The Marathon Recap – Paris, the Big Day (Part II)
After a fairly restful night’s sleep, the alarm woke us at 05:10 so that we could eat on time and meet up with the rest of the group around 6:30am < insert yawn here > to take the Metro towards the Arc du Triomphe. There were 6 of us running and coincidentally a pair of each of us in 3 different starting pens. The earliest pen started at 8:50, then 9:15, then 10:05. So we wanted to be at the race no later than 7:45 to be sure that we could check in our bags, go to the loos, take pictures and walk each other to the starting pens to say goodbye and good luck.
As we ascended onto the street near the Arc du Triomphe, we joined the manageable crowd making their way towards baggage drop off. There was a lot of nervous energy between our group and plenty of nervous-looking people arriving at the race. It was sunny, but not yet very warm but we were prepared to stay warm for that moment with layers and the plastic vest given to us in our goodie bags. Queues were forming at the porta-loos and people were randomly warming up or standing around chatting and laughing to get rid of nervous energy.
We did some of our own group photos, the guys dropped off their stuff and we eventually headed towards the first starting areas.
Suddenly, I panicked. By the time we walked to the starting pen for Ron and Martijn (who started the earliest) and then for Chantor and Vincent, maybe Kim and I would be too late getting back to the baggage area again to use the loos, drop off our bags, etc., so I stopped to make an announcement: Kim and I would not be going further. We would have to say goodbye and good luck and see each other later. I so wanted to see the Hubs off at his corral but couldn’t take the risk. I hugged my man and cried just a tiny bit which of course set Kim off as well! Now all of us exchanged hugs and kisses and Kim and I made our way back.
We still had what felt like hours so we stood in line for the loos and made jokes and small talk with others in the queue as if we all knew each other and had been friends forever. The temperature was rising by now and the layers were coming off (I had space in my pack as did Kim).
Finally it was time to walk to the corral. More waiting for the loo (you never know!!) but this time it was too crowded and impossible to go again. We never made it before our start time, the line was just too long! Suddenly it was time to go, and that we did!!
To be honest the first few kilometers were like floating on air. While it was crowded and people were running a bit willy-nilly, I just felt incredibly happy. This was the day! We were running the Paris Marathon!
We were on target the first 5 kilometers. We stopped briefly at the first waterpost and continued onwards. The sun was out, it was getting warmer, the sights were amazing and the crowds were incredible! The bands along the way gave us so much energy. Before we knew it, we were 5 kilometers further and still on target. We planned on stopping at every post to be sure to stay hydrated (even though we had our packs – that water was for if we needed it in between). Sometime after 10KM Kim started to feel a bit off. We walked a bit, then ran again. It was still getting warmer. It was affecting how she felt. We walked again quite a bit around 16 kilometers. At 20KM we were slightly over our planned time but nothing major. By now I really had to stop for the loo. My 46 year old bladder could no longer continue.
Between 23 – 30 kilometers we walked and ran. But mostly a lot of walking. I was still happy and didn’t care much about the time.
We were running along the Seine and through tunnels with DJ’s and laser light shows! But Kim wasn’t feeling well at all. My right foot was hurting a bit. I knew what I needed to do and I felt pretty guilty about it. I was going to have to leave Kim behind. We made it through another couple of KM’s, hit another loo (for Kim; I stood outside and ate a raisin bun with honey) and then finally Kim convinced me to go on by myself. I cried when she said “Don’t worry! I still love you!”, we hugged and I started off on my own (well, with thousands of others on the course).
Some point soon after, around 35KM, everything just became a bit of a blur. I kept seeing the numbers… 36… 37…38… but honestly I did not notice much around me. Putting one foot in front of the other was the goal. I stopped a couple of times because my foot and calf were bugging me, but otherwise pressed on. I was in so much of a fog that I missed the wine stop somewhere around 40 kilometers!
Somewhere around 41KM I snapped out of my fog, came around a corner and saw my man and a few friends from our group cheering for me! I was nearly there!!
Somehow my legs and feet kept going and I crossed the finish line at 5:12:52 and yes, I definitely cried! That ugly, chest-shaking, snotty cry!
I walked over to our baggage area and camped out waiting for Kim. She wasn’t far behind me, about as long as it took to get my bloody toes into compression socks! We hugged, sat down together for a bit and then finally made our way to the exit to meet our people again. tons of hugs and kisses and of course, the obligatory photo near the Arc du Triomphe.
Afterwards the Hubs and I went together to FINALLY have a couple of beers and some grub and then joined the rest later at the apartment.
I am now officially a marathoner!!
Highlights of the Race:
1. DUH!! It’s Paris!
2. Crowd Support – absolutely phenomenal.
3. Drink and Fuel stations every 5KM. Also small bottles of water to take rather than flimsy cups.
4. The music along the way; rock bands, traditional horns, drum bands. ALL amazing!
5. Organisation in general. From the Expo and packet pickup to baggage drop off to clear instructions along the way to get to starting corrals, etc.
6. The bling is gorgeous!
1. Not enough loos in the starting corrals
2. Bottle caps and orange/ banana peels all over the street at water/fuel stops. Pretty dangerous.
3. Groups of people running on the right, left and in between, very willy-nilly (that’s not the fault of the organisation per se, that’s people not really running by the “rules” ). It was hard to maneuver in the beginning.
Would I do Paris again? Well, I’ve already signed up for next year!! It’s a definite YES!