I AM A MARATHONER!!!!
So most Paris Marathon recaps that I’ve read include all kinds of selfies and photos. This is not one of those recaps because I couldn’t be bothered to fish my phone out of my spibelt for pictures. So you want to see pictures of the Paris Marathon course or LB running selfies- you’ll have look elsewhere.
Here is my marathon recap and experience. I’ll try and include the points I normally cover in race recaps.
€99 which is almost exactly $99 right now. I paid an additional €12 for cancellation insurance (that as I said I did not do for flights and accommodation). Really not a bad price since I got charged $347 for the NYC Marathon, Chicago is going at $185.
I woke up early on registration day and kept trying to register and kept getting booted out of the page and it wouldn’t load until finally my husband got through and registered me- this was unnecessary. It was quite a few weeks before they closed off registration at capacity. Not sure if it will the same case in 5 year, but next year, no need to set the alarm early.
The expo was open on Thursday from 3-8pm and pretty much all day Saturday and Sunday. We headed there on Thursday and it was a real easy train ride and the expo was steps away from a stop. You MUST have your medical certificate and convocation (has your name, bib number, and corral on it). Right away they look at your medical certificate and then stamp your convocation (no wait at all) and then you head on over with the paper to get your actual race bib (short wait). Then you got your bag (see Goodie bag) and the rest was just expo. Asics was the apparel sponsor so they had a huge section of Paris Marathon branded stuff. I would have gotten a few things actually but limited myself to this long sleeve than I’m obsessed with.
The rest of the expo had about 200 vendors. Everything from Brooks, Puma, Mizuno, Gore, Skins, Hoka, Sketchers, and New Balance- to UK brands I was unfamiliar with: Odio, Kalenjii, Zsport, Dix40 and Anita Active. Loads of different races were there from around the world. Tons of nutritional stuff, most I have never heard of but there was Cliff Bar, Gu (WHERE THEY HAD MY PRECIOUS SUPER HIGH CAFFEINE RASPBERRY CHOMPS!), Power Bar, and Vita Coco. The odd thing was that there were barely any free samples or coupons being handed out. Every expo in America seems to have free swag everywhere and people lined up around the block for it. Unfortunately, I’ve had the joy of working expos with free samples…
The downside was a lot of people didn’t speak English. And ya know, no free stuff.
Overall though, I thought the expo was good- although huge! But it was really easy to get there and get my bib etc….and there were bathrooms!
Pretty good bag. Only one or two coupons/slips of paper. Some gummies (Haribo was a sponsor – see these people love their gummies), Pistachio, your sleeveless plastic bag for waiting in corrals, a Tag Heuer water bottle, a Dr. Scholl’s sample, Tiger Balm sample, luggage tag, and little running waist pack. I wasn’t about to change up my routine and stuck with my spibelt but I did see quite a few runners running with it. I already have one walking pack, but otherwise this would be great to use while walking the dog, etc.
We didn’t do a whole lot in the days leading up to the marathon, other than eating carbs. I’ve been to Paris 3x prior (lucky girl) so we didn’t need to run around looking at things- just enjoy the season. Even still, I was getting about 17K steps in on Thursday and Friday, but managed to stay off my legs more on Saturday with only about 12K steps. On Saturday we had a great carb-o-licious brunch at Laduree. Touristy? Yes. But amazing brunch. We of course opted for the full €60 package that included champs, French toast, fruit, juice, 2 sandwiches, croissants, macaroons, pain au chocolat. The works. Worth every penny. I’d do it again. Make sure you make a reservation. Every other night we ate at Italian joints to carb it up.
Despite not sleeping fantastic for months leading up to this marathon, the night before I slept better than I have EVER slept before a race. Had some Pukka nighttime tea and a xanex and didn’t stir until the alarm went off at 7am. That’s the thing about euro-races- they start late. I mean, I was in the last corral and my start time was 10:05! How fantastic. I ate my porridge, stretched for 30 mins, watched my motivational movies, applied run guard and sun screen. Sat around anxiously… By the time we left the flat it almost felt as though I slept through the race, as the streets were eerily quiet. We stayed down Kleber Ave, about 1K from the Arch de Triomphe. The start line is down the Champs my corral entrance was pretty far back by the arch.
The day was warm. No clouds and almost 70 degrees. The warmest it had been for training was about 50- so a huge difference. And I hate the heat! The sole reason I never signed up for the Chicago Marathon was summer training! The £5 ASDA (UK Wal-Mart) sweats I bought to wear before the start were completely unnecessary. Luckily, I had always planned on wearing a tank and crops for the race and I remembered my Oakleys. I did wear my little plastic bag for the initial walk, but took it off when I entered the corral- too many bodies.
