I've been meaning to write this post for awhile, but this thing called "work" keeps getting in the way of my blog productivity. Argh! When I originally applied for and received entry into this year's Paris Marathon, I was scared shitless about the prospect of running 26.2 miles. However, at that point, there was still 12 months left between me and the race. Plenty of time to not think about it, right? Well, that year came an went really fast.
As our Eurostar train pulled into Gare du Nord station, I started to get a bit anxious and uneasy. I just kept imagining that 24 hours from now, I would be dragging my ass past the Eiffel Tower while every other runner zipped past me. Catherine and I quickly dropped our luggage off at our hotel, Le Méridien Etoile, and made our way to the runner's expo. FYI - If you're considering running the race next year, the Le Méridien is a good option as it's located within walking distance from both the start and end of the race.
When we entered the expo, the first thing we noticed was how international the event felt. Obviously, most world-class marathons will have a sizable proportion of runners and spectators visiting from every corner of the world. According to official marathon stats, 42% of this year's participants came from abroad. It was just so cool rubbing shoulders with runners from France (duh), Germany, Spain, Belgium, Brazil, Japan, etc.
We spent the remainder of Saturday "lightly" exploring the city by Metro and foot. After an unsatisfying carb load meal at Vapiano's that evening and a restless night of little sleep, we suddenly found ourselves walking up Avenue des Champs-Élysées to our corral near the starting line. Michael had created these awesome tearaway long-sleeve layers to keep us warm (and pump us up) at the start of the race. (Thankfully, he cheered us on at mile 2 of the race, so we were able to hand him the shirts rather than throw them away.)
As I crossed the starting line, any feeling of anxiety quickly turned into excitement. We were running in f*cking PARIS, one of the most gorgeous cities in the world! Arguably the most beautiful part of the race was the initial 5K stretch down Rue de Rivoli. The weather in Paris that morning was near perfect. A bit chilly but not a cloud in the sky. The sun cast a captivating shadow on the row of grand stone buildings. It was such a breathtaking (and strangely humbling) experience running down the city's storied and historical roads.
Catherine and I split off from one another around mile 5 as the course became a bit congested. I was feeling pretty solid for the first 20 KMs or so. However, my adrenaline began wearing off and my lack of proper training started to creep in after the halfway point. You can see my massive dip in pace, particularly around 30 KM:
Frankly, the last 10 KMs of the race were excruciating. I wanted nothing more than to sit on the pavement and cry. It wasn't a matter of endurance or tiredness. It was the throbbing pains and muscle cramps in my legs and feet. During this final stretch, one part of your mind says, "You're almost there! You already completed 20 miles!" The other half just keeps reminding you that you still have 6 more miles to go.
As a marathon spectator, I always thought my signs and incessant yelling were useless. It's the exact opposite. I don't think I would have made it if it wasn't for the numerous old French ladies yelling "allez, david!" Crossing the finish line was an extremely emotional experience. It was a mix of elation and pure joy coupled with utter anguish and anger. "I DID IT!" quickly followed by "WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF?!?" Moments after finishing, I swore to never run a marathon again.
My final time was 4 hours and 22 minutes. Could I have gone faster? With a bit more diligent training, probably. However, this was an amazing personal accomplishment regardless of my time. As a generally competitive person, it's refreshing not worrying about who you beat or what your final rank is. For me, running has simply been about settling personal goals (and beating myself). I'm so glad I finished, and I'm so happy Catherine convinced me to run.
After those first few hours of post-race suffering wore off, my tune quickly changed. I can't wait to enter another marathon. It also doesn't hurt that you get a shiny medal (rather than pink participatory ribbons) for finishing :)