After Ben had finished the marathon, we staggered back to the hotel room both eagerly recounting our races. Ben sadly didn’t enjoy his and felt very disappointed with his time (despite the huge improvement on his last one). It was hard because I enjoyed mine so much. But I knew I’d feel the same way if I’d have been unhappy with my race. Sometimes it just works out like that. I remember at the Great South I hated the race, but when I met up with Ben afterwards he was absolutely buzzing with how much he loved it.
Anyway, I had the best shower in the world. It was one of those really good power showers and the heat of it was just amazing. I had been fairly cold after the marathon waiting for Ben so this was pure, unadulterated joy.
Afterwards I wrapped myself up in the hotel dressing gown and slippers and enjoyed my first post-marathon apple. No apple will ever taste as good.
Then Ben presented me with the best present ever. A Marathon Talk 26.2 Adidas hoodie.
So soft! I love it. I’ve wanted one for ages but obviously couldn’t get it until I’d run a marathon. I love that he knew that’s what I wanted. What a guy!
That was my outfit going out for late lunch/early dinner that day. I must say walking was a bit of an issue! Everything was 10 seconds behind and I was shattered.
My unhappy post-marathon walking (hobbling?) face
My expectation after the marathon was that I’d be ravenous with hunger. I wasn’t. In fact my stomach was just not happy at all. It coped well with the apple but then really wasn’t up for anything much else. But we had to eat obviously. We kept things simple and went back to the same cafe we’d been to before and we both had a starter (goat’s cheese on toast for me) and I had the same Caesar salad as before.
It tasted very nice but my stomach still wasn’t completely OK. Funny side story, the waitress was only vaguely aware of the marathon and even asked how far it was. Seriously??
We picked up some food from a little corner shop to munch on in the evening (and Ben needed wine – he’d not drunk for four weeks prior to the marathon bless him).
At this point I was so completely fed up with water. I’d been drinking it all damn day I needed something else. I’m not a big drinker (one G&T and I’m anybody’s and post marathon it’s probably not wise for me) so I went for some crazy sparkling chemically-induced ‘fruit’ beverage.
We rented a film from the hotel TV thing (World’s End) and I promptly fell asleep at about 9pm. It was a horrific sleep though trying to get comfy with my very achy legs. And I woke up about 6.30am wide awake. Ben was like a rock next to me. I woke him at 8am out of boredom and sudden onset of RUNGER.
We headed to a lovely little cafe for petit dejeuner. We went for the whole hog.
Plain omelette, croissants, bread and butter, dried meats and coffee. Everything but the croissants disappeared. We were seriously stuffed though until about 3pm.
We then went for an ill-advised walk to the Champs-Élysées and then down to the Tuileries Gardens where we collapsed onto some lovely chairs.
It was lovely and sunny and we kept spotting fellow marathoners wearing their finisher’s shirt and hobbling along like us, struggling with very simple things. Honestly curbs – who invented curbs??
We needed mini breaks like this for every 15 minutes. It was so tiring walking. But also good to keep the legs moving.
We carried on walking to the Louvre. The queue was huge so we decided to move on.
Possible the most stupid thing I’ve ever done – that landing was incredibly painful!!!
We walked up the road we ran along the day before. It brought back so many memories. It was great chatting to Ben and reliving it as we were walking.
We finally got to Notre Dame (after two hours of walking and stopping).
Bit ski-whiff sorry!
After this we decided to trek back. All I had in my mind to keep me going was the thought of a break in one of the parks near the Champs-Élysées for an ice lolly. Honestly we were both fading by this point.
We got there an hour later and enjoyed a lovely ice lolly. Then headed for the next part of our trek back to the hotel with a cake pit stop for lunch.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love cakes. But I’m talking bit old fat slices of Victoria sponge, moist carrot cake, and chunky brownies. OK yes typical British cakes. In my marathon-fogged brain I stared around me in the French Patisserie…their delicate cream cakes and choux pastries I realised weren’t quite going to kick it. Yes I KNOW it’s France and it’s different but I couldn’t help but feel a little bit disappointed (I’m not entirely sure what I expected to be honest!).In the end I went for a rather large meringue and giant cookie. I’m sorry Paris, but British cakes are much more satisfying.
