I was invited to Paris to participate in the Orange Night Run and form a team. The marathon relay was the most incredible running experience in Paris since I first ran the half marathon in 2014. Here is my race recap.

Orange Night Run 17.06.23

I have done virtual relays, track relays and Summer League club relays but never a marathon relay. When Team Orange Running invited me to captain a team of 5 for the inaugural Orange Night Run I couldn’t refuse. The rules required the team to have two women so I immediately reached out top long time friend Jean-Marc for recommendations. He quickly responded suggesting Mana and Jawed and I invited Sabine. I received the link, registered everyone, they received emails and has to finalise by verifying the information which I had submitted. That was that and once submitted it could not be changed. We were going to run the Orange Night Run and by participating we had an opportunity to win bibs for the Paris 2024 Mass Participation Marathon, which will allow amateur athletes to run the same route as the Olympic marathon by night on August 10th 2024.

Just after 6am Saturday morning I caught the tube to Kings Cross St Pancras to take Eurostar to Paris. It was around 20 degrees and there, was a fresh breeze and the trains were surprisingly busy. On arrival the queues were so long that I decided to skip picking up breakfast at joined the queue. Fortunately I was ahead of schedule and cleared passport controls with around ten minutes to spare. I walked to my carriage, located my seat, got comfortable and watched my tablet to entertain myself. It wasn’t long before I succumb to tiredness and has a well-deserved nap. I awoke refreshed and counted down the time to arrival. The train smoothly pulled into Gare Du Nord shortly after 11am.

After leaving the Eurostar Terminal I queued to purchase Metro tickets and waited for Sabine to arrive. We caught up and took the Metro to Ternes where I would collect the team’s race pack from the Orange Store. Inside the pack were our t-shirts, race numbers, baggage numbers, food voucher, wearable lights and an adjustable wearable baton. I made my way to Gare Du Lyon to check into my hotel and napped once more. I woke up alarmed worried I was late for the meeting time but I was okay. I showered, put on my race outfit, double checked I had everything and caught Line 1 from Gare Du Lyon to Hôtel de Ville. There I saw team mate Mana who waiting and we introduced ourselves to each other. Sabine arrived thereafter and then Jean-Marc. We headed inside, cleared security and met Jawed who was waiting inside by the phone recycling station.

The race village was buzzing, there was a DJ, magicians, four food trucks, a stage, a VIP lounge and technology zones one which was dedicated to mobile phone recycling. Orange is France’s leading telecom company provided in a range of services including mobile phones, phone lines, broadband and other connectivity services. I think it is really cool that they have Team Orange Running and are committed to organising events for runners and the community. I diligently distributed the contains of the race pack to the team, they put on their race numbers and placed our bags on the luggage track. We then took Mana to the start as she was running the first stage (5,274 km). The following legs would be run be second Jawed (10,548 km), third Sabine (5,274km), fourth Jean-Marc (10,548 km) and fifth myself finishing with (10, 548 km). After we left Mana we headed up the baton exchange pens where would wait for each other.

On the way we passed water, snack stations and toilets a plenty. There were lots of facilities and as we walked to the pen in the for 176 I realised there were like 1,000 teams each with 5 members. This event was a very big one and much larger than I anticipated. It took us a while to get to our pen as from the time we arrived we were seeing people we recognised and as you are aware it is difficult to do brief catch ups with friends and people that you haven’t seen for a while. We finally made it to our pen, situated ourselves and a waited Mana. We received text messages to notify us that our team member was 500 metres away which gave us time to return to the pen and prepare for exchange. We capitalised on this waiting time by hydrating, snacking, catching up with people and mentally preparing ourselves for our leg.

It was still hot and, humid and in my opinion far from ideal running weather. I silently reassured myself that surely it would be cooler when I run later in the evening after sunset. Mana turned that corner and Jawed was there ready to received the baton and placed it on his ankle. It may not have been the smoothest transition but on subsequent handovers the runners would stop and a member of the team would remove and fit the baton. It would become polished like a human Formula 1 pitstop! Jawed sped off into the distance, we congratulated Mana and she went to get some well-deserved hydration and rest with job her accomplished. Jawed passed looking strong and relaxed and didn’t seem to take long before we got that text saying he was 500 metres away. He shortly turned that corner and then the baton was handed to Sabine and she accelerated off down the road.

