ON JULY 14 THE FRENCH NATION CELEBRATES BASTILLE DAY. It’s their national holiday, and the French language name for the day translates to the “14th of July”, indicates a Wikipedia entry.
In 1789 on that day, the notorious Paris prison was stormed and detainees were liberated, which marked a turning point in the French Revolution. A History.com entry says that although many political dissidents had been held in the Bastille since it was built in the 1300’s, by 1789 it was slated for demolition and only 7 remained ‘in-house’, “four accused of forgery, 2 considered ‘lunatics’ and one kept in custody at the request of his family.”
Regardless, the violent takeover of this symbol of the French monarchy’s tyranny by an angry mob helped spark the revolutionary movement. Although the number of freed French was small, valuable munitions were commandeered form the Bastille in the course of the takeover.
What does this have to do with race day? There are a few competitions that celebrate this holiday in the US. Actually, there seem to be very, very, few that could be identified through searches of the USATF and the Running in the USA websites. Only 2 legitimate fitness events, in Michigan and our Nation’s capital. How unusual, I thought. Americans celebrate and borrow from many cultures, especially for the purpose of having a good time.
The DC Road Runners Club of Washington DC will host a 4-Miler in the evening, on a certified course, described as an “out-and-back on C&O Canal Towpath, flat”. Cost is $10 for non-members and is free for members.
The only other race is the 17th annual running of the Bastille Day Race, 15k run & 5k run and walk, to be held in downtown Fenton Michigan. Appropriately, French bread will be served at the finish, as well as fruit, water, and keg root beer, informs the race announcement..
Fenton is a city of about 11,000+ people, roughly 26 miles south and west of Flint MI, and 40 miles north of Ann Arbor MI. I know of it because, over the long summer of 1981, I traveled there once a week from downtown Detroit, to watch my boyfriend, now husband, play league softball. We were between our 3rdand 4thyears of medical school, each separately surviving different clinical clerkships in Detroit metropolitan area medical centers. Meeting up at softball games that summer was the best we seemed to be able to arrange relationship-wise. The team always lost, sometimes spectacularly.
Thus, I wondered why this typical, almost rural small Michigan town would be celebrating Bastille Day for so many years. The answer has alluded me, but it seems it may be related to the city’s namesake’s heritage and the earliest settlement of the Genesee County area, and Michigan generally, by French and Canadians. The Fenton family coat of arms prominently features fleur-de-lis, which are also a subtle part of the background piece of the modern city’s homepage. However, there is no reference to a French heritage in the city information.
A local well known and highly regarded restaurant was opened in 1997 as the French Laundry but now is listed as The Laundry. The eatery is a sponsor of the race, and mostly likely it’s spin-off bakery, The Crust supplies the French bread served post-race.
The under-lying reason for Fenton’s annual celebration may be nothing more than it was a convenient day/time of the year in which to muster volunteers and sponsors to support the community fundraising effort of behalf of Habitat for Humanity.
Again, the question, “Why talk about Bastille Day”? In my opinion, this holiday is perfect date on which to hold fun fitness events; personal or organized. Reasons:
* Weather: In July, it is generally good across the Northern Hemisphere, although hot. An early or late start can help lessen the heat impact.
* Food: there are many French foods that are easy favorites to serve pre- or post -race. Frites (French fries), French toast, crepes, croissants and other pastries, macarons, and cheeses could make wonderful event menu items.
* Drink: many delicious coffees, great wines, and even sparkling water, can make for morning-before or evening-after beverages that will delight participants.
*Culture: the French ritual of mealtime as an important opportunity to gather can be used to create an attitude of togetherness in small organized or personal-custom competitive events. Big doesn’t always translate to better.
It seems the small city of Fenton, Michigan has found that Bastille Day makes a great date to come together for charity and celebrate as a community, and serving delicious crusty French bread on July 14 for 16 years.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. In 1978 I began participating in 10K road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health and longevity.
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