Paris Marathon & City Guide Part 2: Marathon day!

Paris Marathon and City Guide Part 2

So here we are – part 2 of my Paris Marathon and City Guide! If you haven’t already, go and check out part 1 for some insider tips and tricks on getting around the city, navigating the Expo, and fun things to do the day before (without nackering your legs!)

This one covers the race day itself, with advice on the start area, bag drop and loo logistics, start corrals, spectator/aid points and post-run recovery. I hope it helps!

– Pre-race breakfast

I wanted to make sure my breakfast was as close to what I’d had in training as possible, so I threw a few porridge pots in my suitcase. This worked brilliantly on the morning – all I needed to do was add some hot water from the hotel room kettle, and grab a banana to eat on the way!

parisstartend2

Looking mildly terrified on marathon morning – though luckily 26.2 miles sorted that right out!

If you’re not a porridge fan, the French are brilliant with their carbs. Just pop into a local Monoprix supermarket, and you’ll have aisles of different breads and pastries and cakes (the Madeleines and muffins were next to the breakfast stuff, and yes, I definitely had them for breakfast once or twice!)

– The start area (loos and bag drop)

The first thing I’ll say is get there EARLY. There are plenty of loos, which was great – a row at each exit of the Place d’Etoile – so if the first lot look a bit busy, just keep heading round. I only had about 4 people in the queue ahead of me. Don’t worry about skipping a few – you need to cross a couple of roads from the Champs Elysees anyway, as the bag drop is on the Avenue Foch. What I didn’t realise was how far down it was:

parisstart2Heading back to the start after the bag drop, banana and drink in hand!

They were directing runners along the side of the finish chute, round the far end of the bag drop area, and back along to the start – it took us a good 20 minutes or so. But once we actually reached the right bit, we were sorted in 30 seconds.

– The corrals

The corrals were easy to navigate, as they were marked with colour-coded time flags (these are the same colours as the bib pick-up tables at the Expo). The entrances to each corral were very crowded, as there were barriers all along the edge and just a small gap for the runners to get through; there were also LOTS of spectators milling around, so you might need to get those elbows ready 😉

I’d definitely suggest making the most of the loos before you get into your corral, as there was only 1 cubicle in each, and 1 urinal for the guys. Each cubicle had a massive queue, even well after the starting gun – not worth the stress!

– The marathon course

There are a few things that are worth a mention here:

  • Pace yourself in the first mile or two. The marathon starts off slightly downhill, and it’s easy to get caught up with the masses.
  • Aid stations are every 5k, and include slices of orange and banana along with small bottles of Vittel water – but the tables are set up about 200m past the km markers, so don’t expect to see them straight away. I would also move along and grab a bottle/fruit from the far end, as it’s much quieter. Take the opportunity to walk here – the ground can get very slippery due to the discarded banana and orange peel!
  • The main spectator areas seemed to be around Concorde, Bastille (as the course loops back on itself here, at 3 and 14 miles), Vincennes, the bridges along the river, and on Avenue Foch. My boyfriend managed to spot me at Bastille, Vincennes, and back at Bastille – but unfortunately we missed each other at mile 17 (however this is definitely a good area to try and get to, as it’s a bit quieter than the earlier stages).
  • If you’re looking for decent race photos, it’s worth noting that the photographers were generally set up in the middle of the street, rather than at the edge – so pick your good side in advance! And if you signed up for the live FB photo at 41km, be warned: the cameras are at the top of a short, sharp hill. Everyone around you who had been walking or taking it easy will shoot up this hill as soon as they spot the ‘you will be photographed in X metres!’ sign, so get those legs moving! 😉
  • There was very little shade in the second half of the race, so if it’s warm, slap on the sun cream and grab a hat! (Don’t do what I did and only remember the sun cream half a mile down the Champs Elysees. You WILL suffer for it. I still have the tan marks from my Garmin and pace band…)
– The finish

The finish area was brilliantly organised. There were photographers about 200m from the finish line, and once you crossed it, the rest was simple: medals and t-shirts came first, then the tables of water bottles (seriously thankful for those!), and finally the bag drop area. There were also a few stalls further down, with massage areas and running gear, but I personally skipped them.

With regards to meeting your supporters, I found that picking a specific spot on the Champs Elysees (or any street other than Avenue Foch) worked really well, as the crowds seemed to thin out past the finish area. I found my boyfriend almost immediately, and had an ice-cream in my hand within about 15 minutes! (Priorities, and all that!)

