After training hard for the past few months, I felt all prepared for the Paris Marathon 2014. Yes, I’d been a bit tired of late after countless early mornings and long runs at the weekend but nothing that I couldn’t shift without a few early nights. It was (touch wood) all going to plan. I had even eased off the running in the final week up to the big day and tried to let my hair down, following the philosophy that if you feel relaxed about a race, you’ll smash it.
And then I developed a cough on the Wednesday before the marathon. No, not just a light tiggle in the throat that you could shrug off but a full-blown chesty splutter-your-guts up-style cold. Bah, it’s ok, I told myself nothing to worry about, just stick with it.
Thursday (three days before the marathon) approached and I felt it a little more on my chest. I went out not late, late but late enough to the Lululemon launch party, had a jolly good time (and even a taxi back to mine) and tried not to think any more of it.
By the time Friday came around, I could quite easily have rivalled a smoker of 50-a-day for 30 years in the voice croakiness stakes. My chest was tight, throat was sore and voice was on the wrong side of husky. Would a good night sleep solve it? Let’s << croiser les doigts >> and hope for the best.
Early Saturday ho-hum
It really says something when your boyfriend crawls out of bed at 5:30am, stands at the front door as you’re about to leave and asks you: should you really be running? You’ve actively avoided Google because you know that just like your boyfriend, the advice will say that to run with a cold above the neck is fine but below the neck and you may find yourself in trouble. Decisions, decisions.
Sleep, I just need sleep
At Eurostar, I filled my bag with cough remedies from WH Smith – Beechams, Strepsils Extra Strenght, Nurofen Express, honestly, I felt like the walking pharmacy. My mum, who boarded the Eurostar at Ebbsfleet, said (in only the way mum’s can) you sound rough and look shattered. Gee thanks, I replied, just what I wanted to hear at 8am on a Saturday morning. With that firm vote of confidence, I went back to my seat situated elsewhere on the train and tried to get some shut-eye so I didn’t look like a bedraggled creature on their last legs.
Paris Running Expo
We arrived at Gare de Nord and first things first, we headed to the Paris Running Expo at Porte de Versailles. Now I know this area really quite well as my ex-French boyfriend lived on a road behind the exhibition centre. It always brings back fond memories of days gone by, which unfortunately this time around were shattered by the business of the Running Expo.
After having my photo taken with my number and buying a memorabilia top (a ritual of mine at City marathons), I hastily headed towards the exit. It was simply too hot in there for my liking. Interested as I am in all things running-related, when you’re feeling a bit below par and are in Paris, the best place to be is not in an exhibition centre. Eagle-eyed as ever or simply nosey, I did manage to spot a few French brands and new running trips on the way towards the exit (or freedom from paper leaflets). Thausne Sport looked rather interesting in terms of sports bra and compression wear while Anita Active focus on women’s sports undergarments was something I’d be keen to investigate further. I also saw a few very inviting trail runs in the Limousin region of France. Perhaps one for next time, I told myself.
Hotel, drugs, Flunch, parks and dinner
Once we’d dumped our bags at the hotel, discussed with the owner that tea and honey, cherry brandy and a dose of some effervescent French painkiller may help with my cold situation, we started to explore Paris via Flunch for lunch. It was such a beautiful day. Sod the drugs, if anything was going to make me feel positive about running the Paris Marathon in the morning, it would be walking through the streets on a glorious spring day with the knowledge that I would be pounding these very streets the next day and take in the sites from a new perspective. We headed towards the Champs-Élysées from the Palais de Louvre and even spotted an adidas boost van – where Parisians could trial the trainers. In the glorious sunshine, I told myself it was going to be ok but I’d need to play it safe. No PB for me this time.
At dinner with the rest of the Team Paris Marathon, I knew it was a risk, potentially stupid idea to run. I didn’t feel any better and was still coughing up god knows what but I wanted to run Paris.
Questions, questions were running through my head…Would I do sub 3:20? Not a chance, now that would be silly wouldn’t it? No way was I going to push myself that hard. What was the point then of doing the marathon? Putting your body through so much for what, a medal? Once you get over a half marathon, you know there’s a risk. Your limbs may recover quicker but will the rest of you. However I tried to rationalise it, I just knew that what I really wanted to do was to enjoy this race.
It was another early start and I was still debating my decision, especially since I’d received a whatsapp from my boyfriend late on Saturday night saying “Have a good run tomorrow but if you’re not ready for it, please don’t run it”. Yes, I was tired and my cold wasn’t any better but I had come to Paris to run. I didn’t want to cause any upset or worry for the boyfriend at home though. I would simply enjoy running through the streets of one of my favourite cities in the world. Dosed up with drugs for my cold and a handful of jelly beans and Nuun tablets stuffed down my sports bra, that’s exactly what I did.
There’s neither a happy or a sad ending to this tale. My decision to relax and enjoy the Paris Marathon did not mean that by some miracle or another I beat my PB. You need the focus, drive and above all to feel on top of your game. I can tell you, this was not the case and my time of 3:36 is not too shabby for some but I am disappointed.
Paris Marathon 2014
You win some, you lose some and unfortunately for me the Paris Marathon 2014 wasn’t going to be where I triumphed. But you learn something new from every race that you do. From the Paris Marathon I learnt to take it easy, control my speed and not push myself too hard. Unfortunately Superwoman only exists in fanzines and comics. The final miles were tough and I was wheezing once I’d finished but I still loved the sensation of seeing the Bastille, Chateau de Vincennes, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower to name just a few breath-taking sites from the roadside throughout the 26.2 miles.