Three French Hens …… sorry Three French parkruns! (parkrun tourism)
Race Reports by Cathy McKeown
Our aim this holiday was to get me back into running after being on the bench since last November
and what better way than to partake in a little parkrun tourism. As there aren’t that many parkruns
in France (because a). they don’t like getting up early to run on a Saturday and b). they think it is a
proper race so therefore need to have the requisite medical certificate – so we were told) we chose
parkrun Chateau de Pierre de Bresse – 23.06.18
Our overnight stop was in Dijon (no we didn’t buy any mustard!) and Chateau de Pierre de Bresse
was about an hours drive away so it was an early start on a beautiful sunny morning. We found the
town of Pierre de Bresse and parked up with no issues, now was the task of trying to find the loos.
The website mentioned they were about 100mtrs away from the chateau, but after asking a local in
pigeon French I was unable to find them, so crossed legs it was!
You can’t really miss the location of the parkrun as it is on the main street of the town and you
access it through huge gates. To the left is a little deer park, you walk a little way and then the
chateau is also on your left – a most stunning building to have at the start of a run. A few runners
were congregating but most of them looked like tourists from the apricot vests they were wearing.
The briefing was done in French/English – basically it was a 3 lap course through woodlands (mind
the tree roots) and along gravel paths.
This is a lovely run with most of it in the shade of the woods – some slight inclines but nothing too
strenuous – you run past some horses, a small lake and the back of the chateau (3 times). The
start/finish is in the same place – although the course did measure short at 2.93 miles (4.72 kms) so
they could do with extending it a little! There were only 2 volunteers at this event – as it is just a
loop ran 3 times I guess you don’t really need any more and it was well signposted. After the run we
went for a well deserved hot chocolate in the local café for where most of the runners congregate.
28 runners participated in this event, I was 12th overall in a time of 27:48 and 1st in my age category.
parkrun Divonne Les Bains – 30.06.18
Having ran parkrun Divonne Les Bains twice last year we knew what to expect and as we were
staying in the town for just over a week we had plenty of time to get some practice in ahead of the
parkun. Divonne Les Bains is a town in the Jura region of France and is situated right on the
France/Swiss border (you can actually see the border post from the lakeside).
One good thing about this course is that the loo is situated a couple of hundred metres from the
start – one of those self-cleaning loos (it had been a bit ‘bunged’ up during the week but luckily it
was nice and clean on parkrunday!) Once again there were a lot of tourists here and the briefing was
given in French/English – with a diagram of the course to show you where to go. It’s not really that
difficult as it’s an out and back run on the closed road at the side of the lake, starting with the lake to
your right hand side. When you get to about 2kms you are directed slightly to your left on to a
gravel path which runs parallel to the local race course, you are only on this for about 500mtrs and
then directed back on to the closed road doing a U turn for the return leg of the run with the lake
now on your left hand side.
This course is very deceiving as it looks flat but there is a slight incline (only very slightly) on the
outward leg and when you return the sun is in your face from about 3kms until the end. I did walk a
bit on the return leg and noticed one of the volunteers was a lady who we met last year – we
exchanged ‘hellos’ and I caught up with her afterwards when we went for a hot chocolate in the Full
Moon café in the town centre (about a 10 minute walk away).
54 runners participated in this event, I was 27th overall, 8th female in a time of 27:44 and 2nd in my age category (4 minutes slower than my best time there last year)
parkrun du Bois de Boulogne (Paris) – 07.07.18
For logistical reasons we decided to stay outside of Paris centre on the return leg of our holiday but
right at the very end of metro line 9 on the east side – which was very handy. We hadn’t really
decided which of the Paris parkruns we would do until we could sort out the best way to get to both.
In the end we decided on parkrun du Bois de Boulogne which just happened to be at the other end
of the metro line we were on – so no need to change stations (and we did a recce of the route and
found out where the start was the day beforehand). Travelling to parkrun de Montsouris would
have meant getting the metro and a bus ride and although it looked nearer on the map it would
have been a nightmare to get to.
It was a good job the hotel breakfast started at 6.30am as it was another early start for us as it was a
45 minute journey and a little 15 minute walk to the parkrun start. En-route we found some loos
(again the self-cleaning sort) which were not far from the entrance to the park at the Hippodrome
entrance (we had tried to find loos the day before with the aid of the Bois de Boulogne park map but
with no success).
As we arrived at the park we saw an English car drive up and a guy wearing an apricot top – park
runners we thought – so at least we were in the right place. As we waited more runners appeared
(more tourists), then a chap wearing a 50 parkrun milestone t.shirt arrived. He was actually English,
lived in Paris, spoke exceptionally good French and was one of the volunteers so he gave us the
lowdown on the course, and had a laminated diagram which he was showing everyone where the
turns were. There was the official briefing from the Run Director in pigeon English – but it didn’t
matter as I think by now we all knew where we were going.
The course was mainly on tarmac with some trail bits, there was one big loop starting off going downhill, turn right and go up hill and veer round until you come to where you would be finishing, you then turn right and go downhill coming to the end of the downhill you started at …. so now you have to go up it! To be honest it wasn’t that bad (they were slopes not hills) but as it was already scorchio we could have done without the ‘ups’! Then there were 2 smaller loops of up/down running until you came to the finish in the shaded bit of the park. I kept pace with an English lady who happened to have graduated from Warwick Uni many moons ago and this was her local parkrun, we kept to-ing and fro-ing with one another on the course as we went up/down the slopes.
36 runners participated in this event, I was 16th overall, 4th female in a time of 25:48 and 1st in my age category. I finished almost 2 minutes faster than parkrun Divonne Les Bains the previous week and consequently threw up at the end – not a pretty sight – a combination of the heat and speed I think! Although the official records show the above times/placings for me the lady I was chatting to came in a few seconds ahead of me but we have the same time and she was in the same age category – so not sure what happened to the results as she should have been credited with 1st in age category!
We had heard from the Run Director at Divonne Les Bains (who had helped set up parkrun du Bois
de Boulogne) that Bois de Boulogne has been struggling to get volunteers over the past few months
and there was talk that it may have to stop – so best check on the parkrun website if you intend
going there to make sure it is still on http://www.parkrun.fr/boisdeboulogne/
Of the 3 parkruns we took part in over the holiday our favourite was parkrun du Bois de Boulogne –
it’s just a pity that there aren’t more of them in France!