Normally I try to stay far away from running races but since I do a lot of running on my own here in France, I thought I should do some races to find more people to run with. So I looked online and found some road races.
Last Thursday I found a 10km race in Toulouse with 1000 participants. I found it on Thursday evening and since the registration closed at midnight so I signed up. I told my host mom about it afterward and she asked if I had a medical certificate. I remembered seeing something about this when I was registering. I showed Michele my health insurance card figuring that would more than suffice. But apparently I needed a letter from my doctor dated within the past year that said I was healthy enough to do a race. I definitely didn’t have this and I also haven’t been to a doctor for a physical within the year so getting one was going to be a problem. Michele said I should have told her about it sooner and she could have brought me to a doctor in France (free healthcare for all!) to get a certificate. If only I was organized to make any decision or plans in advance. But with a little creativity and imagination (especially since I didn’t know what a real certificate looked like) I was able to create a “certificat medical.” So Saturday morning I brought my certificate to the race office and at first they said it wouldn’t work so I showed them my insurance card which they visibly didn’t care about and then emptied my wallet of just about every other card like my USSA card, Scuba certification card, First Aid/CPR certification cards, Swix VIP card which has skiers on it and anything else that I thought showed I was a healthy and active person. The race officials were very confused and just gave me my number probably to get rid of me. So I soon found myself lined up for the race with the other 999 or so people! It was quite the language immersion as I stood cramped in the start area enveloped in many different French conversations happening simultaneous. I was so surprised and shocked that I didn’t realize when the gun when off and I was being pushed forward. But then my competitiveness kicked in and I started going for it. The course was pretty flat and had a lot of really long straights but it was exciting to be running in a race with that many other people. I went out a little hard trying to stay with a woman wearing the annoying running underwear like cross country runners weart so I ended up blowing up like a champ with a kilometer to go. I got passed by two more women during this time but still ended up 6th overall for women. I was pretty pleased with myself until I saw I was basically seven minutes behind the winner but it turns out she was the French National Champion in the 10000meters so then I didn’t feel as bad. After the race there was the best spread of croissants, chocolate croissants, pastries, tarts, sweet breads, cakes, chocolate, coffee, and fruit. It was tough to leave that to go cool down. And then the race had some very interesting prizes. I left with a big (close to 2 feet) plastic but chrome painted trophy cup filled with a sleeveless cutoff t-shirt, foot cream, two of the same orange buffs, and a bouquet of flowers which I brought home to my host mom and she loved.
This weekend there was another race in a little town about 10 kilometers from Toulouse. So I printed another medical certificate, got directions on Google maps, and headed out early Saturday morning for the race. My directions worked perfectly and I was feeling pretty proud of myself when I arrived in the town with plenty of time to spare. Then I saw a big poster for the race posted on a telephone pole with Dimanche or Sunday written in big letters across the top. But since I was out I decided to go for a bike ride and ended up having a great long ride and getting lost on all these little roads since I didn’t have any sort if map. It was great because it was pretty cool and nobody was out since the French don’t wake up until late on the weekend and then they have to “cherche le pain” a phrase that I haven’t understood but means to look for or search for the bread. It’s probably the easiest search ever since there are at least 3 bakeries on the block. My host mom says she has to “cherche le pain” every day but she always goes to the same bakery that is around the corner from our house and usually gets the same kind of bread. But anyway, on Sunday I returned to the little town of Mons which was probably smaller than Craftsbury but was very busy with all the runners. This race was 9km and I showed up late at for the start which was on a very narrow street so I started way in the back and had to use a lot of elbows to get up to where I wanted to be. This course actually had some good sized hills though which my host mom had warned me about many times even though I tried to explain that I liked hills (she didn’t understand). I ran most of the race with a group of early middle aged men including the hairiest man I have ever seen in my life but the good news was that I never bonked and passed some people at then end! But I did get outsprinted by a guy to the line. He was kind of just running it in and I tried to do the sneak attack from behind but then he started sprinting too and it was over for me. The post race food spread wasn’t quite as good though there was some excellent chocolate and coffee. But the prizes were interesting and awesome again. I won another fake looking trophy cup that is bigger and uglier than the last. The trophies are really hilarious and I want to bring them home but they are attached to a big granite base which is actually heavy. Then I won a basket filled with regional products like wine, pate, pickled palms, foie gras, and other things like that and a pearl necklace which I can’t imagine is real pearls but it’s from a local jeweler and is in a very nice box so I’m a little confused but I guess nothing is new there. So yeah now I’m looking for my next race and it has actually been lots of fun (never thought I would say that about running). So if ski racing thing doesn’t work out maybe I’ll move to France to do citizen running races. The prizes are definitely a lot better!