The Friday evening before I travelled to Paris I was a complete mess. I had packed earlier in the day, I had eaten my carb-filled dinner (it involved pizza, rice AND sweet potato) and all that was left to do was to get a good night’s sleep ahead of getting to the Eurostar in the morning. It ended up being the most nervous I was the whole weekend – literally pacing up and down my (tiny) room, I spoke to a couple of unlucky contacts in my phone book, forcing them into giving me a pep talk whether they wanted to or not.
After far too little sleep, the next morning I met Steph and her boyfriend David at St Pancras. On the train we had a runner’s celebration breakfast of non-alcoholic bubbles and cupcakes (provided by Steph’s lovely parents) as it was Steph’s birthday on marathon day. I was finally getting properly excited.
Once we got to Paris, we headed straight to the expo, and after a short wait basking in the sun in the queue outside, the pickup process was quick and painless (note: I don’t think there’s any way you could get away with picking up someone else’s race number – they checked medical certificate, convocation (or confirmation) and ID pretty thoroughly). The rest of the expo was fairly crap – I also was lugging my my case around with me and knew I didn’t want – or indeed need – anymore running kit!
The rest of the day flew by – back to my hotel, watched Pitch Perfect and took a few selfies on the iMac (I made a very good hotel desicion!) and then headed out for dinner with the most of the guys from Run Dem Crew that were also running. Nerves were running high, but it was also calming to hang out with so many others going through the same spectrum of emotions. Lots of pasta was consumed and then we all headed our separate ways for early nights.
I had a brilliant night’s sleep before the race. I had text my parents asking that if they happened to be up with their greyhound at 0515 UK time (quite likely – he doesn’t like to let people sleep!), could they just make sure I was up. I awoke at 0615 French time to 4 (FOUR!) missed calls and a text from my Mum. But I was awake…
After force feeding myself the usual cereal I eat and had brought with me in my hotel room, I headed to the start line and although my hotel looked like it was the other side of Paris, it was actually only one half hour Metro ride away. The location of the bag drop was fairly obvious – everyone with a bag was walking in one direction, everyone walking in the opposite direction didn’t have one. I just got swept along by the crowds. Bag drop was relatively close to the start pens given the size of the race and the number of runners and I was soon wandering right through the middle of the Arc de Triomphe roundabout (no idea if it was meant to be closed to traffic or not – but both runners and cars were ignoring either instruction) back down towards the pens and into the rather long portaloo queue.
About 10 minutes into my wait, Leah and Steph appeared in the queue just behind me and we realised that the loos back towards the bag drop now had no queue – hooray for being in the very last start (we started almost an hour after the first wave set off)!
Peeing done, fetching turquoise joggers ditched, we headed to the pen. Using the ‘dance through the crowd so people can’t get mad’ method, we went from the very, very back of the field to somewhere nearer the front of the ‘rose’-coloured wave. There was a bit of having to jump around discarded plastic poncho things and little mountains of hoodies, but nothing too arduous. The atmosphere in the pen was really quite electric. And then Leah let out the most genuine, hysterical burst of laughter I have ever heard. It really cracked me up, it was HYSTERICAL in every sense, it really summed up the madness of what was about to happen.
And a few of minutes later we were off down the Champs Elysees, towards to inflatable green arch and taking our first steps of 26.2 miles…