So, Paris Marathon. I love the way running takes me all over the world. This was my first trip to Paris in 15 years. Last time I convinced myself I could speak and understand French better when drunk, and therefore spent the majority of the time in a boozy haze. Its testament to how much my lifestyle has changed that I was returning to run the marathon, and while I had the odd beer, those days of excess are long gone. I feel much better for it.
I travelled on Eurostar for the first time. Such a great experience and so easy. It makes Europe much more accessible. I hope to be back for more travels soon.
The weather was beautiful for the first couple of days. I made the most of the opportunity to do some sight-seeing as well as getting over to the expo to pick up my race pack. As far as expos go, this one was pretty good.
Sight-seeing highlights were my visit to the Moulin Rouge, chilling out at Sacre-Coeur and above all climbing the Eiffel Tower. Once I began the ascent on foot to the second level I was forcibly reminded that I suffer from vertigo. My hands were sweating and my head spun, but I told myself if I could do this, the marathon would be easy. The children laughing and running about at the top reinforced Shakespeare’s notion that “Nothing’s good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” The views were spectacular and it was a great way to take in the sights of the city in the sunshine. I felt mentally empowered.
I caught up with friends from Run Dem Crew at the Jeff Koons exhibition and some of us went for a final carb-loading dinner on Saturday evening. I stayed at the Hotel Arvor, which was well located in Montmartre. Definitely a location I would recommend, and I had a good-sized room, but I didn’t sleep as well as I would have liked.
This was the first time I really understood how to carb-load properly and I’m convinced it had a positive impact on my race. I ate over 70% carbs from Thursday through to the morning of the race. This took planning, but bagels are the carb-loader’s friend, as is pasta. I was able to run strong in the later stages of the race because I got this preparation right.
The race itself was an absolute dream, played out on a sunny morning but not so hot it became unpleasant. I had set myself three goals. Number one was to enjoy the race, number two was not to walk during a marathon for the first time and three was to run a BQ, but not at the expense of number one. I’m happy to say I managed all three.
Like many training for spring marathons, I’d had my share of illnesses during the training period, and had found myself becoming depressed about the way a Boston Qualifying time seemed to be slipping away from me. Then Paulie Roche’s medal speech in Housekeeping at Run Dem Crew reminded me that more important than the time we run is how we feel during a marathon. It was like flicking a switch in my head- everything felt better. Thank you, Paulie.
The race starts on the Champs Elysees and you see spectacular sights, including Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. The first mile is downhill. There are a few hills that you feel more towards the end, but nothing PB-threatening. You run through two different parks for 5/6 miles each, which I really enjoyed. As you run beside the Seine you go through some tunnels, some of which have disco lights and music, and one of which was apparently the one in which Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed tragically died.
Crowd support was great. Lots of really enthusiastic cheering and high-fives were to be had, and a good number of people recognised the Run Dem Crew t-shirt. Paris Run Club had a cheer point at the 30km mark, which was a welcome boost, and Run Dem Crew were at 35km. Knowing they were there really kept me going, and it was great to see Azra and co as I powered through.
After that I slowed slightly, but was still able to run at PB pace. I almost caught up with Steven Layton, Richard George and Alex Morrison, who’d started in the wave in front of me, but couldn’t quite reel them in. On the final mile my right hamstring cramped up so I slowed right down, knowing I would get a good for age Boston Qualifying time as long as I didn’t injure myself on the final straight. It felt incredible to cross the finish line having enjoyed the whole thing, run the whole way and also got the BQ.
Its crazy that we cross the finish line at a marathon and stop running immediately. It would be better if we carried on at a snail’s pace doing a one or two mile cool-down, but that wasn’t an option. I felt light-headed and it took a while before I could converse normally, but I queued up for an excellent post-race massage and then met up with other crew members. It was great to hear everyone’s stories and to share the endorphin high. We went for lunch and beers at a nearby bar, and then it was time to head back on the Eurostar as I had to be in my classroom the next morning.
It was a pleasure to run Paris with these good people. Big ups to Cheer Dem for supporting us. Next stop New York for some crew running in May.