On the 12th April 2015 was D-day. The day I had been training for. After 5 months of training, the day was finally here. It had been the best build up for a marathon. Everything had gone to plan. Could not have been in better nick or form.
The Paris Marathon is the third biggest in the world. A touch bigger than London. Definitely a flat course too. According to strava apparently. Should mean PB’s a plenty. With the staggered start means its possible to get a good run from the start.
As with any major running events, there was an expo to pick up your race number. In short, an excuse to pedal over priced running gear to the masses. This one is massive……..in fact three times the size of the one at the Excel. All the major brands represented. Jo and I went there straight from the Eurostar. It was two Metro changes from Gare Du Nord. We needed our t-shirts for the breakfast run the next morning. A sound bit of advice is to do what we did. Get there about 6pm local time on the friday. Avoided all the queues and all the masses. Relative peace really.
The breakfast run the day before is a must. Cheap and you get breakfast at the end, Starts at the finish line of the marathon and ends up at the Eiffel Tower. Its 5k and you get a T-shirt. No fruit of loom rubbish. Great route and roads are closed. Excellent photos can be taken. Also with the roads closed, unique pics of the Eiffel Tower can be had. Well worth it. To make it even more special, I proposed to my girlfriend before. Even more shocking, she said yes. Made the run even more special. First time Jo and I have ever ran together. Could not have wished for a better setting. Who says Blakey can’t be a touch romantic. Even got away with wearing my Heaton Harriers hoody. Green and white for life.
The Metro system is the fastest way to get to the start. A good bit of advice is to use the RER train network if you can. Safer, included in your metro tickets and more pleasant way to get around. Also less stairs!!!! For any post marathon trip. A must. Ran by SNCF. Far quieter but no less efficient. Don’t use the main Champs Elysees station. Use Porte Dauphine. This is actually by the finish. The reason why this is important is that this is where you drop your bags off. Nobody uses this station. Avoid the crowds and stress. This approach is more relaxed and chilled. A tip from a very good forum, If you doing Paris. Look up the thread on Runners World. Best out there. A right friendly bunch. There a few hardcore Paris grizzled veterans on there. Do it every year. Organise events over the weekend. Pasta at Pasta Papas is a must. There knowledge is top notch and born out of experience.
Once you have handed in your luggage, time to waddle over to the start. And what a start!!!!! Looking down the Champs Elysees toward the Place Du Concorde. If that does not get you ready to start a race nothing will. The pre race PA people were not as nuts as Venice but beets that Ginger Ninja off Metro Radio any day. Right time to get race specific. Focus!!! Hard really when I am on cloud 9 after the day before. After some awesome tweets from the HH twittersphere, thanks guys, I had to commit to this. Could not waste all that training and let down people who had put faith in me.
First things first. The start is a tad mental. Clearly even with the staggered start there were runners in the wrong pens. A tip to note, you can alter your pen at the expo. Bring proof . For example, a power of 10 printout. I digress. Once I had negotiated traffic for the first mile, things started to clear out. There was a good reason for this. I was steaming ahead fuelled by coffee and dodgy Parisian food. I thought I was going fast until the trusty Garmin told me that I was doing spot on goal pace. 6.40 min per mile. A legend of HH once told me on running the Great Cumbrian Run, get the first mile right and everything will go Ok. I will always hold Sam Daley in highest regard. A veteran of many races and knows what he is talking about. Shame about his choice of Footy team but that can not be helped.
After the next two to three miles, I was in the zone. Comfort zone really. The climb from this point is not to be underestimated. It takes you upto a beautiful Palace and Park. Give me this over a view of felling anyday. Now a good point to note is that there are two sorts of drink stations. One with plastic cups and one with bottles. Use the water cups for head soaking stops. Only use the bottle stops for proper drinks. Also do not dive to the start of the water station. They go on forever. Head to the back. Less stressful and better chance of a decent water break.
The gentle climbing continues till mile 7. By this point 10k had flew by and past all the sub 3 pacers with ease. Even cruised past the runners world acics sub three guy. He looked in a bad way. Don’t know what he did but he had a pained face. Then it was a quick fly by the horse racing track. Could have been Long Champ but who knows. Looked like a big track. By nine miles, my asics pace band for 2.55 was right to the second. Went through 9 miles spot on pace to the second. I knew that sub three was on. Time to grit the teeth and get it done. My major issue that my fuelling had become very adhoc as the water stations were very adhoc. Not as planned. In my race brain. 2 gels an hour would do the trick. This would prove to be a big mistake later.
So back to the action. From 11 miles you decend and realise how much you have climbed. Its downhill for a good two miles to the half way marker. The crowds all the way round are unreal. I reached half way in 1.27. Game on!!! Was not in bad way. Just focused. You from this point head toward the river and follow it to 20 miles. These miles are painful. There are numerous tunnels. One about a mile ish in length. Your garmin could well loose reception. The tunnels are not the problem. The inclines out of them is. They are not particularly steep but take there toll. Even after this, I wasnt feeling bad but it was coming. By 18 mile could feel the energy stores feeling low. This is when the race unraveled. The adhoc nature of the gels taking meant the fuel had not been stored for the later part of the race. After leaving the riverside at mile 20 and heading inland, the tank was on empty. Only one gel left and I definitely could not stomach it. My average slipped badly and could not be recovered. Legs started to cramp up. The 24 degree heat had proved critical. Had lost to much salt and things were getting really tough. An overwhelming emotion of letting people down overtook really what should have been a strong finish. Once I let the 6.52 average slip that was it, I honestly mentally went to pieces and just finishing was the goal. In the cold of light of day should have pulled myself together and focused on 3.05. I was gone. Negative thoughts abound. Needed someone to snap me out of it. The final 4 mile through the park seemed to take forever, Afterwards it was elation in finishing. Which in truth it shouldn’t have been. After posting on the book that I was sorry for what was a terrible end to a run. Felt that I had lets so many people down that had faith in me. One person took this the wrong way and for that I am truly sorry. It was not meant in the way it was took and no disrespect was meant.
I officially finished in 3:06:47. A PB by over 2 minutes but was gutted. Should have been so much better. Really after the race, running was a side issue. In many ways, getting engaged well and truly made up for a bad performance. Yes I know I got a PB but really without sounding a little confident that was the least I could have expected. I set my PB in 2012 when I was in Ok condition. This is not meant to sounds condescending but relative. Everyone runs there own race. Regardless of pace. Anybody who finishes a marathon has been through a journey. Mentally and physically. Not matter how fast you run. You are doing something only 0.1% of the population would even dare to attempt. In this case my marathon dreams did not materise but hey ho thats marathon running for you. Anything can happen on the day. No excuses. I was not good enough mentally and phyically on the day, Since Sunday, I have now found an inner determination to right these demons and take on a GB marathon in October time. The question is which one……
In terms on Paris, what a marathon. Great course and awesome atmosphere. Everything a marathon should be. A great journey. The question is after all seven marathons I have done which would I say is the best….. Without doubt this one. London holds quite rightly the prestige being the English Road Racing Champs but would choose this one anyday, It is expensive to enter and for good reason when you see what is involved when seeing the expense to putting this one on. On a cooler day, its a PB setter. Couple that with the sights and support its up there with London. This one has to be on a bucket list of any serious marathon runner. Why this ain’t on the marathon majors I do not know. Maybe better for it. Finishing on Avenue Foch is a great feeling. Medal is canny to boot. This marathon has that feeling where you could go back year after year and still enjoy it. As one dodgy sounding Austrian fella said, I will be back…….
For all stat on the race see this link:-