Normally when you sign up to a race, you know when it is, where it is, and what it is. You’ll choose to enter a particular distance, know what training you need to do in preparation, and then can plan everything about the race ahead of time.
But what if you know none of those things? That’s the concept behind Secret Race Series in Paris. They host a race each month, with 30 spaces available each time. However when you sign up, you don’t know what time the race is, where it starts, or even how long it is. In fact, I signed up so early to do this race that they hadn’t even released the date yet – I just knew it was ‘sometime in August’! Entry costs just 5€, so of course I signed Sye up too ?
Slowly I found out little bits of information about the race, such as the date and that it was ‘si tôt le matin‘ (very early in the morning!). On their Instagram, Secret Race Series also released a series of clues as the day drew closer. Yesterday, I figured out that it was based on the short film ‘C’ètait un rendez-vous’, a short-film from 1976 in which a guy drives a car very fast through the streets of Paris early in the morning, finishing at the Sacre Cœur. The night before it was confirmed: we would be doing the same thing, meeting at 6:20am to run from the Arc du Triomphe up to the famous church. We were sent a rough drawing of the ‘fastest and most safe’ path, but it wasn’t obligatory to follow it.
Races in France are strictly regulated: participants have to hand in a medical certificate to prove that they are fit enough to compete. This race was the exact opposite of that – just a bunch of people having fun running as fast as they could to get to the finish line. Our bibs were numbered stickers, the start-line was made from toilet-paper. Rather than closed roads and marshals we had frantic sprints to avoid oncoming cars (I stayed safe…ish) and couple of people on bicycles who gave an occasional direction, if you were lucky. At the end we were greeted with a breakfast spread, complete with beer – because why not. Everything about the race subverted the norm, and I loved it.
I found myself at the front with the boys for the first 600m, and honestly was surprised at how long I was sticking with them, and how easy it felt. Unfortunately that didn’t last long, and despite an effort to keep with the pack they soon pulled away. I held out in first female until ~1.8km, when at a red light another woman caught up with and then overtook me. I didn’t have the strength to chase her, turns out I probably did start too fast after all. Then came the hill up to the Sacre Cœur and bye-bye to any speed I originally had. Eugh, I swear I used to be good at hills! One last final sprit to finish in exactly 20:00, having held on to second female. Sye crossed the line ~40 seconds after me, having run a great race himself. Not a bad start to the morning!
As it turned out, the first female headed off and missed the awards ceremony, which meant I got to claim first prize of a swanky Secret Race Series t-shirt. Even better, I got a free entry into September’s event, so I can participate in the fun all over again! Let’s just hope this one isn’t quite so early in the morning ?
All photos thanks to @faster__ro