Last weekend in Paris it struck me that there are certain things we always seem to come across whenever we travel to a big race, something I was mulling over during both the Breakfast Run and the Marathon itself. Most of our running-related travel has been for marathons, however some of the same things have cropped up when we’ve run 5k races on holiday in Florida and one or two seem to apply to any big city race! Here’s what I’ve observed:
- Someone wearing a Boston Marathon jacket. I think I’ve seen this at just about every big city marathon I’ve travelled to, and to be honest if I ever ran Boston I’d be making sure everybody knew too!
- A group of Australians. Last year I spent much of the Paris Marathon listening to chants of Ozzy! Ozzy! Ozzy! Oy! Oy! Oy! and heard the same thing happening at this year’s Breakfast Run. Presumably the same group ran in the marathon, but I didn’t hear from them this time!
- Someone almost entirely held together with tape. Kinesio tape has been growing in popularity in recent years, particularly after a number of athletes wore it at the 2012 Olympics. Race expos often have stands where runners can have tape applied ready for the race, but sometimes you see people with so much tape on their legs you wonder if they should be running at all!
- Someone from either your home town or a nearby town. We’ve had all kinds of experiences with this one. In Paris this year we met someone we knew who used to live in our home town and a group of runners from a town about 20 miles away. In Florida we once met a runner from the town my parents were brought up in (he actually ran for the club my dad was once a member of and knew some of the same guys!). It really is a small world sometimes!
- Someone who knows Steve. I can’t even begin to understand this one, yet it keeps happening. Steve knows someone who now lives in Paris and she was volunteering at both the race expo and one of the aid stations. At one point we got a message from someone via social media, reporting that he had just visited the expo and had been chatting to this same volunteer. When she heard where he was from, she asked if he knew Steve! The day after the marathon we were
strollingshuffling along the Champs Elysées when we heard a shout of, “Steve!”. It was someone we only knew via social media who was also in Paris for the marathon, and having spotted Steve (to be fair, he was wearing his kilt at the time – it’s easier than packing it!) had come over for a chat. To be honest, we’ve met people Steve knows almost every time we’ve travelled somewhere, usually at the airport. Again, small world!
- Someone power walking round the course. We spotted a guy doing this during the Breakfast Run. Since we had started at the back, he was ahead of us but we did pass him. Even on an easy run like that we couldn’t be beaten by someone walking! There are often people who complete the marathon this way too – it is an Olympic sport after all!
- Crazy outfits. Sometimes it’s an individual, like the rhinos in London or that guy who did it in a deep sea diving outfit. Sometimes it’s a group effort. Last Sunday I spotted a group of charity runners whose outfit was basically a giant skirt wrapped around half a dozen runners. Each runner had plenty of room, but that must still be a tough ask as they could only ever go as fast as their slowest runner. A brilliant team effort! But there’s also a different kind of crazy outfit in the form of that person who totally misjudged the weather when they picked their race day attire. This usually manifests as either long tights and long sleeves on a scorching day or shorts and a singlet in cold, apocalyptic rain. Either way it makes for a pretty miserable run.
- Signs. I love the creativity of marathon signs. This year I saw the usual array of “touch here for power” (some in English, some in French), one comic sign reminding me sagely never to trust a fart after mile 20(!) and one more poignant sign declaring: “je suis Paris, je suis Bruxelles, je suis sportif”. I love the fact that people take the time to make such fantastic signs and come out in their droves to support the runners.
- Someone playing their music too loud. And I don’t just mean sound leaking from their earphones, I mean someone playing their music out loud, via their device’s speaker. Now I enjoy a bit of music while I’m running as much as the next person, but if you’re running next to someone doing this then you’d better hope they like the same kind of music as you or you’re in for a pretty long race! I caught up with someone guilty of this towards the end of the marathon last week, but luckily I was moving a bit quicker than them by this point and was soon out of earshot!
- Someone with a selfie stick/sports camera. Every so often I think a selfie stick might be a good idea…and then I remember that they’re really annoying in a crowd. Now I can understand someone with a sports cam strapped to their body where it won’t really get in their way, but since I get pretty annoyed hanging onto anything during a marathon, I’m not sure I’d cope with holding a selfie stick aloft for 26.2 miles. It’s definitely getting more common though – watch out for races being the next place such things are banned!
There really is nothing like a big race, particularly a marathon, to bring together a diverse range of people and provide all kinds of interesting sights. To me, that’s what adds to the atmosphere and makes the experience so memorable.
Now I’d love to know about your experiences of travelling to a race. Have you ever encountered any of the things on my list? What would you add? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below…