To sum it up, this was by far the best marathon I’ve ever run. I had so much fun! I felt good throughout the entire race, I was energized, excited, and ran with ease. The crowd support was incredible and to run the streets of Paris, with so much history surrounding me, was just incredible. I don’t know if there are words to describe it. It was awesome- in the truest meaning of that word.
To start with, Josh and I were sent off with the encouragement and support of my family. I love them for doing this for me before every race, so I can bring a piece of my support team with me and meditate on that pre-race to get the jitters out ;).
Notice who my niece put crossing the finish line first <3 her!
The first day, we hit up the expo and took to obligatory dorky picture.
I had done my research before we left and had some GF bakeries and restaurants staked out across the city including Cafe Bio Sphere, Helmut Newcake, and Noglu for my carb loading. I have to admit, nothing, absolutely nothing, beats a fresh french baguette. Josh, did his share of carb loading on crepes..
The day before the marathon, we did a shake out run with the Paris Breakfast 5K, which was organized by the marathon team. It was pretty cool to get a sense for all of the different countries who were participating in the weekend’s big event and also get a sense for how long it would take to get to the start line, where bag drop was, and how to dress for the temperatures.
The Eiffel Tower from the finish line!
I accidentally ordered GF pasta with a buttery creme sauce for lunch post- 5K… oops! I did my best to only eat the top layer of pasta, which wasn’t drenched in the dairy sauce, but inevitably, I consumed dairy and as it is considered rude to send dishes back in France, I hoped for the best the next day.
Marathon morning, I woke up with a ball in my stomach. As the alarm went off, my first thought was “what the hell was I thinking??!! I can’t do this! I should just skip it, I’m never going to finish this marathon!” followed with questions like “why do I do these things? why do I keep signing up for these runs?” It was clearly time to get my thoughts together and focus on the positive. Thankfully, my mom had sent me with a new stack of index cards in which she had written out bible verses and inspirational quotes for me to read, absorb, and help me mentally prepare for the marathon before us. She even stayed up late and send me an email pre-race that I read while I ate my pre-race breakfast. Seriously, that time alone, knowing my mom was praying for me, thinking of me, and cheering me on from home was what I needed in those morning hours to get myself prepared and confident that I was going to run a good race.
Josh and I started out from the hotel, walking towards the start line. About 2 blocks down, I was experiencing some discomfort from a blister I formed walking around a few days ago (we did not “rest” per se leading up to the marathon, we did all we could to soak up this great city in the short amount of time we had to spend there!). I decided to head back to the hotel to change socks. We walked back to the hotel, only for me to change my mind again that I wanted to keep the socks I had packed for the marathon on, and then we had to jog it to the starting point to make up the time I had just wasted. Getting to the bag drop location was organized chaos at it’s best. Nearly 50,000 runners had registered for the race, so you can imagine the masses of runners milling around, all trying to get to the same location.
After we dropped our bags, I scouted out the lines for the porta-potties. Deciding I didn’t have time to wait in line, I determined it was just nerves and “winged it”. We slowly made our way into the corral for 3:45 estimated finish time. We waited about a half hour after the official start of the race before we actually crossed the start line. I was hungry already and began munching on some of my gummy bears while we waited. Josh actually saw a guy reading a newspaper while waiting in the corral, who promptly folded it up and tucked it into his running shorts when we started moving. I certainly hope he disposed of the newspaper at the first trash bin- that would prompt some discomfort and chafing later on, I would suspect!
As soon as we started running, I was caught up in the moment. The energy was fantastic! Josh ran with his phone for photo ops and within the first half mile, I knocked into him and knocked the phone to the ground. Ooops! Thankfully, no damage was done and Josh determined it was best to play it safe and hold the phone in the hand opposite of me :). We began with the magnificent view of the Place de la Concorde around the first mile. By the 5K mark, we were running past the Bastille. It was cool to think about the history and the significance of the events that had taken place right there in the past! At this point, we came to our first water station. It was a crazy mess. People were bumping into me from every side. And when they bumped into me, they left a streak of their sweat on my arms. It was disgusting! I was covered in water- from the sweat of someone else- ew! Unfortunately, this ensued the entire run! I have never felt so grimy, dirty, and disgusting. My sweat is one thing, but to be dripping with someone else’s? Let’s just say I hope you never experience it… it was also hard to distinguish where the potent smell of body odor was coming from. At several points during the run, I questioned whether it was radiating from me! Then, there would be moments where it was relatively stench free and I came to realize that the smell in fact, was not me, but the B.O. from other runners.
At mile 8, I saw the first porta-potties on the course and made a stop. Due the fact that we hadn’t seen any in the first 8 miles and I still felt like I needed to go from my pre-race nerves, I figured I better take advantage. I haven’t stopped in the middle of a race to go the bathroom since my very first marathon! But, in the spirit of taking it easy and enjoying the run, I thought, what the hell??! Shortly after that, we passed by the Chateau de Vincennes, where the kings and royal families lived before Versailles was built. Photo Op #1!