We had an earlyish dinner and another early night. We were absolutely knackered.
The next day we had a bit of time in the morning and early afternoon before flying back. We decided to treat ourselves to breakfast in bed.
I had the omelette, a sweet bread roll thing and a couple of pastries (they were only small honest! :))
Then we headed out for more walking. The legs were feeling more normal (though still fairly stiff and achy).
The day before I’d worn some plimsolls. I think my feet had swollen from the marathon because they were so uncomfortable. So I made the good move of wearing trainers the next day.
All in all, we had a great time in Paris. I must say we went more for the marathon than the sights but I’m glad we got to see them (both running and walking). I’m not sure we would go back as it was fairly expensive and I’m not hugely cultured to appreciate the significance of the different sights.
Now, enough marathon talk! Time to move on…until Berlin gets closer that is 😉
Are you a a fan of ‘cultural’ sights when you go on holiday? Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate them and it was absolutely fantastic to see such epic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. But I’m not one to spend hours around them. I’m ore a fan of ‘natural’ landmarks – like beautiful mountains, lakes, etc.
Would you ever do a race in a different country?
What would you/did you do post-marathon? I thought I’d eat more than I did. My stomach just didn’t feel right for quite a while.
Here’s my recap of what we did in Paris before the marathon. I know this is probably so uncultured to admit but… Ben and me really only went to Paris for the marathon. For a bit of an adventure to run an iconic marathon in a different country. I won’t lie, if there wasn’t the marathon we wouldn’t have gone. So we didn’t really do any planning for the actual non-marathon related times. That’s not to say we didn’t have a good time though.
We left on Friday afternoon from Southampton airport – which for us is literally a 15 minute drive away. As you can imagine, this was a dream. The day before I decided to panic buy the 220 Garmin from Amazon and as I have Amazon Prime I was really hoping it would arrive before we left. I could have hugged the postman when he turned up with it!
Wearing my lovely slipper boots there
We had a couple of last minute things to do before leaving…
Like ironing on our names to our running club vests. [Side note: because our running club colours are red, white and blue when I was running the marathon quite a few French people clapped me on the back and said things like “Vivre le France”. Mildly amusing.]
Anywho, we got to Paris without any issues. After getting to our lovely hotel, we then took a taxi to get to the marathon expo. We thought it’d probably be wise to do it Friday evening rather than Saturday when a lot of people would also be there.
We walked past the barriers (bottom left photo) feeling quite good that we didn’t have to queue there//In the bottom right photo there’s a man standing as a mannequin and jumping out at people which was very funny
Having never been to a race expo before I didn’t really know what to expect. I was neither blown away nor disappointed. We got our marathon bibs and our t-shirt for the next day’s race (the Breakfast Run – you used your t-shirt as your race entry). Annoyingly they had run out of small t-shirts for the Breakfast Run so I had to settle for a medium. It was quite the tent on me!
Here’s the expo haulage:
Not too shabby. The white square thing is a sponge which you could take around with you during the marathon and dunk it in buckets of water to sponge yourself with. Purely my own personal preference, but the thought of doing that after thousands of other sweaty people was definitely not my cup of tea. The fact that I saw people dunking their entire heads and drinking the water from the buckets during the race really freaked me out!
Then we walked to find somewhere to eat. Ideally we were looking for a cheap place to just grab something easy. But we struggled with places not having English translations on the menu (yes I know, how very ignorant of me not knowing French and being such a tourist with my expectations. I feel suitably ashamed). In the end we picked a place because the menu didn’t look too expensive (in Paris terms) on a very quick cursory glance and it had pretty lights on the front. Yep, key important restaurant necessities.