Sabine came around that corner to complete her 5km leg and the baton was handed over to Jean-Marc. He paced off with urgency to cheers from the team. The same cheers and enthusiasm that we had been giving each other all evening. I was darker, cooler and subsequently the temperature had fallen. This is where the lights became visible with runners attaching them to their trainers or putting them around their wrists. I stayed in the pen awaiting my handover and caught up with Jocelin who was visiting and the cool Influencer Team from Team Orange. I didn’t have the phone which the notifications were being sent to so wasn’t aware of his position on the course. The team returned and I realised that my moment of truth was near. After over 4 weeks of not running, recently recovered from my bicycle crash injuries I was not sure if I could run the course let alone complete it. Jean-Marc turned the corner, I moved into position, congratulated him received the baton and ran.

I desperately tried to find my rhythm as I ran down Quai Hôtel de Ville with the River Seine to my left and exchange pens to my right. I than turned right to run by Hôtel de Ville, a spectator stand and then looped back to cross the finish line for the first time. I then turned left, right and then descended to run on Voie Georges Pompidou with the Seine on my left. I was struggling with both my breathing and the heat as I made my way passing under Pont Notre Dame and Pont Au Change. I finally settled in close to Pont Neuf but shortly after we entered the Tunnel des Tulleries which was dark and very warm. The tunnel was animated by music being played by a DJ and minimalistic lighting with seemed to make the graffiti appear luminous and dance. Although it was dark outside it took my eyes time to adjust to the lighting in the tunnel and I found it the most challenging part of the course.

Although it was night there was light at the end of the tunnel in the form of relief by a gentle breeze and the illuminations of the Eiffel Tower. Pont Royal was behind me, The beautiful Jardin de Tulleries was to my right, the River Seine to my right shimmering to my left and a good few kilometres ahead of me. Just before Place de Concorde I did a left turn and head east along the route I had come. I took full advantage of the air and then before I knew if it I was approaching Pont Royal and descending back into the tunnel. I focused, tried to lengthen my strive as much as possible and get through as quick as I could. When I reached the other side I greeted the DJ and made my way back along Vois Charles Pompidou. Just before Pont Louis Philippe I climbed careful to avoid the cobbled and made that turn. I got close to our exchange point to see Sabine with a cup of water as she has promised and shouting words of encouragement in French. I took the cup, said thank you and kept it moving.

When I went to turn into Hôtel de Ville once more I saw Mana and Jean-Marc cheering me on. I ran past the superb group of spectators and crossed the finish line for the second time. To be honest from here it was a struggle and a blur. I knew what to expect from the course but I didn’t know what to expect from my body. I pushed on feeding off the cheers from the spectators and shouts of allez! I heard music, saw the DJ and knew that I would be running through that tunnel once more but for the final time. This time the tunnel seemed darker that before, maybe it was or perhaps my senses being overloaded. I made it to the turning point, saw the Eiffel Tower resemble a lighthouse with it’s rotating light and headed back the way I came for the final time. I tried to dig deep and it took a lot of energy to thank those who were cheering me on. I reached the final climb, made the mistake of running on the cobbled road and quickly moved to the pavement. I turned, ran past the exchange pen for the final time and tried to widen my strides. As I turned the corner to run by Hôtel de Ville I saw Mana and Jean-Marc once more and looped round to the finish line. I dug deep for a sprint and finished, crossing the line with my arms in the air. I took some photos and Sabine appeared and congratulated me.

We headed to meet the others but were directed a long way around. On the way we saw a massage tent which had a long queue so we decided to visit the osteopath tent next door. It was my first time having an osteopath work on me. I didn’t have a cracking time but I sure felt a whole lot better leaving the tent than when I did when I entered it. The team found us and we went to collect our bags from the luggage truck. We then went to the village, caught up with each other and people we know and used our food voucher to get something to eat. The music continued to play in the background and then there was a presentation on stage where the winners of entry for the Paris 2024 Marathon were announced. We were not lucky but people we know were. Overall the night was superbly organised and incredibly smooth considering it being the first edition and there being so many people. I am very proud of team Run Smart comprising Mana, Jawed, Sabine, Jean-Marc for completing the race in 3:15:05. I told everyone I wanted to enjoy and not push too hard and they did. I walked back to the hotel but didn’t get to sleep until after 2am as I was still buzzing from the evening’s events. Hopefully this thoroughly enjoyable race will return in 2024.

There was not a medal but I am sure the memories will last as long!

Thanks to Team Orange Running for the invite and hospitality. What an incredible team!

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Rey Smart

Personal Trainer from London



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