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!

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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!?

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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 🙂

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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: Kingston Breakfast Run 2015

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Kingston Breakfast Run. No closed roads, multiple loops, and the longest road race I’ve entered besides the marathon. Added to that, I woke up to grey skies, drizzle and a freezing cold wind.

Luckily, I managed to rope my friend into running with me! She entered the 8, and I was running the 16. One good thing about the multiple loops was that I could do her entire run with her before heading off on my own.

The route was well signed, the marshals were fab (though having to stop at side streets for cars was a bit of a pain, and meant that we lost the 11:00 minute pacer about 4 miles in), and it was nice and flat. The race village was easy to find from the car park, though the loos were tucked away down the road and around the corner. Luckily for us a policeman tipped us off that the queues were far shorter at the far end, with most people queueing at the first portaloos they saw – which resulted in a huge long line on one end, and no waiting further down the road. For good karma, we passed the message on as we headed back to the start!

I love that the pacers were for an actual pace, rather than a finish time (6:00 to 12:00/mile). It meant that we didn’t feel pressured to speed up at any point – and I could stick to my planned 11:00/mile! The 20 milers headed off at 8am, whilst the 8 and 16 milers started at 8h30 – this reduced congestion a little, but it was still a bit of a squeeze on the river path out to Hampton Court (especially as it was still open to the public).

A lot of people finished at 8 miles, which meant that the second loop was MUCH quieter. I took my first walking break at about 8.5 miles, to grab some water at the aid station – my calves were tight, and I was worrying big time about the second loop.

kbrhalf

Eyeing up the aid station and inwardly grumbling at my friend for being able to go and hole up in a cosy cafe whilst I spent another 1.5 hours in the cold!

Luckily by the time I hit the river path again, my legs were starting to loosen up and I was beginning to settle into a comfy rhythm and enjoy myself. I was taking a gel every 3 miles, which seemed to keep my energy levels pretty stable. Not sure I can stomach it for the marathon (I think I took one every 4-5 miles last year), but we’ll see! I tucked in behind a couple of other women, which meant that when I felt like walking up and over Hampton Court bridge, I instead sucked it up and kept on plodding when they showed no signs of slowing down. It’s all about keeping up with the runners ahead!

kbrsmile

I got a little bit cheerier once I settled into it!

I made a deal with myself that I could only have one more walking break – I wanted to run as much as possible, and this would mean less walking time than during the Surrey Half the week before (and with no stopping to stretch things out). I decided to walk through the aid station at about 13 miles for another cup of water, and then forced myself to keep going to the finish line. This meant giving myself quite a stern talking-to (in my head), but it seemed to work! I leapfrogged a couple of runners who kept walking and then sprinting, but left all but one of them behind by the time I hit the finishing straight. It’s always a boost to overtake people (especially after 15+ miles!!)

Whilst a lot of the route was very quiet, once we got back into Kingston we found ourselves running through big crowds, which was brilliant fun. There were also a couple of Breast Cancer charity spots, and the volunteers were AMAZING!!

I was a bit confused when we passed the 8, 20 and then the 16-mile markers a good few hundred metres before the end on the first go round (the 8-mile course was advertised as 8.2, so we expected to pass that marker before the finish, but the others were just 16 and 20 so it came as a bit of a surprise). I’m glad we learned about the extra distance early on, or it would probably have thrown me a bit!

Somehow, I found a bit of extra energy on the final straight, and pushed the pace a little for the finish. Having struggled in the first half, I was extremely happy to be able to finish strong, and I crossed the line just 38 seconds over my 3-hour goal! If I can keep it up, I should be on track for a sub-5 finish in Paris next month, which is EPIC 🙂

kbrsprint

I think the smile says it all! That stupid hand, though ..

To top it all off, my lovely friend met me at the finish with a big hot coffee. Topped with cream! I don’t think a hot drink has ever tasted so good 😀

Unfortunately the event didn’t offer a medal, but the goodie bag provided by Lidl was a bit (!) impressive – and I’ve popped the mug on my desk at work to show it off!

kbrbag

All in all, it was a great event – and I’ll definitely be back next year.

I might even step up to the 20-mile option, if my legs are up to it 😉

Race Review: Brighton Half Marathon 2015

I love running in Brighton. I love the scenery, the crowds, and the party atmosphere. Brighton marathon was amazing, and Brighton half was equally fun 🙂 Especially in the sunshine we had!