As we sat down we suddenly realised it was fairly posh. This was further clarified when a group of four sat near us covered head to toe expensive designer clothes and jewellery and the men had expensive laughs (you know the kind) and cravats.
At this point we felt a little underdressed… The restaurant (Bistrot Jadis) was lovely. The service impeccable, the food…oh the food! I had some sort of soup to start which was creamy and rich, but very tasty. I wish I could tell you what it actually was but see above about me being an ignorant tourist. It was definitely fish. Then I had a steak with anchovy sauce and stuffed mushrooms for main. I could have licked the plate. For pudding we both went for a passion fruit crumble thing. Basically passion fruit custard on a crispy sweet biscuit with meringue, er, mini rods?
All in all, deeeeelicious. However, very very rich. My poor tummy felt a bit hard done by later that night, but nothing major. Just a very heavy and queasy feeling. This made it clear that we were to take no risks the night before the marathon.
The next morning we were up early to go to the 5km Breakfast Run (organised by the Paris marathon, 5 Euros to take part in – bargain!)
Sorry I couldn’t resist this photo…
There was such a great atmosphere for the start and entire race.A bit like a Parkrun, but filled with so many different nationalities. Ben and me discussed our game plan: run together, nine minute miles and no faster. Keep it nice and easy.
However, this became a joke because the leading car (blaring out crazy music) didn’t let people run faster. So we were running 10-11minute miles. Hey, fine by me! It did make me laugh though – Saturday 9am and this car is belting out Sean Paul dance songs stupidly loud down residential streets in Paris. Bet they loved us.
There were a few stops here and there so lots of photo taking opportunities. This was good because I didn’t take any photos during the marathon – although I had planned to. It was just too complicated to navigate getting the phone out with gels and headphones. Plus I was terrified of dropping it during such a big race.
The route was different to the marathon (thankfully – what a spoiler that would have been otherwise!) but it did go under the Eiffel Tower which was cool.
At the end there were stupid amounts of croissants, pain au chocolats, coffee, bananas and water. Nicely done. We then had a fair walk back to the hotel (an hour’s walk)…meaning my banana and Ben’s pain au chocolat became breakfast and after we’d showered and got out of the hotel it was lunch time!
Can I just put it out there now… I did not go to Paris for a culinary adventure. I wanted to keep things simple the day before the marathon. And finding my favourite salad on the menu ticked all my requirements.
Chicken Caesar salad with bacon, a hard boiled egg, croutons, shaved parmesan and a delicious dressing on the side for my pouring pleasure 😀
I’m also going to hold my hands up now and say we went back to this cafe twice more and I had this salad each time. It was that good.
Then we met up with some friends and sat in a lovely bar/cafe for a while catching up. After this we then made the error of walking a lot…to the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs-Élysées and back on the metro. I was starting to panic about how far we were walking and also I was having huge doubts about the next day. After saying goodbye to our friends, we had dinner (pizza) and headed back to the hotel (where my panicking would continue).
I’m still walking (hobbling) around in a happy bubble of amazingness. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully shattered and my legs didn’t feel anywhere near normal until Wednesday. And I will stop going on about the marathon I promise but I wanted to do a little ‘wrap up’ post.
I am fully aware that my marathon experience (especially my first ever marathon) was quite rare in that nothing seemed to go wrong – especially considering my training (or lack thereof). It was like a dream. Of course it was tough. Mentally more than physically I’d say. The sheer effort of keeping focused and not allowing myself to acknowledge the aches, the tiredness, and the overwhelming temptation to stop. I remember looking at my watch and thinking “oh my God, I’ve been running for three hours!” But at the same time, it was such a buzz.
The only thing I think I’d have done differently would have been to not have had three gels.
Maybe it was the temperature being so warm, but they really messed with my tummy. I know this is completely my own fault having not tested out using more than one gel in a long run before and it was a risk. Thankfully I just felt a bit sick and that was all.
