French Bloke Runs

Shut up and run!

Tag: Memories

Writing about running

It has now been six months since I write twice a week about running. This is my 57th article and I think it’s a good time to reflect back on the past semester. I know you’re curious about my writing process – in fact, I’m pretty sure you don’t give a toss but I’ll tell you all about it anyway.

Most of the time, writing is a process that begins when I run. I already mentioned that I consider running as a form of meditation, but it’s also a source of inspiration. It clears my mind and allows ideas and sentences to emerge. I’ll usually write these new ideas in my special Wunderlist if I don’t forget about it while I’m cooling down or while I’m taking my shower, which happens way to often.

When comes the time to actually write, I will either have a great new idea or an obvious topic (like my latest race) and if I don’t, I’ll pick something in my list of ideas. Even though sometimes, some sentences come in French, I always write in English first. Writing in a foreign language is not me being a snob, it’s just easier to translate from a foreign language to your mother tongue than the other way around. Also, I love using idiomatic expressions, playing with them and ornamenting them with typically British slang. I just have fun doing it and it’s much easier to translate this back to French rather than the other way around. It also forces me to dig into my French to find the best equivalent ; I find a particular pleasure in using dated idiomatic expressions or regional slang (usually from Lyon).

I’ve had a lot of fun writing for the past 6 months. So far, some of my favourite articles to write were:

Now I have to admit that writing 4 articles per week (2 in English and 2 in French) kind of dried my up and I find it more and more difficult to find inspiration or to be funny. It also consumes a lot of time and even if I still have some potential articles in my Wunderlist, it becomes harder and harder to find new ideas. Finally, I usually have more fun writing about what I lived rather than writing about shoes or something less personal. So I’ve decided that I will allow myself to write only one article per week, or even zero if I don’t feel like it. I’ll still write about random stuff related to running, but I’ll try to make it more spot on and interesting and I’ll mostly focus on my personal experience of running.

See you soon!

My best running memories

August 2015, A Guarda, Galicia, Spain. It had been just over a month since I began running. I was still hating it, but I was very motivated by all the weight I had to lose and also by my very recent read of ‘Born to run‘. This book had a lot of influence on me and even though I was supposed to be on a long weekend dedicated to heavy drinking and drumming, I couldn’t help but thinking about it.

Bare foot on the beach

Barefoot on the beach photo by Alex Tian

After a scrumptious lunch of Galician seafood accompanied by generous quantities of wine (all organised by my favourite Galician couple: Wonder Woman and Superman), we went to the beach for a dip into the water. I don’t know what went through my inebriated mind, influenced by the beauty of the moment and the thoughts of legendary runners in Mexican canyons, but I started running barefoot, like the crazy character of Barefoot Ted in the book. Then I hailed Lanky Pole (when there’s drinking involved, you can be sure he’s around) and we went for a short easy run along the sea. This moment was magical, my memories are befuddled now but I still have these amazing feelings deeply imprinted in me: the true feeling of the ground directly under my feet, the slightly salty breeze through my hair, the gentle caress of the sun on my skin, and the pure joy of running shared with a close friend. We ran for less than 4 km, but this run was a defining moment for me. I think it is the moment when I decided that I would start my quest to barefoot running, and incidentally the moment when I started to love running.

I have to admit that there is a flip side to this golden coin: since I wasn’t used to running barefoot, I had such massive blisters under the sole of my feet that I couldn’t walk for the next couple days. In hindsight, this was total madness but it was really worth it and reliving it is what I’m trying to achieve in slowly transitioning towards barefoot running.

Just a week later, The Quiet Roman came to London and I told him all about it. We drank, and inevitably, at the end of the evening we went for a barefoot run in the streets of Greenwich. This was really fantastic too and it finished convincing me that barefoot running was what I wanted to do. Of course, this time we only ran less than 2 km because my blisters had barely healed and I wanted to be able to walk the following day. Nonetheless, you now know my secret motivation for running: the quest to finding these 2 magical moments again.

Down memory lane in Lyon

I’m on a holiday in Lyon and of course, I’m still following my training plan and I’m running exactly as I would if I were in London. But running in familiar places brings out old memories, back from the days I still hated running. I hated it but I still had a weekly jog with Jack of all trades, which made it bearable because at least I had a good friend to speak to and make the time pass. Yes, it was also a good excuse to see my mate and talk shit.

I’ve been running on the left bank of the Rhône, one of the 2 rivers in Lyon and this reminded me of the Sunday runs we did every week on the very same river bank, from one park to another. You must know that Lyon has 2 major parks: le Parc de la Tête d’Or and le Parc de Gerland. It is a very common run for locals to link the 2 parks running along this majestic river that is the Rhône (even though the banks of the Saône are prettier). It’s a mere 6km stroll and the bank has been refitted for pedestrians and cyclists, with wide paths, cycle lanes, playgrounds, fountains and trees.  It also boasts a great view on several major sights of the city:

  • The Parc de la Tête d’Or itself is a beautiful park with a rose garden, a free zoo, a lake with an island, many great trees and plenty of grass to play football or bask in the sun
  • The Croix-Rousse hill, with its colourful façades and XIXth century buildings
  • The Hôtel-Dieu, an old hospital originally built between the XIIIth and the XVth century
  • The Piscine du Rhône, an ugly but iconic swimming pool from the 1960s
  • The fine XIXth century buildings of the universities and of the university library
  • The Musée des Confluences, a building controversial for its gigantism, its weirdness (not to say ugliness) and the astronomical sums of money it cost the local taxpayers

This last one wasn’t here yet when we ran there with Jack of all trades, there was just empty space where the 2 rivers meet. We would go to the Parc de Gerland and come back to the city centre for a croissant and a coffee with a glass of fresh orange or lemon juice. I have to admit I miss that part and every time I go back to France I have a coffee and a proper croissant at the terrace of a typical café.

