My running addiction began in the last month of 2013, with a Christmas charity run. How enduring the pain of doing laps of Battersea Park in a felt santa claus costume, sweating into a cotton wool beard ever inspired me to get into running, I’ll never know, but it did. Fast forward a year in which I’d done a 10K and a half marathon, and I’d signed up to run a whole marathon in Paris.
I was more petrified than excited to run my first marathon. To reassure myself I decided to seek out a local running club. It was 4 degrees and blowing a gale the night of my first session at Clapham runners club at Battersea Park track. To my surprise I met a group of people whose warmth and friendliness was at complete odds with the freezing cold conditions that evening. Training with Clapham Runners helped me in the lead up to the marathon in two ways. Physically the interval training sessions pushed me to run far faster than I ever would have done on a lone practice run, and developed my sprinting ability to push myself over the finish line. Mentally, the club members were so helpful with their reassuring advice, as many are experienced marathon runners. Their advice in these sessions proved invaluable; from massage therapists to where the toilets are at the Paris marathon start line. Running no longer felt so lonely.
The time flew by and before I knew it, I was leaving London on an early morning Eurostar bound for Paris. It only really all hit in when we visited the the Parc des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles to receive our race numbers, in less than 24 hours we’d be running over 26 miles at the Paris Marathon.
On race day we awoke to glistening sunshine and temperatures predicted to be over 20 degrees, conditions that were completely the opposite to the months of training we had endured of runs in the rain, wind and frost. Leaving Belleville (a good location to stay in for convenience to the start line, try this Generator Hostel) my main regret was not utilising the red plastic top from the marathon pack at the start line, despite the sunshine I felt myself getting cold really quickly.
The start line itself was one of my favourite parts of the race. The incredible atmosphere was uplifting with music and a DJ to warm the crowd up . This felt like such an international, multi cultural event as he announced all of the different nationalities taking part, with 9% of all participants from the UK. We waited anxiously at the Champs-Élysées, taking time for this selfie in front of the Arc De Triumph.
We were off. The first few miles it was impossible to go very fast due to the sheer amount of people, with a great amount of energy wasted weaving through hoards of people. A regret was not pushing myself enough with my estimated finish time. However, this frustration was soon offset by the views en route, the picturesque Parisian streets of pavement cafes, flower stalls and boulangeries full of tempting treats. For now we feasted on our energy gels and energy jelly beans, with the race providers handing out orange, bananas and raisins in addition to spongers to cool down. With a few near misses slipping on banana skins we continued on.
Before we knew it we’d reached 3 km (helpfully the race was measured in both miles and kilometres for those of you mile thinkers). Running past the site of the Louvre art gallery really boosted our spirits. There was a great crowd with shouts of ‘Allez!’ as we continued past Place de bastille.
The heat became unbearable as the race continued through the Bois de Vincennes. I felt in need of energy, but due to the heat, the thought of taking an energy gel made me feel physically sick. I just concentrated on keeping hydrated with bottle after bottle of Evian, which I ran with the entire way.
Seeing friends at mile 15 really helped boost our spirits.
We even had time for this picture in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
The toughest part of the whole course (in my eyes) was to follow; the infamous Seine tunnels, the advice from others was that they felt like they went on for eternity, they were right. The organisers did their best to turn the tunnel into a disco, with neon lights and uplifting music, there was even a few hardcore spectators shouting people on with shouts of ‘bravo!’ Coming back above ground was the best feeling.
The entertainment of brass bands, rock bands, steel drummers and firemen spraying the crowds with hoses really helped keep us going. Past mile 20, a physical picture of a wall stating ‘you’ve passed the wall’ was difficult to take in as it still felt a long way with 6 miles to the finish line. The final few miles through the Bois de Boulange in dry conditions were tough but we could just begin to feel the anticipation of the finish line coming.
The last mile we waded through the majority of people who had taken to walking. I’d never wanted something to be over so much in my life. At 600 metres to go I felt like I couldn’t go on but the final blast of energy pushed me over the finish line.
We collapsed in the sunshine at the end. In awe, we stood with our medals in the shadow of the Arc de Triumph, triumphant; we’d finished our first marathon, in under 4.45 minutes!
Gilly and Lucia ran for the Paris Marathon for the British Red Cross, you can sponsor them here: