The Paris Marathon - April 14th 2019
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And so it all begins!

After long runs that have left him close to needing surgical intervention for knees that have seen better days!

After experiments using all kinds delivery systems for in race sugar hits, inappropriatly involving all his favourite crap chocolate bars, that generally proved unsuccessful, but put a smile on his face.

After alternating between, never again, not even this time and where can I find a body double to run it for me?

The day is about to dawn!

Guy’s day of reckoning.

The day he surprises us all ... and actually turns up on the start line of the Paris Marathon!

Race Day - Part three
The Race

And so we were off!

Sans heads phones! Sans desperate need for a Poo! Sans any actual race plan after the 3rd hours mark, when upbeat music was to be my piece of resistance.

Down the Champs Eylees, neck and neck with Em, in a sea of humanity – yes there is going to be an awful lot of place name dropping in this blog. But this is Paris. This is Paris in the Spring. Why else put yourself through the misery of running 26.2 miles, in Paris in the spring if it’s not to name drop the maximum number of place names when you are facing up to the sad reality, that you are going to be lucky to avoid being picked up by the sweeper bus.

Then it is through Place de Concorde, which means something like the square of harmony – where many famous C18th French noble men and women said au revoir to all things south of their aristocratic neck bones and a toothless old hag, supposedly, knitted and cackled her way into revolutionary folklore.

1km down and still we were neck and neck!

But what is this! As we turn the corner to go passed the Louvre* or some other monstrous, over the top edifice to the enduring pomposity of the obscenely privileged, my race plan started to come to fruition. Within the first mile, Em was starting to pull away and get lost in the crowd! She had gone off too fast!! She was going to burn out at about mile 16 !!! It was just a matter of keeping up a steady pace and VICTORY IS MINE!!!!!

Paris Marathon 2019

 Guy will be running the Paris Marathon 2019 to raise funds for Hothouse Theatre.

All 26.2 miles of it! Paris. 14th April 2019. A day that will live in infamy.

donate here

This was also the point that the actual winner of the race - by which I mean the person who, having started 2 hours before, with the elite runners, was crossing the finish line first and, therefore, sort of by definition, was the real ‘winner’ of the race. Now those of you who are of the ‘anything is possible’ persuasion (a phrase that translates in most cultures as something like ‘pigs might fly’) would at this point notice that if I were to put my mind to it and run and absolute blinder and cross the finish line in a fairly impressive 2 hours 6.5 minutes, I could still cause something of a stir on the winner’s podium. The winner would then have to hand back his winners trophy, all his prize money, before spiralling down into a deep career ending depression, brought on by having been beaten by a fat old balding bloke from Nottingham who was only that quick because he was doing headless chicken impersonations whilst trying to find a shop that sold headphones, on a Sunday along the route of the Marathon, that was actually open.

However back to reality. Only another 5 hours and 58 minutes of running to go.

There followed a series of largely unknown but generally impressive architectural features that make up the centre of Paris, for the bobbing ocean of peeps to traverse. Place de Verdome – where the French version of Nelson’s Column (with Napoleon, as opposed to ... well ... Nelson, on it, looking all imperial as you might expect) dominates the skyline. Then passed Opera Garnier – a place where they do a lot of singing and perform lots of revolutionary operas about being miserable. It’s a French thing. Another Place or two and the Hotel de Ville (not actually a hotel. The town hall) where I had a brief chat with a couple from Sheffield about how it wasn’t as scenic as the Round Sheffield Run, was it and how they were hopeful there will be a few hills coming along soon to sort le bon grain de l'ivraie (the wheat from the chaff ... sort of).

Still no sign of Em. But that was OK. Not only had she gone off way too quick, but also, she didn’t take a pre match dump. She was going to have to do a pits stop. And that would just about clinch it.

And there is was. Feeding station number 1. The afore mentioned pit stop. And yes, a long line on runners waiting, hopping slightly from foot to foot, trying to keep the legs moving, and their minds off the bursting need within, as the queue went down, painfully slowly and any chance of a quick time ebbed away. I sailed passed, certain that somewhere in those lines or in the one of those portaloos was Em, depositing you know what, along with her remote chance of victory.

No need to worry about tactics now. Just find a shop that sells headphones and then I could just enjoy the rest of the trip round.

One of my main concerns about running a marathon has always been my knees. There is nothing much wrong with them, and they general function fine under normal everyday use. Running long distances is not, in anyone’s book, with the exception of those that can do a Marathon in a little over 2 hours, who even as I thought this thought, were nipping into their post run massage tent, ready to start a meticulously planned recovery programme.

My knees usually start complaining at about mile 8. Not a serious sort of complaint. More along the lines of ‘do we have to’ that is offered when you suggest watching your favourite Fawlty Towers episodes for the 3rd time this week as a way of making it through a Sunday afternoon hangover. The real complaining really kicks at about mile 12. By mile 17, we are considering a trail separation and looking for someone else to take the kids at weekends. Any decision to stop, even just to tie a shoe lace and that is it. You are no longer running anywhere mate! At 19 miles. This is it for real! ‘You’ve never really loved me. You only ever saw me for what I could do for you and what kind of basis is that for a relationship’ and so on towards fully fledged divorce proceedings.

