European Report #1: Running Rings Round Reims
(This post goes out to my wife Posie who, on Sunday November 5, will be running the New York City Marathon for the first time. Good luck, Posie: we know you’ll have a great time.)
The best way to see a new city or town is not by taxi, bus, or train. It’s on foot. I prefer doing so at a brisk pace – by slipping on my Asics, grabbing a map from the hotel’s front desk, and taking in the scenery while breaking a sweat. The advantages are manifold: not only do I get to explore more of my new destination in less time than I would by walking, but I enjoy the sense of narrrative that comes with the exercise; it’s almost like seeing a city from a train, except I can reach out and touch it. In the last few years, since taking up distance running, I’ve explored (parts of) Paris, Nîmes, Madrid, and Athens this way, and on this last European trip, I added Reims to my collection. Lacking time to visit the city’s surrounding vineyards, I chose, for the sheer completist hell of it, to run past all the Champagne houses listed on my hotel map. Krug, Louis Roederer, Mumm, Lanson, Veuve Cliquot, Piper Heidseick, Pommery, Taittinger… I’ve seen them all. At least from the outside of their impressive gates, I have.
In ticking off these Champagne houses on the north, east and southern sides of the City, I passed the occasional other runner, usually exchanging the international nod of recognition and respect. Then, from Veuve Cliquot, I headed across the City’s southern tip and joined a trail by the canal that forms its the western exterior. Suddenly I was amidst other runners. Dozens of them. Maybe even hundreds. I’d like to say they were of all ages, races and both sexes, but truth is, most were males, like me, somewhere between 30 and 60. They weren’t casual Sunday joggers either: most of them were kitted out in proper shoes and shirts, and breaking their own sweats. It occurred to me then that this is why we see so many French at the New York Marathon every year – because they take their running seriously. It’s since occurred to me that a fair few of these locals might well have been training for the New York Marathon. They talk about the French paradox – how a people that smoke and drink as much as they do seem to live so long. Maybe they just also remember to exercise.