I was “accidentally” passing through Paris this weekend, on the way back from my uncle’s house (a mere 480km away), so grasped the opportunity to take part in the second Paris parkrun, Montsouris. Parc Montsouris is an urban, landscaped park in the south of the city; the name (kind of) translates as Mouse Mountain which brings a beautiful image of teeny French mice squeaking their way round a parkrun. This time last year, I attended parkrun du Bois de Boulogne and noted there was very little French presence, Montsouris had even less – the new runners’ brief was entirely in English and examining the names on the results list, four out of forty are French-sounding. The core team are British people living and working in Paris. I must admit this was a bit of a relief because I am no good at French or small talk and the thought of making small talk in French is just too much.
I arrived at one minute past eight – the park was already fairly busy and the loos were open (there are also portaloos dotted around the park – no one need experience a Paula Radcliffe Moment here!) There was, however, no sign of any parkrun so I wandered off to familiarise myself with Never Ending Hill and stick Samuel on top of various park furniture for photographic purposes. By the time I returned, there was a gaggle of familiar looking t-shirts and cowls congregating on a lawn, including Vicky and Derek from Whitstable and some other people whose names I have forgotten but whose home parkruns I can remember (Plym Valley, Southwark) and of course the ubiquitous Australians. We were all very relieved when at 8:45 a man in an Montsouris apricot top plonked a flag on the grass and dished out a couple of cones. Being a small parkrun, Montsouris can operate with just four volunteers (run director, time keeper, token dispenser and token scanner). It doesn’t even need yellow arrows to keep you on course – basically, if you end up outside the park, you know you’ve taken a wrong turn.
The course is three and a half laps and the good news is that that crucial half lap is all downhill, making this a net downhill course. The bad news (at least for those of you who do not like hills) is that the uphill goes on and on and on. It’s medium steepness and at least half a kilometre of it, and you do it three times. It seems to get a bit longer each time. According to the official page, it’s 26m each time, so a total of 78m for the whole course – which is more than Finsbury Park, Ally Pally or Hampstead! I have heard some suggestions that the course might be a smidgeon on the short side, but my Garmin didn’t think so, and clocked it as exactly 5km. You might want to stick to the centre of the paths and avoid the “racing line” if you want to avoid the dreaded 4.9k Strava activity, though. The course reminded me a lot of Dulwich, but Dulwich has an invisible hill — there is nothing invisible about Mouse Mountain!
On my third journey up Never Ending Hill I overtook a nice man from Edgbaston and the remaining kilometre we were neck and neck, like Mo Farah and Kipchoge in the Paris Marathon (I don’t actually think this has happened but please do not ruin my mental imagery). parkrun is, of course, definitely not a race but try telling that to someone when they are locked in to a vicious battle for thirty-fifth place! I ran the last 400m in two minutes and five seconds and crossed the line a full second before Alan from Edgbaston. Maybe all that lousy speedwork is doing something and I am actually developing a passable sprint finish.
My finish time was 34:50 which was my fourth fastest ever parkrun time – the faster three (Malahide, Victoria Dock and Bromley) all being on flat courses on cold days. So I was pretty pleased with myself. There was, however a little bit of calamity because some kind of complication with ghost parkrunners in the funnel meant everyone got the wrong time. I got 30:24, causing me to feel like Mo Farah for the second time that day, and Alan from Edgbaston got my 34:50 after all… Fortunately the team caught the gremlins and the time was rectified the next day. I wouldn’t have liked to have received a call up for the next Olympics based on an artifically speedy parkrun time.
Post parkrun refreshments took place in the delightfully French street corner cafe “Chin Chin”. This was reached by walking up Never Ending Hill for the fifth time that day. I can’t comment on vegan options as I only had a Coke, and then sloped off to the Eiffel Tower to collect my race number for the following day’s antics. But that will get a post of its own.