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Paris Marathon – 10 April 2011

Nat and I did our first marathon at Rotorua in 2009. Almost two years on, I was set to do my tenth marathon, 18,500km away in Paris (Nat would like me to point out that she was doing her 11th!).

We had never been to Europe so what else would you do other than to run a marathon while there? After
arriving in London, and had a couple of days with family friends to adjust to the time difference then headed to Paris on the EuroStar. If you haven’t been on the EuroStar, I would definitely recommend it! A high-speed train (travelling at almost 300km/hr at some points) linking London to Paris with the overall trip taking just on 2hours 35mins.

We arrived a few days before the marathon and settled into our hotel room. Note: hotel rooms in central Paris are incredibly small! Luckily the hotel was a boutique one and was very clean and tidy and only about 10-15 minutes walk away from the marathon start on the Champs-Elysees . The downside was that there were four floors, we were on the fourth floor…and there was no lift! Being of reasonable fitness, normally this would not have been a problem, however previous marathon experience has taught me that stairs post marathon can make you look incredibly silly going up and down!

Being in Paris in Springtime is particularly clichéd, but as you have probably heard, it is amazing – believe everything you hear and read! The mornings were crisp and fresh and the afternoons were warm and relaxing. The marathon was on Sunday 10 April on the Thursday morning we woke up fairly early so decided to go for a bit of a run to turn the legs over, after all running the city is one of the best ways to explore! We headed out and soon found ourselves on the Champs-Elysees heading towards the Arc du Triomphe. Being close to marathon weekend, there were plenty of other runners out early doing the same thing as us, giving us the universal ‘runner’s hello/wave’ – it was a great feeling. From there we headed to the Eiffel  Tower, so many great sights in one short run. The fact that we were there seemed too good to be true, but there were more pressing matters at hand – it was breakfast time!

You can’t beat Paris in Springtime.

Later that day we headed to the Running Expo to collect our race packs. For me it is this collection that starts the whole marathon nerves going! The nice thing was that there was only one distance, so everyone was doing the marathon. Registration was a massive line of desks – I guess they need that with 40,000 entrants! The expo itself was impressive, filling at least the size of one or two exhibition halls at The Auckland Showgrounds in Greenlane. Luckily we went early to the expo as the merchandise was selling pretty quickly – if I was going to do the Paris Marathon, I wanted a t-shirt or three to show off the fact!

The next few days we had to ourselves, exploring as much as possible. Unfortunately this involved a lot of walking…A LOT OF WALKING which worried us a little as we didn’t want to tire ourselves out before the marathon had even begun! The night before the marathon, we found a nice Italian restaurant to have our
ritual pasta dinner in the area of St Michel, being watched over by the Notre Dame Cathedral before heading back to the hotel for an early night and to get our gear ready.

Marathon morning came round pretty quickly, as they say, time travels fast when you are having fun! Nat and I were like kids on Christmas morning, up early for breakfast and to prepare ourselves with the usual Vaseline applications and ten trips to the bathroom – seven of which are normally just nerves causing false alarms. I am sure I am not the only one that suffers from this….am I?! We headed down once again to the Champs-Elysees towards the start area. Official and emergency vehicles were driving up and down in preparation for the start. We found our respective starting pods according to our predicted finishing time and wished each other good luck. The starting pens are interesting, we were in ours for about 45
minutes before the start. Each pen has a couple of portaloos and open urinals for the men. (not everyone has pee’d in public on the Champs Elysees!) People were going about their business (probably a bad pun there!) and warming up, stretching and preparing themselves mentally, going through their pre-race rituals. As I looked towards the Arc du Triomphe, there was about 30,000 people behind me all lined up and raring to go – it was a great experience. One of the most moving for me, was during the introductions. The officials held a minutes silence as a sign of respect for those who had lost their lives in the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The silence began, and it was overwhelming, in fact the hairs on my arms stood on end – 40,000 plus people went deathly silent. Looking around and seeing all the people and not a whisper of sound was a surreal experience. As soon as the silence had ended however, the cheering, singing, whistling and music all started up – you could feel the energy! And we were off!

Perfect conditions made for a great marathon.

The marathon itself was a fantastic experience, I didn’t hear too much English being spoken which was a bit of a change. With the amount of people running, it was hard to maintain a consistent pace, but that didn’t matter – the event itself was enough for us! As we worked our way through the course, every 500m
had a different band or DJ playing music to spur on the runners. This all provided a great atmosphere and the crowd were extremely supportive regardless of where everyone was from. Having your name on your ‘Y’ singlet definitely helps in getting personalised support! I even had someone yell out ‘Go the Y!’
The day of the marathon was the hottest day Paris had had all year, during the run it got to 25 degrees and it was clear and windless – fantastic for running. The marathon had its ups and downs as every race has. Unfortunately I had to stop for a bathroom break – running into a bush, but when I finished, the last thing I expected to see when I turned around was a Policeman on horseback! Needless to say I got a hell of a fright and was back up to race pace in no time! The 28km mark also saw another surprise come my way. I thought my nose was starting to run so as I wiped my face, my hand came back red, with blood! Great – a blood nose! 2km and A LOT of water later, I was pretty well cleaned up but made me feel a little light headed! The atmosphere running through the tunnels along the course was electric, in fact all the singing, yelling and whistling from the runners was deafening! During some parts of the course the crowd narrowed and were touching us as we ran past. Nat said that there firemen with their fire trucks and hoses cheering the runners – I must say I didn’t notice them, however there were some great cheerleaders along the route – fantastic…ummm…outfits.  Approaching the finish line, I had heard that there was a special drink station where wine was served to the runners – as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find it, another cup of water and Gatorade would have to do! The last couple of kilometres saw the crowds getting busier and more and more cheers. Crossing the finish line of a marathon never stops feeling great; however the hard bit was yet to come – waiting for Nat to finish and trying to find her in the crowds! So I found a spare piece of curb to sit down on along with my finishers t-shirt, medal and 5 bottles of water and Gatorade! I eventually found Nat and we started to make our way back to our hotel room (about 30-40 minutes hobbling time). Overall we were happy with our times as well. Nat ran 4hr 06mins and I ran 3hr 38mins so it was time to get showered, get on the Metro and head out for some well deserved lunch and beer!

That was one marathon over, in a few days we were to be heading back to London to do a marathon of a different kind – a 16 day, 10 country Contiki tour of Europe. But that is a story in itself and some are best
left untold!

The Paris Marathon was definitely one I would recommend to others looking to do a large International marathon. It was well organised and everyone was super friendly. We were made to feel at home. I
definitely wouldn’t believe everything you hear about Parisians! So long as you make an effort and attempt to speak some French, they will usually laugh and ask if you speak English! Would we do it again? Yes we definitely will, however we have a few others we want to tick off first!

Au revoir!


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