Final Words from the Paris Newsletter

Maybe today you are thinking that running 42.195km is not so difficult after all. Remember however the stage fright that increased as you approached April 15. Running a marathon, whether you are a beginner or an old-timer, is not a joke.

Running 42.195km is always an adventure, especially in Paris where the beauty of the course offers a mixture of experiences. The effort is the same as elsewhere, but it’s accompanied by a visit of some of the most important sites of the city of light. Of course, this is one of the reasons that the Marathon de Paris is an important stop for runners of all levels and nationalities.

Congratulations to the thousands of finishers who crowded the pavement and beat the cobblestones of the capital with enthusiasm and perseverance. A big bravo for joining up with the ever-growing family of women and men that have faced the challenge of running 42.195km and who have pushed their limits to win the right to wear the 36th Marathon de Paris medal around their neck.

You have done it. You followed a training plan for many weeks (and maybe many months), and your training has paid off. You changed some of your eating habits, slept more, and saw your friends less. Preparing a marathon often means sacrifice. In consequence, the after race period should allow certain pleasures, small and large.

Be careful to not unnecessarily prolong your recuperation period. We advise for you to quickly fix your next objective. Don’t let the spring get away from you, even if (and especially if) you now think running 42.195km is not that hard. You are a marathon runner, and a marathoner runs!

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D+1: 2012 Marathon de Paris…DONE!

I’ve done it!!

The last day’s been a complete blur from start to finish – but what an experience that was!

On the morning of the race, as soon as I knew I was awake the weight of the task ahead landed straight onto my thoughts.

“Oh my God, today’s the day!”

We went down for some breakfast at 06:00 (the hotel had opened it early for the runners who were stopping there) and a bowl of my customary porridge later we met in reception to take the Metro together to the Champs-Elysée and the start. As soon as we stepped outside the first thing that hit us was how cold it was. Only a couple of degrees at most. After surfacing from the Metro at our destination we donned the plastic cover we collected at the Expo and made our way up towards the starting area. The Champs-Elysée looked huge as we walked. Very hard to imagine it filled with runners…

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Before long we’d arrived at the start and our time zone pen for 3:45. People were milling around but with an hour to go we were surprised that there weren’t more runners there. Counting down the minutes now. 30…20…15.

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The organisers start to whip up the gathered crowd then the runners start pouring in, and with them the gravity of the situation. I feel bitterly cold, numb, apprehensive. 5 minutes. Thousands of people now, as far as you can see in front and behind. This is it!! And then the countdown…and they’re off!!

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Minutes after the start we were still stood in exactly the same place! Eventually we started shuffling forward sporadically but it was another 20 minutes before suddenly the people in front surged forward and we were over the line! And the beauty and breathtaking view of the full length of the Champs-Elysée extended in front of us, now filled with runners!

It took a mile or so to begin to warm up and then everything just clicked into place. I had my sights on the 3:45 pace setter and I stuck with him like glue for the next 19 miles!! I felt great. Strong, fast, fit. The crowds were amazing and the noises will stay with me for a very long time. Music, shouting, rattles, drums – what a send off! The road snaked off left at the Place de Concord and the street narrowed as I dropped into race pace and settled in. All systems green, everything was good. Onward we ran…

The rest of the race was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Some of the sights were absolutely stunning. The support from the crowds, especially any fellow English that spotted me and shouted my name, was amazing. The noise!! I could spend a week writing about all the things I saw and heard, all the people that came to speak to me as we ran, all the touching messages and truly heroic efforts from people running but I’d need get close to conveying the experience fully. It was awesome. Something you have to be part of to fully appreciate.

Miles ticked by. At mile 7 we entered a park area and I knew that we’d be looping round to join the bake of the Seine and head back. Already some runners were walking, presumably injured. I felt so sorry for them and what was still ahead for them as I passed. At mile 13 I checked my watch. A 3:45 finish meant an average pace of 8:35 and that’s exactly what I’d done! Textbook! This was going well. I felt absolutely fine, ticking over just as I should. Wow!! Onward and suddenly Notre Dame was ahead as we snaked along before dropping down to the side of the Seine. I knew that we’d be passing the Eiffel Tower at mile 18 and as we emerged from underneath a hot, long and stifling tunnel (boy was i glad to get out of there!!) there it was! What a sight!! I can’t remember ever seeing anything as spectacular as that. Still there were thousands of people shouting encouragement ( I think “Allez!! Allez!!” will be something else that stays with me forever). Then, at around mile 19, the unexpected happened…

The road, which up until that point had been amply wide enough to accommodate us, suddenly narrowed to the width of about 15 people. The bottleneck caused everyone to slow and the people dodging began once again as people tried to keep up their pace. It was around this point too where I became aware of a pain in my right hamstring, the same as I’d experienced once or twice during training. As I reached down with my hand I knew it there to stay – a pain registered a warning shot that I took very seriously. The road widened again at around mile 20 but my pace never recovered. I was down to 08:50/mile and nursing an injury that had the potential to be a race stopper. It was only then that I realised the beginnings of fatigue in my hips and feet (my calves were still absolutely fine – thank you £30 socks!!) and as 21 miles approached things started to progressively tire. My hamstring was a constant pain (the extent of which I wasn’t fully aware of until I finished) but I dug in and kept going. Only 10k to go. This is where it starts to bite…