This was the flaw in my race plan. All the time made up thanks to Em having to linger in a toilet queue, would be lost once I was forced to walk the last 9 miles of the course. My solution, not one that I can recommend to others, for legal reasons on account of not being sufficiently medically trained, as well as for general good sporting reasons, is ... performance enhancing pain killers. Nothing more dramatic than paracetamol and ibuprofen. Taken alternatively, 1 pill per hour. Simplicity itself, but it worked wonders!

Now all I had to do was keep my mind occupied for the remaining hours, enough to stop it from committing the long distance running equivalent of hari kari by putting in a bit of a spurt now and then just to kill the monotony. Have I ever mentioned that a marathon is a bloody long way?

This was the point of the headphones I had left at the bag drop. This was ultimately the crucial innovation in my running plan. A bit of Bon Jovi inputted at just the right moment can do untold wonders for your running style.

Without headphones, and as it turned out, no shops open on this particular Sunday, at least along the course of the Marathon, there had to be a plan B. And I had to come up with that plan B pretty damn sharpish because I was already starting to get a little bored with all this the Rue de Madame de Trollop and the Place de la Whatshisface or the Boulevard de Chopping People’s Heads Off. There is only so much bloody history and ostentatious architecture that a bloke’s brain cell can stand.

Plan B. To take a drink every 5 minutes. To count down the minutes by trying to estimate the passage of said minute and to say to yourself ‘4 minutes to next drink, 3 minutes to next drink’ etc until the five minutes are up, then drink. Treat it as a minor goal achieved and start all over again. Yes, this is the clamour of endurance athletism laid bare. You can see why some people don’t like doing Marathons.

Then, at 13km Chateau de Vincennes, a gorgeous castle where French Kings would take their court on a weekend retreat, then down hill through lovely country park. Suddenly it was like going for the Sunday stroll in the spring sunshine and all was right with the world.

Then the long trek back towards the city.

Another tactic to keep the mind off the task at hand^ is to chat to random strangers also engaged in this rather unique form of purgatory. Of course this a bit of a misnomer. Chatting is putting it a bit strong and there was nothing random about the strangers. As you may have picked up, my French has been schooled in the bars and restaurants of tourist France. Anything more than ‘can I have one of those and a glass of that’ delivered with the help of those universal translators, a menu in one hand and a universally accepted debit card in the other, and I am floundering. It is therefore important to select those with good English for the chatting thing. Luckily, runners are well adept at letting you know where they are from. Mostly they wear a running top that gives the game away.

"Chorlton Runners" – that will be Chorlton cum Hardy in Greater Manchester, where I once managed the Water Park. She knows it well and often runs around it.

"Mother’s Day Classic 2019" – apparently Sidney Australia. Thought she’d use the Marathon as an excuse for a once in a lifetime trip to Europe. Family are waiting at the 20km mark.

"Motown on Tour" - two women over from Detroit, taking selfies with the Eiffel Tower as a back drop – ‘We are also going over to London to have some Harry Ramsden’s fish and chips’. I point out it would be like going to MacDonalds for a burger and strongly suggest that they ask the locals and find a proper chippy down a back street instead.

"Dave" - doing it in a wheel chair – he ran the London Marathon before he ended up in the chair and he’s done it since in the chair. Now not a lot of people can say that!

And so the time passed ... slowly. And as it passed ... slowly ... I progressed ... slowly ... and I was getting slower and slower. I kept looking over my shoulder but there was still no sign of Em. Slow wasn’t a problem as long as I was comfortably in the lead. She was by now, undoubtedly, phoning her mother. Chin wagging with somebody about this, that and nothing, resigned to coming second and handing over the cup. I had won both the mental and the physical battles.

There were only 3 miles left. I told myself it was only a parkrun and immediately chastised myself for such talk and girdled those things you girdle at such moments, just avoiding an onset of cramp in the process and started to rehearse my Jones Marathon Cup acceptance speech.

With these things it is important to get the right tone. It is not good enough to just gloat.

Emil Zatopek did not gain international respect and admiration for, after winning the 5k, 10k and Marathon Gold medals at the Helsinki Olympics of 1952 by saying ‘Yah boo sucks!’ in the direction of his defeated opponents at the post ceremony press conference. He showed a bit of humility. Gave a nod towards the gallant efforts of the also-rans. A few thank yous to those who helped him get where he was today: his mother for ... well, for being his mother; his mates for not insisting on him going out to get bladdered before every long training run; Steve Jobs for not inventing facetiming distractions until well after his running career had finished.

Then, out of nowhere, a sight that gave the kick up the backside that all champions need from time to time, especially at those times when they start to take success for granted. A little old lady, probably about 90 years old, with a crooked back, who really should have been putting her feet up somewhere, having a cream tea or French equivalent, rather than attacking the last 2 miles of the Paris Marathon, sailed passed me.

AND SHE WAS WALKING!

I did what any champion would do under the circumstances. I gave up and walked for a bit.

I went faster. I had reached that dark place in a runners experience where I was able to walk significantly faster than I could run. If you have been there, and survived then you too are a champion, in a way that only those few who have experienced this phenomena will fully understand.

As the last 2 miles gradually turned to the last mile and the last mile gradually turned to the last 500 meters, still no sign of Em. Then the line finally arrived and I crossed it full of all those emotions that Marathon Runners feel as they cross the line knowing that they have left everything out there and all the rest of that clichéd bollocks. Largely this amounts to emotions in the ball park area of ‘thank f*&% thats over. Where is the bar?’

I staggered on passed the post run feeding station having grabbed a banna, some pretzels and a handful of raisins.

Received my medal from a large smiley French woman whom I kissed on the cheek 3 times in a very Parisian style, then looked up to see Em. Already with her medal round her neck. Looking refreshed and recovered. Suspiciously like she had been hanging around for over half an hour.

Not only had she beaten me, she had done it whilst facetiming her entire family from the Eiffel Tower, she had done it with enough time to spare to take a well earned ‘comfort’ break at the half way mark, she had even had time to take photos of all the bands round the course and still she managed to beat me by a distance of well over 2 miles.

Eh bien, je serai l'oncle d'un singe, was all that I could say, as I crawled off back to the 'race plan' drawing board.


*Erstwhile home of French Sun King (or at least his dad) and it has enough corridors in it to allow you to run a half marathon without rearranging the furniture, or to put it another way, enough space to install enough boulangeries to remove the necessity for the prols to eat cake and consequently save the neck of anyone who may or may not have suggested that such a thing should be done, even if it were in jest.

It is now the home of the most famous portrait of someone with no eyebrows and a bit of a wry smile ... oh and one or two other things.


^This might sound the wrong way round, but the truth is, the more you actually think about what you are doing, the more likely it is that you are going to throw all your toys out of the pram and remind yourself, in no uncertain terms, that none of your friends are spending this particular Sunday pushing their personal boundaries to the limit, for a lump of cheap metal, with a particular place name, date and distance stamped on it, that you could make yourself out of a few old scraps laying around in the back yard, whilst downing a few cold beers. Exactly the kind of strop you haven’t thrown since you were last throwing thing out of a pram for real.

Race Day - Part two
Racing Em

Unless you are in the elite section of a Marathon, the bit that the telly focuses on when it’s not looking a the real screw-loose-fruit-loops wearing gorilla suits, pantomime horses or fridges, the fact that it is actually a race is generally meaningless.

Of course you can, and most people do, race against the clock by having a time to beat. Also as it all progresses, you will notice that there are certain people who you keep passing and keep passing you, so you can develop in your head your own personal race. This is a bit of a cheat since the people you are ‘racing’ haven’t got a clue that you are doing that, which rather limits their race tactics somewhat. But it all help to pass the time and gives the precocious child in it all, your consciousness, something to play with for a few hours. But that doesn’t really make it a race.

My wife, Em and I are pretty well evenly matched when it comes to doing these silly long races. The winner is usually the one who has prepared best for the event and quite often it is pretty hard to call. That means that we actually race them. In fact it is sadder than that. We have cups. Until the Paris Marathon we had 3 cups. 5k Cup, generally competed for at parkrun – I am currently the holder of this one. 10k Cup – I am also the current holder this one too. Then there is the Longer Than 10k Cup, unusually named to cover the occasional 10 miler as well as the Half Marathons – again, I am the current holder. Yes I hold the Grand Slam! This is the first time in history that I have been in this position. Em has held the Grand Slam twice before.

Paris Marathon 2019

 Guy will be running the Paris Marathon 2019 to raise funds for Hothouse Theatre.

All 26.2 miles of it! Paris. 14th April 2019. A day that will live in infamy.

donate here

One of the reasons I decided to do a Marathon in the first place was because we found a rather ostentatious trophy on a charity stall in France last year. It was probably meant to be an urn, but as far as we can tell it hasn’t been used. So we now have 4 cups to race for.

Paris is the inaugural event for the Jones Marathon Cup! The Grand Slam is at stake and with it the reputation of not just me as a runner but me as a competitive minded fool ready to leave everything on the course, to pull out all the stops and push it to the limit, to seize the day and carry all before me etc

This is a BIG ONE!

That having been said, let me take this opportunity to get my excuses in early.

I am 15 year older than Em.

I am a lot heavier, probably about 5 stone, which is a lot of excess baggage to drag around 26.2 miles of Parisian Roads.

I have had 2 heart operations.

I have next to no will power, which is largely why I am 5 stone heavier than Em.

I have done less training due to having next to no will power.

I have never run a Marathon before.

I have a leg length to body length ratio that is the envy of only the more 'leg length challenged' members of the gibbon race.

I have a bit of a cough.

My knees are a bit sore.

So, bearing all that in mind, we both lined up, each with a fair chance of glory.

I lost Em somewhere in Place de Concorde, in the first mile. She drifted off ahead of me and was gone in the throng of eager fresh legged young things as I settled into a laboured plod that would have been more appropriate at mile 15.

I comforted myself with the thought that Em had gone off too fast. Was bound to burn out at the 30 km wall and, as they say, come back to me in time for me to put in a valiant spurt and pip her in a photo finish, the gathered throng baying in appreciation.

It was also possible that she might need to take advantage of the facilities, since her preparation in the poo department was not as meticulous as mine.

There was also the possibility that she would just fall into a conversation with a random stranger who offered her the opportunity to take it easy for 10 miles.

Or even, and this became my main game plan, that she would find the need to facetime her sister as we passed the Eiffel Tower at mile 19. All it needed was an extended girlie chat for half an hour and we would be back on level terms.

I relaxed into a steady pace, now convinced of victory and started to enjoy the race.

Race Day - Part one
Getting to the Start

Whenever you sign up to do something several months in advance, especially one of those things that, deep down, you had no real intention of actually doing, on account of it being a really silly thing to do that only people with a seriously loose brain cell would consider doing e.g. running the Paris Marathon on 14th April (deep breath and sigh), part of you doesn’t believe that the day will dawn.

Well the day dawned.

Despite all the preparation you have gone through in getting your mind and body ready for a marathon, there is still the crucial last minute preparation to go through if you are to have a hope in hell of getting thorough this with any dignity still in tact.

You need a race plan. Mine was less than complicated. Just get round! It is a long time since Mo Farah approached the big day with such a simple plan. He could learn a thing or two from me ...

You need something to cope with your head that is going to screaming “NOOOOOOO!” at some point after the 15 mile mark, if not a long way before.

The trick is to treat your conscious like a petulant little child that you just need to keep busy with something, anything, while the business ends of you gets on with the necessaries.

My secret weapon was to be a play list of up beat songs that would take my mind off it all, put a smile or at least a grimace on my face and turbo charge my running at just the point when I started to remind myself that this is a leisure activity, that no one is making me do it and if I really wanted to nip into the nearest bar and order a carafe of something nice from the Southern Rhone and watch everyone else go through the mill, that would be OK.

With the mind sorted, there was the little matter of getting the body ready.

Paris Marathon 2019

 Guy will be running the Paris Marathon 2019 to raise funds for Hothouse Theatre.

All 26.2 miles of it! Paris. 14th April 2019. A day that will live in infamy.

donate here

There is no way to say this politely ... there is a need to get the bowel movements in sink with the job at hand.

In a normal everyday situation this is not the kind of thing that you spend too much time worrying about. If it’s not ready by the time you set off to work of a morning, no problem. But a marathon?

This is a big event. 50,000 people are going to run it. This causes massive logistical problems. The bowel movement issue is bad enough when you have an event of that size and you only have the participants to worry about (anyone who has had to face the average festival toilet will be aware of that). Put it in the heart of big city and add to the situation countless spectators and people just going about their business (for give reference) and you have got a large mountainous problem that needs to be flushed away somewhere.

It is therefore important that the competitors do their best to reduce this problem. There is also a personal running reason to do this. The ideal running condition is apres poo (forgive my French). Firstly you will be lighter, but you will also be able to concentrate on something other than finding the next portaloo that does not have a queue that would do the ticket launch for U2’s next tour justice, has actually still got some papier hygiénique and does not look like the Gilets Jannes have done a dirty protest in it that will come close to bringing down the French government and changing the course of the history in western Europe.

It is all in the timing. Because of the issue of getting to the start on a Sunday morning where everything is going to be at least slightly chaotic, as thousands of foreigners and people from out of town try to cross Paris, without a clue where they are going, at the same time, you are going to have to time your ... erm ... event, to happen a little earlier than usual. Add to that the fact that you are on French time now, which is an hour ahead of British time and your body clock. This is going to mean getting up at the crack of dawn and walking around the flat a lot to try and get everything aligned and ready for the off.

The practical upshot of all this was a partial success on the morning of the run. There had been an event ... but there was going to have to be another one, sometime soon.

But time had run out so off we went to jump on the Metro and follow the precise instructions from the Expo to get us there in time to drop off the bags and get to the start line. The second ‘event’ was just going to have to wait. So I grabed everything I needed. Running head phones, painkillers to keep the knees quiet, a throw away hoodie to help with the hanging around in the starting pen and, of course, a roll of toilet paper for when the ‘event’ finally arrived, as it inevitably would.

The instructions said get off at Opera Metro Station, which we did. We climbed up the subway steps to be met with loud shouting and cheering! For a moment it looked like we’d ended up in the heart of a Gilets Jannes protest that had been rearranged from it’s normal Saturday evening, Place de Republic fixture, but no. We were in the middle of the Marathon. The elite runners and anyone better than rubbish, set off 2 hours before we were due in the starting pen. At the Opera Metro station, which is right at the beginning of the race, the course snakes round, completely enclosing the station. There was no way out. I started to panic a little, which it turn kick started Monsieur Movement in my lower bowel area.

There was nothing for it but to actually join the race and run along with them slowly creeping over to the other side of the road.

That had really done it. M. le Turd was now knocking on the door ... so to speak ... and we still had a couple of miles before we even got to the Champs Elysees, the bag drop and start and we now had to get a shift on. Walking when you are in need of ... well you know what ... is bad enough. Walking at pace, with a ticking clock is worse. Running would be twice as bad. There were going to be some difficult choices ahead.

At last I got to the Champs Elysees. If you have never been to this iconic shopping street. Firstly, don’t worry, you haven’t missed much. Just imagine all the over priced shops you’ve ever heard of, stick them on the same road and add to the mix a load of people wanting to be 'seen' to be shopping at such shops and a handful of people who actually think that paying such inflated prices is a good idea and you have got it.

Oh, and then on Marathon Day add 50,000 eager running lunes, countless hangers on, barriers restricting the accessibility with people searching everyone’s bag and Mr Poop knocking for attention and you have one irritated runner.

As Einstein observed, time travels at different rates, relative to the situation. Under this situation, it travels at it’s slowest and Mr Poo sees his chance to make his mark on the world.

It was my first test of the day to take control of my brain cell and think about something else.

I thought of Paris in the spring. I thought of Maurice Chevalier singing something ... well about Paris in the Spring. I thought of Gustave Eiffel tightening the last bolt in his tower before slipping off home for a glass of something to celebrate. I thought of Marie Antoinette regretting her casual remark about the eating habits of the poor as she climbed the scaffold on Place de Concord. I thought about the empowering effect of my play list as I hit the 3 hour mark. I thought of the crowds cheering me home. I thought of anything to keep M. Merde at bay.

Eventfully I got beyond the bottle neck and suddenly it was ... well no quite paradise, but the Marathon-runner-in-needing-a-last-minute-visit-to-the-facilities' equivalent of paradise.

A row of compost toilets, without a queue. Well a very small queue.

Relief!

I don’t know how to express the relief!

Then I was truly ready. It was off the to bag drop then into the start pen. Lost the throw away hoodie. Put on the head phones and ... no head phones ... we are off ... I’ve left the bloody head phones in the bag at the bag drop ... we cross the line and I’m in a tiss.

I am off on my first Marathon. Training schedule complete. Bowel movement sorted. But no head phones!

How was I going to keep the brain cell from realising what it was being asked to cope with.

FOR 26 BLOODY MILES!

AAAAAGHHHHH!!!!!

This was a disaster waiting to happen. And it wasn’t going to have to wait too long!

The Carb Loading Conundrum

At what point is it safe to stop carb loading?

By which I really mean, at what point does the hallowed tradition of carb loading before a long race, if indulged in too enthusiastically, do more harm than good?

I know from years of experience that there is definitely a down side to it. For some 45 years now I have been carb loading whenever a feeble excuse raises it’s cheeky little head. An extra slice of cake here, a sly jam doughnut there. It all adds up, unless that is the adding up is going on any form of tacking sheet.

Paris Marathon 2019

 Guy will be running the Paris Marathon 2019 to raise funds for Hothouse Theatre.

All 26.2 miles of it! Paris. 14th April 2019. A day that will live in infamy.

donate here

At first there were some obvious limitations. Pocket money never really stretched too far beyond a bag of blackcurrant and liquorice on a Saturday morning and even if it had, there were mother’s searing eyes to put a stop to any over indulgence in that department.

However, my carb loading career really took off when I left home and discovered the ultimate in carb loading. Beer, pork scratching and the greasy kebab on the way home. I tell you, if I had taken up running in my early twenties, I would have been well ahead of the game in the loading department.

Now I’m not suggesting that if carb loading had been an Olympic sport, that I would have had any real hope of bringing home a medal. There are plenty of others who would have been ahead of me on that score and we all know who they are. But I would have fared better than I am going to do at the Paris Marathon when I take on an actual Olympic sport. In the Marathon I will be lucky to finish in the top 57,000.

My point is that, after years of serious carb loading I am aware that there are certain issues concerning it.

These issues are made worse by my natural enthusiasm, encouragement by my peers and a complete lack of self control. I once managed to turn green, and I mean actually green, during an Easter Egg hunt when I paid the other participants to bring all the chocolate eggs they found to me. I was 49 at the time.

For me issues around this subject peaked at 18 stone.

My carb loading for the Paris Marathon started a good 3 months before the event with sneaky chocolate bars and packets of biscuits. Don't tell the wife.

