One year ago today, I became a marathoner. Although I had started blogging about some of my training for the Paris Marathon, I never wrote a race recap of what happened on the 06/04/14. Why is that? I think because I was disappointed, the race did not go exactly how I wanted and I therefore tried to forget about it as soon as possible (time is the best healer indeed). However, when I woke up this morning, I thought that I was being really silly to deny my achievement and that I should be calling myself a marathoner with pride. After all, I have signed up for another one in October so I better come to term with the fact that I like running long distances.
I am not too sure how to write this race report, especially one year later as I have forgotten many details so my apologies if it doesn’t all make sense.
The day before
I arrived in Paris on the 05/04/14 after taking the overnight bus with my friend Anne. It was the cheapest option and the one that enabled me to take the least annual leave as I did not have that many, having been in my job at the time for about 6 months only. I have no issue sleeping in the bus but in retrospect, it was probably a quite tiring way to travel. I then settled at my friends house, had a nap, went to the race expo and then met up with my dad who came to Paris to support me. That was really nice as I had not seen him since the Christmas holiday. Stress started to rise.
In the evening, we went to an Italian restaurant where we met up with the other TNR girls. Indeed, a bunch of us were running the Paris marathon. After training together, it was nice to meet up the day before. However, like for many races, there was a lot of talks about pace, target times etc (which I was guilty of too). My original aim for this race was 04h15. Having consistently run half marathons around the 02h00 mark, I naively thought that it was just a question of doubling the number. Then, as I got the beginning of a shin splint , I lowered my expectations to 04h30.
I remember waking up really early and not being able to eat my porridge. I kinda force-fed myself, which was not pleasant at all. Anne and I then went to the starting pen. The crowd was amazing, there was good music and we were starting to get quite pumped up. Then there was the toilet situation. There were barely any. Apparently they were all at the very far back while Anne and I got to our starting pen via the side. We thought that we would just wait for our pen to start and stay behind to go to the toilet. We were not the only ones to think about that. I thought that it would be OK as I had called the race organisers who told be that they had porta-loo every 5km (it wasn’t the case). I’m sorry, I realise that I talk a lot about toilets in every race report but it’s part of a runner’s world. I guess that this is kinda relevant as it was a super sunny day and much warmer than expected, which led to a higher water intake.
Paris marathon race recap
Off we go
We started running and it was amazing. The race route went via many Parisian landmark and it was truly beautiful. The support crowd was great, screaming “Allez, Allez” (Go, Go) at the top of their lungs. It was my first race in France and two things struck me: there were mainly men running and no fancy dress. Regarding the first point, we got a lot of encouragement from women along the route. They were saying how great it was for us girls to compete with the men and that we should be proud of ourselves.
The first 10K
I ran the first 10K with Anne, pacing myself and embracing it all. I passed the first 5km i 00:30:48 and the first 10K in 01:01:52. At this point, I had seen my dad once already. The tracking app was really good and enabled him to position himself strategically. Except that 10Km in, we still hadn’t seen a portaloo. At this point, we had just entered the Bois de Vincennes and tons of runners were going off route for a pit stop. I decided to go wild and join them. I managed to catch up with Anne after and she decided to go do the same. Unfortunately she did not catch up with me and I ran the rest of the marathon alone.
I had mixed feeling about my pace. On one hand I wanted to run faster as I was feeling great, on the other hand I was conscious that I was ahead of my predicted time and that I should probably slow down. I crossed the 15K mark in 01:32:03 and the 21.1K mark in 02:09:10.
I saw my dad again twice, which was a great boost of confidence. I was also very happy at that point not to feel any pain in my shin. The race started feeling more difficult but I managed to keep going. The highlight of these 10K ish was to pass near the Pont des Arts, which brought a massive smile to my face as I had to engaged nearby 2 months before and put a cheesy love lock on the bridge after. The Eiffel tower looked splendid and I really loved the tunnel at the 28K mark. Mission impossible was playing and it got me singing and feel all pumped up. I crossed the 25K mark in 02:35:59 and the 30K mark at 03:12:14. At this point I remember feeling a bit sad that I would not be finishing the marathon in 04h15 but I tried to focus on plan B, which was 04h30.
