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.

There are some loos there… right in the background

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…

You know what makes training for your first marathon really enjoyable? Other people. I don’t think I would have got this far without having so many brilliant people also taking on the craziness of 26.2 alongside me.

Some I’ve run with, some I haven’t, but they’ve all been there to share stories, moan about aches or even just remind me to get a damn medical certificate (which is now firmly packed in my case!)

So, with race day practically around the corner, I just wanted to feature some Paris marathon heroes of mine. I am in total awe…

Today, it’s Laureen. I met Laureen through a group of ladies called ‘Team Naturally Run’. We were originally put together by Leah to run We Own The Night last summer, but since then, we’ve grown into a community of running, brunching, holidaying and supporting friends. We get There’s 8 of us who’ll be running in Paris, and I’ve run at some point with pretty much all of them over the last four months.

Towards the end of our training, me and Laureen have run quite a lot together – we did both our 18 and 20 milers in each other’s company. She is so chilled out and a total badass – none of the training or a recent injury has phased her. She’s also very funny – running the whole of our 18 mile run with her backpack on, then being delighted half way round the 20 miler when she realised being without it was why it felt so much easier!

Everything that Laureen has talked about below is exactly how I feel, I’m so glad to have met her and the other TNR girls and I can’t wait to see her smash it in Paris. Can’t wait for the post race Champagne!

Why a marathon and why Paris?

I have been flirting with the idea of a marathon for the past couple of years. I have been entering the London marathon ballot since 2009 and was disappointed and mega relieved at the same time for each rejection.

When I saw that Leah signed up for the Paris marathon and that there was no ballot, I started considering it. Then more of you girlies starting signing up and I knew that I would not be alone and that I would get the support I needed to get me through the training via the TNR community. One afternoon I just signed up for it (I blame it on my fever that day).

What are you most looking forward to on race day?

I am looking forward to being done and crossing the finish line haha!

How is your training going?

It is going OK. There have been some tough times but I had a plan and almost followed it to the letter. I am still amazed by what my body can do. The TNR team delivered amazing support both online and in person during our long runs. At this point, I know that I can run the distance. I am just realistic that it might not be as fast as what I hoped when I first signed up.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known before starting training?

I wish I had carried on with my cross training. I was good at going to a pilates or yoga class and do a bit of strength training at the beginning of my training but then gave up. I know that I could be feeling a lot stronger right now had I continued.

Perhaps my plan could have included an extra run per week to be a bit faster. However, I would probably have gone a bit crazy from the overwhelming training while my plan kept my life balanced.

All in all, this has been an incredible adventure. I have learnt a lot about myself, mainly that I can achieve much more that I thought I could if I put my mind to it. I have also discovered that I have a great support system and I have made some great new friends.

Follow Laureen on Twitter and read her blog too.

I’ve taken all this week as annual leave to ‘prepare’ myself for the weekend. It hindsight, work might have been a good distraction.

I’m a fully paid up member of the ‘running is a journey’ cult and all this time I’ve now got on my hands is allowing me far too much space to think. A lot has happened to me over the past six months (new big girl job, newly and surprisingly single, new house and housemates in a new part of town). I think to a certain extent, marathon training has been the glue, the focus, the one constant thing, whatever you want to call it through all of these things. It’s been the one thing that’s always been there, that I knew I had to keep ploughing away at whilst everything else was changing around me.

And on Sunday it will stop.

I’m terrified of the race, but I have also accepted that I can be no more ready than I am. I’m more terrified of the anti climax.

But I’m so glad for everything that training for this race has given me before I’ve even done it. I needed the distraction. I needed to know I was strong enough to do it. I needed the truly dear friends I have made. And I’ll still have all of these things AND MORE after Sunday.

Paris, I am ready.

 

You know what makes training for your first marathon really enjoyable? Other people. I don’t think I would have got this far without having so many brilliant people also taking on the craziness of 26.2 alongside me.

Some I’ve run with, some I haven’t, but they’ve all been there to share stories, moan about aches or even just remind me to get a damn medical certificate (which I’ve finally got around to, 10 days before the race).

