Friday evening the Eurostar pulled into Gare du Nord on time and I headed to the Metro and made my way to the Expo in Portes de Versailles. It was around 40 minutes by Metro and 3 changes. I was hopeful that I would get there and collect my bib before they closed. The strategy to beat Saturdays rush so I could relax would come at a trade off missing international marathon race exhibitors. The trade off worked and I avoided temptation. The queue into the Expo was short and I didn’t have to wait to collect my number or race bag. I avoided the spoiler of seeing this year’s medal, went around swiftly and took two trains to my hotel. I chose a hotel close to the start and on the same line to make things easier for race morning.
Saturday morning, I woke up early to head down to the House of ASICS a few moments’ walk from Jaures Station. The journey only tool a few minutes by Metro and as I was trying to find the place I bumped into a member of the Colombian team. As we arrived we were welcomed like family by Fran, France Community Manager and Lina who is a social media wizard. The House of ASICS is really cool and I wish I could spend more time there. Hopefully in the future. I caught up with members of the team and introduced myself to others. The time passed quickly and we departed for a shakeout run along the river. It was so cool that I regretted not bringing my camera. I will definitely be coming back just to run that route.
The run was a fun, cool and at conversational pace. I spent some of the chatting to Diego from the German team and Philippe and Löic from the French team. We stopped a few times to take pictures and headed back to base for some conversation and breakfast. Afterwards I joined Tina, Azur, Diego, Angel and others at cool coffee shop on the corner. The decor was cool and had soul unlike most chains. I could have sat there for hours. The only thing I felt was missing was some Paris Coffee shop music or a man wearing a beret palming an accordion. I told Azur my thoughts and she explained I wouldn’t find that and we laughed. Time was ticking, I gave my farewells and headed by to Jaures to catch the train back to my hotel. If it wasn’t the day before a marathon I probably would have walked it because I really enjoy walking in Paris and exploring. I went back to the hotel and prepared for race day.
I stepped out the hotel, got halfway to the Metro station and realised that, perhaps considering the cold and light rain, a racing singlet might not be the best choice of clothing. I rushed back to the hotel picked up a long sleeve top and heading back to the station. The station wasn’t too busy and I only had to wait 4 minutes for a train to Charles de Gaulle – Etoile Metro station to get to the start. I exited the station randomly choosing one of the options hopeful it would get me close to where I wanted to be. Once surface side I changed out of the vest into the long sleeve top and headed to the bag drop on Avenue Foch which was quite a walk. I finally got there and made my way up to my designated box which corresponded with the last two numbers of my bib. On the way I saw Sidy Diallo who runs marathons around the world barefoot. We caught up, I dropped my bag and unexpectedly saw Jocelin and we headed to join the 3:30 starting pen. On the way we were informed it had closed so we joined the 3:45 pen instead.
We waited for what seemed like ages on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Then the countdown start 4, 3, 2, 1 and then we were off heading towards Place de Concorde. I Kept hearing the starters message don’t start too fast in my head. I maintained a reasonable pace and to be honest the field was too busy to go fast except for wasting precious energy weaving. The course was busy, it wasn’t raining but the ground was wet and it was still cold. I was comforted in my decision to wear a long sleeve top. To my pleasant surprise there were quite a few spectators lining the route from the start. After the Place de la Concorde we headed north, looped around Opéra and headed south to pass Carrousel and turn left on Rue de Rivoli heading east. About a km after the Bastille we joined Rue de Reuilly and shortly after 10km joined Avenue Daumesnuil heading into Bois de Vincennes. We passed the amazing Château de Vincennes and headed along Route de la Pyramide. Here I shared a few kilometres with John from Islington, London who was raising money for Children with Cancer UK. At 20km I hydrated at the aid station and pushed on heading west along Avenue Daumesnil.
We passed the Bastille again at 25km and joined Voie Georges Pompidou heading down to run along the north of the River Seine. My legs didn’t like the incline so I adjusted my pace as we went west passing the Musée du Louvre and the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries to my right. As we ran along Avenue de New York shortly after 30km I got some water, raisins and banana from the aid station. To my left I could see the Tour Eiffel which just looked majestic out of the corner of my eye. From here started to have to dig deep and things became a bit of a blur. I’m pretty sure on Avenue du President Kennedy the ASICSFrontRunner cheering section was. It was an incredible boost to see familiar faces cheering me on. I pressed onto Avenue de Versailles leaving the Tour Eiffel behind me. When I was exiting an underpass out of nowhere, French AFR teammate, Ivan Ferret appeared and ran with me during the uphill motivating me to keep going. Here I saw the legendary Steve Kondo and stopped for a brief catch up, impromptu interview and then went on my way. Shortly after turning right on Boulevard Exelmans there was an aid station at 35km. I think I refuelled again. At this point it was a blur and my objective was to finish up as quick as I could so I could start the recovery process.
We entered the second Bois of the course, this time Bois de Boulogne. Here is when I had to dig deep to tackle the incline. I’m not sure if it was a lack of sleep or the accumulation of fatigue from all of my recent races. In the Bois du Boulonge, I was motivated by Spacer Pacers, 3 young men with matching t-shirts. They saw fading and encouraged me to stick with them and keep going. Later they caught up with me and encouraged me to go ahead. I am so grateful for moments like this. Some people are so kind and thoughtful during racers. I was relieved as I exited Bois de Bologne and joined Avenue Paul Doumer to reach 40km. In the last couple of kilometres there were at least a couple of climbs. The closer we got to the finish the more spectators there were. At times there were so many spectators the course was narrowed. I focused on each stride which was getting me closer to my goal of completing my third Paris Marathon. The atmosphere was absolutely electric along the Trocadero and it felt like the crowd was cheering everyone on willing us the last few hundred metres to the finish line. I saw 500m to go and then I turned onto Avenue Foch and the finish line was in sight and I dug deep one last time to increase my stride and speed to cross that line. I approached the finish line on the right and above it said femmes and on the right it said Hommes. I used my last bit of energy to run to the left, I threw my hands in the air and cross the line.
Shortly after the finish line I saw Jocelin again, we caught up and I filmed his medal dance. As I was in a rush I bid him farewell, collected my medal, grabbed some fruits and headed over to the bag drop to collect my bag and start my recovery process with my massage gun. I applied the massager to my calves, quads and hamstrings and was ready to go, not good as new but able to jog. I headed up to the Arc de Triomphe and asked some fellow finishers to take a photo of me in front of the arch with this year’s medal. The photo is a grand memory of another incredible Paris Marathon. The organisation, route, pre-race communication and number of aid stations was super. The water stations were on one side but were long so if you didn’t initially see them, you could safely make your way across to collect a bottle. There are no unnecessary loops or junk miles in the Paris Marathon. There are few tight turns, lots of straights, passing of landmarks, running along the river and running through two parks. Despite a few cobbled roads and speed bumps the course is smooth and fast. This year there were quite a few races on the same day, but I highly recommend this one and if you book early it can be a quite reasonable weekend. I would like to give a shout Fran and members of the French and international ASICSFrontRunner Teams for such a warm welcome. Congratulations to first time marathoner Peter Bevan, from the Evening Standard, who completed the Paris course in a cracking time. What a first course to run! The Paris Marathon always delivers and I am looking forward to running there the same year they host the Olympics.
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