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.
Nota: I don’t have the official pics and will post them in a separate article, but I thought I should tell you a bit more about what happened this weekend…
It was pitch dark when I woke up…
What went into me? It may be a late midlife crisis, but I think that it is deeper than this. I used to think that there was time to realise my dreams, but now that I am in my mid-forties I need to act on them. This is why I started running again about a year ago, after a twenty-five years hiatus. I have always liked long-distance running. It was time to finally make it happen. I started training, right from the start. Obviously I was a bit slower, but the pleasure had remained the same.
Don’t get me wrong: I know that I will never be a champion. For me, it’s not about going fast. It’s about the experience. I want to run in the most beautiful places of the world. Obviously running the Two Oceans marathon was a no-brainer, and I signed in as soon as entries were open, back in February. The marathon is in Cape Town, and takes you from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. What’s not to like?
It is all over the press and is coming from the celebrated actress Kristin Scott Thomas: apparently we French women, unlike our British counterparts, can be attractive without abusing our sexy side. You can read the article here : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3461270/SEBASTIAN-SHAKESPEARE-Fake-tan-short-skirts-Actress-Kristin-Scott-Thomas-blasts-UK-women.html
Is there some truth in such sweeping statements? Obviously the article is written in a slightly provocative way (after all, it was published on the Daily Mail), but I do think that, in my home country, there is a stronger pressure on us women to look good in all circumstances. This is one of the reasons why I find living in London liberating. I will always remember the day when I so one of my neighbours buying her Sunday newspapers at the newsagent around the corner wearing her bathrobe and flip-flops. Shocking. This simply couldn’t have happened in France.
It had to happen, right? I suppose it is a compulsory step when you are a female blogger. What am I talking about? Well, to cut a long story short, I was asked a couple of months ago to be part of an advertising campaign…for an underwear company. This means that they wanted me to pose, well, in my undies. Yep, you read that right.
Obviously, I was flattered to be considered, especially at my ripe age. But I turned it down. All my male friends told me that I should have accepted, that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that I would have looked great, and so on, and so forth. Suffice to say, they didn’t make me change my mind. I am a bit stubborn like that. And I can’t help thinking that they would have enjoyed the whole process a lot more than me.
Let me be clear here: I am not a prude. It’s just that I don’t want to be ‘the woman who posed in her underwear’. Because once you have got this label, it is a hard one to get rid of. Whatever you achieve in life, you will always be the woman who was photographed almost naked on a billboard. You can speak four languages fluently, have a business and two master degrees, but that’s it, you are the woman who posed in her undies. And don’t get me started about what my children’s school mates and my husband’s colleagues would say.