No.5 – Paris

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Five down, fifteen to go !

Paris, and Nashville for other reasons, are the marathons that have been at the forefront of my mind throughout the planning of this challenge. These are Sharon’s marathons more than any of the others for so many reasons.

I had been looking forward to Paris for some time with a certain amount of nervousness, probably due to the fact that I’d built it up so much in my mind, and I knew it would rekindle a multitude of emotions. I was also really looking forward to meeting up with the runners of BCRC again and revisiting some special places.

I was fortunate to be accompanied by a running colleague and his father on this trip, and was grateful for the company and support.

We arrived at St Pancras early on Friday morning to catch the Eurostar to Paris, and it was nice to see some familiar faces waiting to catch the same train. One of the many amazing things about the people of BCRC is that even when injured, people are still willing to make the trip out to support other members of the group despite their own frustrations at not being able to run. The first BCRC hug I received when I arrived in Paris last year, and the first for Paris 2016 before we’d even arrived in France was from the lovely Heather …. soon followed by the equally lovely Elin, thank you both.

Upon arrival in Paris we dropped our bags at the hotel and caught the metro to the Expo to collect our race numbers and have a wander round looking at lots of shiny new kit. The patience of my travelling companions shone through here as I bumped into more BCRC friends doing the same thing !

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After spending some time catching up and getting more BCRC hugs, Graham, Mike, and I grabbed something to eat close to our hotel and after an exhausting day had an early night ready for the Breakfast Run the following morning, a gentle 5k to wake the legs up followed by a traditional Parisian breakfast overlooked by the Eiffel Tower.

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I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon alone with my thoughts.

Saturday evening was time for the traditional BCRC pasta party, and another opportunity to catch up with good friends.

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Appetite sated and feeling the love, another early night was in order to prepare for the big day ahead.

Up at 5am on race day for the usual pre-race preparations and off to the Arc de Triomphe for an extended pre-race group photo session with a top bloke called Ben (more of which another time), along with some last-minute mutual reassurance and minion fun !

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Us runners made our way to our respective starting pens along the Champs-Élysées along with 47000 others on an initially chilly morning, and the amazing minions and their band of loyal supporters dispersed around the course to cheer us on.

After a short wait in the starting pen witnessing bodily functions which I’m sure would normally be deemed illegal even on the streets of Paris, the race got underway.

Paris is undoubtedly still my favourite marathon for many reasons. It is such a beautiful city and it’s beauty can be a dangerous distraction from the hazards of the typical French aid stations. Over 47000 runners on wet cobbled avenues, littered with discarded banana skins and orange peel isn’t particularly ideal …. hmmm, c’est la vie !

The day warmed up quickly and temperatures soared throughout the race resulting in a change of tactics for many. I’d decided to still have a go for a good pace despite earlier assertions that I’d rein it in a bit. But by half way, despite a speedy (for me) half marathon, I knew I wouldn’t hold the pace and so kicked back a little and soaked up the sights, some more distressing than others as fellow runners struggled with the temperature.

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It was good to see the BCRC supporters and flags on the way, giving a much needed boost on a demanding day. Despite the heat and scaling back my expectations somewhat, I still managed to take eleven or so minutes off of my Paris PB from last year and was very relieved to cross the finish line in just under three and a half hours. Graham ran a great race in the conditions and was one of the few from the group who managed a marathon PB, finishing in just under three hours and fifteen minutes …. understandably I found him in the bar a little later in the day !!

 

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After nursing some wounds and a quick catch up in the hotel bar, we made our way to the post race pub to exchange stories of our efforts with the members of BCRC and generally hug, eat, rehydrate and celebrate the awesome Abi’s birthday. This marathon lark is worth it really ……

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Learning points :

  • It’s good to have travelling companions
  • I love the people of BCRC
  • I go on about how amazing BCRC are quite often
  • This is justified ….. sorry
  • French starting pens are a sight to behold …. as long as you have a strong stomach
  • Banana skins and orange peel on wet cobbles are intended for old black and white slapstick movies, not mass participation races
  • Never take a marathon for granted, adjust goals if conditions dictate
  • My knee still hates me, possibly a little bit more
  • But, it was worth it and I will be back

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Paris will always hold special memories for me and I knew going back would be emotional. Every step of the journey was filled with thoughts of previous steps Sharon and I had taken together. I miss her as much today as ever.
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……. it was indeed a big weekend.
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