Mum and I wore our Brutal 10 tops – we’d flipping well earned them, after all 😉 And they have ‘Tough Runner’ sprawled across the back, which makes me happy!

brightonmemumAlong with me and Mum, my Dad and Uncle also ran with us, which made it even better! (This whole running thing is clearly contagious. My uncle – the nutter in blue below – started us all off, by running the first Brighton Marathon back in 2010. Dad figured that if his brother could run a marathon, then he could too. Mum joined him, followed by my brother who took on the challenge for a bit of a laugh, and then that just left me – and if the rest of them had run a marathon, I couldn’t very well not, could I!?)

Thanks, David!

brightonusI took this race easy for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was a training run; and secondly, I wanted to keep an eye on my niggly foot (which held out, yay!). I didn’t feel up to a PB this time round, so I snuck back into the pink corral and decided to just get round in under 2h30.

I say ‘easy’ … but nobody warned me that the first 4 miles were one big fat hill. Every time I thought it was over, the incline started again! It was pretty cool to see the lead runners heading back into Brighton as we neared the turn-around point though. (But the headwind on the way back was a bit of a shock!)

I found the first half to be a little bit crowded. I was elbowed a couple of times, and people would often stop and walk in the middle of the road. But apart from that, I found the whole thing to be really well organised – plenty of loos, clear corrals and pacers, nice big mile markers, amazing crowd support, and a huge funky medal!

There was one pretty bad moment at about 9 miles, when I unfortunately found myself behind a guy who clearly hadn’t taken note of point 3 in this video. Blast radius, dude. Blast radius. Ironically, he noticed me immediately afterwards – and shouted a ‘sorry!’ over his shoulder, whilst his girlfriend told him off. Still, NOT COOL. Especially as it went all down my (bare) leg. I scraped most of it off with my trainer, but the gloves did suffer slightly too 😦

Despite the minor hiccup, the second half was pretty good. I took a few breaks to stretch out my calves, but Dad and I still made it round in under 2h30 (by about 30 seconds!)

Did I mention that the medal was AWESOME?

brightonmedalLove you, Brighton!

Next up is Surrey Half in 2 weeks. Who else will be racing?

Paris Marathon: 7 (!) weeks to go

Training so far has been a bit of a mixed bag. It started with a nasty cold that set me back over a week, and then about a month ago I developed a foot niggle (I’m refusing to call it an injury!!! Don’t make me!!!)

All in all, it’s been a bit of a struggle.

But despite the setbacks, I’ve worked my way up to 16 miles for the long run, which I’m very pleased about! I’m averaging a slower pace than last year, but I think all of the extra strength and conditioning work I’m doing will make me a much stronger runner this time round.

Last year, despite all of my good intentions, my weekly training was generally a 5k or two + a few cycle commutes + a long run, and a few half-assed gym sessions. This year, I generally manage 3 runs (a lunchtime 5k, a 7m run commute, and the long run); a 1-hour pilates session; a swim session (1 hour, which is usually 1600-2000m, depending on how energetic I’m feeling!); a 1-hour PT or gym session (which often includes sets of 200m sprint intervals at 12.5kph), and a cycle commute or two.

I was quite worried about cutting back on the cycling, as I found that my legs initially felt much weaker. Turns out that once I started working the muscles that I’d ignored for years (hello, hamstrings!) everything kind of balanced out, and I started to hold a better posture and even increased my cadence! Win! (Still working on the speed…) I’d still like my quads back, though.

For Sunday’s 16 miler I tried a new route, taking the canal path from Woking out towards Weybridge. It was cold, sunny and crisp – perfect running weather! 🙂 And the views were gorgeous, which along with some Maroon 5 helped to take my mind off the distance.

16mtrack

16swans

I took a gel every 4 miles, which worked great; my energy seemed really consistent over the whole run. The last 1.5 miles were extremely tough (as expected) and I really had to grit my teeth to keep going, but I averaged 11:09/mile which is only 9 seconds off my pace in the Cranleigh 15 last year! I’m getting there!

This weekend I’ve got Brighton Half, which I’m running with my parents and uncle. It’s an event I’ve not done before, but after Brighton Marathon last year I have high hopes!

If someone had told me a few years ago that I’d be excited about a half marathon, I’d have said they were mad…

Are you training for anything? How’s it going? 🙂