Thursday, April 17, 2014

Race Recap: Paris Marathon

Almost two weeks after the race later...I am back from Paris AND have a race recap for you!

Let me just say that my trip to Paris was absolutely amazing. I lived there for six months during college and I feel like this 10-day trip was even better than those six whole months. Dan and I walked everywhere, ate delicious food, and drank loads of amazing (cheap!) wine. I can't forget to mention the pastries and countless cafe cremes consumed either!

Overall, the race was a good one. It was also insanely hard and it was the first marathon where I haven't listened to any music (the two may have been related...). It was sunnier and warmer than I'd expected, and also hillier than I thought it was going to be. But let's start at the beginning, shall we?

Dan and I arrived Friday morning after an overnight flight in coach. I slept a bit on the plane, and when we landed, we headed to our flat and went to the expo. I had absolutely no problems getting my bib and swag bag, and we wandered around the (enormous) expo for a bit before heading home for a much-needed nap.
2:03 is a reasonable goal, right?
Friday night, I slept incredibly well, but the night before the race I slept pretty horribly - a rarity for me. I was up for about an hour around 2am, tossing and turning, and finally fell back asleep around 3am. At 6:45am, my alarm went off and I started prepping for race day, snacking on a bagel with almond butter I'd brought from home, with banana slices and a cup of coffee. Before I knew it, it was time to head to the starting line! Dan headed over with me as well, and I handed off my gloves and arm warmers to him, knowing I wouldn't be needing them today (the temps were already in the 50s).
Pre-race Arc de Triomphe selfie!
I got to the corral around 8am (the race had a staggered start, with the first corral going at 8:45 - I was in the fourth corral, I think) and immediately hopped into the neverending portapotty line. For some inexplicable reason, there was exactly ONE portapotty in my corral of several thousand people. I had made my opinions of this terrible idea very clear in my Paris Marathon survey response, so I will spare you here. Suffice it to say that one portapotty is not enough portapotties.

ANYWAY! I crossed the starting line around 9:15am. We start out running along the Champs Elysees, away from the Arc de Triomphe and toward Place de la Concorde. Also, the Champs Elysees is sort of cobblestoned - not a surface I had trained on, but nice anyway! We ran around Concorde and headed east along rue de Rivoli, which offered some much-needed shade. 

My first four miles were good ones and I felt strong - 8:30, 8:25, 8:29, 8:25. I'd hoped for 8:30s so was pleased when I was holding to that.

Miles 5 to 8 - 8:21, 8:22, 8:24, 8:15. These were also some great miles, but shade was scarce. I saw Dan and our friend Ryann around mile 7.5 in the Bois de Vincennes, a gorgeous park on the east side of Paris, and I felt so relaxed and calm during that part of the run. Seeing them was a great pick-me-up, as you can see in my mile 8 time!

Miles 9 to 12 - 8:24, 8:42 (uphill), 8:07 (downhill), 8:17. I liked these miles as well, and was so happy to turn around and head west. The sun was at my back and I was almost halfway there!

Miles 13 to 16 - 8:22, 8:18, 8:27, 8:27. I actually almost fell on my face when a runner nearby tripped me by one of the nutrition stands! Luckily he also caught me before I fell, but it threw me off a bit. There was the ONE AND ONLY Powerade station around mile 14 as well (why there was one...I do not know, but it was NOT ENOUGH!), which was the best thing to see on such a warm day. Around here was also where we ran by Notre Dame. I remember seeing some signs for it, but to be honest, I barely took in any sights during the entire race!

Miles 17 to 20 - 8:38, 8:36, 9:14, 9:00. Around here was where the wheels started to come off. I saw Dan again near the Trocadero (~18.5), and seeing him was a much-needed pick-me-up. I was starting to really struggle mentally, and I think in these miles some music would have been good to throw on. I had my phone and headphones with me, but I also have a password on my phone (for work, so I couldn't disable it), AND my phone was in a plastic baggie, so I just didn't even bother. 

Miles 21 to 22 - 8:48, 9:38. Yep, you are reading that right correctly, 9:38 for mile 22. There was a hill and there were tunnels and I don't remember much other than pretty much wanting to stop. My goal for a 3:40 marathon was way out the window, and I strongly considered throwing in the towel and just running whatever pace I wanted for the rest of the race. 

Miles 23 to 24 - 9:00, 9:00. We entered the Bois du Boulogne, which meant there was like, HARDLY any race left at all! And I told myself that it was going to hurt no matter how fast or slow I went, so I might as well go fast! This was a great trick to play on my brain and totally got me moving :)

Miles 25, 26, 0.4 (because I suck at running tangents...and because the crowd NEVER thinned in this race!) - 8:46, 8:50, 7:37. One thing I hated around here - I could see these enormous streamer things ahead of me and was like OMG THE FINISH LINE! But NO! It was just some decoration to show you were at the 42km point! RUDE. Anyway, when I realized that I actually COULD PR (by a tiny bit), I sucked it up and ran with all that I had left in me. It was not pretty, and it was not fun, but it felt SO AMAZING to cross that damn finish line.
Just a little excited about being done!
I finished and immediately wanted to collapse/fall over/chug some Gatorade and/or a smoothie. My official time? 3:46:56, exactly 44 seconds faster than my Chicago Marathon time of 3:47:40 (on a flat course on a perfect marathon temperature day, mind you! And only one hour of jet lag instead of six!). As soon as I finished, I texted my dad and Dan to share with them the lesson I had learned during the race: "Holy sh*t, that was hard!" 

It was actually super easy to get my medal, my poncho, my finisher's shirt, and find Dan. It was a much faster and easier process than when I'd waited over an hour to find Dan after the NYC Marathon in November.
Somehow still standing!
So YES! I PR'ED!!! Very exciting, I'm totally thrilled. I worked my ass off through a challenging course on a (much) warmer day than I'm used to, on a hillier course than I'd expected, where electrolyte beverages were distributed exactly once. And I moved up places in every single 5k, which means I passed more people than passed me - which is awesome and an accomplishment I'm incredibly proud of. However, to say I'm not at all disappointed would be a lie. I am a very teeny tiny bit disappointed that I had such a strugglefest for a few of those miles. I was trained for a faster marathon for sure, and I know that I have a faster one in me. 

But, as I mentioned, there were a lot of things out of my control, and I'm incredibly proud of how I handled them all. I could have given up, thrown in the towel, and run a non-PR marathon - which would have been fine, because there are pastries to eat and wines to drink in Paris, after all. 

I was quite close to giving it all up, actually, but decided to give it an extra push and see what I am made of, and I can't be disappointed in myself for doing that. In fact, I celebrated.
Champagne, jam, and butter procured on Saturday since
everything is closed on Sundays
Dan bought me macarons and flowers. And we went to the
Trocadero to take pictures by the Eiffel Tower. Because Paris.
Till next time, Paris. And till next time, marathon. I'm coming for you, 3:40. Maybe not this year, but 2015 better start looking out.

A post about all the fun and cool stuff we did in Paris to come soon!


  1. Found your blog and glad we connected on Instagram :) Congrats on the PR, running the Paris Marathon (on my bucket list!) and getting your run on in London. London and Paris are some of my favorite cities in the world.

    Congrats finisher!!!

    1. Twitter, I mean. Not Instagram. Getting all my social networks confused :)

  2. I'm heading there this year. Any advice you would give? This will be my third marathon, but my first trip to Europe with jet lag and packing, etc. Would love any advice you might be willing to give!