My Paris Marathon
After applying for London year after year and always getting rejected (read more about that here) I decided that Paris would be a "nice marathon to try".
At the time I was still at uni and living in London about finish my legal qualifications. My schedule, commitment wise, was okay. In fact it was a breeze! If only I'd known then what I know now about juggling commitments!! It was at the time of the Oscar Pistorious trial and I used to go marathon training and then watch Sky News all day. I digress.
The day before the paris marathon
I had arrived in Paris on the Friday afternoon to go the Expo and pick up my number and to get settled in. Asics do a wall of all of the runners names. Some are covered by promotions but I was really excited to find mine. On Saturday morning I went for a "shake out" run. I've never really understood what that means but it felt fun to be doing it. I was so excited and had planned a route of a couple of miles from my hotel, past the start pens so that I knew where they were, and I was giddy running round Paris exploring the City for the first time. I remember running past the George V hotel and giving myself a talking too as I was sprinting round the City not concentrating and needed to look where I was going otherwise I'd be run over by the next moped.
For the rest of the day I went on a boat cruise which was incredible and something I would highly recommend not only to see the City but to save your legs. I then went back to the hotel and watched a film until dinner. Dinner was a medium sized bowl of tomato pasta, nothing fancy, lots of fuel.
The night before I got everything ready including my jelly babies (as I don't like any gels) and I pinned my number on my vest. I was as ready as I would ever be.
Since signing up for the marathon I'd been nervous. My nerves weren't helped by the fact I did one week of my training plan and then broke my leg skiing. I restarted my plan at week 8 and completed the final 9 weeks of my plan at a reduced intensity cutting out the shorter runs and mainly focusing on three runs a week: tempo, hill sprints and the weekly long run. I was still worried I wouldn't be able finish the course. My 20M training run had been horrid and although 21M in training had been better I was worried. I had told all of my friends and family I was running the Paris Marathon, I was raising money for charity and had to get over the line for them. I worried if I didn't do it that I have to give the money back?! These thoughts had been circling around in my head for weeks and if I thought about them too much it made me feel nauseous. However, I do what I always do with worries like that. I put them in a mental box on a high shelf to deal with after the race if required. I really hoped they wouldn't be required.
The morning of the Paris MArathon
On the race morning I went to meet my friend Jo. We weren't running together but we planned to start together. The atmosphere was electric. The City came alive and there were people everywhere! It was one of those moments where you desperately trying to take it all in so that you can replay it over and over. I'd read about people peeing in the street in the start queues and that it was a bit gross but if they did I didn't notice. I was too excited taking in the beautiful blue sky and the buzz of anticipation. Before I knew it we were off. About 20 seconds in I had lost Jo. I settled into my pace and checked my Garmin so that I didn't get swept along too fast. My taper had worked and I felt strong but I knew I was a real risk to myself not to get too easily excited. I had created a playlist especially for the marathon and I distinctly remember a song from Beauty and the Beast coming on as I ran through the provincial streets of Paris just as it happens in the film where they sing good morning to each other. It was perfect.
MY RACE - my very first marathon
I was surprised at how different the atmosphere was to London. There were parts of the course that had a carnival atmosphere and I remember a passing a fire station where everyone came out to support. At other parts there was no-one watching. The streets were bare with no barriers and at about 15 miles I nearly had a collision as someone crossed in front of me with their bike. I was running with a water bottle and my jelly babies and so I was keen not to stop for anything. An image from my race pace is below and it was pretty 'on pace' apart from one water stop and one little walk I had.
I had two aims for the race. The first was to get a sub 4hr time and the second was not to walk on the course. I'm not a big drinker of water when I run and if I'm running less a half marathon I don't take on any water at all. I'm pretty sure that this is not advisable by any medically trained people anywhere but I know that I'm okay. That Sunday morning in Paris was hot! I'd trained in the British winter when my hands would get so cold that I couldn't make my keys work in the lock when I got in from a run. I carried a small handheld bottle in Paris and it lasted a long way. You can see on my pace chart that where I paused for a drink (I'd put it off for as long as possible because there were huge queues at each water station).
The second point where I walked was just after I'd seen my friends and Jo's family. I knew where I was going to see them. My boyfriend had climbed up on a big boulder and I saw them just before they saw me. They started waving madly and cheered and shouted how proud they were. A few minutes later after I'd passed them I looked down at my Garmin and calculated that I was still on for a sub 4hr time but I had to walk. I was so emotionally exhausted. The nerves, the pressure I'd put on myself to run so soon after injury and to get round sub 4hr - it was all rising up and crushing me. After focusing on each minute of every run for months I needed just a minute for me. I took a deep breath, told myself it was okay to walk for a moment and then set off with more determination than ever before.
Shortly after that I passed the 37km. That's a Parkrun a remember shouting out loud. Clearly it isn't but what my brain had worked out was I had 5km left. I knew I could do a Parkrun. I'd been doing Parkruns for weeks in Newcastle across the Town Moor. I literally began to map out the Newcastle Parkrun in my head. I was running across the centre of the Moor dodging the ice heading for that gate. It worked though because before I knew it I was at the 40km. I looked at my Garmin. I still had 15 mins but I needed to dig deep. 2km after 40km is not quite the same 5ish mins per km as it might normally be. I started to push. And just like that I saw the 1km flag. I knew I had about 10 mins to play with and although it wasn't time to sprint yet it was time to put myself through some pain. I wanted that sub 4hr time. I ran as fast as I could. I could feel the crowd getting bigger and louder and I tore my headphones out of my ears. We veered left then right and I could see it. I could see the finish arch and I was sprinting as fast as I could. For the first time ever after a race I remembered to stop my Garmin as a French man jumped on me and we started cheering. We were leaping about in a celebratory embrace and he was shouting something in French and I was shouting "We did it!!!" I was high giving everyone in sight because I couldn't speak. I looked down at my Garmin 3:54:56 I did it.