Walking up to the Arc and in the circle around it- that’s where you’ll find the most port-o-loos. I brought toilet paper because I don’t like to drip dry (and heaven forbid I poo) and was glad I did because they of course had none. I even shared with the next 2 gals in line but kept the roll and put in back in E’s “Lauren Emergency Supplies” backpack (extra socks, a shirt, sunscreen, gum, gu chomps). This is critical.
I then walked down to the corrals. I waited until 9:35 and entered the corral. The whole time I wore my resistance band around my knees and did my physio exercises to hopefully keep my glutes engaged. Then we started moving forward. I drank my Gatorade Prime I had brought with me. We passed a port-o-loo every 500 feet or so as we walked towards the start and there were ladies lined up about 5-10 deep. There were quite a bit of men peeing everywhere- but to be honest, E & I have peed on the street in Paris before and not before a race….I mean, Paris always kinda smells like pee, that’s part of the charm(ha!). I’ve read so many other American recaps that really play up this peeing everywhere….I don’t think it was that dramatic. Men in corrals also had these little 4-man stand up port-o-loos where they are totally outside and if all 4 cells were full would be touching noses (practically) peeing. It’s a damn good invention America should get on at sporting events, festivals, etc.
E walked along with me on the other side of the fence. And then we stopped for another little bit. And that’s when I realized, “Oh no….I think I maybe, kinda have to wee.” That was followed up by 5 minutes or so hemming and hawing over if I should get in a loo line. I told E my dilemma. He ran ahead to see if there were any loos with no line but told me to get in the line closest to me. I stood there waiting for what felt like an eternity. E had given me some more TP (ALWAYS BRING TP TO A RACE) and I was half about to pull my pants down right next to the loo. But I held my dignity, while barely managing my anxiety, as it seemed like every single person walked past and went to start the race. Finally got to go- made it to the start and weaseled my way up. I was still pretty much the back of all 50 thousand people, but not dead last. But really, looking back…that pee was 100% necessary and I am so glad not only for my own TP, but for stopping and going one last time before the start. I didn’t have to go again until about 3 hours post marathon. Thanks dehydration!
Okay and we’re off. About 1K in I see a little old man running and it just say “RAY” in huge letters on his back and I thought, well I’m going to make it. I felt I was going a bit fast initially so then I picked one guy and paced with him for a while. When all of a sudden the 5:30 pace group was right behind me?!?! I totally freaked out. I wasn’t supposed to make a goal time (being as it was my first marathon) but I had made a sub 5 hour goal that seemed to me, totally, 100% doable. But when I got injured, I really started to doubt the goal and worry that I would even finish. And I tried to say I would be happy regardless of my time, but in my heart of hearts, I wanted sub 5. So somehow I was by 5:30 pace and that wasn’t going to cut it…so I picked it up. I kept thinking I was on pace throughout the race but at random points I would be by the 5:30 or the 5 hour pace group and they’d pass me and I was just so confused. It took a lot but I had to just let it go and trust my own math (and pace)…as it turns out E later told me that the 5:30 pace somehow finished before the 5 and they must have just started way earlier than I had….whatever, the pee was worth it. So lesson learned- unless you start with a pacer, don’t let them freak you out.
I had trained with my hydration backpack, but knew I wouldn’t run with it. I didn’t want to really carry anything. But I started with a small, plastic, water bottle so that I didn’t have to stop at the first water stop. Water stops were every 5K I think without fail. And you needed the hydration since the entire run was pretty much in the sun. At every water stop they were giving small Vittel bottles. Sometimes the caps were off, but they couldn’t really keep up with that so most times the caps were on. I didn’t think this was a problem and I actually carried the small water bottles most of the time running, I liked having water but I liked knowing I could throw it away at any time. Overall, I really liked the small Vittel water bottles- way better than cups! Bravo Paris!
Also at every water stop was sugar cubes (no way), raisins (and maybe other dried fruit but I never looked), orange quarters, and half bananas. The banana peels and orange peels…it was pretty damn slippery. Again, not as traumatic as every 2013 & 2014 review would lead me to believe…but it was a little dangerous. Only at about 25K did I have half a banana. Otherwise I just stuck to water. There was supposed to be a couple stops with some sort of goo (a brand I didn’t know) but I never saw it…only at 30K was there a sports drink (same brand I didn’t know) and I didn’t take that either.
My plan was fuel every 5 miles or so. And I actually ate too much on the run. I mean, your brain kinda doesn’t work to its full capability. And I can’t even really remember what I had and when, but here’s my best guess.
- 5 miles: Gu chomps
- 12K: E handed me a very small container of Gatorade and I had that – had carbs as well as electrolytes since it was hot.
