Ten years earlier Ed had driven from South Wales to France in his first VW Camper Van, with fellow students Ando, Stu Mac and Lithe Girl. The attraction was Lithe Girl, and an adventure, it was not running a marathon.
Passing the Student Union Bar they were waved down by a friend-of-a-friend who leaned in the window, saw Lithe Girl and asked their purpose. This person guaranteed he knew where his passport was and, if they passed his house, he’d be in-and-out-in-a-minute and would share petrol costs. He probably just wanted a lift home – and the chance to sit next to Lithe Girl.
They let him in, drove to his house and waited ninety seconds before mirror, signal and manoeuvre into the afternoon traffic and into second gear and . . . the slide-door opened and yer man commando rolled into the back with a little red book in one hand and a tooth brush and a bag of crisps in the other.
These were the days when nothing mattered. They had no idea what they were getting into. No-one had done any proper training or preparation – which was usual – their bodies were young and their minds immune. They were unable to sit still, or socialise or do anything really, unless they were drinking and smoking.
They arrived in Paris a bit pissed and slightly stoned and decided to go drinking and smoking. They were having so much fun they no longer cared who slept next to Lithe Girl. Oh shit! Where was Lithe Girl?.. The Student’s Union are not going to like this one bit, and she’s probably got parents…
They were relieved to find Lithe Girl safely locked inside the van that was parked illegally near race headquarters. Phew! They slept on park benches roughly surrounding the van.
Not even 8 o’clock in the morning and very hot – Lithe Girl looked sensational! The weather was beautiful too. It was time to get their game-face on. They needed to find some water, breakfast and the start line.
They found water.
Regarding breakfast. they were not runners per se but any eejit knew diet was crucial and Paris was not good at supermarkets. Lithe Girl managed to find half a litre of pulverised fruit while the lads found a bakery where yesterday’s twenty-two inch strawberry flans were on special offer.
They had one each.
They found the start line.
Now it was really hot and there were a lot of people running through baking streets and, occasionally, leafy avenues…Ed got separated from the others…at the half-way point he was on course for a sub-three hour marathon…
His next memory was Parisian Strawberry Flan. Another one was stopping in a tunnel under the River Seine, it was blissfully cool. He pissed a small black worm of urine that held its shape as it hit gutter, and wriggled off.
Lithe Girl picked them up one at a time from the finish line and drove them home.
After that Ed hung up his trainers. Metaphorically speaking. Actually they were covered in blood – they never did fit him very well – so he binned them.
a marathon in Paris is an excerpt from RUNNING CONTRA DICTION and the flight of a soul athlete – available on Amazon and all good bookshops