As you know, this year I made one of my dreams a reality: I ran the Canyon de Chelly Ultra in Arizona. Simply put, it was amazing. I managed to get a prize (a lovely jacket) that I keep wearing all the time (I am actually wearing it now while I am writing as it’s freezing in bloody London). What is the Canyon De Chelly Ultra? Well, in case you don’t know, it is a 34-mile race in the Navajo nation, where you first run in the sand and then climb up a canyon, and finally go back to where you started. You can read about it here: http://frenchyummymummy.com/running-in-the-wild-wild-west-the-canyon-de-chelly-ultra/ I have run several marathons, ultras and 100k races over the last couple of years. Yes, despite my ripe age (and two children, a business and a husband who spends all his time travelling the world, but hey, we’ve all got our own stories). I keep being asked how we ultra runners do it. The thing is, I have no idea. I am just an average runner (serious runners who read this are probably way faster than me). My only edge is this: I don’t give up. This made me wonder: what do ultra runners do differently? Are we really made of sterner stuff? Here is what I could think of:
1 For us, distance is relative: a 5k run is a not even a run, and a 10k run is a short run. A short long run starts at 10 miles. A long run is anything up to 100 miles. A friend of mine told me that she was a bit tired and had only run 4 miles that day. That’s just us.
2 We are eternal optimists. Or at least I am. For instance, when I found out that I was going to run in the sand, I trained in Hyde Park, in London, where the Royal Horse Guards train their horses. Needless to say, I was way undertrained: the sand in Arizona was much, much softer (and lasted slightly longer than the 300m in Hyde park). But I didn’t worry. I should have, but I didn’t. That’s just me. My calves survived. Just.
3 We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We know that we are going to face at least one massive low, and want to quit at some point during the race. We push through. It’s alright, we just have to accept it and get to the ‘other side’. For instance, I was convinced, during my first 100k and after 8 hours of run, that I was going to die of pneumonia there and then. Before you judge me, you need to understand that I grew up in the sun and that London isn’t well-known for its warm climate. And my mind was probably playing up. Needless to say, I was completely fine. In Arizona, I had a panic attack while climbing on top on the canyon (I am not very good with heights). I stopped for a couple of minutes right in the middle of the climb. Took a few deep breaths. There wasn’t much I could do except carrying on. So I carried on;
What can I say? Maybe French women really are different. I met my friend Alice among the other mums at the school gates. Alice stood out from everyone else because she smiled and understood my English despite my strong French accent. She was chatty. She had a self-effacing sense of humour. I really thought she and I were both the same under the skin, but that illusion was completely dashed when I suggested that she might like to come lingerie shopping with me. She hasn’t talked to me ever since. I think she believes I am some sort of pervert. Once again, I got it completely wrong. I used to go lingerie shopping all the time with my female friends in Paris, and we didn’t think much of it. In fact, it felt completely natural. But here, I quickly understood that you are supposed to hide while purchasing your granny pants (you can read more about M&S granny pants here: http://frenchyummymummy.com/sexy-not-slutty/). Lesson learned. I will buy my lingerie in France from now on. And I will try to hide my Frenchness even more. Maybe I should write a ‘I’m sorry’ card to Alice? What do you think?
Princess Tam Tam Lingerie. One of my favourites French brands.
But I digress. So what did I do again (apart from thinking I could buy some lingerie with a British female friend)? I am running a 50k marathon again on the 9th of September (The Thames Path Challenge). I wasn’t intending to fundraise because I have been working on other things recently, but with lots of friends living in Texas, and my Facebook and Twitter timelines full of distressing pictures, I have set up a page, with any donation going directly to the British Red Cross. You can see my page here: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/team/the-french-yummy-mummy-is-running-for-texas-will-you-help
I suppose it is this time of the year: I keep reading about how we French do everything better: French women are oh so chic, our food is oh so fresh and our parenting is, apparently, second to none.
Really? I must have missed something while I was on holidays. I see no other explanations.
So what makes us French women so chic? I have to break it to you, and you might not like it, but we French women are, well, just human beings, warts and all. For instance, we have digestive issues from time to time (just like everybody else). We are sometimes in a bad mood, or tired (or even both). And we sometimes get it wrong -as in, completely wrong. So what’s so special about us again? I really wonder.
I bumped into a friend of mine today, and she asked me whether I was still running. Of course I was, I answered. She said that as I hadn’t talked about it for quite some time, she had assumed that I had stopped. She then started explaining to me what her training plan for her next race was, what her PBs were, and how she was intending to improve her times.
That was when it dawned on me: I was an average runner. I didn’t really care about PBs, and I just wanted to run in the most beautiful places on earth, but running fast (or even simply faster) wasn’t my main priority. My last marathon was in Vancouver, and I had a great time because I ran along the Pacific ocean. After running the two-oceans marathon in Capetown in 2016, I felt privileged to run in Vancouver, along another ocean. It was my ‘third ocean race’ and I was living the dream! She asked me what my time had been. I couldn’t remember it exactly, and gave a ballpark figure. She was surprised. She remembered all her times. I didn’t. I remembered the runners next to me, how I felt after two hours and the strength of the wind, but not my exact time. ‘Why don’t you check on the website?’, she asked. It hadn’t crossed my mind. I didn’t need my exact time to know that I had enjoyed the marathon.
