Participants in Nike Runs Paris find fun way to visit city’s scenic neighborhoods

Posted September 28, 2013


PARIS — “Allez Allez Allez!” (Go Go Go!).

Music blasting from backpacks and more than 150 runners from all over fill the Parisian streets. They’re sprinting in front of the Louvre, doing pushups in the plaza by Centre Pompidou and running their final stretch over the highest point of Paris, Sacré-Coeur.

The City of Lights has more to offer than beautiful architecture, delicious cuisine and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. Nike’s Run75Crew provides a unique way to explore the Parisian streets while getting a vigorous workout.

This is not your typical walking tour; the participants double knot their laces, adjust their running shorts and are ready to hit the pavement.

Runners warming up in a residential courtyard close to Bastille (Photo by Andrea Jacobo).

Runners warming up in a residential courtyard close to Bastille (Photo by Andrea Jacobo).

The running group is filled with diverse individuals from locals to foreigners, all representing countries from Chile to South Korea, with one goal in mind — to have fun while working out.

“The nicest thing about Nike Runs Paris is the atmosphere, everyone is happy and enjoying an afternoon in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I get to explore it with friends while doing one of the things I love most, sports,” said Nicolas Alomar, a foreign exchange student from Barcelona.

On one of the busiest shopping streets of Paris, the Nike Bastille closes its front door to its customers and opens the backdoor for its after-hours city trekkers.

More than 100 runners hover over the back door in order to get inside, to escape from the chilly April winds and register for their Tuesday night run. As the first floor fills up, a sales associate screams over the discordant chatter, reminds the runners that they can place their bags in the storage room upstairs and “n’oubliez pas votre ticket!”— to not forget to your ticket.

For Chilean exchange student, Alejandro Melendez, he particularly likes the organization and production of the running sessions.

“They care for runners’ overall experience by securing our belongings and coats in the store, providing food at the end and making sure we are safe, which gives me a peace of mind while running,” he explained.

The colorful Nike sneakers on the displays accompany the athletic ambiance as the runners divide up from a big crowd into three not-so straight lines for registration. The sale associates greets the runners (most by name), searches for them on their slick iPad minis, and gives them a bright green wristband with “Run75Crew” printed across. The runners eagerly join the rest of the group as they patiently wait to begin.

As everyone is making their way outside to start the run, latecomers shuffle through the crowd to try to grab the remaining spots. The sales associates replaced their iPads for bright neon backpacks and face the mob of runners in the small alleyway behind the store.

Bonsoir, tout le monde!”— “Good evening, everyone!,” the sales associates, now fitness coaches, say in unison to grab everyone’s attention including those perplexed bystanders that are passing by.

The head coach explains tonight’s run and ground rules: there will be a five-kilometer (a little over three miles) run through Châtelet, the fourth arrondissement and you’re not allowed to pass the leading runner. As soon as he finished, he jumped into the center of the crowd creating the large motivation circle in which people place their hands in the middle of the circle as if they were a team — “We run Paris!”

The Nike runners commence their run by heading south of the store towards the bustling Place de la Bastille. A mixture of music begins to flow out of the coaches’ backpacks, 90’s hip-hop, electronic dance or pop, synced with every stride the runners would take.  Following the massive roundabout, the running crew takes over the pedestrian walk way as they begin their warm-up run.

About a quarter of a kilometer in, the crew takes their first of many stops for their warm-up drills. In a large residential courtyard, the crew lines up into horizontal groups in order to complete the drills that will improve their running stride. The sun began to set and the temperature was dropping, but it doesn’t matter to the runners as they focused on their knee-ups, karaokes, solider sprints and quick feet drills. The huffs and puffs replaced the once discordant chatter as the runners began to kick up a notch; the warm up was over.

The run continues through the small elegant streets as the conquering trekkers way from the opera house down to Rue de Rivoli, where shoppers and tourists stop to take pictures to what they believe is an unannounced marathon.

“The run makes us an attraction for tourists; I can’t even count how many times I’ve had my picture taken by tourists,” said Akolade Omishope, an ex-pat from Detroit who has been running with Nike since January.

The cheer from the wine and diners of the evening motivates the runners as they zip by the restaurants.

“Paris, OOHHAH!” echoes as the runners begin to clap in unison.

Every runner has a smile on his or her face as the third kilometer is reached at the plaza in front of Centre Pompidou, home for modern art collections and, at the moment, Salvador Dali’s touring exhibition.

The run wasn’t over as the coaches created a massive circle and direct the runners through a strength routine.

“Contractez Contractez!,” exclaimed one of the motivating coaches to contract their muscles as he ran around the circle.

The course continued for one more kilometer before stopping once more in between a pedestrian underpass in the heart of Les Marais, another chic shopping districts filled with vintage shops and mouth-watering falafel restaurants. The residents watched from their French-style windows as the runners got down and dirty while doing their second strength focusing on the abdominals.

At this point, the Run75Crew is sweating profusely and are ready to face their last kilometer back to Bastille.

No path is traveled twice with Nike. The coaches show the runners a different route to reach Bastille by pulling away from the streets that lead straight into the roundabout and using the side streets only residents would know. They led the group through their last leg of the course through rows of trees lit by Christmas lights, no one noticed that the pace increased because of the beauty of that surrounded them.

“When you run with 100 other people, the road is yours. It’s a nice feeling that we can benefit from all the nice places Paris has and share these moments with friends,” said Parisian civil engineer Albert Martin originally from the south of France.

One hundred feet left, the music fades into the background and the runners’ joy kicks in simultaneously throughout the group, the finish line is the high fives from the coaches as each runner comes in.

The high-fiving doesn’t stop at the finish line. The runners continue to congratulate each other on another successful run in their languages — French, Spanish, English and even Korean. They all got to know Paris a bit more that day, and they can’t wait for Thursday to explore more.

The neighborhoods of Paris (Staff map).

The neighborhoods of Paris (Staff map).

If You Go

  • Runs occur on Tuesday and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
  • Where to sign up: On Facebook: Like Nike Running France Click to join the running events for Tuesday or Thursday night. Facebook is the best way to keep updated on the running sessions and other upcoming events.
  • At a participating store: Nike Store- Bastille (Tuesday Nights)
    Nike Store- Champs-Élysées (Thursday Nights)
  • What to bring? Comfortable running shoes and exercise attire, a sweater or running jacket (during the winter months).

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