So, with race day practically around the corner, I just wanted to feature some Paris marathon heroes of mine. I am in total awe…

First up, it’s Shane. I met Shane pretty much exactly a year ago. He was one of the first people I met at RDC West, when I went along when I first moved to London, after months of not running. Shane immediately made me feel welcome – he is friendly, encouraging and completely and utterly humble (as you will see from the below!)

The journey that he has been on and transformation we have seen in Shane over the past 12 months has been incredible. Inspiring isn’t a strong enough word. Twelve months ago, I could more or less keep up with Shane. Now he is burning up the streets with the Elites each week and I don’t have a chance.

I was there when Shane completed his first half marathon last year – I witnessed him so nervous before the race but saw him earn a medal to be proud of. I know he’s nervous about Paris too, but his training has been thorough and consistent and I know he’s going to own it. Since September last year, Shane has been encouraging everyone else around him in their training for Paris, and I am so pleased I’ll be lining up on the same start line as we both take on our first marathon.

Why a marathon and why Paris?

I’ve decided it’s time for me to make the next step in the running world, and the next step after a half marathon is a full marathon, to which I’d admit now I’m kind of dreading, actually getting butterflies in my stomach thinking of it now. But on the day it’s going to be great. The reason why I’ve chosen Paris is I didn’t register in time for London. And what a great city to run your first marathon. It will also be my first trip to Paris as well.

What are you most looking forward to on race day?

Meeting up with fellow Run Dem Crew members before the race, and just seeing the smiles and joy on everyone’s face before the run. I believe it will lift my spirits up as well. I’m so grateful to be in the RDC family. I believe it lifts so many people on race day to know you’re in a crew that won’t leave you behind.

How is your training going?

Training has its ups and downs. When it has it’s ups it’s lifts your spirits really high. When the training is down, I say to myself marathon training sucks.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known before starting training?

Don’t change your food diet 6 weeks before a marathon. Also go easy on your long runs, and explore more of London on your long runs.

Yeah don’t run with elites 6 weeks before a marathon. I ended up bruising the sole of my right foot and couldn’t walk on it for a week. But thank God my sole is better now.

Cara’s photo

Sunday 23rd March, 08:53

I’m sitting in bed waiting for the muesli and banana I’ve just eaten to digest, drinking a cup of tea. I haven’t run in 8 days and I’m wondering how I managed to completely mess up the first week of tapering.

In the past week I’ve had two days off work ill, sandwiched in between two quite spectacular hangovers at the weekends. I’ve felt sick in more than one way, tired, and super asthmatic. The three days I actually spent at work weren’t very productive, and I felt guilty the two days I wasn’t. I’ve eaten okay on the whole, but finished off my hangover yesterday by ordering two Domino’s pizzas and a bottle of Fanta.

At this point, I thought I’d feel ‘ready’, but I feel like I’ve screwed it all up. After my mediocre feeling after 19 miles last week, I know I’ve now got no more time to feel more prepared. I’ve starting to regret all the mid week runs, yoga classes and strength training I promised myself I’d do alongside the weekend long miles, but haven’t. I’m regretting the week I did 8 miles instead of 14, even though I was in tears and in no way mentally okay to carry on. I’m regretting doing 19 not 20 miles last week, even though I know it really wouldn’t have made much difference.

I’ve got 12 miles on my training plan today. 12 miles right now seems like a tough ask, which is frightening. I feel like I need this to be a good run, but putting pressure on it to be really won’t help. Let’s see what my legs, heart and head can do…

Sunday 23rd March 12:14

I’m back on my bed after having run 9.7 miles. That run has not made me feel and better or worse about running a marathon in two weeks. It was a lovely run – along the river for a bit, then joining Regent’s Canal, running into Victoria Park for a bit then heading back – but I was just going through the motions.

I decided fairly early on I wasn’t going to run 12 miles, and almost turned round and came home again at just 2. All I could think of was how nice it will be to do it again when I am 10k and half marathon training, when I can really enjoy it. I think I’m bored of running really far now. I only have to do it one more time, I just really want to love it.