This is a breakdown of how Paris went for me, this was my first ever marathon, after booking it in April 2016 and training on and off since its fair to say that the last year has all been about Paris and trying to get “marathon fit”. When I signed up for the Paris marathon I had only started training a few months before, I have the spells where I think “let’s do some running to get fit” and then it just fades away and I am back sat on the sofa doing nothing. This time I thought signing up to a race would give me the motivation to keep at it and what better motivation than getting ready for a marathon? Typing this now, it sounds a crazy idea but it worked, I ran just over 300 miles in 2016 included a number of races up to half marathon distance. You can read more on how my 2017 training went at PARIS MARATHON 2017 TRAINING (Jan – Apr)
Arrival & Expo (Friday)
Anyway on to Paris, and so came the big weekend, I flew into Charles de Gaulle airport, arriving at 17:00 (great planning there arriving into a major city at rush hour) and decided to head down to Porte de Versailles for the expo to collect my race number and t-shirt for Saturdays Paris Breakfast Run. It took me around an hour to get from the airport to the expo via RER and tram and a pretty stressful hour at that. I collected my race number, they provided us with bags for the bag drop which was good of them, Note for anyone looking at Paris in the future, you need to take a completed medical certificate, the convocation form and photo ID. If like me, you print your convocation out as soon as it was available but then added the Paris Breakfast Run on as an extra afterwards, you need to re-print the convocation. I didn’t do this and had to prove that I had signed up for the breakfast run as it wasn’t listed on my paperwork, totally my fault and understandable. After all the stress of getting to the expo and then not having the correct paperwork, I just headed straight out to get checked into my hotel.
Paris Breakfast Run (Saturday)
I was staying at the Hilton Paris Opera at Saint-Lazare due to its close proximity to the start / finish and most of the sights being walkable from there. The Breakfast Run starts at 9:00am on the Saturday near to the Louvre Museum, I walked down there and had a starbucks latte on the way, what runner doesn’t love a coffee? The run is only 5k and ran at a controlled 10 min mile pace, to be honest, I didn’t like it, whilst the atmosphere with the runners was amazing and it was good to get a shake down run in while seeing a few sights, I wouldn’t recommend it, the controlled pace felt too slow and the coffee & croissant at the finish weren’t great. If I did the marathon again I would just go for a Saturday run myself and stop off at one of Paris’ coffee shops afterwards. I spent the rest of the day walking around Paris seeing all of the sights, taking fluids on and had the biggest Pizza I have ever seen for dinner, what threw me somewhat was every pizza on the menu had an egg on it? I have not seen that before but I was all for the carbs and protein mix.
Marathon day!!!!!!!!!! (Sunday)
Alarm was set for 6:30am and I slept like a log all night. I was woken by what I thought was my alarm but it wouldn’t turn off, I eventually realised it was 4am and I had a missed call, a quick Google of the number revealed it was my mother’s CareLine calling me out, they rang back as I was on Google to advise that my mother had pressed her panic/help button and they were not getting a response from her. Stuck in Paris 100’s of miles away and fearing the worst and absolutely nothing I could do to help. I put them on to my brother and just had to park it there and try to put all thoughts of what might have happened to my mother at the back of my mind until after the race. I had what is now my traditional pre-race / pre-ride breakfast of a huge bowl of frosties, porridge and some eggs. I have always fared well after fuelling with this so why break a tradition. As the sun was rising I walked down to the bag drop area with a 500ml mix of SiS Go Electrolyte to give me that boost for the race, I was treated to this Paris sunrise on the way.
The bag drop was well managed and painless, after reading The Runner Beans Paris blog from 2014 and her loo debacle at the start corrals I took the opportunity to use the urinals at the bag drop, its so much easier being a man at times like that… the glamorous side of marathon running lol. I was in the green 4hr wave due to be set off 1hr after the official start of the marathon. The forecast of extreme heat wasn’t wrong, even at the start the temperature was already at 18c and forecast to be 25c around finishing time. Far far!! Hotter than the winter training temps I had suffered.
