Monday, 16 April 2012

Paris Marathon 2012

It seems like I say this a lot recently:  That was not an easy one.  But it was immensely satisfying to finish it.

After the four hour trip to get the race number on the previous day, I went back to the hotel, got the youngest settled in bed and set about packing.  Bearing in mind that I know exactly what I need to take, exactly the order I need it all in and exactly how I want to pack it, this process still takes hours.  Ah, the evening just flies by...

I was up and out in good time, chomping on the finest breakfast breads Paris had to offer.  We are staying a fair way out of the centre but even here there were several runners on their way.  Nods and smiles were exchanged.  The metro soon got full.  Then people were forcing themselves through the doors and it became a crush.  I was very glad I had a seat.

The race magazine was very clear about where to go and how to get there and, while they could definitely learn a thing or two from Amsterdam, the organisation at the start wasn't bad at all.  Right up until the actual start, that is.

Here, the event is very much a victim of its own success.  Of necessity, the start was staggered in much the same way as the Semi de Paris (same organisers) with a couple of minutes between each group starting.  But...  With well over 30,000 participants, each group was further divided into two.  Mine was the very last to start and we were 45 minutes just getting to the start line.  This was pretty wearing as it was both cold and windy.  I felt very sorry for those who took off their ponchos and jumpers too early.

Finally, we were off and it was a great to start to warm up at last.  And, despite the wind whistling through the streets, my family was waiting for me at the 3k mark.  This is the picture I will focus my memories of the event on.  The first 13k was just fantastic, the pace was right, I felt strong and the sun even peeped out through the clouds a couple of times.  The route out past Chateau de Vincennes, the Parc Floral and the Hippodrome was lovely, just as it had been in March.

And then my guts rebelled.  I'll spare you the details but the running became difficult, slow and painful.  The only thing that kept me going was that I knew my wife and kids were waiting for me at the half-way point.  And, again, that same thought kept me moving forwards (apart from a few rather necessary stops) to our next rendezvous at 34k.  I was just saying over and over in my mind "Only 10k until I see them."  Then "Only 9k" and so on.

I don't recall much of those 20k and precious little that is positive.  Place de la Bastille was as impressive as ever and the Palais de Tokyo is an amazing edifice.  Sadly, after that we seemed to spend a lot of time in underpasses and tunnels.  I kept jogging on but motivation was particularly hard to come by just then. 

After meeting up with my family for the last time at 34k where both my girls ran with me a little way, my tummy troubles cleared up.  Although I wasn't at all fatigued, it was a real effort to find any energy.  I just plodded my way round the last 8k at a slow, steady pace but completely unable to pick up the pace.  Just carrying on was all I could do.

Adding to the fun in the Bois de Boulogne, as we turned back towards the finish we hit what had become a very fresh headwind.  On another day, this could have been a real challenge but all that I noticed now was the cold.  I wasn't alone in that and a lot of people had foil blankets out or their ponchos on again.

So, as is my way, I stuck with it and eventually go to the line.  My wife was getting a bit worried that I hadn't shown up sooner and we ran into each other at the bag reclaim.  One very pleasant surprise was catching up with an old friend who was supporting another runner on her first marathon.  Well done, Ali!

No recovery run the day after.  Instead, I have been shepherded round the sights of Paris by my girls.  Alarmingly, I have to do this again next week in London.  I wonder if I may have bitten off more than I can chew here.  Time will tell...