April 3rd 2016
Paris or bust!
The marathon bug had well and truly bitten by the time I registered for the Paris Marathon 2016. I remember the wave of excitement as I opened up my confirmation email, which also generated my race number 66976.
A few weeks later my friend Jodie had asked me if I would train her to run a marathon and I, of course, said yes! Within hours Jodie had signed up to Paris and I started work on our training plan.
We promised to stick to the schedule and support each other through thick and thin!
Winter marathon training is never easy and both of us suffered with coughs, colds, tiredness and injuries but we battled ever forward with the schedule and rested up over Christmas. We resumed in January which resulted in some of the funniest and hardest runs I’ve ever done, all completed with smiles on our faces and sometimes tears too!
By March our longest runs were behind us and we both nervously tapered 2 weeks before the big event, Jodie was ready for her 1st marathon and I was ready for my 7th!
In sickness & in health.
God I felt ill!!
Arriving in Paris, after months of training I was a mixture of nerves and excitement. I had spent the last 10 days in the UK feeling under the weather, which had left me tired, uncomfortable and irritable!
I made my way to the expo and picked up my number with ease and whilst I tried to enjoy the atmosphere my stomach flipped over. Unsure if it was nerves or illness I tried to mentally convince myself that everything would be ok……..
The night before the Marathon I ate a very bland meal, had a bath and went to bed early but at 1am all was not well! I woke up, feeling hot, cold and nauseous, my stomach gurgling!
No, no,no! This can’t be happening?! I ran to the toilet and 2 minutes later I had lost the entire contents of my stomach….. Both ends! I thought that was it, game over! Food poisoning? Stomach bug? There had been so much of it going around at work, but I thought I had managed to dodge it, maybe not. Was I even going to make it to the start line? Maybe not...
I put myself back to bed and tried to calm my mind, breathe in, breathe out. I meditated for about 5 mins before I fell back to sleep, hoping the sickness would pass.
Let's get ready to rumble!
I woke at 6am and cautiously got out of bed. The good news was I felt ok and after a small breakfast and hydration drink (preferred choice SOS berry) it was time to make my way to the start line.
The bad news was that Jodie was in a different starting pen and despite my best efforts, vaulting over two pen gates to get to her, we failed to meet up. We had agreed that I would catch her up, my last words were “keep to the left and I will find you!”
|Separated from Jodie, but feeling determined.|
The atmosphere was electric, chaotic and confusing, probably not helped by my lack of understanding of the french language. As all the tannoys went out I just stood in my pen soaking up the crowd's energy! The weather was bright and sunny and The Arc de Triomphe was silhouetted behind me by a perfect blue sky. At last, I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and as I ran over the start line, I began to feel excited, happy and well enough to run!
Paris, in all its beauty lay before me on this glorious spring day, all I had to do was catch Jodie up!!
I decided to up my pace and started to blast out 8-9 min mile in hope of finding Jodie before 5km. ( my usual pace is 10 min mile!)
Alas, I had not caught her by 5km or 10km, but by 12km we were reunited and we chatted away, the Paris landmarks were a blur behind us and up in front we entered the first park, Bois de Vincennes.
|The iconic landmarks of Paris.|
Les supporters fantastiques!
The supporters, bands and music en route, were all amazing! I smiled and enjoyed the mile I was in. I will never forget the French crowds shouting encouragement.
“Allez Vix, Allez Jojo” whilst the um pah pah music played loudly around us. Some of the songs we recognised and we sang along to the strange European version of Britney Spears Hit Me Baby One More Time and the Spice Girls Viva Forever! It passed the time and made us laugh!
The sun was beating down on us by midday and we had reached the halfway mark in good time. Thankfully, for all the runners, the aid stations popped up at every 10km, the volunteers handed out bananas, oranges, raisins, sugar cubes and water to keep us all going.
There were also water canons and showers to help cool us down but my 30km it was getting harder.
I told Jodie my mantra in hope that it would keep us going “ Just keep moving, one foot in front of the other. Just keeping moving”
However, Jodie had come up with her own mantra “Just keep swimming!!!” And we did just that, moving and swimming! Whatever it takes to get us over the finish line!
|The heat is on!|
We reached 35km (only 7km to go) and we had run out of water! It was now 21 degrees and many of our fellow runners were collapsing or sitting at the side of the road. Bois de Boulogne, the 2nd park had little to no shade and the next water station was 5km away! I scavenged for discarded water bottles and chucked their contents over our heads, reassuring Jodie that is was only water and not wee! We kept moving forward and soon enough the water station appeared, I picked up water and fruit for us both but as I turned back to Jodie she had gone!
Mon Dieu! I couldn’t see her anywhere, a chaotic few minutes ensued where I didn’t know if she was behind me or running up ahead.Surely, after the last 40km, we had to finish together?
Thinking back to the beginning I took a guess that she was ahead and with the last of my energy I sprinted off to find her.
I managed a very speedy km and to my relief caught a glimpse of Jodie, one last kick from my legs and I had her next to me.
The last ½ km we just smiled and enjoyed the crowd and once across the finish line we stopped, no tears, no words were needed so we just hugged! We had done it, Paris Marathon had been conquered!
|Feeling great after 42km.|
We gratefully collected our medals and finishers t shirts and within moments we were on our way to finding our friends and families. On arrival, my best friend sprayed me with a full bottle of champagne!
I felt lucky and honoured to have so many of my close friends and family in Paris to share my big day. There was lots of embracing and emotions, lots of photo’s taken and memories made that day.
Jodie and I said goodbye and we went our separate ways to celebrate our success with our supporters. I was hungry and tired, yet I felt alive and full of adrenaline!
We ate, drank, laughed and walked around Paris in a daze, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying everyone's company.
Finally back at my hotel, I sank into a very hot bubble bath and let my mind wander.
The day had been magnificent and I had enjoyed my first marathon abroad. Despite the highs and lows of getting to the start line, Paris had earnt a special place in my heart and I will never forget the experience. I always feel lucky to run in such beautiful places and grateful that I can share these days with my family and friends.
A marathon not only challenges your physical fitness, but your mental toughness too.
I look back on my marathon journey over the last 2 years and I am amazed at how much I have progressed. But for now this quote by Snoopy creator Charles Schulz sums it up for me.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon”
Thank you for reading my blog.
Next up The Sussex Weald 50km, and training begins for Race to the Stones 100km!