Things started to get difficult. It downed on me that I was starting to run distances that I had never ran before. I was also approaching the Bois de Boulogne, which I had decided months before the race that I would be horrible to run in there. I was also getting a bit lost nutrition wise. One one hand I was feeling super thirty and kept wanting to drink, on the other hand it only made me feel bloated and full of water. However, I has asked my Dad and friends to come to the 35K mark and the idea of seeing them kept me going. I crossed the 35K mark in 03:49:37, fairly consistent with my average of 30min for 5K, despite feeling more tired.
The Bois de Boulogne was quite miserable. I felt cold due to the shadow and quite lonely, looking forward to seeing Dad and my friends. They were not there at the 35K mark so I kept going….still not there at the 36K mark so I carried on a bit more…but I had a complete breakdown when I did not see them at the 37K mark. What happened is that up to that point, I had run the race ahead of my predicted 04h30 finish so my support crew thought that they would not have time to come and see me at the Bois de Boulogne and then go back to the finish line. They opted to wait for me at the finish line…
I stopped running, feeling sorry for myself and pretty miserable. TMI information warning (I was also feeling quite nauseous and really wanted to be sick but did not manage). Thankfully, some runners started cheering me, patting me in the back and telling me not to stop now. I started run/walking as well as I could. In all honesty, it wasn’t because I wanted to keep running, but because it was the only way out of the Bois de Boulogne! It’s not as if I could have given up and get some sort of public transport!
Then the best thing happened. My friend Emmanuelle got worried that I still hadn’t arrived so she started to walk in my direction and she found me! She then proceeded to runs with me, taking me to the 40K mark, telling me that it was a quick walk and that it would be an even quicker run. One funny detail is that Emmanuelle was due to go to brunch and was in a very smart attire, with smart shoes and that her poor boyfriend who was also dressed smartly had to run to keep up with us! Thank you again Manue, I could not have done it without you!!! At the 40K mark, I treated myself to some oranges given on the course. To this day, it remains the best orange of my life and kept running, knowing that I could make it.
My support crew was around the finish line, by which point I barely stopped to wave at them as I was going for the home run (or what I thought I was doing, the video later showed that “my sprint” was actually running in extremely slow motion).
I ended up finishing in 04:49:52. At this point I was glad to be done but not particularly happy, I felt cold and nauseous (and was sick shortly after). I gave a big hug to my Dad and friends and could finally admire the sign they made for me.
For the past year, I was disappointed of my time but also feeling so awful towards the end of the race but today, one year later, I am finally proud to call myself a marathoner!
- The course was great, Paris is a great city and it was a great opportunity to spend the weekend there.
- I had a lot of support
- There was plenty of water and fuel notably oranges and banana. I didn’t have any except towards the end as I had not practiced with them.
- There was great music along the course. I did not listen to my music despite creating a playlist for the event
- The support crowd was amazing. Like for any race, I recommend writing your name on your T-shirt.
- The sports massage tent sponsored by Tiger Balm at the end. This was AMAZING. Physio students were giving you massages. I had one massaging each leg for a good 15min. It massively helped to prevent DOMS. Except for stairs in the metro, I was walking around Paris the following day with no problem.
- Lots of food at the end.
- Not enough portaloos
- Only 1 Powerade station (not that I wanted any, but it didn’t seem much for a marathon)
- Need for more marshals in the Bois de Boulogne to prevent cyclists from coming on the course.
What I would do differently
- Definitely more strength training in order to prevent injury. I think that the reason why my stomach was so sensitive is that I had taken a few ibuprofen in the days preceding the marathon. Despite only taking 1 a day and with food, my stomach does not react very well to them. However, my shin didn’t hurt!
- Practice running on my own. It was great training with the TNR girls but that means that I did not strengthen my mind as much as my legs and we all know that the mind gives up before the body does.
- Not change my nutrition on race day. I practiced with many gels during the training and discovered which ones worked for me and which ones didn’t. However I practiced taking them every 9K. The week before the marathon, I went to a marathon workshop where the nutritionist advised taking gels every 7K to avoid “hitting the wall”. This is what I ended up doing on race day despite having fever practiced doing so and in retrospect, this also probably contributed to upsetting my stomach. Do not listen to any experts. You know your body better than them.
And this is how I became a marathoner!