- 10 miles: SIS gel
- 25K: Half a banana
- 28K – Gatorade from E
- 20 miles: Gu chomps
- 23 miles – 2 paracetemol (pain pills) with caffeine , half an SIS power snack bar
At one point, after 28k (when E joined me), I pulled out my iPod to skip a song and realized it was all sticky and covered in goo. I handed it to E who proceeded to lick my iPod clean. Turns out the iPod corner had punctured the extra gel in my pocket. Whoops. Thanks E for licking all the sticky goo off my iPod- best spectator award!
I saw E at 5K, 12K, 17K, and 28K. He wore his massive Beaker head to make sure I could find him- which worked brilliantly. He also knew at 28K he was to hop in and run with me. At 28K I was feeling great. I hadn’t stopped but once to tie my shoe and I really was feeling great. But I told him he might as well run with me. He held the Beaker head as we ran and chatted, and people kept coming up to him to high five him and say “hi!” because they had seen him at all the other places as well- he had his own fan club! I told him to hang on until 20 miles where I was anticipating “the wall”…but I hit no wall at 20 miles and kept on moving. At mile 21 I was getting a little tired, so I told E to hang out until 23 miles. At 22 miles I really tuned into my iPod and had stopped chatting. E also took over carrying my water. At mile 23 I thought I would dismiss him, but were in the middle of some park and he really couldn’t go anywhere but down the course so he stayed with until almost the very end. I really felt like crap starting at mile 23. It wasn’t a “wall” as I had originally imagined it. But I was over the running thing. The last 3 miles were awful, the last 2K a death march. I went to stop and walk twice but each time I took one slowed down step and my legs nearly collapsed. I knew if I stopped running I would never start. So I just kept (slowly) trucking on. But it was hard. This is where the audio files I had made of my motivational movies really came in handy. “Stop running from your pain. Embrace your pain. Your pain is going to be a part of your pride. A part of your product. I challenge you to push yourself!” I think it was extra hard because you could NEVER see the finish line until you were pretty much crossing it. I needed to see it in the distance, but there were twists and turns…and the French are quiet cheerers…it felt as if I would never see the end.
But I did. And it wasn’t as emotional as I thought but I was oh so happy to be done running. Joyous people were all around me. It was a bit sad because I was quarantined with other runners and I didn’t know any other runners…so it was a bit lonely I had no one to celebrate. I got my t-shirt and bling and got out of there ASAP to rejoice with E.
So some other notes:
I saw 3-4 banks of port-o-loos throughout the course. When you run past the zoo at the first big park, there are zoo bathrooms on your right hand side (you don’t need to go in the zoo) but if the line is long, there are port-o-loos at about 15k.
It’s almost entirely in the sun. But very flat. I mean, I guess not Chicago flat, but I thought it was pretty much that flat although many people talk about how its not pancake flat LIKE chicago. Maybe it’s just the training on bloody hilly Scotland trails? The Bois de Vincennes (first large park) doesn’t have many people cheering at all. Same with the park at the end. When there are people, they don’t really say much. No cowbells, not many signs, a lot of standing in silence. Also, a lot of dodging people clutching baguettes under their arms crossing the road. The firemen did pull out their trucks and sit on the extensions over the course cheering- that was nice. They also brought out firehouses to create a mister in about 4 different places on the course. I tried to look around and take it all in, but most often when I did that I would drift in to someone. Whoops. The course does go all around Paris, but I didn’t think you could really see a whole lot of Paris. There was the big tunnel (that so many people complain about) that I thought was well lit with 2 video spots set up showing some of the marathon and some of Paris. It was perfectly fine. When I ran through the first set up, there were just the Mona Lisa’s eyes starring down at me which is kind of neat.
The bling is fantastic.
4:54:38 – Really slipped the last 3 miles. The last 2k took me 16 minutes! And right around the half-marathon point I know I stopped to look at the time and that it was a lot more congested- hence my slow pace for that 1 KM. But hey, it was my first marathon, it was hot, and I hadn’t run more than 16 miles due to the fact I took a complete 2 weeks off being super injured and barely walking. I think it’s pretty damn good.
It was fine for me because I know and have seen Paris before and will do so again. But if you’re coming to the Paris Marathon and you’ve never been and might never go again- I think it would kind of suck unless you get there way in advance or stay much later. The course was fine, but I don’t necessarily think it was the best course ever (at least for me) or the most beautiful. But not a ton of spectator support and lots of miles on end with pretty much no one. And you didn’t get to see all of the landmarks or get a huge taste of what Paris has to offer. Would I do it again? Definitely would do another marathon, but not Paris. Although I think it worked out well for my first marathon. I prefer my Paris to have a lot more wine and lounging on the various lawns and parks across the city, getting tipsy sitting along the Seine, and maybe peeing under a bridge. Until next time Paris…au revoir!