Running the Paris Marathon was something I was really looking forward to even though I spent the majority of my training with a cracked rib. I had long since given up on my target time and so the target was to run comfortably and enjoy the experience. When you prepare for an event, the mind automatically searches for a previous experience to compare it to in order for it to decide how it should react. When you run a distance for the first time, there is no previous experience for the mind to compare to which is why you go through all sorts of emotions in the build up. In this case, I decided to use the Edinburgh Marathon from last year, where I ran it with no pressure and just to get round it after racing the half before it, as an experience to compare it to. This made it much easier to relax in preparation albeit with the usual amount of nerves you get before a marathon.
After a great pasta party on the Saturday night with Macmillan and a good sleep, we were up early to grab breakfast before the day’s events. Breakfast, as you can imagine, was a quiet affair with a number of nervous runners trying to force down food and drinks before heading to the start. We were lucky as we stayed in the same hotel as last year and so it was a nice 10min walk to the Arc de Triomphe then Avenue Foch and the baggage buses. Once we got through the usual routine of dropping off the bags and joining the usual lengthy queues for the toilet, we made our way to the start. I met up with my friend, Garry, who was in the same pen and we made our way down the Champs Élysées to get ready to start. That area is always a bit crazy but once we got into position, it wasn’t long before our side was brought forward to start.
The first few miles always fly by as you try to find a space to run in but at least there are a few good sights to look out for, like The Louvre. There is also a decorative doorway to an artists residence at 59 Rivoli, around the 1.5 mile mark that Allison keeps telling me about and in our last couple of visits, I have managed to miss it each time so I paid particular attention this time!
I like to break down the distance to varying chunks to keep my mind focused and on this occasion I seemed to count it in 5km chunks. It’s always nice to count down the way, particularly when you get to 17 miles and you’re into single figures. It was a very warm day and it was great to see extra water stations with cups and sponges in buckets of water and as we got further into the race and the buckets just had water in them, it was nice just to get a splash of water on my face or back of my neck to keep cool. Les Pompiers were out in force with their hoses spraying water over the course and it was really refreshing each time I went through.
I got through the first half in around 1hr 47mins and while I was happy with this, I knew it was unlikely I would be able to keep the pace up for the second half and so eased off a little bit and continued to feel comfortable and in control of my pace. Paris isn’t a hilly course but every time we came to an incline, I quickened my cadence and found myself passing many people with ease. I had been working on my cadence in training before my fall and it certainly made a difference to my pace. Staying in control of your pace is very powerful as it stops you from doing anything silly and you’re continually running knowing you have something left in the tank for when you might need it closer to the finish. This helped me get through the Bois de Boulogne in the last 10-12km. For of those of you who haven’t done Paris, the Bois de Boulogne is a beautiful public park where you run through in the final stages of the marathon. What is unique here, compared to other marathons, is that you will run through mile 26 and still not see the finish line! It does have its interesting bits though from the motivational signs on the paths put down by Asics to the ‘bonus’ wine and cider stations. I’m not sure whether these will help you run faster to the finish or to the nearest toilet!
Another reason to stay focused in the last few miles was that we had signed up for the photo to be taken at 41km that would be posted straight to Facebook. Now, I don’t know about you but the majority of race photos are hideous and so there was the thought of warning all my friends who suffer from a nervous disposition in advance not to look at my page but there was a massive sign warning us with 300 yards to go so we had time to sort ourselves out and muster our best smile for when the photo would be taken. I did feel happy and able to smile and cheer every time I ran past a photographer but that didn’t stop me from looking rather scary in the photos! Before I knew it, we were heading out of the Bois and round onto Avenue Foch and I managed a nice wee sprint to the line. Nothing beats the feeling of digging deep and going past a few people in those last few yards.
I was delighted not only to finish after the nightmare of the injury over the last few months but also to finish in 3hrs 46mins and a pain-free run. That was way faster than what I had hoped for. One of the things I enjoy most about the finish area at Paris is the tables of cut-up oranges after you’ve picked up your medal and poncho. After you’ve run 26.2 miles, cut-up oranges are the best thing EVER! I hung around for a bit, text my friends and waited for Allison to finish then we had a stroll back to the hotel.
The evening after having run a marathon is always pretty special and where better to celebrate than Paris? We joined up with other Macmillan runners at the Frog XVI bar near to Trocadero for a well-earned beer but the bit I look forward to the most is standing by the Trocadero watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle. I have done other marathons and celebrated them in many ways but an evening in Paris takes some beating.
I may not have got anywhere near my target of sub 3:15 but I am delighted to have finished the marathon in a time I’m absolutely delighted with given three weeks ago, I thought I would be looking at closer to 4:30. I’m also delighted that we’ve got our entries in for Paris next year and so I will be aiming to hit my target (or quicker) then.
The first of some video blogs in the build up to Edinburgh
Sometimes races don’t go the way we want them to and it is important to accept that it wasn’t meant to happen, be thankful if you were able to run anyway and look forward to another race and achieve what you wanted in that one. Your moment will always come.
I ran the Paris Marathon as part of my 2015 in 2015 challenge to raise money for Macmillan. Macmillan do a fantastic job of providing essential support to people on their journey and also to friends and family. Please help me help Macmillan support even more people by sponsoring me. Thank you