Monday, 10 April 2017

April in Paris

I should have known the weekend would not go entirely to plan when there was no Haribo stand at the Expo!  I'm not saying that it was the highlight of last year's Paris trip - but it was a pretty good way to start the weekend.  I had the restraining presence of Husbando with me, which meant that I didn't spend too much money at the expo!

We arrived on Thursday, and checked into my first ever AirB&B apartment - that was a slightly stressful experience - I was half convinced that we would find that there was no such apartment and that we would have nowhere to sleep that evening.  As it was our apartment was there, just off av. Foch and ideally suited for our needs.  After dropping off our bags we headed to the expo and picked up our race numbers and t-shirts for the Breakfast Run.    Friday was spent hanging out with friends, walking about a bit and looking, anxiously, at the weather forecast.

Saturday morning was glorious!  We made our way to the new start for the Breakfast Run (in previous years it had started just outside our front door, but this year a short Metro journey to Palais Royal-Louvre was required).  The new route was stunning!  Through the courtyard at the Louvre, over the river, past the Museé d'Orsay and then along the bank of the Seine  before finishing right next to the Eiffel Tower.  The Breakfast Run is strictly a 5k fun run.  Husbando and I started at the middle of the 3,000 strong group of runners and ran together for the first couple of kilometres before he decided he needed to have a pee.  I carried on, comfortably at 9min/mile until I realised that I was catching up with the pace car.  From then on it was 10.15min/mile pace for the rest of the way.  It felt incredibly slow - but the irony of the fact that there would be times the next day when 10 min/miles would seem like a really fast time!  Coffee, croissants, bananas and bottled water were provided at the end.  It felt really fabulous to be running.  I was suddenly buoyed up with enthusiasm and confidence.  Despite my less than ideal training I though that I might just manage a halfway reasonable time at the marathon.  Maybe the two marathons and the couple of really long trail runs I'd already done this year would be enough to get me through.  

Husbando was running his first 'proper marathon.'  He'd run an accidental marathon at one of On The Whistle's events, but I have always thought that it is easier to run a lapped event, where you can stop for drinks, food, hugs, loo break, change of clothes every three or four miles than a traditional marathon.   After the heat last year, I'd decided to buy ourselves a little bit of extra time in the cooler early part of the day and put us down for a totally unrealistic (for me!) time of 3hr30min, with the hope that I might get sub 4, this meant we had a start time of 8.35am.  My friend, running her first ever marathon, put herself down for the 4hr30 plus pen, with a start time of 9.50am.  Husbando was so excited about his big race that he set his alarm for 5.30am .... we'd decided that the two of us would need to leave at 7.50am!  I set mine for 7.10am, and was ready to leave at 7.50.... Husbando was just getting dressed....We eventually left just before 8am.  We got 5 steps outside the apartment before he realised that he had the wrong glasses.  Argh!  No matter, we were close to the start, we had  enough time.  We tried to get into the start pen.  It was so full we couldn't get in as it was so full - it wasn't until they started moving the runners forward that we could get into the pen.  I wasn't panicking, not really, but it wasn't the least stressful start to a race!

Husbando and I ran the first few miles together, it was getting warm pretty quickly.  I think there may be a cheesy photo of us running and holding hands somewhere!  Husbando had a pace band for four hours, and I could hear him doing the maths to work out if we could still make it.  I knew we couldn't and any amount of maths on his part would not change that.  I knew that I was probably being pushed on too hard and that disaster lay ahead if I carried on running with Husbando.  I also didn't want to hamper his chances of getting a great marathon time.  I decided to take a tactical pee break in the woods.  We'd got to nearly 9 miles and we were already baking.

I decided that as sub 4, or even close to 4, was off the cards I would just get round.  It shouldn't be too hard... but it got hotter and hotter.   I've probably run in hotter weather, but not much and not out of the blue.  A friend informs me that the average temperature in the shade while I was running was 26 degrees with a maximum of 31 degrees.  And there is precious little shade on the Paris marathon route!  I don't think I've ever run a race where so many of the other runners were downright rude!  I know the route was crowded, that the course was very narrow at several places, but to push another runner out of the way is unacceptable.  And I'm not talking about the unintentional bashes that occur by accident, on several occasions I was pushed out of the way by another runner trying got get past.  The course does get narrow at times - because spectators crowd onto the road.

At some point I got it into my head that I needed to go to the loo.  Probably because every single portaloo I saw on the route was padlocked closed, apart from the one that I climbed over a concrete barricade to get to at about 16 miles.  That one was so disgusting that I couldn't even step inside it to use it.   Ah well, I soldiered on.  Then my foot started hurting.  My right foot.  It hurt every time I pushed off, a couple of mile later the fact that I was obviously 'running funny' meant that my hamstring was making its presence felt.  At 18 miles (ish) we ran under a pedestrian bridge that had a load of people touting trade for (I think) the Chicago marathon.  The noise there was phenomenal, and slightly scary.  I began to panic about my ability to run London if it was going to be this noisy.... and would my foot even work?   At this point I popped into a cafe and asked if I could use their toilet.  Amazingly they said yes, but that the toilet was upstairs.  I went up, locked the door and burst into tears.  I looked at my garmin, it said I'd done 19.69 miles, so I sent a text to the three friends who were with me in Paris, saying that I had 7 miles to go (overestimating the distance I thought) that I was in pain, and that I might have to walk the last 7 miles.  You can imagine how awful I felt when I'd been running a bit longer and got to the 19 mile marker!  (My watch at this point read 19.75miles!)

I did some maths, calculated that I was walking at about 15min/mile pace, and that I wasn't prepared to be out there for another hour and three quarters, so I was just going to have to suck it up and at least run part of the way.  So that's what I did.  More rude runners, very hot sunshine, minimal support where it was really needed in the last stages through the Bois de Boulogne made this a less than joyful experience.  I was just glad to finish.  Husbando had finished about 20 minutes ahead of me, having struggled in the heat too.

Having collected our medals we went back to the apartment, had a shower, got changed and had a quick snooze before heading back to the finish line to support my friend.  I was wearing flip flops and compression tights - an attractive combination!  The marathon website states that there is a 6 hour cut off from the time the last runners start.  I was getting concerned that we were getting close to the limit, so I told Husbando (jeans and trainers) and my friend's husband (t-shirt and cargo shorts) that I would head back along the route to find her (wearing my finisher's t-shirt, medal, compression tights and flip flops!)  I ran back about 2km, shouting encouragement at the runners coming toward the finish, until I found her.  We ran her last 2km overtaking people along the way as she upped her pace (probably to get away from my incessant and inane chatter) and got to the bottom of av. Foch just as they were starting to move a lories and fork lift truck across the bottom of the road to close the finish.  We legged it up to the finish, I had tears running down my face, with her husband joining us too.  Husbando, taking pictures, said that there were only about 10 more people who finished after us, so I am so glad that I made the decision to take my knackered legs back out there to chivvy her along!  She worked so hard to complete her marathon, the idea of not making the cut off does not bear thinking about.  I am so proud of her.  She was out there in the full heat of the day, while the people at the water stations were packing up the tables as she ran through them and she DID IT!

We took our medals out for supper - the best steak frites we've had in long time, before collapsing into bed.  Some of us will run another marathon, one of us says she won't but I doubt any of us will be in a hurry to enter Paris next year!






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