Extra portions of rice and pasta and potatoes soon followed, all with various scraps of scientific research, taken completely out of context, to back it up.

As the last few days approached, all hell broke loose. A second breakfast of a sandwich, 4 hotcross buns and a couple of kitkats, served as a snack before boarding the train to London, followed by a cake or two at St Pancras, dinner on the Euro Star and a full tea in Paris.

Then a humungous bread based three courser with Angie and Martin, involving something over the top made of avocado, with a poached egg on too much toast and a pizza the size of ... well the size of the a pizza. This was followed by pasta and more pasta the next day, just to make sure that I was fully loaded.

Then a crisps to get the salt levels up, a baked potato just to fill a bit of time on the Saturday night and a slice of peche crumble to make sure that all the corners were covered.

Well I am beaten.

Before I have even got myself to the starting line, I am ready to throw in the towel.

I feel like a bloated elephant seal, who having eaten a whole shoal of herring and couple of random pollock the size of small dolphins, has put his harem servicing training programme back a month with the weight he has put on.

If you are what you eat, then I will be running Paris as some kind of over inflated, pasta based dumpling, looking for an interesting stew to fall into and have done with it.

Now it is just possible that if the Olympics goes down the same route as the Paralympics and has categories based on the ability or disability of the athletes, then, with a bit of lobbying, I might yet have a chance at a medal in the ‘Old and Bloated and Never Does Enough Training’ category for the Marathon ... now it just so happens that the for Olympics 2024 are in Paris.

I’d better get lobbying.

Paris Marathon 2019

 Guy will be running the Paris Marathon 2019 to raise funds for Hothouse Theatre.

All 26.2 miles of it! Paris. 14th April 2019. A day that will live in infamy.

donate here

First Night on the Town
Warning to all Brits: contains some words and phrases in French without translation.

So after an uneventful train journey from Nottingham to London St Pancras, that morphed, almost without incident into an uneventful Euro Star journey, we arrived at Gare du Nord, Paris, France, European Union, still Europeans* and ready for an adventure.

3 nights in Paris before the big day. So how do you fill 3 nights in a city that never sleeps: a city renowned for it’s fun and frolics; a city that has attracted the bohemian, the wild and the wayward of the world since it first threw off the yolk of Rome thanks to the activities of Asterisk and his potion swilling mates in the year nothing (OK so that wasn’t actually Paris); the city of love; the cosmopolitan centre of the universe; the home of good food; the home of good taste; the home of good times; the place where those who are tired of London find new challenges and interests; when you are not drinking and only eating pasta.

Paris Marathon 2019

 Guy will be running the Paris Marathon 2019 to raise funds for Hothouse Theatre.

All 26.2 miles of it! Paris. 14th April 2019. A day that will live in infamy.

donate here

For our first night we had booked into a hotel near Gare du Nord on the edge of the Marais area of Paris. The Parisian’s Paris. Over flowing with hip boutiques, galleries, gay bars and not so gay bars. The part of Paris that the Parisian global reputation is built on. If you can’t find somewhere to pass an evening here, even if you are not drinking, then your application for membership of ‘citizenship of the world club’ is likely to get itself, accidentally on purpose, lost in the post.

Directions? Suggestions? We are bigger than that. This is one of the coolest places on planet Earth. Lets just take pot luck and wonder around a bit. So that is what we did.

Out of the hotel and down a dodgy back street or two. Take a right. Straight on. Then another right.

The back streets started to get a bit darker, due initially to nothing more sinister than the sun going down. Then they started to get darker still, for other reasons. The grotty, almost romantic feeling of neglect, soon became simply neglect. Then, as the down and outs sleeping in the doorways and actually camping on the pavements increased, neglect turned to deprivation. Then the deprivation became wanton.

We had left the last salmonella pedalling, kebab joints of the rough end of night life well behind and we were now climbing up a hill. The Marais does actually have any hills. Marais means swamp or marsh and like most marshes and swamps of the world, the Marais is flat. Swamps just don’t do inclines. We were no longer in the swinging heart of Parisian bohemia. We were now somewhere else. Somewhere less hip.

We climbed some steps. Then we climbed more steps. There were no street lights. There were stray dodgy characters lingering in alleyways, smoking Gauloises and watching.

We had strayed into Montmartre. Another centre for your tourist looking for the true Parisian experience. Unfortunately we had wondered into the part of the said experience that is generally experienced by those not looking to follow the trail of Ernest Hemingway, who was stalking Picasso, who was in turn staggering in the footsteps of Van Gogh. We had found the real Monmartre, not the tourist version. And there aren’t many restaurants in the real Monmartre on account of there not being anyone willing to pay over the odds for a toasted cheese sandwich going under the name of a croque monsieur.

Eventually we happened upon a corner with 2 eating places. A pizza joint and a more traditional looking restaurant. We had also reached the inevitable point that tourist wondering around aimlessly looking for food reach. ‘Next eating opportunity will do!’

