It’s my own fault really, it was me who signed up for the Paris Marathon on a whim last year. Of course, Jacqui followed suit and training started in earnest at the turn of the year.
Then about six weeks ago I lost the love for long training runs, just as I should have been increasing my distances, but I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t find the urge. Couldn’t find the energy.
My preparation for this marathon was so bad I never got above 17 miles so I was really worried in the week leading up to the run.
Such was my trepidation that (as I admitted to Jacqui afterwards) if this had been a local race at home I would not have run.
After making arrangements with Jac on where we should meet and how long she should wait for me at the end, I went and stood in my starting pen where I got chatting to some guy from Chicago who had only entered a couple of days ago as he fancied a run out because he hadn’t done a marathon for a couple of weeks – which made me feel really out of my depth!
Once the klaxon went, 47000 runners went pounding down the Champs–Elysees towards the cobblestoned Place de la Concorde (cobblestones?! No runner wants to run on cobblestones!). The first 10k went by quite smoothly in 52 mins and I thought; this pace is okay. A bit faster than my training runs but still sub 4 hours. Encouraged by thousands lining the street calling Allez! Bravo! Courage! Superb! and a few French words I didn’t understand I ploughed through the park past the huntsmen blowing their horns and around the loop back in to the city.
There were bands every mile or so and they really gave you something to look forward to; an eclectic mix of rhythm bands, horns and rock groups. That, along with the feed stations offering water, orange segments, bananas or sugar cubes and the mile or kilometre markers along the route really helped spur you on.
I had looked at the map beforehand to see at what point I could drop out if need be and the halfway mark was the best bet but I reached that in 1hr 51 and still felt comfortable so kept on going. From here I would walk if I had to but I was damned well going to finish it.
I was taking in a lot of fluid because of the heat and, of course, what goes in must come out so I stopped at one of the portaloos at the 17 mile mark which was a mistake. I completely lost my rhythm and struggled to get my legs going again. Once we got into the Princess Diana tunnels under the city I was going well again in the shade after a mile in there feeling confident again. Leaving the tunnels you had to run back UP to ground level which was an effort and a soon as I hit the sunshine and heatwave I slowed again, but hey, I was at the 20 mile mark now and knew I could do it. I walked/jogged/ran the next few miles around the Bois de Boulogne (a park which is a notorious gay hangout but that wasn’t why I walked that bit!) taking on water whenever I could and the Fire Service were hosing folk down which was a huge help.
At the 25 mile marker I saw a table from the Marathon du Medoc giving out samples of wine and I thought, ‘Why not?’. A few sips of red really revitalised me and I was able to run the last mile to the finish with a smile on my face (that Dorando Pietri knew what he was doing!)
I know Jacqui was faster than me. I know my time wasn’t Mo Farah-like, but you know what? The sense of achievement I got from completing this race – in that heat, with such self doubts – was immense. Look at that picture of me crossing the line. That’s how happy I was to finish this marathon; not my first, not my fastest, but I was very pleased with my time of 4hours 12m.
It was long, it was hot, it was tiring. And I’d love to do it again next year.