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225 miles, five runners, four days. Would we make it?
You’ll likely know by now that I’m a keen runner, completing the London Marathon last year in a Boston Qualifying time of 3 hours and 26 minutes. So, when The Running Channel asked me if I’d like to be part of their team running all the way from London to Paris, I thought – why not?
Sure, it might sound like a mad thing to say yes to, but if my other challenges have taught me anything, it’s this: you can learn so much by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
But back to the challenge at hand: London to Paris. The premise was simple – a relay team of five strangers, covering 225 miles from Raynes Park in London to the Eiffel Tower over the course of four days. While on paper, a half marathon a day sounded easy in comparison to some other multi-stage races (that’s races that are more than one day), what we soon discovered is that the distance wouldn’t be the real challenge of this race – far from it.
So how did we fare? Did we eat our body weight in cheese sandwiches, did we survive on four hours sleep, and most importantly, did we make it all the way from A to B, injury-free? You’ll have to keep reading to find out…
Running from London to Paris: how it works
Run2Paris is the brainchild of three events organisers – Andy, Steve and Steve – with over thirty years of experience. They came up with the concept for the race knowing it was a popular cycling route, but they spotted a gap in the market for a fun yet achievable team event – the magic sort of challenge where you come together to make memories for a lifetime.
In their own words, they call the challenge “a serious road trip with a running problem” – an epic yet achievable adventure. So how would 2022 – the first ever iteration of the event, bar a few recces – pan out?
Team The Running Channel
Making up team The Running Channel, we had Sarah – production assistant at the channel and organiser extraordinaire, Mo – a speed machine and the most positive human you’ll ever meet, Sule – the baby of the group with no sense of direction but the most wicked sense of humour and a huge heart, James – an ultra pro who once ran a five-day dessert ultra and bravely tackled most 5am morning start legs with no complaints, and me.
We also had a pretty mega support crew – Bradley, Tito and Sarah – who we couldn’t have done it without. Not only did they drive the van – our changing room, fridge, kit cupboard and nap-pod for the four days – but they also brought constant high spirits, too.
Over four days, we’d tackle 225 miles in total and some pretty hefty elevation, too (no one mentioned the hills….). Here’s what I learnt along the way.
5 things running to Paris taught me
1. Paris is quite far
A half marathon a day doesn’t sound that far in theory, but when you’ve had around four hours sleep (or even less when you’re on a stormy campsite next to the beach – I’m looking at you, night one), it’s tough. Couple that with some seriously technical trail, steep elevation, rogue on-the-road nutrition, lack of proper warm-ups and yep, you guessed it, the miles take their toll.
My leg on day one was meant to be 14.4 miles but thanks to some complications with the navigation app, I ended up running just under 18 miles – plus, no one mentioned that my leg went up and down Ditchling Beacon, which I have endearingly referred to ever since as an actual mountain (it wasn’t far off).
That said, the camaraderie was what kept team TRC going. And it wasn’t just us – all nineteen teams taking part came together to make sure spirits were high and no one was left behind.
2. Runners are incredible
There’s something truly special about any community coming together, but I have a particular soft spot for runners and the Run2Paris participants were something else.
Over the course of the four days, I was amazed by the generosity, support, help and guidance from all 100+ of the other runners taking part – despite them being total strangers. Whether you needed water, gels, Vaseline or a jumper, someone was always on hand to help.
Not to mention the cheering. Run2Paris wasn’t like other closed road races – rather, for large stints you were self-navigating, running by yourself through British coastline or French countryside. That meant that seeing a team come out of their way to cheer you, push you on or offer you water was the biggest morale boost.
There’s nothing quite like a bunch of runners supporting one another through a slightly mad challenge. The community is incredible – as was the amount fundraised.
3. Teammates are everything
I’m normally a balanced diet and eight-hours-sleep-a-night kind of person but, fun fact: you can run on four to five hours of sleep and weird meals (translation: chocolate milk and more cheese sandwiches than I care to count) with the support of proper legendary teammates.
It’s funny – you forget you’re even tired when you’re whooping other runners through checkpoints, dangling out the window of the van with Clif bloks and water (sorry Mum), or belting The Climb.
I’d never met the team before the event but I ended the race with four friends for life. There’s something really powerful in coming together as one to tackle a team challenge and I felt very lucky that my team was this one.
4. The human body is pro at adapting
I’d had an accident with a chopping board just four days prior to the event which resulted in a fractured toe and made me question whether I’d even be able to run the race. But the human body is incredible and can adapt and overcome so much.
Running to Paris taught me loads about mindset, too – day two was a shorter stint, around six miles each so not too far, but day three was around 15 miles each on seriously tired legs. We were all dreading it, and anxious about self-navigating through the French countryside. That said, we tried to stay as positive as possible and all ended up loving our runs. The sun came out, the scenery was stunning, and we saw some beautiful sights along the way. What’s not to love?
Lots of protein (read our guide to the best protein powders, here) pulse rolling, hydration and food also helped us all cruise through, too.
5. You can do anything you set your mind to
And on that note comes my final valuable learning from Run2Paris, which I genuinely, wholeheartedly believe. If you’re reading this thinking you never could – you’re wrong. It’s the perfect entry-level challenge and I promise you’ll have the best time.
Keen to see how we fared or to get a little more inspiration? Watch the full documentary below… and happy running.
Like the look of Run2Paris? Our guides to running tips for beginners, training tips for marathon, and running benefits might be up your street, too. Interested in taking part next year? Head to the Run2Paris website for more details.