I read a book recently (Richard Askwith “Running Free”- excellent read) which had a lovely passage that summarised races like marathons as “personal Everests” that can provide you with a sense of self belief and achievement. I think this is spot on- running a distance such as a marathon is a huge achievement for me and one that has given me a euphoric high and a feeling of incredible pride ever since. I’m chuffed to bits! Mind you it nearly went quite horribly wrong: firstly getting a chest infection two weeks before the event that left me wheezy, secondly walking way too much round Paris prior to the race and getting aching legs (despite being adamant that I was going to spend two days sat in a park!), the final breakfast panic when I realised I had forgotten to take porridge with me and had to make do with brown bread, and not to mention the heat and pollution levels on the day (quite a shock after the clear air and coolness of Peebles!). However, somehow it didn’t go really wrong at all and despite feeling physically sick for the first six miles or so (either due to the brown bread or the pollution maybe) I somehow managed to keep my pace fairly constant and to stay on track. Hurrah!
They say that Paris is the city of romance, and it certainly added to my love of running. Highlights for me were running down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in the early morning light, the woods at Vincennes (the relief from the pollution might have been purely imaginary but it helped!), being hosed down by the fire hoses (much needed- it was boiling), running past Notre Dame gleaming white in the sunlight, seeing my long suffering and supportive boyfriend Mark at mile 18, and of course the wonderful wonderful finish line.
This was my second marathon, after running London last year, and it helped psychologically to know that I could go the distance. Mind you, the organisation compared to London left something to be desired, but in some ways this added to the fun- for example they didn’t close the roads between the start of the race and the closed road for the baggage drop, leading to an interesting mix of 54000 runners and some desperate French drivers around the Arc de Triomphe! The water and food stations were also complete carnage- only available on one side of the road so everyone undertook crazy 90 degree turns at the last minute, with the water stops followed by fruit stops. Somehow the idea that wet roads, plus thousands of pieces of banana and orange peel would lead to treacherous slippery objects didn’t seem to occur to the organisers. I’m glad I survived those bits, it was close at times..
I’m sure I went through all the usual stages of the marathon- around mile 23 I realised I was muttering “three more miles then wine…three more miles then wine” as my mantra to keep me going. That and thinking about all the other Harriers training and racing their way through these big events- those thoughts and all the well wishes definitely helped me along. I also tried counting steps- but somehow I couldn’t count beyond about 100 without losing it and making up numbers- a sign maybe that the heat had got to my brain! Those last few miles were hellish but somehow I got through (mainly due to the thought of wine) and even managed a sprint finish for the line (might have been a shuffle but felt like a sprint!).
I finished in 03:56:06 which knocked a whopping 17 minutes off my time for London last year and left me beaming from ear to ear for several hours. All the interval and hill sessions with the harriers, the lovely support of our coaches and the endless chasing after Sadie and Chris Downie must be paying off. All in all the race was fabulous and despite saying that I won’t do another one (and Mark recording this statement on his phone to remind me later), I’m already thinking about maybe doing one of the off-road ones…. It’s good to have a challenge and running is simply awesome.
The wine wasn’t bad either…..