‘You can walk when you get to the mile marker, and not before that’
I’m actually surprised that Loz didn’t hit me, hide from me or tell me to leave her alone at any point during the Paris Marathon yesterday.
After realising that I wasn’t mentally prepared to run a PB on Sunday (and thank goodness, I don’t think my body let alone my mind would have survived the heat), I told my friend that I’d run with her. The aim was to run a 4.30, but ultimately we wanted to have fun and enjoy the day.
I had kindly been invited to Paris by the Paris Marathon team, and as part of that was able to enjoy a ‘Runner’s Breakfast’ at Ladauree before the race. We watched from the luxury of the restaurant as the starting pens filled up, while we munched on fruit, yogurt, granola (and after some negotiation, eventually some bread and pastries).
After eating a pain au chocolat (apparently I didn’t learn from last time I ran Paris, I just can’t help myself!) and downing some coffee to ensure my pre-race bathroom ritual occurred (TMI, sorry!) I met up with Loz to get into our corrals. We easily found Jess and Bex and found some room in the 3.45 start pen. The lines for the ports-loos were as crazy as they were back in 2014. Clearly they haven’t taken on board the feedback that they need more loos in the corrals, so we didn’t even bother getting in the queue, planning to stop en route if needed.
The plan – enjoy the day. Stay together for as long as possible and have fun running around Paris.
The first few miles felt like they took a while for us to get settled. We joked that our legs hurt already, and my Garmin was registering my heart rate much higher than it should have been for that pace. I knew then that I had definitely made the right decision not to try to PB. I had been awake with anxiety insomnia from 2.30 and was still feeling the knock on effect of being ill over the Bank Holiday weekend.
We also enjoyed the signposts pointing out the sights of Paris, such as The Bastille, The Louvre.
We ran, chatted, smiled, talked about the sweat dripping down our bodies and looked out for some loos. Something that the Tokyo Marathon did really well was signposting when the next set of bathrooms would be – this would be so helpful in Paris when they felt very sporadic!
One of the best things about running in a big group was we had loads of spectators to look out for, first it was Jess and Bex’s partners and son, then running friend Laura, followed by my Mum and Loz’s family, all before we hit 7 miles!
I’d totally forgotten about the first park (and hadn’t looked at the course map since 2014), and so it made a nice change from the cobblestones and streets of Paris to run through the beautiful Bois de Vincennes gardens. However, it was around the 9 mile marker that we realised just how hot it actually was, and we all started to worry about Loz drinking enough water and trying to cool her down. Despite wearing hydration packs, Jess, Bex and I started grabbing water bottles at the (too infrequent in my opinion) water stations. We would drink half and throw half over our heads. Loz would grab two, one to drink and one to cool down. And so began a ritual. I would grab 3 bottles of water while Loz kept moving, and we would try to lower our body temperature and stay hydrated.
Scarily the water stations seemed to be running low on supplies quite early on in the race, and people were outraged that they might have run out as the first few tables were empty. Luckily there was more water further down.
Let me also just say that the aid stations were awesome! Orange segments never tasted so good. I also chose some ginger cake at one of the stops which although a bit dry, did sit well amongst all the gels. You could also choose sugar cubes, raisins or banana slices! I never normally peruse the aid stations, but not going for a specific time meant I was able to take full advantage. I can only imagine how good the Marathon de Medoc aid stations are – added to my bucket list!!
Loz had started struggling in the park with the heat, and had been pulling back. I had to make a decision, to carry running with Jess and Bex, or stay with Loz. I stayed with Loz, knowing that I didn’t want her out there on her own, and having signed her up for the race, I had to get her to the finish!
I made a deal with her…we had to run until we got to the Eiffel Tower and then we could start taking walking breaks. They happened a little earlier than originally planned due to a couple of short hills that we walked up.
I was giving Loz sips of water from my hydration pack as well as some of my Margherita Shot Bloks for salt, she took some painkillers and I took her phone to try to reduce the weight on her back. It’s really hard when someone is struggling so early on and there’s not much you can say with 10 miles to go!
I loved running along The Seine. It was beautiful and felt very surreal to be running through the city of Paris in the sunshine. It was awesome!
Loz and I were bargaining with one another, me – for us to keep running, Loz-to stop and walk. It was great to have my Mum in three places along the way and to see Loz’s family so many times (think we spotted them 6 times!) They had a big sign that we could spot well in advance that lifted our spirits every time we spotted it (and were able to grab more orange wedges from Loz’s boyfriend, Tom).
The final miles blur together, with memories of me running, turning to check that Loz was still behind me only to find her drifting further away. We would walk at every mile marker for a minute or two, then run again. We even had a little chat about mental strength while walking through the park of doom.
I had managed to somehow change my watch over to average pace rather than current pace and time, (need to sort that out before I pace London). Miles were flashing up between 12 and 14 minute miles, but I still had no idea of our predicted finishing time. Apparently, we had a predicted time of 4.45 for a long time, but sadly we just coudn’t keep the 11 min pace that we needed.
Turning the corner, I was a little disappointed not to have the usual 800m, 400m, 200m count down. Luckily, we turned a corner and with about 400m to go, we could see the finish line. We ran, I grabbed Loz’s hand as we crossed the finish line.
I loved how quickly they sent texts to us with our finish time: 5.09. So proud of Loz for pushing through, even when she was in pain. She sent me a photo of her foot later and it was covered in blood!
Loz declared that she was never running a marathon ever again (although over pizza later she said she would actually like to run the New York Marathon..and the LA marathon, and Chicago… so a typical marathoner really, that vows to never run one again when they are running, then immediately starts planning the next after finishing!)
I filmed the race but been having real issues with my GoPro and downloading footage so will try to get it up as soon as I can!