This was my first ever international race and it would have been a travesty to turn the opportunity down. It was only 20 minutes from the in-laws house and was an evening kick off at 7pm. The training run up to this 12.6k course could not have been worse for me. With the many distractions of holiday preparation and a week in Paris I had only run 3 times in two weeks. Still,no excuses.
At 5pm the weather resembled an Indian monsoon as it had done all day. By 5.30 we saw blue sky and this strange orange ball appeared in the sky. Fuelled by my banana, apple, fruit juice and coffee smoothie I set off to the start line at a small village in central Brittany called Callac. The race started on the bong of the church bell bang at 7pm and I began to realise I was surrounded by some seriously fit guys who represented a plethora of different running clubs from the region.
The first part took us out of the village and straight onto a greasy grass hill before passing the local shrine of the Virgin Mary’s grotto. I was certainly praying that I would get through the next bit as I was told that there would be a 2km climb after the start. Yes it was tough but not that tough. It was hard to get a pace as it was a few steep rises combined with some flatter bits. I decided then I was going to enjoy this one rather than my normal flat out antics driven by the speed read out on my Garmin. I had aimed to come in at about an hour and five minutes and was on track to do that when I reached St Aubain, just before half way. Coming out of the village I found myself in unfamiliar territory with muddy farm tracks and grassy woodland trails underfoot. This was pretty much the whole of the second part of the route with a few little hills chucked in for good measure. Still the sun had come out and I was steady away, actually passing some people.
Every race I run has some bizarre moments and this one was turning a corner to find five guys dressed as bananas flaked out by the roadside. This was surpassed five minutes later by a bunch a people wearing multi-coloured wigs and waving pom-poms at everyone.
In the distance I could see the final spire at Plumelec and thought it was still along way away. It was getting tougher and I was getting slower. Still the goal was in sight and about 1km outside of the final village I got a strong wiff of barbecue sausages. I had promised myself saucisse frittes at the club house when I finished and this spurred me on. Turning into the village I passed my wife who was sat happily outside the bar sipping her Perrier. With a few shouts of encouragement and the thought of chips at the end I decided to make a bit of a sprint for the finish, the last 500 meters approached. I passed the finish in 1 hour 7 minutes and went to get my goody bag.
As we all know most British goody bags contain some powerade and a few muesli bars. Not the French. A bottle of cider and some pate. Vive La France! I went to get my chips!