Just like that, 6 months of training is over. I still can not believe that I ran a marathon. It was everything I expected it to be. Tough. Exhilarating. Fun. Challenging. Emotional. Scary. Hard. And I did it.
This recap is a bit long. You are forewarned !
I spent a good part of the week stalking the weather, thinking about my outfit and reading and re-reading the information I received from the race organisers, as well as race recaps from 2015. I didn’t want to miss anything important.
The energy really started to build on Thursday when I went to the race expo with a friend who was also running. I was so damn excited, having waited a year to pick up that bib.
While there were many people it was completely manageable and packet pick up was a breeze. Have your medical certificate verified and stamped, then pick up your bib and bag. All in less than 10 minutes.
This last part of the week I worried over what to wear. The weather was looking to be between 65 and 70 degrees and in one of the recaps I had read, someone wrote “dress like it is 20 degrees warmer”. With the heat they were announcing, I was thinking of wearing shorts, but worried about chafing. So I bought Vaseline. Then I bought anti chafing cream. But I was still on the fence about shorts or capris that I had trained in.
Of course I had to go back to the expo Saturday. There were so many people but the energy was contagious. I met up with a woman whom I have become friends with on social media… of the same age, running the marathon for the first time…we had “virtually trained” together. She was with a friend and we spent the afternoon talking about running, sharing running war stories, shopping for running equipment. The excitement was definitely building…
Messages, emails and phone calls had started to come in. Well wishes from so many people, I was a bit overwhelmed by this show of thoughtfulness. It was quite emotional to feel so many people routing for me. My BIL, who ran the race a couple years ago, called Saturday night to wish me luck. I talked to him about my wardrobe dilema. Capris he said. Cool top, but capris will provide a bit of compression. Yeah. Good argument. He gave me some last minute advice. I got some encouragement from my nieces in Africa:
Despite the nervousness and butterflies, I was feeling pretty confident. Tummy issues from the beginning of the week gone, I was satisfied with my 3 day pre-race fueling strategy, my equipment had been set out early, I had checked my lists twice. Well 3 and 4 times… and continued to stalk the weather.
Being so excited meant I had been sleeping short nights, and Saturday I had gotten up by 6 a.m. At 10:15 p.m. I was in bed, wanting a good night’s sleep.
Pre race : The morning of…
I slept well and felt rested. I got up at 6:30 to eat breakfast (protein pancakes, almond butter, yogurt and half a banana) & one cup of coffee to get things moving (sorry TMI). I also wanted to be sure I had time to do my usual dynamic warm up. Checked the weather AGAIN and was still on the fence about what to wear. 70 degree weather was confirmed. I put on the shorts, lathered on anti chafe cream and sunscreen. Then my husband got up. Capris he said. Ugh, ok, Karen just make the damn decision. Capris it is. Then I was off.
When I had initially signed up a year ago, I signed up in the 4 hours and 15 minute corral, so my start time was 10:05 a.m. They had informed us the corrals would open half an hour prior. So I didn’t need to be on the Champs Elysees before 9:30. It is about 30 minutes from where I live but I decided to leave early to be able to use the potties. I love the metro ride. For all of the Parisian races, this is where the excitement starts. At every stop, people in running clothes get on, the subway fills up. So as you get closer, the energy builds.
I got out at the top of the Champs Elysees and the atmosphere was already insane. There were cars, buses, taxis and crazy people were in the middle of the Charles de Gaulle rotary, around the Arc de Triomph, taking pictures ! Buses of Chinese tourists were going by taking pictures of the runners. CRAZY.
Since I had time before my corral opened, I stood in line to use the porta potty. Never thought I would see porta potties in front of the Arc de triomphe !
My friend’s husband, who was in my corral, started texting me… where are you ? the corral is open ! really ? well, I needed to pee. So I waited for 25 minutes in the longest.line.ever, (very happy I had worn my capris because I was cold !) then as soon as I was finished went to wait in the porta potty line again. Luckily it went a little faster, but I was starting to cut it short. I had about 20 minutes before the race started so I had to make my way down the Champs Elysees, and go into the coral as they were releasing the people towards the start.
One of the only downsides of this race … I was almost embarrassed to see the most beautiful avenue in Paris covered in debris : water bottles, clothes, people peeing… but that is for another post !
I arrived with 10 minutes to spare. My friend was at the front of the pack, where I was at the back, so I never caught up to him. My bladder had taken precedent.
I loved the atmosphere while waiting in the corral.
The announcer would repeat what he was saying in several languages, there was loud music, it wasn’t too crowded, and before I knew it we were off. I immediately started my run walk interval that I had been using in my last long runs. 2:20 and 40 seconds. With the speed I was supposed to run the “running part” my goal was 4:45 but I just wanted to come in under 5 hours. (for those who are new to my blog, I used the Jeff Galloway run/walk training plan, more information here.
KM 1 to 5 : I was amazed by the number of people lining the streets. The first part goes from the Champs Elysees to the Bastille, it is pretty much a 5 km strait line through the center of Paris, through Place de la Concorde and by the Louvre.
I had run it several times on my training runs, so knew what to expect. I was feeling good, forcing myself to slow down. I was running on the right side of the road with my frequent walking intervals, wanting to easily get out of people’s way. By km 5 though, I knew I could not stay on the right the whole way. The road sloped down and I knew 42 km with a right slope would not be good for my gait. It was also getting hot. Luckily on the right side there was some shade from the buildings though it didn’t last long. Even though I had a handheld water bottle, with the heat I knew it would be important to drink at every water stop.
