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!

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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! 🙂

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Race Review: Surrey Half Marathon 2015

After a hot, sunny, festival-esque debut last year, I was seriously looking forward to the Surrey Half this month. And it didn’t disappoint!

Although, on a side note I did notice a few lost and confused runners at Woking station – some signage might be a good idea next time. (Pays to be local!) But once you got to the park, it was brilliantly straight forward. Signs and announcements led you straight to the bag drop, which then led you out to the portaloos, and then directly into the pens. There were exactly 2 people waiting for the portaloos when I got there at 8h45 – winning! And being at the back, I only had to shuffle a few feet down the road to wait for the start.

The Surrey Half Marathon #running #racephoto #sussexsportphotography

Being a complete numpty I forgot my Garmin, so I decided to stick behind the 2h20 pacers and see how it went. Given that my PB is the 2h22 I got last year and I haven’t come close to beating it since, I had no idea what to expect; but I decided to hang on for as long as I could, and then just focus on enjoying the run.

I stuck with the pacers for about 4 miles, before the big hill up towards Jacobs Well forced me to ease off a little. After that, I just stuck to what seemed like a fairly steady pace – and I felt pretty strong, which was a confidence booster 🙂 I finished in 2:25:13, which is slap bang in the middle of my half marathon times. I’ll take it!

The crowds lining the route were AMAZING, and the live bands were brilliant, too. The course was well marked, there were plenty of water stations (long enough and with enough volunteers that I never had to slow down or queue or zig-zag around other runners), and every volunteer I saw gave me a smile and encouragement. Thanks, you wonderful people!

But it wasn’t just the volunteers that made the day so great. Whilst they were all legends, 3 lots of spectators stick in my mind: Firstly, the women at the top of the big hill at 7 miles, who were calling ‘Come on ladies, keep going – let the men do the walking!’ which made me LOL, and stopped me from slowing down (I actually managed to hold out until 9.5 miles before I took a walking break, which I’m giving them credit for). Secondly, the little boy stood just before the 10-mile marker, who with each high-five exclaimed ‘You can make it to the end! You can all make it to the end!’. And thirdly, at 11.5 miles, someone spotted my name on my race bib and yelled ‘Go Lucy! Do it for the Lucys!’ whilst another added, ‘You’re looking fresh, dear!’ (Hahaha .. Haha..)

I love that the Surrey Half bibs have your name printed under your number. I got 3 lots of direct shout-outs, which put a huge smile on my face! Other races, take note!

The live band at the 13-mile marker were playing ‘Run to You’ as I passed, which got me a teeny bit emotional. Silly really, but still!

However, note to self – regardless of the race endorphins, DON’T SPRINT AT 13 MILES. You WILL feel like throwing up by the time you see the finish line. Luckily, I held it in, but the photos at miles 13 and 13.1 say it all:

sprint1

There was just one negative point I’ll mention: The guy doing the announcements. He was pretty patronising, and riled me right up before I’d even started when he said:

The runners towards the front are probably just taking this as a marathon training run, but for those towards the back this will be one of the biggest achievements of their lives!

Excuse me, Mr, but what does speed have to do with experience? For all you know, the guy up in the front pen could be running his first ever half – whilst, I might add, plenty of us in the back were ACTUALLY using this as a training run for a full marathon.

I completely appreciate what a big achievement a half marathon is, but it’s as much of a challenge for the 1h30 runners as it is for the 2h30 ones.

It got even better when my boyfriend mentioned what the guy was spouting at the 2-hour mark:

Wow, with the 2-hour finishers we’re STILL getting sprint finishes!

Again, what!?

Despite that, the atmosphere was brilliant. I had a bit of a chat with a couple of runners around the course, and the whole thing was cheerful, loud, encouraging, and just plain FUN. Whilst it might not have finished on a track this year, the crowds lining the finishing straight made it even better!

surreyfinish

Disclaimer: In the end, the banana was just for the benefit of the photo. I actually tucked into the Wispa I had stashed in my bag…

The medal was pretty great, too:

surreymedal

Are you entering for next year? I know I will!