Quais du Rhône - Photo by Connie Ma

Quais du Rhône Photo by Connie Ma

Several years later, we took on running together again and we went closer to our new respective workplaces, in the Parc de Lacroix-Laval of Charbonnières-les-Bains, the posh suburbs of Lyon. This was a whole different setting and much more hilly, but also very pleasant because in some parts of this park the forest is almost wild. These are great memories too and I hope I’ll run there again one day…

Rollerblade morning commute

I feel lazy this week, so I’ll just show you a video I made last year. I’ve already mentioned that I sometimes go to work on rollerblades (less and less, since I run more and more). So I asked Draculito to lend me his GoPro and here’s the result:

I think this is a pretty awesome commute and I always love doing it !

Urban Pac-Man, a running game

Like everyone I have dirty secrets and you’re about to discover one of them: I created a geeky game based on running back when I hated running. OK, I can see I’ve lost you, so let’s get back to 2004. In New York, a bunch of students created Pac-Manhattan, “a large-scale urban game that utilizes the New York City grid to recreate the 1980’s video game sensation Pac-Man”. Jack of all trades and me fell in love with the concept and waited for the Yankees to release their software so we could play too. But the software never came out and life went by.

In 2007, I reactivated the project and decided to develop the software myself. I gathered a dozen lunatics and we created Pacmanalyon. Even though we were not runners, we took over the streets of Lyon, where I lived at the time. I won’t get into the specifics of the rules (you can find everything on the website), you just have to know that Pac-Man has to roam through all the streets in the boundaries of the map in order to make the highest score. Of course, he should avoid being touched by ghosts, and when he eats a power pellet, he gets to be the hunter and has a chance to score even more by eating the ghosts. Yes, it’s basically grown-ups playing tag. We just ran faster, and dressed up in silly costumes.

Pac-Man Lyon - Photo Brice Robert

Pac-Man Lyon – Photo courtesy of Brice Robert (all rights reserved)

The trick is that each runner is remotely guided via mobile phone. Don’t forget this was made in the early 2000’s, so there’s no GPS or smartphone app involved. This was resolutely low-tech and the controllers communicated all the info from the HQ via good old Nokia phones. If I had to do it again nowadays, I’d do exactly the same thing because half the fun of the game is the communication between HQ and the runners. The other half is running, when you’re able to (which wasn’t my case at the time).

Have a look at the video that Music Daddy made with the footage I shot on my rollerblades, and laugh at me:

My first race: A nonsensical moment in Cluj Napoca

I have to bring you back to September of 2015. I had only been running for 2 or 3 months but I was really keen, probably because I was improving quickly, not unrelated to the fact that I had lost a lot of weight that summer. Rest assured, this did not prevent me in any way, shape or form, from drinking heavily. Quite the contrary.

I spent that week of September in Romania with my Brainy Owl, Lanky Pole and a bunch of friends, all invited by Draculito and Yoga Girl.  This is a very welcoming country where the price of a barrel of beer is cheaper than a pint of ale in London, and where the food is mainly based on pig fat, polenta and cream (didn’t I say it is VERY welcoming?). Our first night there was a Saturday. Obviously, we spent it pub-crawling in Cluj Napoca.

At some point, late in the night, our senses and our thinking were already deeply affected by the quantities of beer we had ingested, Draculito told us something along the lines of “Oh guys, I know you like running and there’s a race here tomorrow, I’m sure you can enrol in the morning, the website says it’s only about 6K”. Of course, we all answered “Hell yeah, let’s do it!” and went on with our nightly activities (mainly drinking and talking shit).

The next morning, Brainy Owl, Lanky Pole and myself were on the starting line. Hungover. I didn’t feel like warming up, but Lanky Pole pushed me to it and as soon as I began running, the hungover was disappearing. The atmosphere started to warm up too, mainly because of everyone mimicking the warm-up movements of the the guy and his bimbos on the stage, with some very loud Eastern European techno-dance. Then everyone moved towards the starting line and I started to be excited.

Go! I started running, aiming for a 6K pace and I handled it quite alright. It seemed obvious that most of the runners here had never ran a minute before that day and it felt good to overtake everyone, although some people were clearly training and impossible for me to overtake, or even keep in sight. End of first lap, my watch says I ran a bit more than 2K. OK, so there must be 2 more laps, let’s not kill myself just now, I’ll run faster for the 3rd lap. So I keep my energy for later (but I still sweat a lot). Arrives the finish line for the second time, but it is clear that there won’t be a 3rd lap, so I sprint as fast as I can, overtake a couple of couch potatoes and cross the finish line.

A young lady with very little clothes on puts a medal around my neck, I’m sure Brainy Owl will scold me for this, but I’m happy. I don’t give a toss about the young tart: I feel exhilarated by the race. I finished! Sure, I could have done a better time if I only had known there were only 2 laps but I feel fantastic! The atmosphere is electric, I ran, I did it!

Cluj-Napoca Crosul Companiilor 2015

Few minutes later, Lanky Pole crossed the finish line too. He ran so fast that when he finished the 2nd lap, the bimbos weren’t here to tell him it was all over, so he ran a third lap! Still, he almost stole the race and finished in the top 5 (out of a good thousand runners). Brainy Owl was quite happy too, and she ran a half-marathon the following week. Yeah, that’s who she is.

The next day, Yoga Girl organised a yoga session to relax us all. God, it was good to stretch! I’d recommend it to anyone after a race, especially after a silly race like this one.

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