Okay, not too much gushing about the beautifulness of the weather reflecting perfectly the beautifulness of the day… let’s talk about the race…
After Steph sped off into the distance approximately 0.23 seconds after crossing the starting mat (such an awesome one, she is), Leah and I were left to savour the fact that OH MY GOD WE ARE ACTUALLY RUNNING A MARATHON.
For the first 10k, me and Leah ran together. We didn’t plan to, but we found ourselves falling into the same pace for this first section, as had happened for the first 7 or so miles of the Brighton half marathon. Within this first hour we saw Leah’s boyfriend Jason, had an interesting near miss and synchronised squeal coming through the first water and snack station and quickly saw Zoë too. We were definitely having a lot of fun…
As expected, I needed the bloody loo from about two miles onwards. I managed to internalise this thought until just before we got to the first park (Bois de Vincennes) at mile 5, but was glad when I saw loads of people running off behind trees, bushes and fences.
We passed over both the 5k and 10k mats within one second of each other, in 32 mins and 1:06.
My resolve to hold on was pretty damn rubbish, and straight after the water station at 10k, I seized the perfect opportunity and joined about 3 other runners for a communal wee in a bush. My new short shorts made this all a lot simpler!
This brief interlude into the foliage meant I lost Leah. I don’t really remember too much of this next stretch, other than it being the hottest part of the race. The sleeves soon came off after this picture and I was even more glad I opted for shorts (which I had only tested on one four mile run, five days before the race – not usually advisable, but in this case worked out okay).
I made sure I was getting through a 500ml bottle of nuun every 10k and also took a Torq gel at 5 and 10 miles. I don’t know if it was the heat, because I’d trained with both nuun and Torq and had been fine, but this combination made me feel really, really sick. Like I actually threw up in my mouth 2 or 3 times during the race kinda sick. NICE. (I cannot promise you this is the last mention of bodily functions.)
From around 10-11 miles I started to struggle a bit, and promised myself that when I hit mile 12, I could put a headphone in and start listening to my playlist. Despite being an ardent ‘I don’t run with music’ type for the past 18 months or so, this really did help and I couldn’t have got through the race without it.
As the ‘SEMI’ arch came into view, this song came into my ear. It really was the most brilliant, beautifully timed moment as the chorus broke as I crossed the mat and the words IF YOU GAVE ME A CHANCE I WOULD TAKE IT, IT’S A SHOT IN THE DARK BUT I’LL MAKE IT just felt so absolutely perfect.
The fact that I was halfway felt like a huge pressure had lifted – I had to run less that I had already run from here onwards.
Somewhere shortly after halfway, me and Leah found each other again! We crossed the 25k, 30 and 35k points together. I loved that this happened, it was so good to share so much of the race experience with someone I’d shared so much of the training experience.
My memory of this part of the race is hazy at best, but here are a few of the highlights (not sure you can call all of them that):
- I noticed my first group of spectators drinking red wine at the side of the road. Feeling as sick as I did, even the sight of this almost made me do a little puke.
- The seemingly neverending up and down along the main road along the Seine, including lots of small tunnels and the one SUPER LONG WEIRD DISCO TUNNEL FROM HELL. It was dark, noisy, humid, for a while I couldn’t see the light (literally) and it was the only point of the whole race I felt even remotely panicky. And then you had to climb a pretty sharp slope to get out of it.
- My second wee/first portaloo stop. For a while, I had considered just ducking behind a parked car. But after a small tussle with a steward who tried to use the portaloo ahead of me (I wish I knew how to say ‘I don’t think so, lady!’ in French), I regret not taking that option. Seriously people, if you ever run this race, trust me when I say the bush/tree/sign/side of the road is always more preferable than using the portaloo. I’ll say no more.
- Running past the Eiffel Tower. Being impressed that Leah had the energy to take a selfie, because I was more than a little indifferent at this point.
- BANANAS! Thank goodness for the bananas which meant I didn’t have to rely on anymore gross, sweet, hot tubes of gel!
After this a few amazing things happened…
I hit mile 19, the furthest I’ve ever run before the race. And I felt better than I did when I had run 19 miles.
I hit 20 miles and for some reason as soon as I passed the marker, I just knew I’d be able to do it.
And I stopped for a quick selfie at mile 21, imagining that all my Run Dem family were there, but also knowing they were all cheering virtually.
The final 5-6 miles felt surprisingly and overwhelmingly awesome. I didn’t even get a hint of hitting any kind of wall. From 20 miles onwards, I worked out that I still could have a stab at a sub 5 hour time. It was going to be really close, but it was possible. This thought (along with knowing that I just really, reeeeeally wanted it to be over now) was what kept me running. I ended up only walking through water stations for the whole thing. The last 5k was relentless – all in a park, everyone else walking, spectators all over the place.
It wasn’t until I turned out of the park after 42k that there were barriers in place and thick crowds lining the street. As I got to the final straight, I threw my water bottle off to the side and (what felt like) sprinted (looking at the video, it wasn’t) towards the finish line, arms in the air.
I honestly don’t think I’ll ever forget those last few hundred metres. Steph was at the sidelines SCREAMING my name and I felt like I was flying. I came in at 5:01:00. In a way I’m annoyed at that one minute. But I also know, if I’d done something to lose that one minute, my race wouldn’t have been the same. And I can honestly say I loved every single one of those 301 minutes.
I finished feeling strong, proud and happy.
That is all I could ever have wished for.