– Refueling, Paris-style

Whilst it was tempting to hang around after the race, the Champs Elysees and surrounding streets are always full of tourists, and it’s notoriously difficult to find a seat at any of the restaurants (though I wouldn’t write them off straight away – there are some lovely places to eat if you manage to get a space). We headed back to the hotel instead, where I grabbed a shower and we both had a short nap (spectating is hard work!) before venturing out for dinner a few hours later. There’s no shortage of restaurants in the city, and every French bistro/restaurant I’ve been to has done EPIC steak frites – which is exactly what I had! Along with a glass of wine, though that very nearly sent me to sleep… But if you can’t have a glass of wine in Paris on marathon day, when can you!?

– – –

Are you running Paris next year? Is there anything else you’d like to know, that I might have missed? Add a comment below, come find me on Twitter, or ping me an email at envierose@gmail.com 🙂

Advertisements

Paris Marathon & City Guide Part 1: The day(s) before

Paris Marathon and City Guide Part 1

Whilst I know Paris quite well, having lived there during my placement year, I’ve never visited the city as a marathon runner – and surprisingly, it was quite a different experience!

Suddenly I had all of these other things to consider. Where is the Expo? How does the Expo work? Where is the start/finish? How do I get from one to the other? What and where should I eat the night before? What can I visit without nackering my legs too much? (Slightly failed that one). And on, and on…

So I figured that I’d put together some of the things that worked well for me, in the hope that it might help someone else who is thinking of running Paris. (And you should! It’s EPIC!)

Before the race
– Getting Around

For getting around the city, you have a few ticket options as far as public transport goes. If you’re not planning on using it much, you can buy single tickets for 1,70e a go; these ‘T’ tickets (or ‘billets‘, in French) will get you onto the metro, RER, bus, and tram. If you’re going to be travelling about a bit, you can either get a ‘carnet‘ (or book) of 10 tickets for about 14e – or you can get a ‘Paris Visite‘ card, which is essentially a ‘T’ ticket that lasts for several days, and can just be reused for multiple journeys (no limits).

Whilst you can buy the ‘T’ tickets at the ticket machines, you need to order the Paris Visite card online at least 4 days before you plan to arrive, and will have to pick it up from the Paris Tourist Office – my old office!! – on the Avenue de l’Opera (L7 metro, ‘Pyramides’) when you get there. There’s also an option to have it posted to you at home.

If you’re going for the individual/carnet ticket options, it’s worth noting that used tickets look almost identical to new tickets (they just get a very faint purple stamp across them from the machine). As you only put them into the machines when you enter the Metro (and don’t need them for the barriers at the other end), I’d recommend folding (or ideally, binning) them once you’re out, so they don’t get mixed up. Nothing worse than having to fish through a dozen identical little tickets whilst impatient Parisians mutter and sigh behind you! 😉

– The Expo

The Paris Marathon Expo is held at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre, on the metro L12. Being a French marathon, you have to take along some paperwork before they’ll hand over your race pack: a medical certificate (you can download a template from the website here, which has the correct wording – and the guidelines are here), your Convocation (this will be available to download from the ASO Challenges site shortly before race day), and some ID.

At the first table, they check your medical certificate and ID. If all is ok, they’ll stamp your convocation and hand it back:

Parisexpo

Then all you need to do is head over to the race pack tables (clearly split up by pace group), and show them your stamped Convocation. The race numbers have both your first name and your country on them, which is brilliant as you can find other Brits/Americans/Spaniards etc. in the corrals and along the course – unless, of course, you’re accidentally registered under the wrong nationality:

IMG_20150412_192931

Though it could have been worse. At least I got plenty of support from the locals!

If you signed up for an Asics pace band, you’ll find them at the Asics stand just after the race pack area (and before you head into the main Expo hall). All you need is your email address. I’d recommend getting one – you can tailor it to your exact goal time, and you get a little map of the course with projected times on it:

parisasics My very optimistic race target. Maybe next time…

– The day before

I’ll start by saying, don’t do the Sacre Coeur the day before the race. Or, if you do, take the flipping funicular. Against my boyfriend’s better judgement, I insisted on walking up all of the steps from the metro – and there were a LOT. Not what you need before a marathon. Fail, Lucy, fail. The views are stunning though, and well worth the effort!

Luckily, most of the main sights are close to the river, on flat ground and within range of a metro station. Word of warning, though – metro stations in Paris don’t generally have escalators!

There are a few sights I’d avoid the day before, such as the Eiffel Tower (there’s a lift to the second floor, but you need to climb the stairs from there), the Arc de Triomphe (arguably some of the best views in Paris, but again, STAIRS), and the Louvre (you’ll be queueing for a good 30 minutes or more before you even get to the museum, which isn’t ideal – but certainly doable after the race!)

Good alternatives are the Orsay and Pompidou galleries; the Rue du Rivoli and Chatlet/Les Halles for shopping; the Tuilerie Gardens; the Carousel du Louvre shopping arcade (hidden directly under the Louvre – you can find quieter entrances next to the ‘Paul’ stand in the Tuilerie Gardens); the Champs Elysees; boat trips (you can get a sightseeing cruise for about 14e, leaving from the Eiffel Tower and heading up and around the Ile de la Cite and back – about an hour). For something a bit more unusual, there are also the Crypts by Notre Dame. Versailles is stunning, but best visited after race day, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking!

– Carb loading

Paris is brilliant for food. Especially carby food. I lived on Paul baguettes – you can find Paul shops across the city, which is great. We grabbed one on the Avenue de l’Opera and ate them in the Tuilerie Gardens:

parispauls

For evening meals, there are tons of places to eat. We were staying close to Montparnasse, which has a huge range of restaurants (French, Italian, Moroccan, Belgian) but if you’re after something basic there are a few restaurant chains that are pretty good – Hippopotamus (burgers and steaks) and Bistro Romain (pizza and pasta) are a couple of my favourites.

Any questions? Give me a shout! My next post will offer a bit more info on the marathon day itself, so stay tuned 🙂

– – –

UPDATE: Find part 2 of my Paris Marathon & City Guide here.

Race Review: Paris Marathon 2015

Paris Marathon 2015 Race Review

I’ll start this post by saying one thing: This was the most spectacular and special races I’ve ever done. It was right through the heart of my favourite city in the world, in the blazing sunshine, through cheering crowds and past DJs, bands, drummers, dancers and more. And best of all, I got to share the experience with my lovely boyfriend! (He got the very glamorous job of dashing across Paris to try and find me at various points for a quick sweaty high five and a big grin. He managed to spot me at miles 7 and 14, which was ace, and he got some great photos along the way!)

However, this wasn’t the PB race I had hoped for. The heat sapped my energy, my legs weren’t playing ball, and I just wasn’t able to push myself any harder. But surprisingly enough, I’m completely fine with this. I hadn’t trained in warm (let alone hot) weather, and I knew as soon as I saw the forecast that it would be a toughie. And given that only 41,000 of the 54,000 registered runners actually completed the event, I’m pretty proud of myself regardless.

As much as I loved the whole thing, there were good and bad points. There were plenty of loos at every exit on the Place de l’Etoile – big thumbs up. However, the bag drop was then miles away down Avenue Foch, and you had to walk all the way to the far end before heading round and through the bag drop area and back over towards the start. Leave PLENTY of time to spare if you don’t want to rush!

PARISCORRAL

The start area was PACKED, and the entrances to the corrals were extremely narrow, with lots of people pushing and elbowing. Though once through the barriers, things spread out a bit and we got to listen (and dance) to some loud music and some quite funny commentaries. Such a great atmosphere! I wish my corral had been able to start earlier, though. We didn’t set off until 10h05, and it already felt very warm at that point!

I got pretty emotional looking down the gorgeous Champs Elysees at the sea of runners:

PARISSTART

Official race photo

The first few miles were out along the Rue du Rivoli, past Concorde and the Louvre (where some rather dishy French firemen had parked a truck at the side of the road and were sitting on the extended ladder across the street, cheering on the runners from above!), to the Bastille (and first aid station) and out over the Peripherique (at which point the runners around me started chanting, ‘on n’est pas fatigué!’ Brilliant!)

.

PARISBASTILLE

Official race photo

The second section took us through the Bois de Vinennes. Whilst I visited most of Paris’ districts during my placement year, Vincennes is an area I had never been to before – and it was stunning, especially the Chateau! Towards the end of the Bois de Vincennes was a gay pride group, full of scantily clad gay men dancing to disco remixes with bright wigs and pompoms. So much fun. I very nearly danced along (and lots of others did!)