Let’s face it, the last few weeks have been tough. Instead of boring you guys with my well-informed inside views of what is going on in my home country and over here, I thought I should write something a bit more light-hearted today, and tell you how to love like a French woman. Yep, you read that right, the cat is out of the bag, you’ve got no excuses now. So, here we go…
It’s not over until it’s over
French women can love and be in love at any age. We never stop being and feeling loveable. Let me explain: over here, in London, it sometimes feel like women shut it down the second they become moms. There is a strong pressure, after becoming a mother, to become an all-sacrificing maternal figure. And if you don’t, shame on you, because you will be considered a narcissistic MILF. We French women don’t fall in such stereotypes. We don’t make our children the center of our universe. Truth be told, we get a lot of help from the state: childcare is virtually free (or very cheap) and we even get offered perineal reeducation sessions. In short, we have no excuse but to get our pre-baby mojo as fast as possible, so we do.
Enough is enough. In case you have been hibernating, not a day passes without a flurry of articles mentioning Emmanuel Macron’s unusual marriage with a woman more than 20 years his senior. Forget about unemployment, Brexit, Chechen homosexuals being tortured and killed. From now on, it’s all about Brigitte Trogneux’ style, diet, clothes and unusual family set-up (because in case you have missed it, her children are of a similar age than her husband). Seriously, what is happening to this world? Read here if you don’t believe me: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4483918/How-DOES-Macron-s-wife-defy-age.html
Please spare me the judgmental vibe, and let me speak my mind: who the hell cares? After all, it’s their business. Their private life is, well, private.
And why is it so shocking to see a man and an older woman? Nobody bats an eyelid when older men marry a much younger woman, so why the double standard? I am starting to become prouder of my home country: we French still value mature women, and we have timeless icons such as Catherine Deneuve (73 years old). Over here, in the UK, women seem to become invisible after a certain age.
You know that everybody keeps telling me that I look French. I think that I sound French more than anything but hey, we are where we are. Today I wanted to share with you how to do the French ‘beach look’. As you know, I am very low maintenance. My idea of a blow-dry is to go to bed with wet hair in order to have more volume in the morning. Sometimes it works…sometimes it doesn’t!
Which is why, when I was invited to the Rush Hair Salon in Greenwich (https://www.rush.co.uk/salons/Greenwich?gclid=Cj0KEQjwsai_BRC30KH347fjksoBEiQAoiaqsaaWNt8OFUMEr3OdyLNveWRjzJBz89_-iG69ZhZW9ewaAm4g8P8HAQ) to get the ‘beach look’, I immediately accepted. Anita was my stylist, and of course she was great.
Seriously, this was a wonderful idea, wasn’t it? The weather was grey and dull and having the beach look was the perfect way to brighten my day.
You don’t wake up one day and decide to run a 100k race. It’s a long process. Frankly, despite really committing to the training, I didn’t know whether I was going to make it in one piece. But I did. So here it is: I completed my very first 100k race last Saturday. Yep, you read it right: I ran (well, sometimes I walked) 100k last Saturday. And I survived.
I know that some of you like numbers, so here it is: I came 15th female out of c. 400, and 49th overall (out of c. 1000 participants). My time was a little over 13hours30 minutes (with lunch & dinner breaks). That said, it was never about a time, it was about pushing myself to the limits, and raising funds for ActionAid UK.
The training had been brutal. It’s clear that fitness-wise, I am in a better shape than I have ever been. That said, the race was a lot harder than I thought. Nothing can prepare you for such a distance. Believe me, it was a killer. To cut a long story short, I toyed with the idea of a DNF (Do Not Finish in running lingo) at least a couple of times.
It happened again the other day. What am I talking about? I had another formal dinner, and I wanted to look my best. Why do I still care? Well, I don’t know. It’s mainly for me, I suppose: despite the fact that I am not getting any younger, I still like to look nice. Maybe it’s my French side? And it was also for my husband. I didn’t want people to think that I was letting myself go. I didn’t want to become yet another invisible middle-aged woman. There was only one thing for it: preparation. So I had everything covered. Of course I did.
When you work, have kids, older parents and PTA meetings, the logistics can be daunting. It’s all about planing in advance to make it look effortlessly. The outfit was chosen 10 days before the event. As you know, I don’t buy any more, I rent (https://rentez-vous.com). It’s cheaper, much more fun, and I can change more often, which means that I never have to wear the same dress twice. I borrowed the shoes from a friend (Which was a huge leap of faith because I don’t walk in high heels for more than five minutes). Then, I planned all the eyebrow shaping, waxing, etc…Finally I had to have my hair and make-up done a few hours before the event (because as I have a scientific background, doing my own hair and make up isn’t my strongest point -can you hear the British understatement here?). A woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do.
In short, I’d like to tell you that it was all easy, but the truth is that it was anything but, and I kept running around like a headless chicken the whole day. Not to mention that I had to go to a school meeting fully made up (but with casual clothes, as I put on the dress at the last minute), which raised a few eyebrows, but hey, I felt I had no choice because the meeting was right before the dinner. Anyway, we got there in the end, and I was extremely pleased with the result. What do you think?
After the Two-Oceans marathon I needed a new challenge. That’s just me, I suppose. You see, I don’t fit into any particular category. For instance, I am French, but also British. I am a runner, but I don’t really like the usual 5k or 10k races. So what to do? Well, I have set my my views on a 100k race: the Thames Path Challenge on the 10th of September, from Putney Bridge to Henley.
What can I say? I love long distances. As in, really long distances. This time, I will be running for a charity I have been supporting for years, ActionAid, Please wish me luck. I am not sure what I got myself into. You can click on my fundraising page here: https://www.justgiving.com/Muriel-Demarcus. Of course I would be delighted if you could sponsor me, but I would also really appreciate you to send me some encouragements as I am not sure what I got myself into. I take some comfort in the fact that, when I run for a long time, there comes a point when I feel really bad (this is actually a British understatement), but it doesn’t get any worse (am I making sense? I hope so).
And frankly, nothing can describe the feeling of having completed a long race. I just love it.