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French runners take down Jim Walmsley Strava record

Three French runners showed the running world that we can still race during lockdown, just not at the same time

A trio of French runners, Damien Gras, Michaël Gras and Jimmy Gressier, all ran a 33K Strava segment in Flagstaff, Ariz., today called A1. Before they crossed the virtual finish line, the segment course record-holder was none other than ultrarunning phenom Jim Walmsley, who covered the route in 1:56:37 last November. Damien ran it in 1:52:41 for the new record, followed by his brother in 1:53:56 and then Gressier, who also dipped under Walmsley’s best, posting a 1:54:08. The three Frenchmen may have run five months after Walmsley, but they proved that racing isn’t impossible during the coronavirus outbreak, you just have to do it in a time trial format.

The Gras boys and Gressier

Damien has a marathon best of 2:18:59 from the Frankfurt Marathon in 2017. He ran an impressive 3:22 per kilometre over the 33K. His brother, Michaël, also set his marathon PB in Frankfurt, when he ran a 2:16:12, and he was the 2015 French national marathon champion. He ran 3:24 per kilometre on A1.

Photo: Dave Stevens/Katie Mills

RELATED: Jim Walmsley runs 2:15:05 marathon debut at U.S. Olympic Trials

Gressier is a multiple U23 European champion in the 5,000m, 10,000m and cross-country. He is also a European record-holder in the 5K, a crown which he won earlier this year when he ran a 13:18 in Monaco. Although he finished behind the Gras brothers, he still ran an impressive time, averaging 3:24 per kilometre, finishing just eight seconds behind Michaël’s time.

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Racing is still on

This French trio has shown the running world that just because official races are cancelled for the foreseeable future, that doesn’t mean we can’t still race on our own. Strava and other tracking apps give runners the opportunity to be competitive every day if they choose. So this weekend, find a few routes that you think you can run quickly and then go crush them. The Gras brothers attempted the A1 segment on Strava last week, too, falling short of Walmsley’s record, but that’s the other great thing about virtual competition: there’s no official start, so if you don’t win today, there’s always tomorrow.