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!
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:
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!)
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:
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.
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!
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!
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Happy running! 🙂