People walking now. I was passing people in agony with cramp – I passed one guy who was screaming out loud as he leant on a parked car clutching his leg – and for the first time I realised this was it, the final stretch. 4 miles to go. I tried to equate that to one of our normal training routes. Keep going, Simon! 3.5 miles. It was taking longer to clock the miles up now, and a glance to my watch revealed my average pace was dropping. 08:36…08:37…damage limitation now as mile 23 passed by. One by one I was ‘joined’ by club-mates giving me the energy and motivation I needed to keep chugging away. The crowds were thickening – we were approaching the final couple of miles. More people dropping out now. Walking in obvious pain and people strewn on the roadside trying in vain to stretch out the agony and restore some vitality to their legs. Mile 25. Last mile. Tescos and back!! Come on! As the music got louder and the shouting more intense we turned right and there it was…”Arivéés” the finish line, and with it a confusing mixture of relief and an unexpected feeling of disappointment that it was soon about all be over. Despite my ankles and hamstring I surged forward, overtaking countless people as I steamed towards the line. Those seconds mattered. And with raised arms I crossed the line and checked my watch…

3hrs 51mins 41 secs

I’d done it! I’d run a marathon!!!

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As soon as I finished I immediately thought “I could’ve gone faster” (what am I like?!!) but hitting 3:45 was never going to happen on the day. The congestion throughout the course saw to that, plus the fact that I’d dropped a good minute/mile from my pace towards the final stretch as I tired and things started hurting. But a sub-4hr time for my first marathon – I’ll take that!!

All in all the race went perfectly. The gels were taken on the mark as I’d practiced and my drinking was similarly as rehearsed. The fact that I’d got the same gels and drink that I’d trained with made a lot of difference too. Everything that was in my control went perfectly. In the end my training paid off and as a result I was able to relax and take in the experience. I’m so glad I put the effort into the training. Had something gone really off-plan at 20 miles that last 6 miles would’ve been the longest 6 miles in the world. They were long enough as it was!!

Race over and a slow walk back to the Metro and back to the hotel. On the back of his experience at London 2009 Our Kid had made sure he booked a hotel with a jacuzzi and what a move that was! We soaked in there for over an hour letting the jets massage our aches away as we planned our evening: a steak, a beer or two and finally a chance to venture into the city to see it at night.

So, that’s it – I’m a marathon runner!!! All that it leaves is for me to thank everyone who has supported me since I started this journey last October (yes, it really was that long ago!) and for everyone who has followed my ramblings in my first ever blog. Your comments and emails really helped. Thank you.

To all my fellow runners at Cleethorpes Athletic Club, and all the fantastic support and advice you’ve shared with me, you have all helped me achieve something that just blows me away to think about and I can now hold my head up high because of the help you gave me. I look forward to using my experiences to similarly help others achieve the same goal. Thank you guys 🙂

To Jayne, Cheryl, Scott and especially Mandy for doing the training with me – you guys made all the difference on those cold, wintery mornings (remember that -9deg one?!) and I you helped push me through in ways I wouldn’t have done had I been on my own. Your support throughout has been priceless. I’ve loved every step with you guys and I hope we can keep it going for a long time to come. Thank you so much.

Finally, and most of all, to Rachel and the kids thank you for being supportive, understanding and for giving me the room and being behind me to achieve this. The countless days and evenings while I was out on my feet, the constant washing machine trips and careful food shopping – it all made the difference. You were with me throughout and your pride in what I’ve done is truly humbling. I’ve achieved something I never thought I would, and a large part of that is down to you. Thank you so much.

Well, that’s it. The end of my marathon journey. I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading my story. All that remains is to work out what to do with myself now..!

Take care everyone,

Simon

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Probably THE best steak in the world!!
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Cheers!

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I guess there’s always next year…

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🙂

D0 – only 42,195m to go!

06:08

So, here it is. The day I’ve been training for and anticipating for 4 months. I’ve just found out there are going to be 200,000 spectators today. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. The pressure, the fear, the excitement. It’s almost overwhelming yet at the same time it’s carrying me.

Breakfast soon and then the trip to the start line via metro. Oh my God, today’s the day!!

D-1: An Englishman Abroad

Rolling blog – keep refreshing!

D-1…

04:40

Well, I’m awake then! having spent a short night’s sleep filled with dreams of running, I’ve woken to feelings of anxiety and anticipation and the stark reality that I’m running a marathon tomorrow!

It seems like so long ago since my 22 mile training run – is it really going to still be in me? I’m telling myself almost constantly “trust in the training, Sime. It’ll all come together” but the more I’ve tapered the more it feels like I’m leaving something behind. I guess I am, but rather than the fitness or endurance I fear, I’m leaving behind fatigue and a fairly solid training effort. Keeping faith is something I’m constantly finding a challenge!

