There are these irritating first five minutes that are hurting when going for a run in the morning. The whole body has to follow the mind, accepting that from a state of total rest and immobility all systems have to be activated to reach three times the previous heart rate, to adapt the body to the cold and to move in a fast and balanced way.
It is 6.00 am at the beginning of December and while stepping out of the quirky surroundings of Mama Shelter, my home in France for a few days, I am reminding myself that I am not really an early morning runner, but if you want to experience a still sleeping city this way, you need to bite the bullet…..
Following a brief uphill section towards Notre Dame Du Mont, the road descends towards the habour where the sea food venders are busy setting up their stalls. At this time of the day there are hardly any cars on the roads and I am able to run along the waterfront of Quai de Rive Neuve towards Parc Emile Duclaux where I was fortunate enough to enjoy a reception together with my French colleagues in the glamorous Palais du Pharo the previous night.
Built by Napoleon III in the middle of the 19th century and towering over the entrance of the habour, it gives this rough Mediterranean seafarer city a more respectable front.
Turning South here, with my body now fully awake, I am faced with the main challenge for this run: finding a route uphill to the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde before sunrise.
Despite it is overtowering the whole city and the surrounding countryside, I am finding it surprisingly difficult to see this landmark among the narrow streets of the 7th arrondissement. Several times I am stranded in some dead end roads adding to the mileage of my morning run.
Eventually my system of moving in roughly the right direction and using all roads leading uphill, pays off and I find a small pass heading directly to this beautiful church.
There are just a few minutes to spare before the sun is rising behind the mountains in the East, covering the whole city into a warm orange glow.
This spectacle only lasts a few minutes, which is perfect as my body is now cooling fast and I am starting to head downhill through the streets and staircases of the 6th arrondissement
towards the column of Place Castellane, which featured in Conrad’s now over a hundred year old and so fittingly named novel “The Arrow of Gold”.
No time though for me to sit down and read, but instead to give it a final push uphill for a warm shower and a hard earned breakfast at Mama Shelter.