Every time we turn on the news this year, it seems that someone famous has died. David Bowie, Keith Emerson, George Martin, our old and dear friend Jack O'Brien, and lots more. It's a worrying trend. There's a list on wikipedia if you want to check.
So, as we ourselves decelerate into old age and infirmity, we are consoling ourselves with three excellent trips to France this year. We will spend time with old friends, hopefully finish what was previously left incomplete, and cover a large number of beautiful running kilometres before it's too late.
First up, Claire is running the Paris Marathon on April 3rd. Not since 1998 have we returned to this race where she ran her second full marathon. (Amazingly this Paris edition will now be the 82nd time she's run a marathon or longer distance race.) Our Austin friends Leah, Chris and Carol will be there too. It is a great event, right through the heart of a spectacular, historic city. We're staying close to the start and finish lines, so logistics for sherpas (in this case Leah's husband James and me) should be simple - watch the start, drink wine, spectate at halfway, eat and drink some more wine, watch the finish, and then repeat the previous step with tired but happy spouses.
The first week of July brings a return for me to a great 6-day race in the Savoy Alps close to the Swiss and Italian borders. Called L'Étoile Savoyarde (Savoy Star), each day starts and finishes in the beautiful mountain village of Myans. Each day involves different routes covering roughly 40 miles of serious hill-work, but the scenery is sublime (providing the weather cooperates), as is the food and hospitality provided by organisers Michel and Gilbert Codet. We will be renting a little house near the start/finish. This time, it is Claire's turn to sherpa for me. Luckily for her, we're staying right next to vineyards and wine tasting cellars, so more simple logistics!
Then last but by no means least will be the epic Transe Gaule. Most of our August will be spent running 19 stages across France, from Roscoff on the English Channel to Gruissan by the Mediterranean. This will likely be our last attempt at such a tough physical and mental challenge. I made it (just!) once before in 2005, in what proved to be the only edition where 100% of the runners finished. In 2014 Claire made it one third of the way before having to abandon with injuries, so this is her shot at redemption. We have booked a hotel room - facing the sea and the finish line on the beach - for 5 nights after the race is over. That will hopefully be the "carrot" needed to get us to the end.