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:

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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 🙂

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

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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!)

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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!

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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! 🙂

Race Review: Brighton Marathon 2014!

It’s weird. I’ve been working up to this for 2 years, and now that it’s here, I don’t know what to say.

I’m a marathon runner.

I don’t think I really knew exactly how I felt at any point along those 26.2 miles. I spent the whole time swinging back and forth from giddy excitement to happy tears to sad tears to doubts and worries to smiles and laughter to grimaces and mental grumbles to feeling on top of the world again. Honestly, I couldn’t keep up. It was unlike anything I’ve ever gone through, ever. And it was magic.

The expo was brilliant. I was still suffering from a cold I came down with at the beginning of the week, which didn’t help with the nerves, but the atmosphere was so exciting that I really got into it. I definitely had butterflies when I picked up my race number – I wasn’t sure whether to feel terrified or excited:

expo1

I impulsively bought a Brighton Marathon t-shirt at the Saucony stand, which turned out to be an AWESOME move, as Paula Radcliffe turned up shortly afterwards and I managed to get it signed! Wooo! SUCH A FAN GIRL MOMENT!

tshirt

I’m not ashamed to admit that I squeezed past all of the adults to sit with the little kids at the front of the crowd (yes, I definitely sat on the floor with the little kids) to watch/listen to her interview first. Brilliant.

I think I was still in denial at that point. I listened to her talk about race prep and fuelling but I think in some ways, I still felt like a spectator rather than a runner. It wasn’t until I put on my gear the morning of the race that it really hit me – and then I got scared!

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But by the time we crossed the start line, the nerves were gone. I stuck with Mum and Dad for the first 10k, before they disappeared off into the distance (good on them!) and all I could do was repeat ‘I can’t believe I’m actually running a marathon! I’m actually here! It’s actually happening!’ and smile and giggle at all of the people that called our names.

For the first 10k I was so distracted by the crowds and the costumes and everything else that I almost forgot I was running. Once on my own, it got tougher, but at that point I was glad I had done all of my training alone – and extremely glad that I’d put my name onto my race top! I had completely underestimated how much the crowd support would help. For the first half my head was still quite stuffy from my cold, and I could tell that my heart rate was a little high, and I took my first walking break on the looong road out of Brighton, shortly after my brother zoomed past me in the opposite direction (he started in the corral ahead of us).

At that point, having only done 8 miles or so, I was really worried. I had been downing Lemsip for days, and resting as much as I could, but as I’d never run with a cold or anything before I wasn’t sure what to expect – and it crossed my mind that a marathon might have been a bit ambitious!

Heading to the half way point, the downhill got me running again and the crowds put a smile back on my face. I think it was better that I had lost sight of my parents – it was pretty demoralising seeing them up ahead and not having the energy to catch up to them! Just before the 13 mile point I heard whooping and cheering, and spotted our cheer (and support!) crew – my Uncle, Aunt and lovely boyfriend, all with big grins on their faces. It gave me a big boost of energy, and I picked up the pace a little.

From then to mile 17/18, I managed to keep plodding along, but at a much slower pace. I made sure to take a gel every 5 miles, as planned, and alternated water with Gatorade in between. I might have squirted myself in the face with the water pouch at one point .. But the volunteers at the aid stations and all of the crowds along the route were SO supportive! Whilst in my head I was grumbling at them at times for pushing me to keep going when I wanted to walk (you can’t stop and walk when people are cheering you on, really!) I loved each and every one of them for caring enough to encourage me.

I remember two little boys with their arms full of gels, waving them at us and yelling ‘energy! energy!’ .. They were so cute that I had to run over and take a gel, and give them both a high five when they held their hands out. It was along this road that I finally left the Storm Trooper behind – we’d been overtaking each other on and off since the start, but as awesome as he was, being beaten by a guy in full Storm Trooper gear would have been a bit demoralising. I did hang around to cheer him along when he hit the finishing straight though!

When we hit the out and back to the power station – the infamous ‘Road to Hell’ – I have to admit that I walked for the best part of a mile and a half. It had warmed up by that point, and my right hamstring was feeling really tight (one of the few areas that had NEVER bothered me in training). I looked down at my pace band, and accepted that my sub-5 finish was out the window. I think my brother had pretty much crossed the line by that point, which made me grumpy (for myself) and excited (for him) in equal measure! Someone at the charity cheer point complimented my running tights, which made me laugh 😀

Weirdly enough, whilst miles 21-23 were the absolute worst of the whole day, and made me consider walking the rest of the way to the finish line (the fact that I even considered walking the last five miles shows what kind of mental state I was in), from miles 23-25 I really perked up and began to pass people. This was actually my favourite stretch – the sun had come out, there were loads of people watching, it was flat (with a bit of a downhill further on), and I could practically see the finish. It felt like I was back to my normal pace, but I think I was probably still shuffling along. Compared to all of the people walking, it seemed pretty fast!

Mile 25 was BRILLIANT. Not only did I spot our cheer squad up ahead (absolute legends), but I also saw my parents! I managed to catch up with them just after the 25 mile point, and we stuck together to cross the finish line hand in hand. That moment really made it for me – we had been training together (albeit long distance), raising money and running for the same cause. It was also their last marathon, so the only one we would run together, which made the finish all the more special:

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I think I was trying to smile there whilst trying not to cry! But the minute I crossed the finish line, the tears came. Because after two years, one deferral, and lots and lots of solo miles, I had actually run a marathon. It was the best. moment. EVER.