The big day arrived
April 8, 2013
As I expected, I did not sleep well before Paris Marathon. I have been reading Paula Radcliffe’s autobiography. She makes it clear that the night before the marathon is not the most important, so I wasn’t too worried. I was unable to have my usual breakfast (porridge), but Kirsty and I had bought some plastic storage pots, so I had a bowl of granola and water, which seemed ok… And as much water as I could. I usually drink 1-2 pints before leaving my house every morning, so I wasn’t worried that it would be too much.
Stu, Kirsty and I left the hotel at 7:30 and walked up to the Arc de Triomphe. Stu took some photos and then we let him go.
Just five minutes later, we bumped into Di, Angela, Mike and Patrick. They seemed in high spirits but were struggling to find the baggage area. After a brief conversation, we let them go and headed towards our start area.
We realised how far we were going to have to walk to our start pen, so we decided to find somewhere to go to the loo. Unfortunately, many of the restaurants along the Champs Elysees are quite expensive and not open early in the morning. Never have I been more grateful to see the golden arches. After a brief queue, Kirsty and I headed back outside towards our pen. We realised how fortuitous our decision to go to McDonalds had been. The queue for the two portaloos stretched the entire way across the road!
We knew that we were fairly near to the 3;45 pen, but decided to stay put as we were able to see the warm-up ‘entertainment’. It consisted of a couple on a podium dancing to well-known tracks and shouting, “Bouger, bouger, bouger” (Move, move, move).
Ready to go
Eventually, the pens of people started moving forward and we started to feel more excited, although I was still unsure how far I would be able to run. The main problem was that everyone had started to discard their plastic ponchos… and spare clothing… and gel packets… and drinks bottles… so the ground was covered with obstacles. We realised that we were not going to be able to start for at least another 45 minutes, so as the queues had gone from the portaloos, we thought we’d make use of the facilities. WHAT A MISTAKE! I didn’t expect there to be any loo roll, but I also didn’t quite expect it to be as sordid as it was; it turns out I was lucky – Kirsty’s loo was over-flowing. There were also people squatting all over the street. This is one part of the marathon that I never want to relive!!!
Finally, it was time to go.
It was a little chilly, and I was excited, so Kirsty and I started out running at a reasonably quick pace. We covered the first 5k in 29:36, and I realised that I didn’t want to wear my gloves anymore. But they’re my favourite gloves so there was no way that I was going to abandon them. Stu had said that he’d come and see us at about six miles, so at five miles, I took my gloves off and then carried them. Kirsty agreed that she would watch the left-hand side of the road and I would watch the right. Finally, I saw Stu on the left-hand side of the road, so I shouted and ran over, throwing my gloves in his direction before running on.
About 100m later, Stu was at the side of the road, shouting at Kirsty and I and cheering us on. The triggered a blonde moment for Kirsty, “How did Stu get there? Did he manage to run there faster than us?” Well, yes – he’d caught the metro to that area and had been standing around for a while, so a 100m sprint wasn’t a tough challenge for him!
Support from Stu
We carried on and at around 9km as we were entering Bois de Vincennes we saw Stu. I was getting quite warm, so I gave him my headband and neck gaiter. Fortunately, he also appeared as we were leaving the forest at 20k, so I was able to give him my arm warmers!
I was feeling good and realised at about 25k that Kirsty had started to slow down. Unfortunately, she wasn’t sure of the settings on Irene’s Garmin and thought she was on target. We entered an incredibly long underpass and then I realised that my Garmin had lost reception and stopped – aarrgghh!!! We came out of the underpass and I thought that my watch may have picked up the distance, but unfortunately, the time was lost. I guessed that it had taken me 3-5 minutes, but that wasn’t very helpful, and I didn’t think of asking any other runners.
At 27k Kirsty and I agreed to go our separate ways. Shortly afterwards, I saw Stu on the road above an underpass. I was unsure of how much I should speed up, but I was feeling good, so decided to go for it.
parkrun to go
I had hoped to really push myself for the last 5k. Unfortunately, my legs didn’t agree with me, so I carried on at the same pace. At about 41k, Stu was there to cheer me on. What a superstar! I told him how disappointed I was that not only would I fail to get under four and a half hours, but I would also fail to beat my time from Milton Keynes. Stu encouraged me to just do the best I could.
I crossed the line and stopped my watch: 4:29:35. Not a bad time, but I would just have to wait to see how much was added on.
When I got back to the hotel, I realised that my friends had been following my progress and they already knew my time:
I did it! Under four and a half hours! 😀
After all of the stress of the preceding week, I was delighted that I achieved a PB. However, I definitely want to have another crack at getting under 4:15, so am now likely to enter New Forest Marathon, which is at the end of September. 7901 women took part in the race, so I was about mid-field. Here is my finisher data:
It is possible to watch videos of me running here: Asics France Runners TV