Paris Marathon 2018

Wilson Orhiunu

First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu

Email: Twitter: @Babawilly

I didn’t come here to see if Paris had libraries or books. I came to Paris for what could not be done with Google at home.

The sun tanned my skin so much in Lagos that the outline of my running vest remains since the 10th of February when I did my first Lagos City Marathon and thankfully the sunshine in Paris would be mild. Like those World Cup teams that overstretch themselves in the semifinals and turn up flat on the final day, the sun had done it worst in Africa and was now burning with “child’s play” intensity in Europe.

By way of history, the word “marathon” derives from the Battle of Marathon fought in 490 BC between the Greeks and invading Persians. Miltiades the Greek Army leader sent a runner to the king in Athens with the good news of their victory. Pheidippides full of enthusiasm delivered the message and died from his exertion over the 26 miles to Athens.

East Africans have taken over from where Pheidippides stopped but they craftily stay alive to collect the prize money (Story for another day).


I was sat in the Eurostar train at London St. Pancreas waiting in anticipation for movement. This was my first international train ride and I was heading to the land that invited the French fries, the baguette, discotheques and restaurants. I was expecting seat belts for some reason. Perhaps because I had gone through immigration and the deja vu feeling of being on a plane kicked in.

It was a smooth ride to the Gare du Nord Train Station, Paris. Stepping out of the station was like arriving at a crowded Yaba bus stop. The hotel was a few minutes away but conflicting directions and the language barrier had me walking in circles for one hour. After checking in, I was back on the Metro armed with a map marked out clearly by the reception staff.

“Walk to La Chapelle and board the No 2 to Pigalle then change to the No 12 and travel all the way to Porte de Versailles station,”

The Salon du Running event located at the Parc des Expositions was where we handed in our medical certificates of fitness, showed some ID and obtained out running numbers.

It was the best expo I have ever attended. Very well organised. The journey back went smoothly and I grabbed a mild chicken masala from a restaurant which turned out to be hot when I got to my hotel room.


Today was my sightseeing day. After breakfast, I hung around in my room paying the going rate for my chicken masala the night before.  I was petrified to leave the hotel so as not to get stuck on the Metro in need of a toilet. Things calmed down by 12pm and I went on a run. I soon learnt that Zebra crossings in Paris are not quite the same in UK. Luckily, I didn’t have my legs broken by the oncoming car. After my shower, it was photo time. I begged a total stranger to take a picture of me from my hotel window. I gave him my camera and went into the hotel, up into the lifts to my room. Luckily he was still there downstairs when I drew my curtains (Good judge of people or what?).

At La Chapelle Station, I walked into an immigration demonstration. Calm and no riots. Took the No 2 train, all the way to Charles de Gaulle -Etoile station where I planned to change trains but ended going outside by accident. I almost fainted when I saw the great open space and the Arc de Triomphe standing with legs apart in a majestic manner. I had seen this image all my life but in the flesh, it was glorious. So many roads poured cars into the roundabout that went around it. There was so much space. You just knew that this was planned. Georges-Eugene Haussmann demolished the town centre and rebuilt it starting in 1853.

Back in the Metro and off to Bik-Hakeim form where I walked to the Eiffel Tower; the most iconic structure in the world. Built by the maker of the Statue of Liberty, it dominates Paris. I was in selfie heaven.

Bateaux Mouches provided the boat ride on the Sienne which was picturesque. I sincerely believe that those who have not visited France are committing a sin against God.

08/04/18 10am

And there are thousands of people at the starting area; Avenue de la Grande-Armee. The large boulevard was a beautiful spectacle. The Light from the sun cast no shadows and the bright colours of the runners against the backdrop of the Arc de Triomphe was an image that will never leave me. As the race begins, one felt like a weightless butterfly perching on Genevieve (Nollywood) and running along. It was beauty at every turn with breathtaking monuments scattered everywhere. This city once named Lutetia (imagine Lutetia Saint Germain for Neymar; e no sweet at all) had the original Genevieve who led a prayer marathon when Atilla the Hun and his troops were advancing on the city in 451. (A return to sender prayer abi?). The prayers worked. She (Genevieve) is now the Patron Saint of Paris.

By 25 km fatigue came knocking and my prayers started. The cobblestones on some segments of the route irritated my feet but all is forgiven. There was live music, water and fruits at every 5-10Km interval so boredom was kept at bay.

This was the city deemed “too beautiful to bomb” by Hitler during the Second World War and for once we could agree with the crazy Nazi.

Running alongside the Seine with the Eiffel tower on the other side was a great view. Running up to the finish line along the Champ de Elysees in bright light was worth the effort. Unlike in the Elysian fields which the avenue was named after, there were no dead souls from Greek mythology here. We were all joyful souls glad to make it to the finish in one piece like those bicycles we see on the television on the Tour de France.

After photographs came the mad rush to the hotel. With just 90 minutes to catch my train and some uncertainty about cancellations, the silent prayers continued as I sat in the Metro with my large gold plated medal around my neck.

It was easy to point out the runners. By their walk, ye shall know them


I was sat in the Eurostar train at Gare Du Nord Paris waiting in anticipation for movement.