Km 5 : water. They were giving away bottles with 33 ml. So I grabbed one and off I went. There was great crowd support, so much more than I expected.
I was looking forward to see my fan club, positioned at km 8.
I lived in this part of the city for 10 years and know it extremely well, so knew what to expect, familiar with all the streets I was running on. My family was following me with a geo-localisation app so knew exactly when I would be coming.
I could see them from very far away because they had this HUGE American flag they were waving. I was happy to see my two girls and husband. They gave me food, filled my water bottle, asked me if I wanted to change into shorts (yes, my wardrobe choice had been the subject of a lot of discussion).
I was feeling good. No tight shins, no knee pain, though I knew I could not continue to run only on the right side of the road.
Km 8 to 19 was my favorite part of the race because that is where I run all the time and did much of my training. I was feeling good. I was running more in the center of the road, no pain, no niggles. There were a ton of bands playing great music.
Arriving at the 10K marker I was already 2 minutes over my target time. I thought since I had started out slow, I could make up for it. but it was darn hot. I drank more water. By this time, things had thinned out, the streets were very wide.
The sign on my back was a major conservation starter.
Several Americans asked me what intervals I was using. I ran for about a km with someone from North Carolina who does triathalons, so the marathon was “no big deal”. That conversation break was welcome and time flew.
Water again at km 15. At about km 17,5 I saw a friend & his dog. I knew my husband and children would be waiting at km18 with the big American flag. My friend & his dog ran with me until we met my husband.
I was hot, needed more water. I refueled and was off.
Shoot, forgot to ask my husband for my sunglasses. By now it was past noon, it was hot and I felt my head heating up. There were buckets of water along the way for you to scoop and put on your head / neck, but in all honesty, that has never helped AND I don’t find it particularly hygienic to put my hand in water that potentially 30,000 people before me have touched. There were firemen several places along the course also squirting water but my brother in law had warned me to avoid it else I would be running in soaked sneakers. Good point !
At km 20, I was a few more minutes behind my projected time. By that time I knew I would not hit my A goal of 4:45. More water. So hot.
Km 20 to 25 were very hard because of the heat. We were in direct sunlight the whole time and I was actually worried about heat stroke. I felt I was getting sunburned despite the sunscreen I had put on. I cursed myself for not having a hat and sunglasses.
25 km …more water, and no pain. Faithfully running my run/walk intervals except to stop once or twice to take pictures. People look hot !
KM26. Alleluia ! … a one mile long tunnel. There was soothing music, aromatherapy, and it was dark and cool. I walked, giving my body the opportunity to really cool down, which gave me reprieve I craved and the boost I needed. Coming out of the tunnel, we were running along the water there was a breeze. I felt much much better.
KM 30, came to “the wall”. No wall for me. I took a picture. I knew my fan club would be at km 32 so I kept going.
It was around this time that people started dropping off. Not dropping out, but you could tell the heat was taking a major toll on the energy of the runners. At least 50% of the people were walking.
Although I was keeping up with my intervals, I knew I was behind my projected time. On the “running part” I was not running as fast as I should have been. But it was hot and all the water stops and my fan club stops put me behind. But I didn’t care. I wasn’t obsessing over my time and I kept thinking what several people had said “you will only ever run a FIRST marathon ONCE, so enjoy”.
KM 32 : I saw my husband & daughter. The big American flag.
More water. Food. Had them give me my ipod. Then I started off again and got really emotional. I knew I had this. So many people were routing for me. I thought of all the messages I had received, all the people who had called. As soon as I left my husband I started crying. I was running the race I wanted to run and I knew I had this. Only 10K to go. Although I was looking at my time, I didn’t care about hitting my A goal. I soaked it in.
The last 10K were ahead of me. I was surprised because there were so many people walking. Just walking. As I was doing run/walk, I blew past 80% of them. It was a huge ego booster even if I had to weave constantly.
My knees felt good, only slight twinges in my calf and thigh. I was actually worried about the amount of water I had taken in. People can actually die from drinking too much water. I hadn’t peed and didn’t feel the urge. So I just kept going, running by all kinds of people. These last 10 km were very emotional. I cried several times from elation because I knew I was going to make it, but tried to stay focused, focusing on my music. I had to stop around km 37 to stretch out a cramp in my calf. But besides that, I was pretty much pain free, and kept passing a ton of people.
It was in these last few km that people were in bad shape. I tried to focus but wanted to cry. I kept visualizing myself crossing that finish line, with the medal hanging around my neck. I tried to zone out what was going on around me. Tons of people stopping, stretching, sitting, vomiting, ambulances going by. I kept on trucking. By this time it had cloulded over a bit and we were in the Boulogne forest, so it was a bit cooler. At least it wasn’t the direct sunlight light it had been. I tried to keep my emotions at bay and stay focused.
I ran the last km. Slowly, but I ran it. The crowd support was amazing. So many people.There are signs near the end telling you to smile, that pictures are being taken in 200m.
The last part weaves a little, so you couldn’t see the finish line until about 500m before. Then there it was. I started to cry when I saw it. I kept crying, tons of people were cheering, it was only a few meters away.
I crossed the finish line 5 hours and 11 minutes after starting. I was elated and continued to cry. I immediately picked up and put on that coveted shirt. It fit perfectly. Put on that medal. I eventually stopped crying and the huge smile took over.
I am a marathoner. And very happy I had worn the capris.
Thanks again to everyone for all the support. I have lots of other things to say about the race so please check back regularly !