Arlington For Philippe Remen, of Reims, France, if he was going to run a first marathon in the U.S. he would have a better support network here than for example in New York City, which is normally the preferred “first U.S. marathon” for foreigners. That is because Arlington is the sister City of Reims, France, and the Sister City Committee goes out of their way to support their “Rémois.” Remen also knew the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) was ranked as one of the largest marathons in the U.S. and the world, that the MCM has been recognized as "Best Marathon in the Mid-Atlantic," "Best for Families" and "Best for Beginners." Runners from all 50 states and more than 50 countries participate in the Marathon, which is organized by the men and women of the United States Marine Corps.
Remen came to Arlington with his EFSRA colleague Lydie Gosselet, to do a test run of the MCM. If they provide a good report back to his club, as many as 20-30 runners will come here from Reims next year. Remen did the running and Gosselet took notes. They both paid their own way to come to Arlington.
Remen said he would be looking for things like atmosphere, easy access to the start line, whether it is a race where runners can make a “personal best” performance, and how the support is for the runners. Support is an easy “A-plus” he said. He was given great hospitality by the Cabocel family in Arlington, and was taken to pick up his race packet by Anne-Marie Daris, the head of the Sister City Association for Reims-Arlington. Was security an issue for him? No, Remen said. Not at all. He didn’t even consider it. Although the two-hour preparation time for the race is long (it is partially that long for security reasons), he and other French runners believe they have to continue to run despite whatever threats might be out there after the Boston Marathon attack and terror attacks in France.
Remen gave Arlington high marks for being a very green, open city, very quiet, very hospitable. He said, “I was very surprised by people who want to help you without wanting anything in return. He was asked several times in the Metro if he needs directions.” Remen, who works for the pharmaceutical company Boehringer International, left his wife and two daughters, 17 and 12, in Reims to come to Arlington. This is his fifth marathon. He began running with his Club - EFSRA - six years ago after a 40-year career playing football. He has done the Lille (France), Paris, and Luxembourg marathons.
Remen said races to benefit charities are not as common in France as they are in the U.S. but they are gaining traction. There are quite a few “pink” races to benefit breast cancer, and there is a race at the end of November called “Les Bacchantes” (the moustaches) which benefits prostate cancer research. It is a sort of “Novembeard” for France.
When a reception was held in his honor by the Arlington Sister City organization and Anne-Marie Daris, Remen was happily exhausted. He had finished the race in four hours and 26 minutes, which in typical French fashion he declared was “pas terrible.” He would have liked it to be better but he admitted that the one thing he was not prepared for was Arlington’s hills. “They were tough, much harder than Paris.” But the enthusiasm of the crowd, he said with a smile, was really special. He particularly liked the humorous posters he got to read as he entered the harder parts of the race. They made him laugh out loud. His favorite was “ Come on! Hurry Up! If you take too long I’ll miss the Redskins game!” And one which he needed help translating: “Less Whine now, more WINE later!” “What is this Whine?” he asked. The enthusiasm of the people, and the size of the crowd of spectators and supporters along the race was huge, much larger than even the Paris Marathon. That support he said, made the race one he would recommend to his club members back in Reims. But he will tell them to start training on hills.
For more information about the Arlington-Reims Sister City Association, or to find out more about running in France, see their website: www.arlingtonsistercity.com/our-sister-cities/reims/ or Facebook page: www.facebook.com/arlingtonsistercity/