Allez le Lozi!

After three long months of training, 7am last Sunday morning found what I am pleased to say was only one Irish man in a Zambian tribal dress basking in the bright light of a beautiful Paris springtime morning. With my colleague Maria (official photographer for the day) still complaining about the early hour of our departure, we made our way along Avenue Foch towards the starting line. Before long she had forgotten the early hour and was enjoying the energy and atmosphere as tens of thousands of runners gathered under the Arc de Triomphe, trying to preserve some body heat with the pre-supplied binliners whilst finding creative solutions to the massive lines that had built outside the few port-a-loo’s erected along the Champs Elysees.

At 8:45 on the dot we were off! Well to be accurate the 100+ elite runners somewhere down the end of the vast avenue were off whilst the rest of us jogging plebs made our way gently forward inching towards the starting line. Thankfully with the advent of electronic chips that only start your personal race clock as you cross the start line, this was all conducted with the maximum of good humour and absolutetely no pushing and shoving. As the only person (male or female) running in an ankle length dress this came as something of a relief.

Once we were under way I immediately began to understand why people get addicted to these things. It certainly isn’t for the weeks of endless training, but dashing through the streets of Paris with lots of Parisiennes cheering you on is a Sunday morning pastime that is not without it’s charms. Clearly the Zambian attire attracted more than my fair share of attention, most of it positive – I certainly knew that any time I heard ‘Allez la jupe’ or ‘Allez Mademoiselle’ there was more than a passing chance that it was me and not some lady in a dress somewhere behind me they were cheering on. I like to think that my red beret drew a final extra ounce of Gallic support from the the many chic ladies of Paris who appreciate a good hat as much as any beautiful woman around the world.

A special word of commendation has to be given to Manon, my official videographer who not only managed to find me twice amongst the masses to grab some video but even sprinted ahead of me amongst the crowds to get a third passing shot. Her final cut will hit YouTube later this week.

The race itself proved to be remarkably painless, much more of a mental than a physical challenge  – all about keeping your head down and focusing on your pace rather than letting your mind wander as to how many miles might be yet left to go. By the time that I was beginning to feel any sort of discomfort, there was less than 10km remaining and I could focus every ounce of mental energy on convincing myself that slowing down with 35 of 42 km already completed was just plain ridiculous. So it was a pleasant shock to finally look up and see the clock read 3:32 as I passed the final bend and crossed the finish line.

No sooner had I come to a stop than my body convulsed through more emotions than a pregnant women. The first moments of elation and relief were followed quickly by a surprising burst of emotion. It proved hard to explain exactly why I was sobbing to the man tasked with cutting the electronic chip from my sweaty trainer. Finally my body decided that lightheadedness and nausea were the most appropriate response to the abuse I had heaped upon it in the preceding hours. Manon was all set to record my triumphant return to the Arc de Triomph but decided to switch off the camera as I found the nearest patch of grass and curled up into a fetal position, my face turning a lighter shade of pale.

Thankfully, about 30 minutes later all functions seemed to have returned to normal and I was able to hobble back to Isabelle’s, another kind colleague who provided both a much needed bath and some long awaited fine French wine to toast the occasion. Unfortunately, this was the first time I actually managed to meet up with my Zambian colleagues who had spent the preceding three hours standing near the finishing line holding a banner made specially for me by the team at N’gombe. They had watched a bunch of Africans romp home in close to 2 hours to claim both male and female titles, another 5,900 participants sprint, jog, walk and hobble across the line in slightly slower times but had still managed to totally miss one solitary Irish man in his Zambian dress collapse across the line.

Oh well, maybe they can catch me do it all again next year!

PS – Donations still very welcome, final funding update shortly.

PPS – Check out the YouTube clip for a video taste of the day

2 Responses to “Allez le Lozi!”
  1. Ali Watkins says:

    loved it – so proud – from one of those hat lovers 😉

  2. Mutale says:

    Hahaha I know I had already commented about the run and thanked you on behalf of our beloved Zambia and more specifically on behalf of N’gombe, I did didn’t I? But you are planning to do it again, that is new I will certainly see maybe just maybe I do a similar run here back home at the time and invite people from all walks of life. Oops my body just bumped my head trying to protest, but I think like you said its more of a mental process than it is a physical one.

    Thank you dude once again, it is just amazing I’m so moved by your gesture, it surely does take determination hey, I guess like the advert for Guinness beer goes ‘there is a drop of greatness in every man’ and yours is so very visible.

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