The day arrived, the moment we’ve been working towards since the run of the year or before then. I felt relaxed when I got up and we went down for breakfast. This may have been largely down to knowing that our hotel was only a few minutes from the start and finish. Security was much tighter than previous years but was also a lot smoother and it’s clear that they’ve learned and developed a better system each time.
We took a walk down, got our bags in then made our way to the Champs Élysées and the starting pens. I had missed the 3:15 start and was happy to join in with the 3:30 runners. Once inside the starting area, the 3:30 guys had already started as I went for one last trip to the toilet. Unfortunately, when I came out, the 3:45 runners moved forwards and were awaiting their start so I had no option to join them. The runners are spread into sections on the left and right side of the road and I was surprised when the countdown lead to the runners on the other side of the road go first. When you’re in this position, it’s only a few hundred runners who are going but feels like everyone who entered was going except us! It wasn’t long before we did go.
I had written this race off as a 26.2 mile training run due to the hamstring/pelvis problem I had in the build up to the run. The niggle wasn’t a concern as much as the training I had missed as a result so I started running just to enjoy it and see how things would pan out. The first few miles were on target pace but wasn’t getting too carried away as there were lots of runners in the 3:45 section who were clearly not going to manage that time and I wanted to avoid zigzagging and end up running further than 26.2 miles as I had done last year.
Everything was going very well, gel at 5 miles then another one at 10 miles and it was starting to feel a lot smoother than many of my longer runs in the build up to this day. I went through halfway in 1hr 45mins and I thought I could get under 3:30 as I would get more space to run into and I was feeling pretty good at this point. That all changed very quickly.
I was aware by 15/16 miles that it was starting to feel a lot harder than I’ve experienced before but couldn’t work out why. It started to get hotter with the temperature rising to around 24/25 degrees. I don’t know about you but we’re lucky to get that in Scotland in the summer never mind in the Spring! I started to look forward to the water stations, the bonus stations they had with hoses creating impromptu showers and additional buckets of water with cups. I went under every hose, took a cup of water from every bucket, some to drink and more to pour down the back of my neck.
I started to find the run becoming harder mentally as much as physically. I felt my hamstring twinge around 18 miles so I stopped, walked for a bit, did the exercise I had been doing every day then started running again. My thoughts of running sub 3:30 quickly changed to just getting to the finish, a situation I’ve never been in, even in my first marathon! A few more times, I walked, stretched then started running again. I did the old Parkrun countdown of 3 then 2 then 1 Parkrun to go but they felt like really long Parkruns!
When I got to the last 5k, I gave myself a kick up the backside and decided to push on. What I mean by that is I didn’t stop. I was still taking water on board/throwing it over myself at every opportunity and everyone around me did exactly the same. Soon it came to the best bit, mile 26 and I could feel myself wanting to speed up but I held back until we got into Avenue Foch and then put the foot down and sprinted to the line. That was the best bit as I passed so many people to the line. My immediate thought though was that was the toughest marathon I’ve ever done and still feel that way. I made my way up the street, collecting my medal, t-shirt, poncho then to the best bit. The cut up oranges. I had a few on the way round but after you’ve crossed the finish line, they are the best things you’ve ever tasted in your life! They are full of flavour, juicy and just amazing! Just what is needed after a race like that!
I got my bag, some bottles of water then made up my Science in Sport Recovery Drink and had that while I waited for Allison. I half expected her to go flying past me but as I later discovered, she struggled as well as did just about everyone I’ve spoken to since. There were certainly many people visibly struggling and some getting medical attention as a result of the heat.
We took some photos and then made our way back to the hotel for a shower and a lie down before getting ready and headed to Frog XVI, a British pub in Paris that we’d been to a couple of times previously and met up with some friends, I hadn’t previously met, from UKRunChat. UKRunChat is an online running community on Twitter and had got to know the others from the chat hours and some direct messages in the build up to the event so it was great to meet them and have a few beers.
Reflecting on the race, I am not disappointed as I had previously written off my original target and see this as another race to learn from. Sometimes a race doesn’t turn out the way you planned, you can control your pace, your nutrition/hydration but you can’t control the weather, especially when its hot and you’ve spent the majority of your training wearing thermals! It’s important not to beat yourself up about it but learn from it and use it to improve the next race you do.
Onwards and upwards as they say!