We chose the more traditional looking place. After all we were in France and we wanted French food. And you can’t go wrong with a French Restaurant selling traditional French food, because the French love their food and always will. It is one of those certainies in life. It is why people go to France.

We sat down in the corner under the patio heater and a little chap appeared from nowhere. He was short and round. The shape of a very large apple, wearing a red fleece and sporting a large Gaelic moustache. He grunted acknowledgment, dumped a couple of menus unceremoniously on the table, then vanished behind us to fetch a glass of red wine and a jus d’orange. One of us was following the no alcohol leading up to the race rule with less than total conviction.

As we looked through the menu, we took the opportunity to take in our surroundings. We were somewhere on the steps leading up to the Sacre Coeur, one of the big tourist attractions. However we were clearly on the wrong side of it. The only ‘tourists’ seemed to be intent on running up the steps. Whether they were intent on doing hill reps as part of their marathon preparation or simply avoiding the long arm of the Gendarmerie was difficult to tell with our rather limited tourist French.

It seemed to be quite a ‘thing’, running up these steps.

We were at a kind of mini square where 2 sets of steps met. Apart from the 2 eating houses the amenities included a large pile of junk that looked like it had been awaiting collection for a month, a whiff of Parisian doggy poo and a gaggle of youths congregating on the steps and gorging themselves on what looked like the French equivalent of slushies and looking dodgy in the way that gaggles of youths look all over the world. Not actually with any level of malevolence. Just being awkward and spotty and feeling uncomfortable in their own personalities.

It was not the best place to sell the idea of France to someone new to the place. Luckily, we have done France many times and there was no need to sell it to anyone. Besides, French food is renowned the world over. Even the grottiest restaurant in the grottiest village, with the grottiest view, is going to deliver when it comes to the art of cuisine, especially for those of us coming from the home of the deep fried and sandwiches on white sliced bread.

The little man returned with our orders.

Where to start?

Em’s salad consisted of a poorly carved iceberg lettuce, a roughly chopped tomato and a tin of sweet corn. It was topped off with a pièce de résistance in the form of a dressing that looked like something between dish water and a highly specialised slurry used as a lubricant in certain drilling endeavours in the North Sea. The taste fitted in with it’s appearance.

All attempts to disguise the taste by washing it down with the wine ran into a fundamental problem. The wine was very much from the vin de table end of the market.

For those who are not familiar with French wine, there needs to be a word or 2 of explanation about French wine. At it’s best, French wine is the finest in the world. Vin de table is not French wine at it’s best. Not exactly vinegar. But as close to that as you can get and still be sailing just about windside of EU regulations.

As for my confit de canard. It was recognisable as a leg of duck. It had flavour, but then that is the nature of duck. With all the fat it is going to have some flavour. The texture did suggest that it had been cooking for most of the week. And the touch of rancidness hinted at a prolonged existence beyond the actual termination of said duck, before the cooking process commenced. With it there were frites and a portion of salad with the same dressing as on Em’s.

We ate in near silence so as to avoid the ‘how is the salad’ sort of comments and get the whole experience over with as quickly as possible.

If this were a food blog and I were trying to be generous, for reasons that I am struggling to think of, I would focus on the jus d’orange.

It was perhaps the best jus d’orange that I have had in France. It was freshly squeezed. Presented with a care that suggested that, just perhaps, it was the jus d’orange that was the little apple shaped man’s passion. That just maybe it is to serve the world this jus d’orange that drags him up the countless steps every morning and sends him home again at night with the knowledge of a raison d’etre fulfilled.

It was sublime.

Made of freshly squeezed oranges. But not just any oranges. Not the oranges that you might pick up from the local Supermarche. Not the sort that you would get from one of the many covered markets in Paris. These oranges had come a long way. These oranges were special. These oranges had a secret that I knew I would never be party to.

We finished perhaps our most disappointing French meal ever, called for l’addition and made ready to beat a hasty retreat, wondering if France had started slipping down a slippery slope that would end in that tasteless wasteland that British tourist destinations had been wallowing in for generations. Maybe it would be all poisson et frites and embrasse-moi rapides chapeaux in France from now on. Viva Emmanuel Macron.

“L’additon? Non, la cuenta.”

I looked at Em. Em looked at me. He was Spanish!

Oranges explained and French culture saved in one word.

Relieved we paid up, left a hefty tip and made our way back to the hotel.

*For those of you with incredibly short memories wondering why we should arrive in Paris 3 days before the marathon when not drinking and being careful about what we eat (pasta, pasta and more pasta), a quick explanation.

In keeping with the modern way of dealing with borderless retail/travel, we had originally decided to cope with the no drinking run up to the Paris Marathon by doing it ‘just in time’ and arrive on the Saturday 13th April, with just enough time to jump a taxi to the Expo for registration, before getting into the flat, eating a small mountain of pasta, getting an early night then up in the morning refreshed and ready for the task ahead.