Since my journey began, I’ve been in my trainers for 108 hrs 28 mins, clocking up 713.1 miles and burning 82,477 Calories in the process. I am the fittest I’ve ever been. HAVE FAITH!!

06:56

In the car now, on the way to East Midlands Airport. Shaking for other reasons than it being 2degC outside! Blue skies hint towards a nice day ahead over Yorkshire. I wonder what Paris has in store.

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It’s Our Kid!!

07:32

Nightmare! There’s been an accident (presumably) on the M1 resulting in it being closed off. We’re currently sat in a queue of traffic as far as the eye can see waiting to come off at the next junction which is 4 miles ahead.

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07:54

Moving again. Diversion round Chesterfield but at least we’re rolling. Someone’s gonna have some bad news though today I think. They don’t close the motorway lightly. God bless.

08:20

Back on the M1 – lost an hour or so but still OK for a 09:00 arrival at EMA. No more surprises like that please and thank you!

08:50

We’ve arrived at the airport!

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Through security…eventually! My running belt prompted a bag inspection and re-scan!

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10:50

On the plane – next stop Paris!

15:23

Eventually at the hotel! It’s a lovely day here. Now to go get our numbers… Back across the city in the most crowded tube trains ever!!

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17:09

After joining the largest queue in the world (we actually jumped in halfway round without knowing!! Oops!) we’re finally and and have our numbers! That’s it, I can relax a bit more now!

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17:35

The Expo is HUGE! There is every manufacturer you can think of and loads you’ve never heard of! After a quick reccy we both decided we were in desperate need of some water so have just sat down at the Uncle Ben’s Rice Party. Fantastic!

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19:33

Survived the metro journey back to the hotel and contemplating whether to eat again or relax in the jaccusi… Starting to get a little worried now, if I’m honest.
The good news is there was a Powerade stall at the expo, so tomorrow I’ll be running with the gels and the drink I’ve been training with. That’s a weight off my mind!!

19:40

Well, my kit’s ready!!

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19:50

A last minute bite to eat in the Italian restaurant literally opposite the hotel reception entrance. Tagliatelle fruits de la mere (seafood). Lovely. Back to the hotel and we found the jacuzzi – it was only polite to test it out for 45mins! Relaxed now, in the room sorting out our kit. I feel a bit numb, really. The reality of tomorrow is stark and foreboding…

22:17

Alarm set for 6am. Porridge and banana on standby. To say tomorrow’s going to be a big day doesn’t come close.

0 days, 10 hrs and 25 minutes to go!

My training is officially over!!

Well, that’s it. I completed my last pre-race run tonight. A steady 5 miler round the block.

Everything felt as it should. No residual ache, no major worries. I felt so good I had to constantly hold myself back – my legs wanted to go faster! I pegged myself back to 08:30 pace (it did creep up to 08:00 at times – oops!) and I have to say it’s the easiest run I’ve ever done. Very encouraging.

Back in and straight out again to help out with the club’s annual 5-mile race. It was odd to not be running but it did give me chance to take lots of photos and to see a different side of running. Great to see everyone.

Finally, I left he club with lots of people wishing me all the best and offering me some final pieces of advice. I’ve had lots of support from my fellow club runners, not least Mandy who made a special trip out tonight to give me some celebratory flapjack to take over for after the race. (Mandy’s flapjack has become something of a legend after our long runs!) Everyone has been so supportive and I’ve had some great advice from the more experienced guys and gals there – thank you all, I really appreciate it.

Most of all, I owe a lot to the patience, love and support of my family over the last 16 weeks. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I know I’ve taken a lot for granted since starting the training but they’ve backed me 100% and for that I’m eternally grateful. Rachel helped me pack my case last night which included a ‘goody bag’ of handy things she’d bought for me to take. All the things I would’ve forgotten. She’d also bought be a pair of sunglasses which I was desperately in need of (the ones I have were never that comfortable). It was an odd feeling to know that soon I’ll be hundreds of miles away with them watching my progress online. It’ll spur me on to the finish.

And so now to the weekend. Saturday morning’s flight is getting nearer and I’m raring to go. My training is now officially over and all I need to do now is put it all together on the day.

2 days, 11 hrs and 15 minutes to go…

Today’s Paris Countdown Newsletter D-3!!

We know how important today is for you. Running a marathon is a serious affair. Running 42.195km takes complete commitment, for your muscles and tendons, your heart and lungs. You are about to achieve an effort with a capital E. This will make you an accomplished athlete, a privileged member of the large family of runners.

For months now, you have been thinking about April 15 and its start on the Champs-Elysées. You may have marked today on your smart phone calendar or agenda. You may have done a count-down to help you arrive at this big day in your best condition.

Here you are, with many others. 40,000 runners will be at the start, the largest group in France, one of the most competitive groups in the world. Don’t doubt. Don’t let yourself be distracted by the idea of eventual soreness or fatigue. You are ready. No one can take this moment away. The city of light is here, at your feet, under your feet. The 2012 Marathon de Paris is ready for you. Happy racing to all!

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