Next time I think I’ll use one gel (probably between 8-10 miles) and then either have nothing or have some small easy-to-eat sweets, like jelly babies or even sugar cubes. After listening to the very insightful interview on Marathon Talk with Barry Murray (a sports-focused nationalist who is against the whole carb-loading premise) I wonder if I actually needed the gels. I do all my morning runs and long runs with no nutritional help or breakfast and have no ill effects. It’s something for me to consider in the future I think.
On another note, as good as running a race in a whole different country was there were some draw backs to it too. You have a whole different routine in a hotel room in terms of getting ready, ‘toilet time’, breakfast, getting to the race…it’s very surreal.
And post-race both Ben and me would have loved to have just been at home with our creature comforts and ‘normal’ food. But the experience of running such an iconic race was pretty amazing regardless.
I’m also somewhat jealous of the Brighton and Manchester marathon race reports with just how much support there was from the crowds. Paris was a bit lack lustre. They did cheer, but it seemed selectively so. And don’t get me started on people randomly walking out into the course to cross the road!!
OK, enough moaning. It makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy it. The truth of the matter is that I can’t smiling. It was brilliant. Epic. Amazing. Life changing. I’ve fallen in love with running again and so much harder.
So what’s next? Well, some easy weeks worth of running for definite! No care for pace, time, mileage. Just easy running and long walks. I have a few local races in the pipeline: a marathon relay where I’ll be doing a 7.8 mile leg, a few 10ks and Endure 24 in June as part of a team with my running friends (24 hours of running 5 mile laps).
And then at the end of September the Berlin marathon. I’m hoping to have a very sensible lead up, having had a good summer of base building and increasing my speed (finger’s crossed). Then head down and focused training. Nothing crazy but a sensible training plan I can actually follow this time. I have my fingers so tightly crossed that I won’t get injured again any time soon. I will continue with my strength training twice a week to work on this.
My aim for Berlin? No idea yet. But all I do know is that I want to enjoy it as much as I did Paris. If that means a similar finishing time, then that’s fine by me! I don’t want to experience 3-4 hours of hellish running.
I can quite confidently say that I am much more a fan of the longer distances than shorter. Half marathons and marathons is where I’m firmly at right now.
What are your future races?
Did you run a marathon recently? What did you learn?
What’s important to you in an event – scenery? Support? Aid stations?
Let me begin by saying this ends very happily 🙂 I had the best marathon experience I could have ever have wished for. I’ll try my hardest to keep to the real ‘meat’ of the marathon in my recap and I’ll talk about the days before and after a bit more in another post.
Day Before (briefly)
Ben and I had signed up for the Paris Breakfast 5km Run the day before the marathon as a ‘shake out’ run. I wanted to stretch my legs a bit having been on a plane and travelling the day before.
I won’t talk too much about this run as I want to focus on the ‘real’ run. But it was a fun way to start Saturday morning. However I was so nervous and I was over-thinking every single twinge. My calf felt tight (as it had done all week really) and I started to panic.
In retrospect our day before the marathon was textbook stupid. We ran 5km in the morning (albeit very slowly with lots of stops) and then walked a fair amount as we met up with some friends. They knew we were doing the marathon and we said we didn’t want to walk too much but I think as non-runners ‘not walking too much’ is all relative. In the end we did almost 30,000 steps. Not good.
For dinner we sought out a pizzeria and had a really tasty pizza. I went for a tuna, egg and vegetable one and Ben had his standard margarita.
I’m not proud of this, but that evening I went into meltdown. I was freaking out. Worst case scenarios were just filling my head. I was suddenly convinced I wouldn’t finish and would have to stop. I got very upset and panicked and Ben had to calm me down. Bless him, he ended up reading from the Paris marathon handbook thing they gave out at the expo which really helped. I did manage to fall asleep about 10.30pm though.
I was awake before my 6am alarm. We had stacks of time as we didn’t have to leave the hotel until 7.30am. I basically floated around the room in a dazed state. I had a black coffee and porridge that we’d packed from home. I even brought chia seeds with me to add to it.
