Sunday, April 15, 2012

Marathon de Paris Race Report

It's been such a great day!  The Marathon de Paris starts later than most (8:45), so it was nice to be able to sleep in a bit more than usual.  I got up at 6:15, showered, had my standard power bar and two cups of coffee, and headed out for the Champs Elysees around 7:30.  I selected our hotel in part because it was very close to my start corral.  With a hour to spare, I said goodbye to Monte and headed into the corral.  My goal for today was to run a solid 22 miles, stop at the 35k wine and cheese aid station that I've heard about, then decide how to handle the last 4 miles based on how I was feeling.  Hopefully I'd end up with a decent time, but mainly I just wanted to enjoy this experience.  It was a bit cold (upper 30s) waiting around at the start, but would be mostly cloudy and in the mid-40s throughout the race - very good racing weather!

The color coded corral system for this race was done in 15 minute increments, and I was in blue (3:30).  Unlike the other races I've done, there were dividers between the corrals and someone was checking bibs to be sure that everyone went where they were supposed to, and this was very well done.  Once I was in, I saw that there were only 2 porta johns in the corral (one on each side) and got into the line.  The line didn't seem to move at all and I'm not sure why they would only put two for roughly 4,000 people in the blue group.  With about 10 minutes to go, I realized I wouldn't make it, and thought about squatting in the porta urinal.  But that had a line too.  Ugh.  Not the best note on which to start a long race.  I took a look at the huge mass of runners behind me and the Arc de Triomphe in the background and tried to take my mind off of it.

The elites went off on time at 8:45 and they delayed each additional wave a bit to allow for runners to spread out.  Our corral moved up and went out in the 4th wave, just a few minutes before 9.  This was the first time I've run a race where there were a ton of people around, both running and cheering, and it really was a great experience.  I saw Monte around the 1 km marker, waved, and settled right into my target pace.  I spent the first few miles trying to both enjoy the sites, spectators, and experience and also spot a porta john.  The map said that the water/aid stations would be every 5k, so I just had to make it another 3 miles... I stayed on the far left to have some space to run and also to be able to hop off the course once I found a place to use the restroom.  Went through the first aid station and nothing!  Fortunately I spotted one around 3.5 miles, and even though there were 2 people waiting I hopped in the line.  I lost about 2 minutes here, but it was certainly worth it to not have to pee anymore!  Since I've spent all of this time talking about peeing and porta johns, I'll say one last thing on the subject and move on (I promise!)... this marathon is usually 80-90% men, and I think it is organized with men in mind.  At one point we ran by a park and every tree (there had to be at least 20) had a guy peeing on it.  Same with the walls in the tunnels.  It's really not fair!  Fortunately, this is the last bodily function section of this race report - unlike Miami, I had no GI issues and there were no stops late in the race.  Thank goodness!

Ok, back to the race... we left the center of Paris, passing Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, and the Hotel de Ville.  After the pit stop, I had gotten behind my pace group and had to do a bit of maneuvering to get through a bunch of runners who were going a bit slower than I wanted.  I caught back up to the people running 7:45ish pace more quickly than I expected, and settle back in.  It was a very scenic route, and we passed Chateau de Vincennes around mile 7 where there were a bunch of kids high-fiving everyone, and (thanks to the personalized bibs) spectators cheering, "Allez, Car-Ah!" and "Bravo!"  I loved having the crowd support!  Speaking of crowd support, Monte really is fantastic about supporting me in all my races, and ran around Paris in the cold and taking the metro all over the city to see me.  I saw him for a second time a little before mile 8, as we made the turn to head back into the heart of Paris.  I ate a gu at mile 9, knowing the 3rd aid station would be coming up soon.  The aid stations were only on one side, so it was a bit of a pain to weave through all the people to get to the right since I was running on the left for most of the race, but I didn't want to miss any more.  They had small bottles so it was easy to grab one and sip on it over a mile or two, instead of trying to chug out of a little cup.  They also had oranges and bananas, and the peels were everywhere so it was a bit slippery and I saw a few people slip but thankfully I was not one of them!

The next few miles ran through parks and neighborhoods, and I was feeling pretty good as I hit halfway in about 1:44.  At mile 14 we passed back by the Bastille, which was the first of several landmarks I recognize in central Paris.  I stopped to take a picture of this and a few other sites, including Ile de la Cite (mile 17) and the Eiffel Tower (mile 18).  I don't think I lost that much time on these little stops, and since I didn't have a certain time goal it seemed worth it... the pictures came out really well considering I just took my little point and shoot, so I am happy with my decision!


It goes by quickly when you have views like these!

I saw Monte at mile 17.5 and he gave me an packet of chomps.  I ate these over the next couple of miles with water from the 30k aid station and started to contemplate what I was going to do at the 35k wine stop. Should I stop as planned or keep going?  I felt really good, and was on pace to come close to or even beat my time from Miami.  It turned out to be a moot point - I slowed down to investigate, only to find apple juice and cake instead of wine and cheese!  Not what I had in mind, and not worth stopping, so on I went.  I had slowed a little from miles 19-22 thinking I my "race" would be coming to an end with a glass of wine and an easy jog in, but now that I decided to run through it I picked up the pace again.   Mile 25 was my one of the fastest and I could not believe that I actually felt good at this point in the race.  In both of the marathons I've run previously, the last three miles were miserable... I could not keep my pace, was counting the seconds to when it would be over, and spent those last miles questioning why on earth I'd signed up for this.  But today was completely different.  My legs were tired of course, but no bonk, no cramps, no wishing for it to be over.  I was tempted to pick it up for the last mile, but held back until I had a half mile to go.  I ran the last mile or two behind a tall guy who was dodging around fading runners/walkers and I just stayed behind him.  Once we made the final turn I made a move to go by him and when he saw me he picked it up even more.  So a race to the finish it was!  Instead of dragging myself through the finish line, I sprinted (or at least ran at a pace that felt like a sprint at the time) and I think that may have been the highlight of the race.  I feel like mentally I've crossed a barrier now, knowing that it is possible for a marathon to be fun for the entire distance and not miserable at the end!  

1 - 7:45
2 - 7:46
3 - 7:48
4 - 7:49
5 - 7:44
6 - 7:41
7 - 7:44
8 - 7:44
9 - 7:45
10 - 7:53
11 - 7:44
12 - 7:47
13 - 7:55
14 - 7:48
15 - 7:53
16 - 7:46
17 - 7:47
18 - 7:57
19 - 8:05
20 - 7:57
21 - 8:01
22 - 8:01
23 - 7:48
24 - 7:49
25 - 7:43
26 - 7:44
.43 - 3:00 

Watch stats:
Total time: 3:26:24
Total distance: 26.43 miles
Average pace: 7:49
Calories: 2,996

Official time: 3:28:22


  1. Great job Kara!!! I'm sure everyone in Boston is wishing they had your race day temps! I feel your frustration on seeing they guys by the trees! In Philly I just didn't care and joined right up with them and popped a squat. Have fun on the rest of your trip....hope you found some wine :).

  2. Awesome job girl! You totally rock!

  3. You killed it Kara and I love the way you write, seriously, hundreds of words on start and peeing before running. No joke, we all know that running only works when plumbing is taken care of first. What a beautiful race. --Monk and BCTC.