Monday, 25 May 2015

Paris Marathon Race Recap

I decided to run the Paris Marathon for my 40th birthday. I dragged my whole family with me to the beautiful city of Paris with me and turned it into a family vacation.

Training was mediocre at best. I was not able to get in many long runs into my training plan and the winter just broke me down. I completed most of my long runs on my layovers with very little sleep, but just thankful that I was able to plug the miles into my legs. With all this in mind, I decided that this race would be a fun run and I would enjoy the race and take in all the sights.

We spent the first few days exploring the city. The expo was HUGE and definitely the largest that I had been to with over 200 vendors.

Lining up for the Expo

The expo was easy to get to by Metro. We headed out bright and early and was only met with a short line, where our bags were checked before we entered the centre.

Did I mention how huge the Expo was
The first thing we had to do once we entered was to drop off our Medical certificates. This was the first race I had ran where I had to get a signed letter from my doctor to confirm that I was fit enough to run the distance. Once it was checked, I was off to pick up my bib.

Getting My Certificate Checked


Course Map
With my bib in hand, I was off to check out the expo.  As much as I wanted to peruse  down each aisle and check out the latest running gear, I knew that my kids would have had a total melt down and likely never accompany to anymore races. And seriously.... do I need anymore running stuff????

Flat Alice all laid out the night before the race. I always tell myself to get some proper sleep leading up to races but it never happens. I happen to be bunking with my little guy and he woke up when my alarm went off at 6am which meant the rest of the family had to wake up.

I quickly got dressed, gobbled up my breakfast, emptied the bladder and got the family set up before I headed out the door.

We were lucky that the apartment was only a few steps from the Metro station. I made it to the starting area in 10 minutes. I quickly found my corral and lined up for the porta potty. The line was already fairly long. One of my biggest complaints was the lack or ports-potties at the start and throughout the race.  It took an hour before it was finally my turn. I had 5 minutes to spare before my corral was to start. Men were starting to just pee into bottles ... GROSS!!

The Start with the Arc de Triomphe

I was in the 9:30 corral and it was already starting to get warm. The sun was out and there were barely any clouds in the sky. The gun went off and I was off.

Hotel de Ville - 4km
We started off running down the Champ-Elysees which is partly paved and part cobblestone then heading past the Jardin Tuileries and the Louvre.

Our apartment was within walking distance of the race course and had mentioned to hubby that if he was so inclined, he could come on down with the kids to look for me. It was at the 4 km mark and I knew that it would be tough for him to get both kids ready and out for that time, but I snapped a shot and still looked out for them. I found out that they had come out but much later on and tried to look out for me, but ended up riding the carousel and hanging out at the Notre Dame.

I had decided to enjoy this race as I knew I wasn't going to be making at PB's with the lack of training I was bringing into the race. First 5K done 29:41. I was pleased, but doubtful that I could keep the pace for the next 35kms.


Place de La Bastille

The course was going to take me through all the major sights of Paris. I was looking forward to seeing parts of Paris that I had never seen and scoping out new places to take the family.

As I was nearing the 10K mark, I could see a clearing and realised that I was coming up to Chateau de Vincennes. I had seen it as a stop on the Metro map but had no idea that it was a a CASTLE!!! I thought of my daughter right away. She would have loved to visit a real castle. I felt bad for not doing my research. I snapped a few photos of her and promised to take her back on our next visit.
The one thing I noticed was the awesome crowd support from the start to the end.  There were people all along the way cheering us on and yelling "Bravo, Bravo!!" The Chateau sits at the entrance to  the Bois de Vincennes which is the largest public park in the city.  Crowds died down a bit here, but I had started to notice the lack of port of potties AGAIN!!! People were running off the course into the trees to do there business....men and women. It was so disgusting, but if you have to go, you must go.


20KM into the Race
 You notice the crowds pick up once again when you exit the park. This part of the route was also my favourite because we run along the Seine. It was so incredible. I was in awe of the views and slowed down quite a bit to take photos and take it all in. My pace was not getting any faster and I was burning up with the heat. I had remembered to bring my sponge that they provided in my race kit to soak with water and cool myself down. I guess it must be a European gesture as I have never had sponges except in Athens and now in Paris. Firemen along the way had hoses out to spray runners along the course.
Tunnel where Princess Diana Died





This part of the course also takes you under 2 tunnels, one of which is where Princess Diana had the terrible accident that took her life. It was so hot and stuffy in the tunnels and the smells ...argh....it was awful.  Had these people not heard of deodorant??? There were laser lights and a DJ pumping super LOUD music to keep you moving. I was barely halfway done and I was almost ready to throw in the towel. I missed my run buddy, I started blaming my lack of training for the slow pace and just wanted to cry.

Once out of the tunnels, I was greeted with fresh air, loads of crowd support and amazing views of Paris. I had to stop along the way to take tons of photos, I promise not to load them all.
La Tour Eiffel

The crowds seemed to be everywhere. You can see from my photos below with the runners in front of me as we are trying to all go over the timing mat.  I love having spectators cheer us on, but they were literally on the race course. 


30 km with Spectator Crowding
One of the things that did help me trot along was the constant cheering and bands along the way. Check out the crowds on the bridge in the photo below.

Just Clearing the 30K Mat.
The path before me never cleared, I've never run a race with so many participants. It kept me going even at the 35km timing mat when someone had set up a huge blow up Wall. At first I couldn't figure out what it was, but it was a play on runners hitting the wall :)  I was determined to not hit the wall especially after seeing this. 

Running being a mental sport is so true. I was out there with less than 7 km to go and I just wanted to throw in the towel. People were cruising by me and my legs were getting tired. I stopped at every water station as well as the food stops where there were fresh cut oranges. The only pit fall with this was the orange peels and banana peels thrown all over the cobbled stone roads. It made the roads super slippery and hard to run. Most people had to stop and walk and try to hop over all the fruit peels.

The last part of the race was a blur. All I could think about was finishing and heading back to see my kids. I remember there was some wine offered at a table around the 39km mark. I honestly contemplated it, but decided against it as I just wanted to finish.

Coming in for the Finish
The roads cleared up as we were finishing. I tried to pick up the pace, but my quads wanted none of it.  They were burning, but I didn't care. I saw the Arc de Triomphe and pulled out all the stops.  I knew I had done it. Marathon #4 was in the books.  There was no personal best here, but it was by far the most beautiful marathon I had ever run. It was a dream to be able to run through the streets of Paris. I collected my medal and finishers shirt.  There wasn't much for food after the race, except for water and more oranges and bananas. 

No caption Required  :)
Final thoughts......

The race was top notch. Packet pickup was easy. The expo was HUGE with lots of vendors. The course is amazing. You will run pass the Louvre, Bastille, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay and Arc de Triomphe.  The crowds were fantastic and were plentiful.  My few complaints would be the lack of port-o-potties,  the cobblestone sections of the course, and lack of post race grub.


If you could run a race anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?