I am so excited to write about this because it means I am on the other side of it! It is done and I and my knees survived, well sort of. It was a wonderful experience made all the better because my family were there with me, supporting me the whole time.
Running in Paris was an experience I will never forget mainly because the weather was postcard perfect and gloriously sunny. The Parental Units were there, as was Sister and the morning started with breakfast in the hotel and all the water I could physically make myself drink. There were still hours to go before the marathon and I knew I would end up dehydrated, so no point starting the day dehydrated too. Of course this meant a trip to a port-a-loo but I have blocked that from my memory.
The race began just by the Arc de Triomphe and before I knew it I was standing in my corral waiting for it to all start moving. I was just a tad emotional at this point (and chiding myself for being so because all water is precious and I need those tears to stay inside my body) and a little bit overwhelmed with the whole situation. How stupid was I being? My knees would not be able to do this and I would end up injured and not able to run forever and ever. Before I could get out of the corral we all started moving and I saw my family waving at me and taking pictures – yeah, I was doing this. So I girded my loins and started to run.
I started off amazing and the first 4k seemed to go by in a flash. There was an incline at 7k and that’s when I started to slow down. I trained on hills but it had been such a long time since I had done anything at all my body had forgotten how to cope. As we made our way through all of Paris the hills became more and more frequent as did the cobblesones. I hadn’t prepared for cobblestones at all apart from thinking ‘how pretty’. But they aren’t pretty. They are painful and they were also never ending.
I also hadn’t trained for or expected such glorious sunshine – no one did. I was stopping at every single water stop I could find and drinking all the water and never once needed to pee while running. I have spoken to some people who said that there weren’t enough water stops. I think there were and as I was giving myself goals of getting to the next water stop and then the next one, I was very happy with how many there were. There was only one time where I felt, ridiculously, crazily thirsty and I think that was because I somehow missed one stop.
After having run Berlin I thought Paris would have as many spectators but there were long stretches when there was no one around. I remember passing a fan zone and it being eerily quiet, all I could hear where runner’s footsteps and gasps for air. Conversely when there were fans they were all over the roads, running with runners, cycling alongside us, and that was at time ridiculously scary. This one bearded pedestrian decided to cut across me and I thought I was going to trip over his feet. Spectators would come into the road, making it smaller and smaller until all of us runners were in a bottleneck. I didn’t know which one I preferred – having no one there or having people there and very little space to run in.
I managed to keep plodding along, running slowly if steadily until 30k. My time was excellent and if I had been able to keep going for just another 12k I would have finished closer to 4 hours than 5. But at about 30k and eight painkillers later and my knees just gave up. They couldn’t do any more unless I forced them and I didn’t want to do that. So I walked. And walked. And walked.
I wanted to run at the very end but didn’t think that was possible. By this time my left knee felt fine and my right knee was screaming at me (this is the knee that has given me problems most of my adult life so I did except this at some point). However a Dutch woman had no desire to see that happen. She urged me and encouraged me to run and thanks to her I was able to sprint to the very end. Her talking to me was possibly the best thing that happened that whole day. My sprinting to finish was possibly the second best thing and getting the medal was definitely the third.
It was such an amazing day and I had such a brilliant time. I would have loved to be faster but I knew from the very beginning that that wasn’t going to happen. Instead I ran, jogged, danced, and walked my way around Paris. If you want to run a marathon then I definitely recommend Paris – the city is beautiful, and the race wonderfully organised. Do it!
Actually I think the best thing about the day was having my family there to support me, and in my Fathership’s case, give me a piggy back ride. That was priceless.