Last week, my FitBit Semi de Paris half marathon training program required a 10km race. I could not find a local one, but did find a 13.6km race this past Sunday only 15 minutes away. The price was right (9€) along with the location, so I said close enough and signed up. It took me about a day or two to realize the odd distance but they advertised a ‘royal buffet’ at the end and thought, “yes, this is the race for me”!
La Ronde du Val Saint Pierre, I realized is a race in a series of races put on throughout the year with a high attendance of local running clubs. This meant fast runners, a lot faster than myself. With only 574 participants, my main goals were to try to test my speed for as long as I could and to not come in last. I’m proud to admit, I achieved both!
The 10am start began in a small village called Mécleuves, 15 minutes south of Metz, France. Parking was tight and you could see several of the neighbors looking out the windows trying to figure out where the mass of people were coming from. A small community center that even had coffee to start and bathrooms with no lines, made the bib pick up, which included a paper time tracker to attach to your shoe, quick and flawless. To my surprise, we even received a simple, black, cotton long sleeve shirt which I graciously offered to Julien for Valentine’s Day. Love ya babe 😂😍.
The morning was cold (32F/0C) with a light, wintry mix to start. Not terrible conditions but the winds were somewhat unwelcome with gusts up to 15mph/24kph. The race began on time as we started with a gradual uphill into headwinds, the first of many. Attempting to stay in the middle of the pack, I quickly realized I’d need to put my best foot forward as I was up against experienced racers.
The course moved along in and out of quiet neighborhoods and picturesque countryside of surrounding villages (Chesny, Peltre, Jury, Frontigny). However, the winds and rolling hills questioned my abilities to keep up. I tried not to think too much about that and focused on my breathing and rhythm. With little markers at almost every Km (there may have been a few I personally missed), the time was passing rather quickly when all of a sudden we hit our first of two water stops at 5km in (2nd at 10km). The station consisted of a couple of table with several volunteers handing out water cups plus additional options for juice and cola, and plenty of snacks including granola bars, oranges, bananas, crackers, cakes, and sugar cubes. I thought, “Sweet. If this is just the water stop, I can’t wait for the buffet”!
At the 11km point, you pass through a tiny, one person at a time, have to duck your head tunnel, which luckily at this point the crowd was spreading thin. The final push of the last 2 km seemed to be all uphill. This was tough. I had a girl riding my left shoulder with a neon pink hat that, unknowingly to her, pushed me to keep going because I easily wanted to slow my pace on this uphill but I did not want her to beat me, so I chose to push. At the top of the hill was the race photographer where he caught photos of you either completely exhausted or thrilled to have reached the top. My photo was a small combination of both.
Finally finishing the loop course back at the small community center, I was thrilled with my time of 1:13 as it was my first ever race finish with a sub-9 minute per mile pace (8:44mpm/5:24mpk). No medals but all the women received a rose at the end. Besides I was anticipating the ‘royal buffet’. My hangry side got the best of me as the buffet was exactly our water stops. No pizza, pasta or champagne or bagels as I had been envisioning. With a PR in my 5k and 10k times I tried not to think about my hunger pains and irrational buffet beliefs and grabbed a piece of cake and tea and made my way back home.