Mile 1 – 6: 8:47, 8:43, 8:56, 9:06, 8:50, 8:45
Whilst the start line was crowded they stagger the start so one side of the road goes before the other. As soon as I crossed the line I was in a space of my own and able to run at my own pace. I planned a 9 min pace which I totally ignored the whole way around. The first 3 – 4km are downhill making it a nice gentle start to the race. I coasted around to the 10km mark in 55:54 with ease and feeling comfortable. The only dip in my split times was when I encountered the chaos of the water station. Chaos is putting it lightly, despite the many bins (with targets above) there were bottles and fruit peels all over the floor making it so slippery. I never understand why I runner does not give any consideration to their fellow runners coming behind them, just toss your waste in the bin its not difficult! Why risk injuring others?
Mile 7 – 13: 8:38, 8:43, 8:38, 8:38, 8:34, 8:39, 8:51
The vast majority of this section was running through the woods / park of Bois de Vincennes, this part of the course see less spectators and some welcomed shade from the trees. I was still running comfortably and starting to think that this was feeling easy. Mile 7 – 12 splits were all more or less equal and I hit the half marathon mark in 1:55:53 which is actually my 3rd faster half marathon, crazy.
Mile 14 – 21: 8:42, 8:46, 10:56, 8:55, 9:01, 10:25, 11:28, 11:02
Now back in the built up part of the course, the heat building, the legs tiring and going past my longest ever run of 14 miles I hit trouble at mile 16, up to this point I had ran nonstop but then whilst running through one of the tunnels I just had to stop and walk for a few minutes. Upon restarting my legs felt like jelly, I managed to plod on for 2 more miles before walking against briefly at mile 19 and 20 then in mile 21 I heard my phone beep, I had asked my wife to text me when she knew how my mother was. Giving her the horrible choice of whether or not to tell me if the news was bad. Luckily the text said that mum had a fall and had cut her legs, this came as such a relief. I had been in two minds whether to read the text or not, just in case. With this news I set off running again and to my surprise I saw the 4hr pacer come past!! Despite the disasters at mile 16, 19, 20 & 21 I was still close to 4hrs!!
Mile 22 – 26.2!!!!: 9:08, 9:00, 8:55, 9:59, 11:13
Seeing the 4hr pacer gave me a second wind, I was off after him, trying my best to catch up and get that sub 4hr time I so wanted, however, he just kept getting further and further down the road. At this stage we were back in a park running the last 5 miles through Bois de Boulogne and the heat was getting unbearable, all of the runners were crowded in a 2m stretch of the road that offered some shade. I had dropped my water bottle at the last water station and rather than go back to get another I pressed on after Mr 4hr, then came mile 25 aka the wall / dehydration zone, I had to walk for a few minutes and again during mile 26 then we turned on to Avenue Foch or where the Foch is the finish as I renamed it to the roar of the crowds, that lifted me and I sprinted off over the line. Sadly behind Mr 4hr but in a time of 4:05:06, initially I was really disappointed with that, over time I came to accept it, given the missed training, illness, worries about mum and the heat. I now know I can run the distance, next time I will smash 4hours.
Considering that I went into the marathon unprepared after missing 5 weeks of training, weight loss due to illness and only one long run of 14 miles, my legs felt strong up to mile 16 and as expected it was tough from then on, I just didn’t have the miles in the legs. Had I stuck to my original pacing strategy of 9 min miles, would I have ran further without stopping? Maybe, maybe not. The hardest part of all was running alone for that length of time wondering and worrying how my mother was, that made the marathon a million times harder.
Would I recommend Paris? Absolutely!! The course is fantastic, flat (just 413ft gain), fast and packed with landmarks to see, but most of the all, the spectators. From start to finish the route was jam-packed with people shouting, cheering, chanting and singing, bands, cheerleaders (a personal favourite of mine) and the French ASICS Frontrunner team all supporting every runner they gave us all such a lift. There is no ballot for Paris so go and get yourself signed up now!