Then we left. It took about 30 minutes to walk to the Arc de Triomphe, which was a nice warm up.
It was crazy because cars were still driving round, the road wasn’t closed.
My major gripe (of which I was aware of beforehand having read a few Paris marathon recaps) was that there were probably less than 30 loos. Ben and me stood in a queue for about 10 minutes before I started to panic and decide I’d use the ones in the actual pens (again, I’d found this out beforehand).
The weather was cool but not that cold. But I’d bought a huge hoody from a charity shop just in case.
Then Ben and me said our goodbyes and went to our respective pens. It’s laughable as I was in the 3:15 pen (Ben in the 3:45). When I signed up I was optimistic that I would be aiming for 3:30 but wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get held up so went one further. Now it was a joke as that wasn’t my aim at all.
When I got to the pen (now having about 40 minutes to wait until the start) I stood in the line for the SINGLE loo. I was lucky enough to have managed to go before the race began, but honestly it was a joke.
The sun was now beating down quite strongly and was right in our eyes. We started bang on time.
I had quite a structured plan of the paces I wanted to stick to (which I had written down, laminated and kept in my sports bra for the race). I knew it would be very tempting to blast it out right at the beginning, especially considering the speedy wave I was in. But I held on to my nerve and kept, thereabouts, to what I wanted. I was probably 10 or seconds faster but I was comfortable with that.
The sun was right in our eyes for such a long time it was quite hard to see around me. We ran past the Place de la Concorde, but again it was tough to see because of the sun. It’s funny because from mile 1-10 I was still convinced I wouldn’t finish.
I ran without music or podcasts and just tried to enjoy the first 10 miles. My first milestone I was aiming for was 10k because I knew my time would get pinged back to my parents at home who I’d signed up to receive a text for my times. Then my next milestone was mile 8 where I took my first gel (I held three gels in one hand and my wireless headphones in my other – this was fine as I don’t mind holding small things when I run though my hands got very sweaty).
There was lots to see and quite a bit of support (but nothing like I imagine London will be like; it reminded me more of a bigger half marathon level of support in the UK). Also the supporters seemed only to be supporting their significant others rather than cheering everyone in general. Though my name was on my bib, only two people shouted “allez Anna” the entire race.
At around 10k, when we got into a lovely park (after passing the Place de la Bastille and Chateau de Vincennes) I started to get very hot and thirsty. Luckily there were drinks stations at every 5km. I have another gripe with this. There were signs to say it was coming up but no real direction (that I was aware of) of which side of the road they were at. It was manic around there as well. My technique was just dive in with my hand out, catch the eye of a volunteer, grab a drink and get the hell out of there asap.
At first I just had a few swigs then binned the bottle. But later I realised I needed to hold the bottle and keep it with me as I’d get thirsty so quickly again and 5km was too long to wait for another.
At 10 miles I put my podcast on. I needed to take my mind off the running. The running was fairly easy, I was maintaining a nice comfortable pace but it was wearing on the brain. I was keeping a very close eye on my pace constantly reminding myself that though I felt great now I would feel terrible later at the same or perhaps slower pace. This really kept in check my speed. It would have been very easy to have gone faster at this point.
My next milestone was 12 miles where I had my next gel. I didn’t feel I needed the gels but I was terrified of bonking later so took it regardless (in retrospect, I won’t take more than one gel because it made me feel quite sick). Then I aimed for half way (another point my time went back to my parents). I must say I can’t remember too much about the race at this point. My goal was purely just to keep focusing on a steady even pace and listen to the podcast.
There was a tunnel we went under and were in for a fair amount of time that I really did not enjoy. It was so hot and muggy that it was quite uncomfortable. It was also very dark with lots of psychedelic flashing lights. This made me feel even more sick.
