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Monday, September 6, 2010

'QBRC' 20km Trail de Viroflay

Yesterday saw the start of the inaugural trail race in our lovely village of Viroflay. For those who may be curious I would like to take the opportunity to explain exactly where I live and what its like.

Agrandir le plan

Viroflay is a suburb in western Paris. It is close enough to the capital for sightseeing with visiting friends and family, and far enough away to not feel like you live in a city. I can jump on train and be at the Eiffel Tower in twenty minutes and the opulent Versailles Castle is a stones throw at just under four kilometres away further west. The characteristics of this area and its people really make it home for me, I have lived in many places all over the world but I really feel settled here. The amenities for children are plentiful and the opportunities for an outdoor lifestyle can be seen wherever you go. But I love it because of the trails. The area is very much in a basin and a panoramic scan reveals 360 degrees of tree lines and deep forests. Within these forests is where I spend my time training. An infinite sprawl of meandering and undulating routes that serve as a meditation and retreat from our self obsessed world of disposable clutter. So when the local running club (of which I am not a member) decided to make use of these earth given gifts by hosting an 11km and 20km race, I was pretty excited.

QBRC means Quelques Bonnes Raisons de Courir! Come again you say? The translation literally means Some Good Reasons to Run. Now the name definitely leaves a lot to be desired but the course spoke volumes about the amount of planning that went into it. The route was one 11km loop and back through the start where the 11km race obviously finished and we of the 20km race continued on for more punishment. Below is a map of the route itself.

(11 km lap at the top, last 9-10km loop at the bottom)

(prisoner #109, my bib for the day)

The atmosphere was already in full swing when I went to pick up my race number at 8am with Dylan and Pearl, considering the start was still two hours away it boded well for what would be a truly great ambiance throughout the event. So after the usual banter and stretches the Mayor was calling us to order, thanks was given (and deserved) to the organising committee and the Police Municipal who would be marshaling the roads. Just before we took off a guy approached me and said "I see you are running for Autism" and wanted to know with which organisation. I told him that it was pretty much a one man band and with the help of some really great people on the Internet and the efforts of myself and my wife we marched to the beat of our own drum. He was really taken aback by this as in his mind it was a unique idea. He told me of the struggles his family have had with their own son who is Autistic and soon to be 14 years old. So Etiene, if you are reading this please send me your e-mail address so we can head out for a run sometime.

At 10am the Mayor counted us down and we took off pretty rapidly. The very start involved a descent on the main road and the quad crunching pace was already starting to burn a bit. Once the group left the village into the first trail section it became apparent that hills were going to be the order of the day. Within the first five km's the ascending was pretty much non stop, winding trails doubling back constantly had strung the four hundred plus participants into one big serpentine like delineation. Curses were muttered under breaths by a few guys beside me but all in jest I must say. From here on in it was every man and woman pitting their will against the rising tracks. I was content to stay at a conservative pace as it was a training run essentially and I am building my distances ahead of the 24 in three weeks time. Having said that I wasn't exactly slouching either. The first aid station at five km's was a welcome relief as by that time the temperature had hit 26 degrees, a quick cup of water and a few hundred metres of flat before winding upwards once more.

(the start, me, right, with white head band and compression socks)

Along this first part of the route I was talking to a reall
y nice guy, whose name I didn't catch, about all sorts of things - including Autism awareness. He was running the ten km race and and was pushing along strongly. It was pleasant to have somebody to converse with as I spend most of my time running alone, before I knew it he was running on ahead of me and we were entering the town for the start of the second loop. Passing through the gymnasium car park was uplifting as music was playing and lots of people had gathered. I made a bee line for the tray of sliced oranges on a nearby table and quickly devoured three pieces. My favourite part of the race was coming, my back yard was just ahead of me.

When I run it always takes me a good forty five to fifty minutes to really get into the groove. Today was no exception. Once I hit the second loop everything synced, my mind was on the job and my stride was on cruise control. This part of the course was as hilly but with more twists and turns as opposed to the steep assaults of the previous ten km. These factors probably helped in forming a few groups and I found myself with seven other runners. I think the camaraderie was rejuvenating for all and pushed us on that little bit extra. But we did make an error and as the day played out we were not the only ones. We came to a fork in the trail and it was just a split of forty metres but at the end of one fork was a yellow arrow pointing us left, we took the other fork and began rapidly descending. I knew this could not be right as from my knowledge of the area we should have continued climbing for many more hundreds of metres before levelling off. I was towards to the rear of the group and yelled at the guy ahead to stop. Here we were, eight of us looking perplexed and sweaty wondering which way to go. I decided to run back to the top and try and figure it out, the rest of the guys waited for no more than two minutes as I yelled at them to climb back towards me. We had indeed taken a wrong turn and missed the yellow arrow. Back on track and after a collective sigh we decided there was work to be done. This minor mistake had given us an impetus to raise our game.

At the 15km point I met my friend Jean who was manning the aid station and is a member of the club. I called him a masochist (for devising such a course) between gulps of water and bid him adieu. Our group was still intact but I decided that now was my time to stretch it out a bit. I knew that some of the guys had done all they could and were beginning to slow. I asked the strongest looking one if he felt like having a bit of a gallop and he was with me. As I went to the front I was looking around every so often to see if anyone was still with me, suddenly no one. I was thinking this can't be right, I surely could not have dropped all of them. I hadn't, up to my right and just inside my peripheral vision I could see the guys snaking upwards. They had taken another wrong turn. I shouted at them and when they realised their mistake suddenly did a u-turn and bounded back in my direction. Later at the finish line the sign posting on the course would become a bone of contention for many. Once back on route it was time for me to go solo. With three km to go I upped it to top gear and was really happy with having enough left in the tank to sustain the effort I was expending. As I left the beautiful forest I could hear the familiar sound of music in the distance and out of nowhere a voice shouting that I had four hundred metres left. Sprinting down the hill back into the stadium felt awesome with people clapping and other runners cheering, it was a truly wonderful reception.

Afterwards I cheered on those behind me and checked the board for the results. My time was 1:40:51, 55th place overall. I am happy with that as I could have definitely pushed harder but patience is more important at this stage, the race of my life is not far way. I spoke to the Mayor for a bit who asked about Pearl and how things are progressing for her. I told him to find us a killer apartment or else, he laughed and said he's doing all he can. I met some friends and made some new ones. Beers and soft drinks were being served as well as snacks and fruit. Everyone agreed that it was a tremendous day and with the sun shining brightly overhead I left the beer drinkers behind and headed home (400 metres away, yes) to my lovely family and a hot shower. Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers, Police Municipal and locals who made it the inspiring day that it was. Considering it was the first one I think the club did a spectacular job, it was a difficult course but then again the most rewarding ones always are.

See you round the bend.



  1. Mally,you write a wonderful blog . I love the sound of your village .

  2. A very enjoyable read Mally, well done on the race, really feel like I'm on the course with ya while reading your blog. You're a tremendous auld writer! Keep it up :)

  3. Thanks so much Virginia and Therese, it makes it worthwhile to hear such amazing feedback.


I would love to hear your comments and feedback so take it away......

Running for Pearl

This blog is dedicated to my daughter Pearl who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in August 2009. My goal is to raise funds and awareness by doing what I love....Running.