After a quick loo break, I reached the third section, which headed back into central Paris, through Bastille again and then out along the river:

PARISRIVER

Official race photo

We went past the Ile de la Cite, the Musee d’Orsay, the Academie Nationale, the Arc de Triomphe – and the tunnels had been turned into discos with coloured lights, DJ booths, and videos. There were also tons of crowds, bands, drummers, dancers … The whole thing felt like one big street party. The only thing I would say is that the slopes out of the tunnels could sometimes get fairly steep (and some went on a bit!)

The last section I found quite hard, as it went out of the city and through the Bois de Boulogne. It was very pretty, and there were quite a few spectators dotted along the route, but my legs felt heavy from the inclines along the river and the heat was starting to get to me a bit. I walked up pretty much every hill (read: incline of any kind), and took a few seconds at each aid station (every 5km) to top up my water bottle and grab a slice of orange. (Not something I’d trained with, but OMG, orange has never tasted so good!!)

The organisers offered participants a live Facebook photo upload at the 41km point, and at the ‘300ft to your photo’ warning, everyone who had been walking immediately started running again! Great motivation and quite a fun idea, though apparently the wrong photo was uploaded for me.

PARISME

6m and 26m – what a difference 20 miles can make! Still lifting those feet though (and overtook the guy behind me…)

When we got to the 42km marker, I picked up the pace a bit and managed a strong finish – overtaking a few people on the way! (Not sure how, but I’ll take it!)

I ran straight past the photographers, with my eyes firmly on the arch over the finish line. As I hit the timing mat, I thought back to crossing the line at Brighton with my parents last year – this marathon malarkey really is emotional! I took a quick selfie to share with them afterwards (and also, look at that medal!!!), and then headed back to the Arc de Triomphe to meet my boyfriend, and a workmate of mine who was also there (having dropped out of the marathon a few weeks previously).

I had planned to be sensible after the race, with a banana and protein shake in my drop bag, but by the time I got through the crowds I had decided to ignore those in favour of a Jeff de Bruges chocolate ICE CREAM!

PARISEND

I’ve legitimately never been quite so excited about an ice-cream in my entire life.

Final time: 5:26:45. Maybe next time, sub-5. There are plenty more marathons on my list!

– – –

Thinking of running Paris, and want to know more? Check out my Paris Marathon & City Guide (Part 1, Part 2) or come find me on Twitter: @envierose

Happy running! 🙂

It’s marathon week!

I’ve run 235 training miles this year. 235!! And with just 3.1 more to go before the big day, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks giving in to the maranoia, and questioning whether I trained often enough, ran far enough, pushed myself as hard as I should have, whether my fuelling strategy will work and whether I should have done more cross training, more foam rolling, more strength work…

Realistically though, whilst my times have been a bit slower than last year, I’ve managed to stick to 3-4 runs a week, along with a weekly 2k swim, pilates, personal training sessions, spinning, cycle commutes, and even a few threshold and progression runs here and there. My recovery times are improving, and my body feels stronger, with none of the niggles I had to deal with last time round. It’s been a pretty epic few months!

There have been frosty run commutes:

runcommute1

Cold, dark, wet cycle commutes and muddy river runs:

darkwetmiles1Some of the long runs were TERRIBLE – torrential rain, strong winds, thunder and lightening during one – but some of them were also epic fun (with medals at the end!)

badgoodrun1Lots of miles were run alongside my favourite people, and were full of smiles, chatting and laughter:

runtogether1

There were moments I asked myself why on earth I was running at all, and moments that made me wish I could run every day:

awfulbrill1There were plenty of early-morning gym sessions where I desperately wanted to just crash out afterwards – and evening sessions where I did just that!

sleepearly1It’s been a bit of a mixed bag, and just like last year, a roller-coaster of emotions! But I can honestly say that I feel fairly well prepared for my marathon on Sunday. As for whether I get my target time, who knows? But I can definitely give it a good shot!

And at the end of the day, it’s PARIS – and the forecast is for glorious sunshine! If all else fails, I’ll stash a few macarons in my belt, enjoy the sights and have a bloody good time.

Who else is marathoning this weekend? Good luck, and ENJOY!