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5 Harriers ventured across to Dainville on the weekend of 2 and 3 April to take part in the 25th edition of the Foulèes Dainvilloises  running event on the Sunday. Dainville is a suburb of the historic city of Arras in the Nord pas de Calais region of France, about halfway down the A26 towards Rheims. Dainville is one of Whitstable’s many twin towns.

The Foulèes Dainvilloises is an important community event in the Dainville calendar and comprises a multitude of different running races and walks for distances from 100 metres to 21 kilometres and for all ages from 5 years to veterans born before 1941.

The 5 Harriers all fell somewhere towards the older end of the spectrum! All in all, 862 courers (runners) took part. We all opted to do the 10k event which was the last event of the day.

After a stop off at a very sunny and busy Wimereaux for lunch on the Saturday, we were quickly on the A26 and consulting detailed maps of how to circumnavigate Arras to get to Dainville. We found the Office de Mairie (Mayor’s Office) without any problem. We were greeted by the Mayor of Dainville, Françoise Rossignol and shown around the town hall. The first think to strike us was the preponderance of ducks, matched only by the ‘quacking’ ringtone on Françoise’s mobile phone! The link for this all became clear the following day when we went for a warm-up jog around the park and saw the lake, complete with ducks. Françoise was not only the Mayor of Dainville, but had earlier that week been elected onto the Nord pas de Calais Regional Council – a very prestigious position.


Françoise introduced us to the families who were hosting us and after quickly dropping off our bags we were off for a visit to Arras. We managed to get into the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) before it closed and saw the giant-sized husband, wife and son – the latter resplendent with his giant lollipop! We had a pleasant glass of Leffe sat outside one of the bars while the sun slowly disappeared over the Grand Place. Françoise then showed us around the centre of town before we headed back to Dainville, dropping the Harriers off at their host families as we went. It transpired that all of the hosts, bar Françoise, were teachers, although Françoise used to be a teacher!

The host family Tony and myself stayed with, Phillipe and Caroline and their three boys, laid on a sumptuous evening meal. An education for us was that people in the north of France have a taste for whiskey, and beer in these parts is as important as wine. Phillipe even had a contraption in his kitchen which dispensed draft Leffe! A fantastic evening and great hospitality, even if I was a bit off my food after over-indulging in a welsh complat earlier in Wimereaux. The others said the cheese was to die for.

Tony McParland
Phil Wyard
Colin Kent
Marco Keir
Bob Pullen


After the race, we all got called up onto the stage to receive a trophy from Françoise for our participation and this takes pride of place in the Harriers trophy cabinet. After the presentations, we adjourned to a nearby building which was hosting a drinks and sumptuous buffet reception for all of the people who had helped organise the event and we were made most welcome. It really gave us the opportunity to practice our varying abilities of French, with Phil in his element and learning about the local Ch’it Picardy dialect and even capturing some of this on my mobile phone voice recorder!

Marco made a short speech (in French don’t you know!) thanking everyone for their kind hospitality and inviting them to take part in the Mount Ephraim 10k. We also had the chance to meet and thank Daniel Capel, the President of the Foulées Dainvilloises organising Committee.

We thanked all our hosts, Philippe, Caroline and family, Alain and Monique, Bruno and Sylvie, and of course Françoise, for all of their kind hospitality and for giving us such a great introduction to Dainville and Arras. It wasn’t ‘good-bye’, just ‘bonjour’ as Del Trotter would say.

I also had the opportunity to meet and thank a young lady from Mayor’s office who I had been corresponding with to make all the necessary arrangements for our visit. Poor Virginie had to put up with reams of e-mails from me in appalling French. It was good to learn that her young daughter had run one of the children’s races.

All of the Harriers were of the opinion that this weekend was the start of a long and fruitful relationship between runners in Dainville/Arras and Whitstable/Canterbury. As well as the Mount Ephraim 10k, we are already hatching plans to all take part in an event near Calais in September. I have also got to make a special delivery of whisky to a few people on behalf of Tony when I go out to Dainville again later this summer for a youth football tournament which my son’s team is playing in.