The waiting game! Cafe workers carry loaded trays in 2km race through Paris

Waiters and waitresses have raced through Paris as a quirky 110-year-old event returned ahead of the Olympics.

The dash through the centre of the French capital celebrated the dextrous and, by their own admission, sometimes moody men and women who have made Parisian restaurants and cafes famous.

The resurrection of the race after a 13-year gap is part of Paris’s efforts to bask in the Olympic spotlight and put its best foot forward for its first Summer Games in 100 years.

The first waiters’ race was run in 1914.

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Hundreds of waiters ran through the streets of Paris (Christophe Ena/AP)

Pauline Van Wymeersch, the runaway winner in the women’s category in 14 minutes, 12 seconds, started waitering at the age of 16, is now 34 and said she cannot envisage any other life for herself.

“I love it as much as I hate it. It’s in my skin. I cannot leave it,” she said of the profession. “It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s demanding. It’s 12 hours per day. It’s no weekends. It’s no Christmases.”

But she said “it’s part of my DNA. I grew up in a way with a tray in my hand. I have been shaped, in life and in the job, by the bosses who trained me and the customers, all of the people, I have met.”

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The first race was held in 2014 (Christophe Ena/AP)

Samy Lamrous, who won the men’s race in a time of 13 minutes and 30 seconds, waits at La Contrescarpe, in Paris’ 5th district.

Their prizes were medals, two tickets each for the July 26 Olympic opening ceremony along the River Seine and a night out at a Paris hotel.

Although all smiles on this occasion, competitors acknowledged that is not always the case when they are rushed off their feet at work.

The customer may always be right in other countries but the waiter or waitress has the final word in France, feeding their reputation for being abrupt, moody and even rude at times.

“French pride means that in little professions like this, they don’t want to be trampled on,” said Thierry Petit, 60, who is retiring in April after 40 years of waiting tables.

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Paris is famous for its cafe culture (Christophe Ena/AP)

The capital’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said cafes and restaurants are “really the soul of Paris”.

“The bistrot is where we go to meet people, where we go for our little coffee, our little drink, where we also go to argue, to love and embrace each other,” she said.

“The cafe and the bistrot are life.”

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