From there, we entered the Bois de Vincennes. It was a beautiful park! But, after a while, it became a little boring to me and I was jones-ing to get back to the streets, the chaos, the cheering crowds. I started counting down the miles… which seemed to be passing very slowly. Still, I was feeling good, I did a mental check… no pain from my blister. Breathing was good. Legs were great! We continued on at a pretty good pace as we passed the half way mark. Shortly after, I got my first out! “Allez Nicole!!” I love it when the spectators grab your name off your bib and cheer you on. It was motivating! At the 20K mark, we bottle necked to get through the check in point. As I said earlier, runners were bumping into others left and right, it was difficult not to! As we made our way through the water station, another runner cut across in front of me. I nearly tripped on her and subsequently bumped right into her! Did I ever received the dirtiest look and some negative comment in a language I didn’t understand. What can I say? C’est la vie! At this point, I was pretty darn pleased with our time, especially considering we had made 2 stops!
The spectators and the bands were awesome throughout the run. There were about 100 different bands and music stations to keep us going. One of my favorites were these guys, dressed up and dancing away to pop music :).
I got lost in my thoughts and pretty soon, we were at mile 14! I had lost the last mile, it went by so fast! I was desperate for a sports drink by this point and surprisingly, we hadn’t seen any at a water station! What the hell? I wonder if this is typical of European races? Powerade was a major sponsor and the signs advertising them along the route had made me very thirsty! Finally, we made it to the 1 and only powerade station! Yes, one powered station in 26.2 miles! I became even more thankful at this point that I wasn’t running for a specific time, as I would have been freaking out about staying properly hydrated and pumped up with electrolytes!
Around mile 15 (??) we went underneath the Seine River. The tunnel was lit up with neon flashing lights, techno music was playing, and images of the finish line were projected along the walls. It was so so SO cool! What a sight! And so much fun! I have to give the marathon organizers a shout out here, it was a nice surprise at this point, motivating, energizing, and so unique! Completely unexpected and appreciated! We tried to take pictures, but they didn’t turn out. Just incredible! You can get a sense for it though this Youtube video of the race.
After coming through another tunnel, we emerged around mile 17 and the Eiffel Tower was to our left. Naturally, we stopped for another photo op! A spectator offered to take a picture for us and it turned out fantastic! Afterwards, she yelled at us to “allez! allez!” :)
At this point, Josh asked “where the Foch the finish line was!?!” A funny joke, since the marathon ended on Avenue de Foch :). I told him we were close- less than 10 miles to go! Incredulously, I was still feeling great! We had slowed a little bit from our earlier pace, but were still running strong! It was still extremely crowded and I was jolted out of my thoughts as a guy bumped into my right elbow from behind. I mean, he hit me hard! I assured him all was “ca va” with a forced, grimaced, smile and we ran on. Again, I was thankful we were not running this race for a PR or a BQ! It was definitely too crowded for that!
Now, we entered the Bois de Bologne. Another beautiful park. Everything was green and flowers blooming. It was spectacular. Minus the lines of men stopping for a potty break along the route… it must be more acceptable in Europe to pee along the race route? Again, as beautiful as the park was, it got a little boring. As we continued to run through the park, I lost myself in my thoughts again. Which, were a mixture of both French and English. I felt myself finally remembering what I spent years studying to complete my French Minor. At least those years and money weren’t a total waste :). Once again, I was jolted out of my thoughts as we started running across cobblestone bridges. Let me tell you- cobblestone SUCKS to run across! Josh and I have a difference of opinion here- I swear we ran a mile on that cobblestone, but he laughs and tells me it was much, much less distance than that. I’m sure he’s right, but it felt like forever! In addition to the uneven surface, it was wet from runners spilling water and whatever at that point. It felt like we were running place for a while and brought back memories of our training runs on the ice and snow.
Around mile 21, I did another mental check. I was still feeling great! It was unbelievable! I wasn’t hitting a wall. I just kept on running. The pungent smell of body odor was still lingering, but at this point, I definitely decided it was not me. I started to count down the kilometers at this point, where before,, I had been focused on the mile markers. The kilometers are shorter, therefore, we were passing more, which made the run seem shorter, which made it more fun. I decided I definitely like kilometers better than miles. Miles suck and make the run seem so long! As we were rounding a corner, nearing the end of our time in the park, a band starting to play Daft Punk near mile 23-24. It was a boost that was definitely needed. A memorable moment for me during the run.
We rounded out of the park and back onto the Champs d’Elysee. We were almost there! We posed for a picture, kissing and holding hands, and hoped the photographers got the moment captured (still haven’t seen it yet, so I’m thinking the moment was lost :( ) As we crossed the finish line, it was the absolute best feeling!
It was maybe the best marathon I have ever run. Not in terms of a PR or BQ, but in terms of feeling great the entire time and thoroughly enjoying every single step and minute of it. In total, we ran 26.62 miles. We added about an extra half mile with all of our stops for photo ops. We ended up stopping 6 times- 2 potty stops and 4 photo ops. Our time was 4:06. With 6 stops and not killing myself on the pace, I’m extremely pleased and surprised with our time!
Afterwards, we celebrated with Moules Frites and Champagne on the Champs d’Elysse.
My love affair with Paris and with France, in general, ensues. Josh fell in love with it too and we will definitely be back! This experience only fueled my passion for the culture, the people, and the beautiful city and country.