Channel-Hopping - The Forum Way...

It started as a forum plan last August - the next thing you know, eight forumites set out to run the Paris Marathon, the London Marathon, and the 400km in between...


Posted: 6 May 2003
by Gareth Davies


Glyn (foreground) and Steve - Day 2
Once in while a topic appears on the Runners World forums that you just can’t overlook. In August 2002 Tobie Meyer wrote:

"A couple of us are looking to run Paris Marathon on Sunday 6/4/03 and then continue on foot to London in time for London Marathon 13/4/03 - approx. 400km over 8 days. 2 Great marathons in 1 week plus a bit of fun in between! Anyone interested in joining?"

I’m sure at that time Tobie didn’t quite realise what he had begun…Eight months later nine athletes lined up on the start line of the Paris Marathon to begin an epic running adventure. In total, there were four British, three South Africans and two French runners. We had finally all met the previous evening at the event pasta party held at the Signarama store in Paris. Here there were discussions of training regimes, with huge weekly mileages the norm, all intermingled with traditional French hospitality.


Glyn, Mickael and Gareth running through one of the many Normandy villages en-route

The Paris Marathon was an ideal start to the challenge. Lining up with some 33 000 other runners on the Champs Elysee was truly awe inspiring. The marathon took in a scenic tour of the city with very vocal French support. Following the marathon, we all met up to discuss stories. Steve had taken it slightly more seriously than most with a stunning 2:55 marathon. The majority of the runners had attempted to preserve energy for the 7 stages and over 200 miles that lay ahead, whilst some had taken on the additional responsibility of acting as pacers for friends. The additional 4.5 miles to the accommodation left onlookers stunned as the group ran with space blankets in one hand and Paris medals in the other.


Mickael, Arrie (foreground) - Day 6 - first day in England

The carefully planned route for the following four days winded its way from Paris through the French countryside, through open fields and densely wooded forests. Unfortunately, along the way we managed to lose three of the runners due to injuries, though they still ran when they could. Accommodation had been arranged in all of the villages en-route through liaisons with the mayors of each village. This varied from comfortable single bedded accommodation through to the floor of a school gymnasium. However, all was gratefully received, and we were well prepared with sleeping bags and mats. After a 31-mile run, you really can sleep anywhere! We were overwhelmed by the hospitality that we received whilst running. The highlight, after the longest day as we approached the tiny village of Pommereval, we were presented with a crate of beer and a cheque, which was promptly donated to one of the event’s adopted charities. On the fifth day, we were forced to leave at 6 a.m. in order to catch the Hoverspeed ferry from Dieppe to Newhaven. However, at this time, it was pitch black and we had only the light of our support bike to guide us along the correct path. At sunrise came the first change in the weather from glorious blue skies, when it started to snow. This came as quite a shock for the South African contingent, many of whom had never experienced it before.


The group - On the outskirts of Paris

Upon finally reaching English soil, many thought that the worst was over. However, those uninitiated in the South and North Downs were in for a real treat. The severity of the climbs and descents took a severe toll on aching muscles and joints. The down hills no longer provided the welcome relief of the early stages, but were an additional source of discomfort. When times got tough however, the views compensated. This was England at its finest as the runners meandered their way along county roads with the sun on their backs. A 20% climb for well over a kilometre was a sting in the tail. The support bike was forced to get a lift up this part, fully laden with supplies, and whilst runners were sprawled over the road, she emerged from the back of a pickup truck smiling and with the camera in tow.


Stage finish at end of second day (l-r) Steve, Arrie, Paul, Gareth, Glyn, Mickael, Tobie, Thierry

For the whole trip, we were accompanied by our enthusiastic and exceptionally hard-working support crew. This was comprised of five people taking two cars and one bike. This meant that we were never more than a few hundred meters from an overwhelming selection of food, drink and first aid items. The piste de resistance however, were the incredible carbo-loading meals that were served every night, a true ultra-runners dream!

When we finally reached London, it felt like a dream come true. We arrived in Blackheath on the Saturday afternoon, knowing that only a marathon stood in the way of us completing the challenge. However, the prospect of ‘only’ a marathon to go really sounded appealing.


Glyn and Steve on the second day

The London Marathon lived up to everyone’s expectations. Feverish crowd support coupled with the encouragement of other runners pushed us home to complete the challenge. In total five athletes had completed the full distance. Steve was the first runner home backing up his sub-3 performance in Paris with a 3:04 in London. The remainder of the runners finished in a time more befitting of a challenge of this nature. After the customary photo shoots, champagne drinking and handshakes, the thoughts immediately turned to next year.

"Same again next year?"

"You bet!"

Read author Gareth Davies's day-by-day diary
Find out more at the event's excellent website
Photos: Sarah Belton. Many more photos


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The Paris To London Diary
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The Real Story Of The Marathon

london marathon, forum report, paris marathon, ultra
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