My next mile stone was 18 miles. Psychologically I wanted to get there because this was where everyone says you struggle. Out of the entire race though I would say I struggled half way to 17 miles the most in terms of mentally staying on track. The effort of running was becoming harder, not in terms of fitness or lungs or whatever, but the pounding on my body. Suddenly little niggles were cropping up. I felt a tightness in my hamstring and my knee was occasionally niggling. But it never felt really bad or worrying. Just simply that by this point I’d been running well over two hours, almost three.
At 18.5ish I knew my time would have gone back to my parents (little did I know they were tracking my every 5km on the Paris marathon app). At this point I was actually feeling quite good and suddenly felt confident I would finish (I know this sounds ridiculous). As I closed in around 20 miles I started doing the maths for what time I could achieve. I knew I’d added on distance for my winding and just generally not running the exact tangent so I tried to estimate that.
At 20 miles I popped on some music. And let me tell you what a buzz that was! Suddenly my whole body got into gear and I was ready to go. The music really got me going and I was loving it. Hitting every new mile was a huge buzz. I ended up running next to a girl who was at my speed and we stuck together. I vaguely remember seeing people handing out champagne and dried meats but I kept focused and kept going.
The girl was brilliant. She really pushed me forward. At first when I was next to her it seemed a bit of a coincidence of pace, but then after waiting for each other at the drink station it was clear we were both helping each other (though really she was helping me). As I hit 25 miles I knew I probably had 1.5miles left. I started to lag a bit and told the girl to go on but she turned and said “no, no, stay behind me. Keep going”. In the end though her pace was too much and I thanked her and told her to go – she smiled and ran off, I wish I could have thanked her later. That last bit…was just like pure physical and mental pain; harder than I’ve ever had before. My pace wasn’t crazy but it was just such hard work. I got to the 26 mile mark and started counting down the minutes.
I turned round the corner of the Avenue du Foch and saw the finish. Head down, keep pushing. Every single single.
Then it was over.
I stopped as soon as I hit the line. Watch switched off. Relief. Accomplishment. Happiness. Sheer shock. 3:41:18
And then the zombie march began. Every one around me was stumbling, hobbling and crawling forward. I immediately rang my dad. He told me he’d been monitoring the whole way through the app (bless him). After grabbing a water I collapsed to sit onto the curb. I felt sick, dizzy and knackered.
After chatting to my dad a bit and getting an update on Ben (as he was also tracking Ben) I found my finishes t-shirt (small and it fits!), my medal (but of course) and a huge green tent/poncho. It’s amazing how cold you quickly become.
I floated around aimlessly. My legs were unbelievably achy, but nothing in pain (HALLALEUIGH!). Getting up from the curb was a feat in itself. A French guy nodded at me sympathetically as I attempted to get up.
I saw some funny sights as I walked forward to get out of the area.
It seemed anything went! I felt incredibly sick and foolishly had half a banana, which only made me feel so much worse. I kept sipping water and walking forwards. Then suddenly, bam, in the middle of the road were so many food carts.
I couldn’t even think about food let alone smell it. I tried to get out of there as quickly as possibly.
I knew Ben was a bit behind what he’d hoped so I went to our meeting point and laid on a bench.
Near the Arc de Triomphe of course. I was getting very cold at this point and was desperate to know how Ben was. I stretched a lot and kept my feet up and just waited.
Ben text me when he was done and after 30 minutes we met up. He had been aiming for a sub-four but after unexplainably tight quads from mile nine he missed his goal. He got a very respective 4:22:11. A very significant PB (by about 50 minutes!).
We both staggered back to the hotel grinning from ear to ear.
Done. Done. Done.
I’m so pleased. I can’t believe it went so well. I did enjoy it, it was tough obviously, but at no point did I think “I hate this” or “I hate running” or “never again”. I’d say my approach was first 10 miles ENJOY, second 10 miles IGNORE (trying to take my mind off the hard work), last 10k FOCUS. I kept to my paces, I made no mistakes and everything went smoothly. Thank god. Thank you for all your support as well 🙂
More to come on the Paris trip itself, the post-marathon experience and what’s next…