We first planned all this when Brexit was going to be on the 29th March. That would have given all the extra border staff time to have been recruited and undergone basic training on how to deal with the new paper work and the arrogance of people who have been living in a cave for 3 years and still think that they have a God given right to go where ever they want because they are British.

Of course the date then got moved to 12th April. Chaos had been moved to the day before we planned to travel. It would mean a lot of knockers getting in all manor of twists.

Delays were inevitable.

We definitely didn’t want to travel on the 12th of April. So that meant 11th.

Then of course everything got changed to 31st October. A date that is unlikely to actually be anything other that a footnote in history, at this rate, as one of the many dates that Britain never left the European Union.

The Unknown Unknowns

As Donald Rumfeld famously, and some would have it, infamously* once said in a statement that, if my memory remains reasonably accurate and untainted by a general distaste for U. S. Republicans, was delivered with all the charisma of a difficult, faltering birth under the influence of the sound bite equivalent of an epidural:

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know.”

The simple fact that in any situation there are unknown knowns, and the fact that no one else had put it in such simple, some would say overly simplistic, terms, coupled with the fact that the phrase is now universally applied to just about every situation, has ensured that Donald will go down in a rarefied place in history. The place that many of us would love to occupy. Inventor of cliché, platitude, over used quotes out of context, truisms and other such garbage.

So applying a ‘Rumfeld’ truism to the Paris Marathon;

The Known Knows
The Paris Marathon will:

take place in Paris
be run on Sunday 14th April 2019
go passed all the really cool, places of the city that appear on post cards, as fridge magnets or as little ornaments that seemed to be a great idea for a memento at the time, but will end up at the bottom of that pile of unremembered junk that you will throw out in 20 years time when you finally get round to clearing out the attic
be 26.2 miles or 42.2 km depending on your level of allegiance to the European ideal
have 57,000 plus people running in it, some of whom will have braved the Brexit based doom clouds that once lour'd over the event and be Brits.

Paris Marathon 2019

 Guy will be running the Paris Marathon 2019 to raise funds for Hothouse Theatre.

All 26.2 miles of it! Paris. 14th April 2019. A day that will live in infamy.

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The Known Unknowns
The Paris Marathon may or may not:

see guy on the start line
be completed in less than 6 hours, by Guy
be completed by Guy at all
be the cause of a knee led revolution that leads to the end of a not so glorious running career, for Guy
be celebrated with a glass of red wine as Guy's finest hour.
be the last opportunity to run it while we are still in the EU (This is rapidly looking like a rather pointless thing to say. We are not leaving the EU in any meaningful sense. Worth a glass of wine on it’s own.)
be a chance to see if you cheat and take a short cut during the marathon, will the Gendarmes take a dim view of it and be forced to extend their famous Parisian hospitality towards loud mouthed Brits with an inappropriate command of the lingo, who are unsteady on their legs and keeps shouting out ‘mon legs est a bit fu*&ed mate’ in a phoney, pythonesk, French accent.

The Unknown Unknowns

This is of course the interesting bit. The bit that by definition has to be left blank.

Until they make themselves know, the unknown, unknowns will remain ... er ... unknown.

And that is sort of what this blog will be about. The unknown unknowns of a week in Paris running the marathon and other stuff.

Unknown unknown so far:

leaving all our cards, I.D., house keys, train tickets, print outs for the race, on a crowed 68 bus at Basford Crossing. A situation that had all making of turning The Paris Marathon 2019 into a NO GO before we had even got on the Euro Star.

Thanks to a neighbour for nipping out to catch the same bus on it's return leg and retrieving the bag with it all in, before someone did the 'finders keepers' on it or the whole caboodle found itself lost in the bureaucratic black hole that is lost property, not to resurface again for another 6 months and then requiring blood samples and tissue matching to allow its release back into our rightful possession.

I may live to regret those thanks.

Watch this space for regular updates.

* 'Infamously'largely because of the consistent attempts by a generation of comedians to frame the quote as a load of old Codswallop. Attempts that have ultimately failed for 2 basic reasons: he didn’t complete the logic of the matrix he was using and include the ‘unkonwn knowns’ which of course would have been a load of Baloney. How could there be an unkonwon known ... unless ... it could be known by your subconscious, but not known by your conscious ... or ... lets save this bollocks for another time; surpirsingly, considering the source of the quote, it isn’t actually Codswallop.

For the Love of George

 An adaptation of the monologue that was a critical success at the Edinburgh Festival 2000. It follows the experience of a woman trapped in violent marriage and her relationship with George and biology.

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Give While You Shop

Give as you live Raise free funds for Hothouse Theatre and Oh MyNottz by shopping online with Give as you Live, over 4200 retailers to choose from, shop & raise a donation at no cost to you!

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Oh My Nottz is a HotHouse Theatre production. Co. No. 6505843 Charity No. 1154523. Tel 07963020259 email guy@hothousetheatre.com website www.hothousetheatre.com
The views expressed in Oh My Nottz are not necessarily those held by HotHouse Theatre.