As I said in my previous post, I thought I had set my alarm for 5:30. After tossing and turning most of the night I looked at the clock at some point and it was – 5:40! It turns out that I had switched on my regular 5:30 Crossfit alarm but that one is for weekdays only!
Oh well, 10 minutes wasn’t too big of a drama. I quickly boiled some water and poured it on my oats – I spent the next half an hour force feeding myself that very bland porridge and checking Twitter. The number of well wishes I had received was staggering, I couldn’t keep up with saying thank you to everyone. It was truly something… Later on when on the road I thought about all these people who were at home waiting to hear my result and I kept smiling and moving those legs, one step at a time closer to the finish line.
By 7 am I was ready, I checked out of the hotel, walked across the road to the metro station and took the metro a few stops to the Arc de Triomphe. My first goal was to locate the bag drop, my second goal was to locate a toilet, my third goal was to cross over the start line only after the first two goals had been met. The walk to the bag drop was long but it was a good warm-up. I saw someone walking with a McDonald’s bag – shows how some people have absolutely no idea about sport and nutrition.
Anyway, I dropped my bag off and walked to the first row of portaloos I could see. I stood in line for a long time, and then afterwards I walked a bit further to be closer to the starting areas and stood in line for another row of portaloos. I figured I’d either be standing in the starting pen OR in the portaloo queue where I could ‘do something useful’ :)
The race officially started at 8:45 but I knew it would take a while for the fastest groups to get going so I arrived at my staring pen shortly after 9. After about 20 minutes there we finally got moving. Everyone shed their extra layers of old clothes and plastic bags, I put my coat on the ground along the railing but most people just dropped their items where they stood – the way to the start area quickly became an obstacle course… made more ‘interesting’ by the fact that around several of these piles of clothes and plastic, men who had not spent their time in portaloo queues were taking care of business at the last minute :|
But anyway, the time came and I ran over that start line and off into the sunset. Well, just the bright morning sun actually. The pace of the group around me was quite high straight away, it took me by surprise. I kept going at a faster pace than I normally would start a long run but kept myself from speeding up too much. I kept repeating to myself to “run my own race” and not feel fussed if people passed me.
At 5km I checked my 4-hour timing band and the watch – I was 1 minute behind to achieve 4 hours. No bad. My calves and shins were a bit tight but I knew they’d loosen up eventually.
At 10km I was still just a minute behind the 4 hour mark. My calves were feeling better but the area behind my left knee felt a bit weird. I haven’ t had that kind of behind the knee niggle before so I didn’t know what to make of it but knew that I didn’t have to think about it or deal with it until I finished this marathon.
At 15km I was STILL just a minute behind the 4 hour mark. I was feeling good and decided to up the tempo. I figured that if I finish 1 minute over 4 hours I’d be really bummed, so I wanted to push myself a bit and see how that went – IF I totally got exhausted at the end, then I’d just slow down and finish in 4:20-4:30 but at least I had tried.
At half marathon distance I was already less than a minute behind and from them on just kept gaining power. The ankles and knees started to ache a bit after about 25km but I guess that’s all part of the marathon package – at least I felt like my speed was good and energy levels perfect. I had been sipping water with nuun electrolyte tablets in it from my Camelbak since the start of the run and every 10km I sucked down a Torq energy gel. There were portaloos along the way but my digestion was quiet and calm the entire way – weeks of extremely clean eating totally paid off!
Anyway, the rest of the race is a bit of a blur – I tried to look around but to be honest a marathon is not an event that you can use to sightsee – you just have to pay attention that you don’t step on anyone’s heels. It’s a good distraction though because you really don’t get a chance to think about anything too much. I just kept going with the flow of the crowd and one after another the km markers stayed behind me.
Shortly before 40km I ran out of water in my Camelbak. Not good timing but a water station was coming up so I grabbed a bottle and that got me to the end. During the last several kilometres there were soooo many people walking, almost half of the crowd. I was not having “fun” as such but was counting the minutes until it’d be over and knowing that the end was so near gave me more energy.
The last 500m I almost sprinted. And I punched the air a few times. And I grinned like a lunatic. And then when I crossed the finish line I felt that my right ankle was really very painful. I had done it though!!! Who cares about a busted ankle!! :D It was such a great feeling to have finished strong and it sucked so much not having anyone there at the other side of the finish line to hug. I so wanted to cry but I held it back… I went to a portaloo, got changed, got on the metro and went back to Gare Du Nord to wait for my Eurostar back to London.
I had a couple of hours before my train so the plan was to just wait it out in a cafe. I checked the official Paris Marathon app for timings and saw that mine was listed as 4 hours and 34 minutes. At first I didn’t panic because I thought it was just the gun time and not the chip time, but then I saw on Twitter that everyone else had their real times listed in the app and I totally freaked.
I thought I had run it in less than 4 hours so the idea that it had actually been 30 minutes longer was hard to take. THEN I noticed that the app had counted my first 5km as having taken me 1 hour and 6 minutes – an obvious fail of the timing chip. THEN I freaked even more – I HAD indeed run in less than 4 hours but officially I hadn’t.
And then all the emotions that I should have let out right after finishing came out – I found a corner of the train station and sobbed onto my phone as I tweeted and texted and it really wasn’t pretty at all. I realise now that the emotions just had to come out, running a marathon is a big deal, it builds up a lot of emotion…
Once I stopped sobbing I went to a cafe, ordered some food, a few strong espressos and felt a bit better, although the tears still kept coming. Eventually a kind soul let me know via Twitter that although the marathon app listed my time wrong, the marathon website had it correct. I wanted to jump up and punch the sky, I was so happy!
And then my train came and I got on and came back to London and had a warm bath and packed a suitcase for me and the boys and flew to Barcelona the next morning.
(of this post, but not the end of my marathon reflections :)