Sunday, April 16, 2000

TR London & Paris Marathons Part 2

TRIP REPORT
France and England –Part 2
4/6 – 4/16/00

Now where were we? Oh yes! Arriving in Stortford after a 7-hour drive from Versailles. Did I mention that it started to rain as we approached the North Sea coast and it rained from the time we exited the chunnel until we arrived home? Welcome to England!
That evening the Wallaces and Ballingers stayed at home to rest and enjoy a home-cooked meal by the renowned ‘Chef Jean’ and complimented by some of the excellent French wines that we imported and liqueurs from other European countries.
A quick phone call confirmed that the rest of the BBR had arrived in London and Debbie and Holly were on a final shopping binge before they caught their flight back to Dallas Wednesday morning. John had to leave also on Wednesday for a business meeting in Budapest, Hungary so Fred planned to catch a train to Stortford and reunite with the rest of us for a few days at the ‘Wallace Hilton’ where the rates were much cheaper and the rooms better.

The following morning Dick and Sue visited with an elderly friend in a neighboring town while I picked Fred up at the train station. Nicole unfortunately had to go to work. Work –yuk! What a waste of good time that could be spent doing things that you LIKE TO DO!
Anyway the four of us non-workers took off to visit Cambridge. We toured around the city and the various college campuses. The weather unfortunately was not pleasant – sunny for one minute and cold and rainy for the next fifty-nine – not a satisfactory ratio! So after a few hours we returned home to prepare for an evening with the Bishops Stortford Running Club. I took Fred and Dick to the club to experience an evening with the local runners while Nicole and Sue went off to a local pub to experience local pub food and beer. The club members led us on a fast 8-mile tour around Stortford and as Fred commented “every hill in Stortford”. Actually it was only our regular route but Fred doesn't like hills. After the run and a quick shower at the club, I treated Fred and Dick to a massage by the club masseuse Sue – I call her ‘Magic Fingers Sue’ because she always finds some muscle that is hurting even when you think everything is fine. She didn’t let me down as she made all three of us writhe and scream in pain – but we all felt better after she was done!
Then we drank beer and talked with the club members whom explained to Fred and Dick that they weren’t sure whether the club was made up of “runners with a drinking problem” or “drunkards with a running problem”? I think both Fred and Dick were impressed with the camaraderie of the club and the participation for a small town like Stortford.

The following day (Thursday) turned out to be a rest or recharge day. With the weather still very inhospitable and everyone needing to do laundry we just lazed around the house and recharged our batteries for the next onslaught of activities. And of course another home-cooked gourmet meal by Chef Jean complimented by his exquisite wine cellar and liqueur cabinet –all part of the Maddog pre-marathon diet

Finally it was time to swing into action again! On Friday morning I accompanied the BBR into London on the train and they checked into their hotel – and indeed did confirm that the rooms were much better at the ‘Wallace Hilton’. The hotel selected in Paris by Marathon Tours was much better than the one in London. After they checked in we departed for Covent Garden to see if we could find tickets for ‘The Lion King’. I had tried to buy tickets in advance but the musical was sold out through October 2000. I didn’t hold out much hope but we proceeded directly to the Lyceum Theatre to see if they had any returned tickets. No luck! So we walked around Covent Garden until we found a discount ticket vendor to determine what shows he did have tickets for. As a joke I asked if he had six tickets for the Lion King and was shocked when he claimed that he had six tickets in a row in the balcony or Grand Circle for the evening performance. Sure enough – he did! He charged a 100% premium but we still jumped on them! Then I made a quick phone call to Nicole (still at work – yuk!) and asked her to meet us at the theatre. She wanted very badly to see the Lion King before we left London.
Then we were off to the marathon exhibition to pick up our race packets and visit the booths. It turned out to be a hectic day as we had to rush back to the hotel to meet and inform John that he was going to the Lion King and then meet Nicole at the theatre for dinner.
The Lion King is a great show. The sets and costumes are spectacular and according to Fred whom has watched the video many times with his six year-old son, follows the story line fairly closely.

