this does not wet your appetite perhaps you will be more interested in raw, un-cut cane sugar? Just because you are making your legs and lungs suffer does not mean that your taste-buds should be sacrificied either.
4. Tu Seras Malade (Thou Shalt be Ill)
After finishing the marathon and walking through the area where the runners will reclaim their drop-off bags, do not be surprised to see some runners who could not wait that extra 5 minutes to find someplace more discreet to change out of their sweaty running clothes. If running the marathon did not make you sick, seeing a bare, sweaty 'n salty ass will definitely cause the stomach to churn. Although France has, arguably, one of the finest public healthcare systems in the world, I do not believe I can find a prescription to help me for this ailment.
5. Tu Parleras Francais (Thou Shalt Speak French)
With plenty of crowd support along the course it is imperative to understand what the spectators mean when they are yelling "Allez, Allez-bien" and "Allons-y"! They are saying, "Hurry up, get off my road! I just need to cross it to buy my cigarettes and croissant."
6. Tu ne Chanteras pas (Though Shalt not Sing)
Around mile 16 the marathon route becomes confined to an underground tunnel for approx. 1 km. I started to get lost in a trance of listening to the echo's of the collective breathing and of the accentuated foot-strikes around me. This trance was soon broken when a runner directly behind me would sing/yell a high-pitched note every 10-15 seconds that would reverberate down the tunnel. At the time I found him very annoying. As it turns out, most people when they go through this tunnel yell in unison from back to front creating a vocal wave throughout the tunnel. I guess it is one of those things that if everyone is involved it would be fun and exciting. However, if it is just one it is just annoying (Fermez la bouche!)!
7. Tu ne Sauras pas (Thou Shalt not Know)
After abandoning my Garmin and watch during my regular runs prior to the marathon, I decided to run "sans Garmin" (without Garmin) for the marathon as well. The only time that I knew my pace was when I caught up to the 3 hour pace group at mile 15. "Merde," I thought, "this is much more aggressive than I wanted to be today. I better slow down." My legs had forgotten the punishment that 26 miles is capable of and were cruising as if I were only going to run 15...they did not know the tenderizing that lurked ahead.
8. Tu n'Aimeras pas Ton Voisin (Thou Shalt not Love they Neighbor)
Although I wanted to slow down after catching up to the pace group I found that I had run into a wall of people all clustered around the pacers. My natural running stride became shorted as I delicately danced between the maze of intertwined and determined legs. After 1 mile of this nonsense I dropped the pace group on a small incline along the Seine. A move I knew I would regret, but one that allowed me to run under the shadow's of the Eiffel Tower alone and in peace.
9. Tu ne Seras pas Servi (Thou Shalt not be Served)
The people handing out the sponges at the sponge station near mile 10 were exceptionaly energetic. Instead of waiting for you to run up to them and take a sponge they would just throw the sponges up into the air and let them rain down into the crowd of runners coming at them (because I am sure they must have been well warned about commandment #1). If you wanted a sponge just reach up a catch one!
10. Tu Seras Poli (Thou Shalt be Polite, while being simultaneously rude)
Although the spectator may mean well when yelling, "Go, go, keep running..." I have to bite my tongue when they finish by saying, "you are almost there", although you just passed the 17 mile mark.
Final Time: 3:04:55
David - Marathon Expo
David - Infront of the L'arc de Triomphe before the race.
David - In the Red Corral before the start of the race.
Champs Elysees - Prior to the marathon
1 km - The Lead Pack