Hilary runs the hills of Paris-Versailles

Paris-Versailles 16km – 27 September 2015

by Hilary Norris

Paris-Versailles 16km 2015

Paris-Versailles 16km 2015by Hilary Norris

Last Sunday was a lovely fall day: bright and sunny, with a bit of crispness in the air. The perfect day for an easy jog in the woods, right? Well, for nine of us from Expatries, this meant a light 16km jaunt (with a 2km long/173 m high climb right before kilometer 8), starting at the Eiffel Tower and ending in Versailles.

Paris-Versailles is one of the bigger races in the Paris running schedule with about 25 000 runners. In its 38th edition, “La Grande Classique” also must be one of the longest-running (no pun intended) races in Paris as well. All of that to say: in terms of organization, they’ve got it under control. That being said, given the number of people taking part, it’s a good idea to get there early so that you have enough time to queue for the usual pre-race ritual of dropping off your bag and going to the toilet.

One thing that is a bit different about Paris-Versailles is that starting happens on a first come, first serve basis, and the waves go every minute (350 people in each wave). With the first wave going off at 10am, we met up near our usual core circuit training meeting spot at Emile Antoine at 9:15. Despite our best intentions to get in the departure area at a decent time, we managed to get a bit delayed waiting for everyone to assemble. But in true team spirit we left no man behind, and even managed to take a couple of pictures before hurrying off to join the other 24 990-odd runners who had gotten to the start line before us.

My only complaint about the pre-race of my own unpreparedness. The brisk, autumnal air was perfect for running, but not so much for waiting to run. Next time I will remember to bring a plastic poncho/garbage bag/old throwaway sweater so that I don’t get so cold!

Thanks to some determined weaving through the crowd we managed to not quite be the last ones to leave. Hugo, Philippe, Nils, Paul, Sudeep, Rajah, Rosario, Roberto quickly sprinted off into the distance, and I trotted along behind, wondering what this infamous two km hill would feel like. Soon enough I found out: not fun! Lots of people walked it; I’m sure I was going slowly enough that I could have basically been walking it myself. But the good turnout of people cheering (special appreciation to whoever was able to mobilize all of those teenagers – Scouts? Random schoolchildren? – to get up early on a Sunday morning to cheer a bunch of sweaty people as they struggle up an endless hill), the music, and my pride all kept me from breaking my rhythm, and finally the summit came into sight.

The horrible hill was definitely worth it, as not only we were rewarded with a few nice views along the way up (but really, was anyone able to enjoy the view at that point?) but we also got to run along some lovely trails and wooded areas. It was really pretty, and a refreshing change of scenery from running around Paris. There were a few more nasty inclines along the way after that first big one (which happened early, at kilometre 6), but nothing too nasty. 

At about kilometre 13 I had a bit of a chuckle when a woman running near me suddenly yelled out “Mais il est ou le chateau, c’est quoi ce bordel?” (“What the hell, where’s the castle already?) – it wasn’t THAT bad!

It wasn’t all that much longer and we reached the final stretch, coming into Versailles along the great big boulevard. I pushed myself to pick up the pace a bit, and finished at 1:41. Big congratulations to the rest of the team (especially Hugo & Philippe, who clearly wasted no time admiring the view to finish at 1:10 and 1:13), who waited patiently for me at the end.

All in all, it was a great race, and I would definitely recommend it!

Here are the results for the 9 Expatriés who ran the Paris Versailles 2015:

Hugo 1:10:31 (ranking 931)
Phil 1:12:59 (ranking 1 522)
Paul 1:21:42 (ranking 5 301)
Roberto 1:22:44 (ranking 5 934)
Rosario 1:23:38 (ranking 6 476)
Rajah 1:23:58 (ranking 6 715)
Sudeep 1:26:04 (ranking 8 078)
Nils 1:34:24 (ranking 13 322)
Hilary 1:41:44 (ranking 17 013)

Editor’s note on reason’s this race is unusual:

Possibility to give/sell your dossard to someone else and have their name, age etc. noted so race results are for them.

Possibility to be on a wait list with returned dossards put up for sale on Saturday from 17h.

Possibility of picking up dossard the morning of the race.

Volunteers on Fri and Sat get a free Preferential group dossard.

Most race day volunteers are girl and boy scouts from 30 groups in the Versailles area.

There are showers at the end of the course.

No one in the Paris-Versailles organization earns a single centime. All revenue is invested in the race.

This race has the lowest cost to the runner per km at 1.75 euros.