On Saturday I left the BBR to do their own thing in London while I caught up on some personal chores at home. The weather was still miserable (cold and rain) and I have done the city tour too many times already. Apparently so had most of the BBR as they decided to spend the day indoors at Harrod’s! On Saturday evening I rejoined the group for the pasta feed and bunked out in Fred and John’s hotel room so that we could all catch the bus together to the start line. The marathon starts in Greenwich and Marathon Tours provided a charter bus to take their clients to the start. On Saturday we had reluctantly accepted the fact that the weather was going to be miserable during the race and were prepared to run in cold weather gear.

Boy, were we pleasantly surprised to wake up on M-Day to SUNNY and DRY skies! By the time the race started we had stripped down to shorts and a singlet! I forgot to mention that we all ran both marathons in a Texas-flag singlet that brought us many cheers from spectators that recognized the flag!
The marathon starts in Greenwich and the course passes many of the major tourist sites in London such as the Cutty Sark, Canary Wharf, the Tower of London, over the Tower Bridge, along the Thames River, past the London Eye, Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings to finish in St James Park.
Again we pledged that it was all or none – especially for the second one. Remember, I was escorting three running virgins on the second leg of their first-ever back-to-back marathons. Thus our primary goal was that everyone finish –the secondary goal was to beat 3:45 and our Paris time! And London did not want to make it easy to accomplish goal # 2! Although they used computer chips for timing just as Paris did the big difference was that the official time started with the gun and not the actual time that you crossed the start line (most races using computer chips start your time when your chip crosses the start line). It took us 02:15 to cross the start line plus 09:41 for the first mile so we had a huge time penalty to overcome to accomplish goal # 2. Again there were 30,000+ runners and the narrow streets squeezed the runners together and made it very difficult to stay together. But we used the same strategy that worked in Paris and always had each other in sight. We made up some of our penalty time in the first half and continued the strong even pace throughout the second half. John started to fade a bit after mile 20 (he hadn’t received the benefits of Magic Fingers Sue’s recuperative massage) but we took turns pulling him along with encouragement and lies. The last 10K are all willpower and mind games and we just helped him fool his mind. Much to his credit he sucked it in, focused on overcoming the pain and kept up with us! All four members of the BBR crossed the finish line hand-in-hand in 3:44:22! The three virgins accomplished an amazing feat –they not only ran the second leg of their first back-to-back marathons faster than the first but they ran a negative split in that second marathon. They should be very proud of themselves! As we walked back to the hotel through Hyde Park John commented “Well, we have just experienced a brief sample in the life of a Maddog – and once is enough!”

After showers and a short rest, Nicole and Sue joined us and we enjoyed a bottle of French Champagne to celebrate our success! Then we headed for the nearest pub to eat greasy food (to replace all the fat cells burned during the race) and wash it down with beer. Properly replenished we headed for the London Eye or as Dick calls it “the big-ass Ferris wheel”. I was able to reserve tickets in advance so we walked straight on for our ‘flight’ as they call it. The views of London are spectacular from the Eye. And unbelievably the weather was still cooperating with us –it remained sunny and dry until about 5 minutes after we got off the Eye and then it started to rain again. Thus we decided to tube it back to the hotel and find a restaurant close to the hotel for our victory dinner. Although we were all very pleased and wanting to celebrate it was a quiet dinner because fatigue was setting in. So we said our final good byes at the hotel and parted ways.

It was a fun time and I hope an enjoyable and memorable experience for all members of the BBR and their spouses who participated in this adventure. Maybe I will find out later this year as I threw a parting challenge out – there is an inaugural marathon in December 2000 in Tampa Bay (just up the road from our new home in Sarasota) the week after the Dallas White Rock Marathon- why don’t we do both????

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