A week in the making…

Posted: 02/06/2012 in Uncategorized

Running en France

Sortie 1 (Sunday): Over the hills and far away

So, a holiday en France, a pair of shoes and some nice weather. Sounds like time for a run, non?

For the last week, we’ve been staying in the sleepy village of Inxent in Northern France. Drove down, took the ferry, another 40 minutes and we were there. Got up on Sunday morning, with the sun shining and decided to go for a run. Rumour was there’s another village over that way and that’s all the info I needed.

Leaving the gite, I strapped on my OMM Ultra Waist Pack, shoving in a bottle of water, a gel (in case) and a €20 note, just in case. Apparently there may be a shop that’s open on a Sunday morning, and all we scored on the trip down was some cake and a piece of cheese.

Along through the village, and it’s all very lovely and picturesque, wee houses with lovely roofs and I’m heading to the church where the turning allegedly lives. No turning, so I turn round to what I suspected was the right road a little earlier on. Cue mad black barky dog running out of a side street and chasing me back down the road. When I was a child, I know rabies was all the rage in France, so I’m a little worried, but luckily it seems immensely territorial and stops just before I’m about to die from over-exertion.

Now I turn down the path, past the mill and it’s all so marvelous I might just burst. Over the over side of the river and up what turns out to be a long, slow hill. Keep going, mind, and through the trees to reach the top that opens out into fields of (corn?) off into the distance. No sign of the other village. I plod on, not to be discouraged and mildly believing in invisible villages. The road drops down a hill, and a t-junction occurs – on a whim I turn right and head along – and lo, a village slowly materializes in front of me. Winding streets, a gothic church and a mini-chateau. Lovely.

I make it to the village square and the shop also exists – it’s open on a Sunday morning, so I check out my less-than-schoolboy French and enquire as to the availability of pain au chocolat – marvellous comprehension ensures, and soon I’m leaving with two breakfast treats, some filter coffee and an unspecified type of tea. Time to head back.

My knee’s been a bit wonky, and heading back up the hill it plays up again, no idea why, though I think it’s linked to hills – an aching pain like the bones are impacting on each other, causing some inflammation. Back to the top of the hill and through the fields – lovely, but I have to walk a bit, as the pain is a bit too much. Down the hill through the woods, adopting a run/walk approach to spare the knee.

After a bit, I arrive back at Inxent, now running or at least jogging. Back up the main street to the gite, and surprise Mrs Angrybees with a jaunty voulez vous mange un pain du chocolat avec moi?  Not bad, eh?

Distance: 6.1 miles

Time: 1:07:10, though I was at least five minutes in the shop

Av. Pace: 11’06”

Dogs barked at by: 5

Dogs chased by: 1


Sortie 2 (Tuesday): Un route de valee

After Sunday’s run, and flushed with the idea of finding a run with a patisserie at the turn-around point, I decided to head up the valley today, and see what I could find – I’d seen a sign for a chocolaterie while out walking last night, and figured it was worth a gander. Even packed a €10 note in my pack, just in case.

On top of that, my left knee was a bit pants after Sunday’s run, so I was looking to avoid hills on the theory that it might spare ol’ Lefty somewhat.

The weather was a bit misty, so I chucked on tights, a T and a long-sleeve top, and plodded out. Another weapon in my arsenal against the knee is trying to increase my cadence and reduce my stride length, a la barefoot running, in the hope that this is another thing to take off the strain. Seemed to work kind of OK.

French villages are mint. There’s no two ways about it, wee houses, trickling rivers, dovecotes and barking dogs! There seems to be a lack of running in rural France, as all the dogs I’ve seen have gone bonkers at the sight of someone running past. Now I know that I may be an especially peculiar-looking member of the fraternite de [runner?], but I didn’t think I was that bad really.

Up the valley, through Inxent, up to Beussent, where the sign for the chocolate-maker was spotted, and on. Out the outer side of Beussent, which is odd, as it was the Chocolaterie du Beussent, so I’d kind of expected to see it in the village. Into Le Queroy[?] and still no sign, then suddenly I’m plodding past a cabinet-maker’s shop. Fine, but n chocolate. A little further and a slatted wooden garden gate in an imposing hedge announces that I’ve arrived. It’s shut. Bum.

I plod a bit further along the road, feeling my knee starting to get a bit tight, and pass by some school children off for the exciting day of learning. Turn around at 1.8 miles and head back, pausing only to be barked at and to give sufficient time to appreciate the open gate with the large German Shepherd dog drooling and barking on the other side, Luckily it seems to have a well developed sense of territory and it stays on its side of the gate, leaving me to plod off, flushed with adrenaline and a mild coronary from the danger of it all. Back to Inxent and the pot of coffee I put on before I left. C’est magnifique!

I think I’m in need of protein – feel decidedly woozy as I got back, opened up a sachet of Rego and immediately felt better for it. Hmm, will have to hunt out some eggs, I guess…

Distance: 3.6 miles

Time: 35:18

Average Pace: 10’00”

Dogs barked at by: 3 and one annoyed goose

Dogs chased by: 0, but only just.


Sortie 3 (Thursday): Up and down the valley, see…

Last run of the week’s holiday, and I decided to head down the valley, avoiding the hills and the possibility of wazzing my knee any further – also, a bit of a shorter run would mean it might help it’s recovery, rather than aiding it’s decline to knackered-ness.

Having run a couple of times now, I realise it’s easy to forget the pleasure of a bit of sun and warmth as you go.  The addition of a house that comes with a cow, a donkey and a goose can only add to that fun – the donkey likes carrots, the goose dislikes new people, so there’s a bit of give-and-take between them – the goose sometimes allows the donkey to be fed, the donkey sometimes goes without carrots to spare it’s friend’s feelings. The cow is a stoic animal, it rarely gives much away – does it like the company of the donkey and the goose, or does it find them boorish and too concerned with their immediate needs? I like to think the cow is actually full of drugs, and believes itself to be an aging rock musician – it would explain a lot.

Anyway, the run went well, the concept of mileage has been replaced by the French national measurement of village, being how many villages you pass through. On that magnificent basis, this was un deux village run from the top of Inxent out through the bottom of the village and into Recques sur Course – most of the way through the village and to the turn off up the hill to National Route 1 – our link to the food-haven and medieval wonder that is Montreuil sur Mare. In total the distance is 1.6 miles, I reckon, which makes a 3.2 mile or 5km round trip. Nice and easy does it.

The knee felt good – no major aches, and I’m thinking that Sunday’s run, back in ol’ Blighty may be time for something a little longer. Of course, it’s unlikely that will be in the bone-soothing warmth of France, but I’d have to move there to get that wouldn’t I? Hmmm, now there’s a thought. I’m almost 2 CDs into Michel Thomas’s Learn French CD and so far I’ve managed not to insult anyone, to say please and thank you and to ask Mrs. Angry-Bees whether she would like me to run and buy her some fun from the patisserie – with a bit more work I should be able to enquire as to where the nearest half-marathon is being held, and whether fancy-dress is frowned upon.

Overall, I can heartily recommend the valleys of Northern Frances – Inxent in particular, and the self-catering property of Mme Lecoffre in particular – I would go back in a pinch if the bed were two inches longer – with a footboard, it was a bit an ache for my 6’2” frame, but I got through intact. I was more worried I might break the footboard when I occasionally woke up realising I was trying to break out…


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