It must have been the beetroot detox smoothie. After 6 months of what I believed was less than adequate preparation, including a pulled hip muscle in September and a fortnight of man-flu in February, and carrying a stone more than last time, I took on the 26 miles of the Paris Marathon and emerged relatively unscathed.
The race itself – suffice to say, if you’re going to do a marathon as a one-off, it’s a good call to do it in a relatively flat, major city with lots of landmarks. Starting on the Champs Elysees, heading past Concorde, the Louvre, Place de la Bastille, the Seine tunnels, le Tour Eiffel, l’Arc de Triomphe, plenty of sights kept the interest levels up.
Only the two parks at either end of the course dragged a little. And even these had their advantages, particularly for the weaker of bladder. Indeed, I’ve never seen so many people dart in and out of the undergrowth. So, yes, thoroughly recommended. But enough about that.
Meanwhile, I was keeping that certain sense of dread at bay with a concerted effort to keep performance expectations very low. My last (and only previous) marathon in Brighton didn’t go so well. I started with best intentions and very good company, and I confess, a feeling that I could beat the odds. I ran too fast for 15 miles before realising the mistake as, over the next 11, I experienced what it might feel like to have iron nails slowly inserted into my thighs.
So this time I was determined to keep things slow, consistently sticking to between 10 and 10:30 minute miles. All the way round. As a result, without hitting the wall, and without any real pain until the final half mile. I even came in a bit faster than last time – 4:42, rather than 4:45. Without feeling in the slightest bit smug – I’d been in the same position myself – I continued at the same loping pace, passing innumerable people in the final 3 miles.
Highlights: just doing it, heading down the Champs and other long, straight avenues with thousands of like-minded people; seeing my lovely family at frequent vantage points (hurrah for the Metro); the tunnels, difficult to explain but it felt a bit sci-fi; the Eiffel Tower; the buckets and sponges; the foolish but “heck, why not” snifter of wine 2 miles before the end; the innumerable brass bands, drum troupes and rock groups; the massages.
Less good, while I thoroughly appreciated the orange quarters and banana sections, the resulting mash of skins and the chaos trying to pick them up resulted in at least one bad fall that I saw.
Overall, if you’re going to be mad enough to run an entire marathon, then Paris is as good a place to do it as ever. That, coupled with the simplicity (and cheapness!) of a €70 entry fee rather than having to enter a lottery or guarantee £1000-plus charity fund raising. If it was my last (I have a funny feeling it won’t be) then I will have finished on a high.