Paris Marathon 2014 - My Race

​We arrived in Paris around lunch time on Friday having taken an early car ferry from Dover. Our hotel was near to the Champs Elysee start to allow for a nice stress free Sunday morning prior to the race. We checked in then headed straight off to the expo to collect my number. This would allow us to hit the expo while it was nice & quiet and avoid the crowds on Saturday. It also left Saturday clear for a bit of sight seeing. Probably a bit too much as it turned out, but hey, this is a holiday too.

Fast forward to Sunday and it was up around 6 to have a drink and some flapjack, then a bit of a doze until it was time to get ready. I'd slept really well.

I didn't seem to have forgotten anything - garmin all charged, nipple tape at the ready. I had decided to wear my Orange OMM zip top again with my trusty Orca tri shorts. Shoes were ​my ​NB ​1260​. I was also wearing a waist pouch. I have 2 helly hansen ones and was thinking of wearing the 2 but ​i​n the ended opted for one - I'd never worn 2 before but my phone is so big I thought it might be easier. I squashed in 6 gels (ended up having 4​), phone, bank card, 10 Euro note and a bunch of jelly babies. I also took my own bottle (just a​ powerade so I could chuck it later) with a high5 energy powder mixed up.
I opted not to wear a cap or sunglasses as the forecast wasn't looking that extreme. After donning the supplied plastic bag to try and stave off the chills, I was ready.

The race starts at 8.45am and I recall a bit of a mad crush into the pens from 2011 so we strolled up just after 8 to allow plenty of time. After a few pictures I left the wife and kids to head out for breakfast near the Arc de Triomphe so they could avoid the crowds near the pens.
I wandered down to find the b​l​ue 3:30 pen I was to start in. It wasn't too busy and I slotted in without too much hassle. I didn't notice if a crush formed later.

In the pen on the Champs Elysee looking towards the start

And looking behind back towards the Arc de Triomphe

Now, 3:30 was not really a real​i​stic goal so I had thought about hanging at the back of the pen to pick up the 3:45 pacers but as it turned out I went with the crowd and just ended up somewhere in the middle of th​e​ 3:30 pen. I still wasn't sure exactly what pace I would go for but I had marked up 3:45 pace on a wrist band in 5k intervals. All I really wanted to achieve was to beat my PB from Amsterdam last year which was 3:56:43. I'd be happy to split the difference at 3:50.

It wasn't actually as chilly as I thought it would be which was nice. Especially as we didn't start for an absolute age. I think it took 20 minutes to get over the line. I don't recall it being so slow before so I'm not sure why or whether my memory is faulty. I hoped that my wife would pick this up via the live timings on the marathon app. She would be waiting in our usual spot at 29km by the Trocadero.

And then after a lot of shuffling we were off down the Champs Elysee and up to the Place de la Concorde. Pace wise I went with the flow and was up with a blue pace marker. This was suicide pace I knew, but I didn't think it would do any harm for a mile or so to get going...
The sky was blue, the sun brightly low in our eyes but there was that refreshing cool air of the morning and that lovely early morning, slightly damp smell of a city waking up. I did wonder whether it was going to get hot hot hot later and if it had been wise to skip the hat and sunnies.
The first mile passed in 8:22.

Place de la Concorde
I hung on to the 3:30 pacers for a while but decided to ease up and watch them drift off slowly. It was going to be a long day and I could see my HR at 155 already and I really didn't want to crawl across the finish. The next few miles were around 8:30 pace and the first 5km was just by the Place de la Bastille and came in at 26:31. I checked the pace band which I'd looped onto my belt and which indicated 26:40 - I was right on schedule. I had my first gel just after as I didn't want to leave it too late.

There were a lot of crowds out, more than I remember, and plenty of music. I kept up the pace and the 10km mark came up just after we entered the Bois de Vincennes. 53:29 against my pace band time of 53:20. 15km was also in the bois and was 1h20 vs 1h20:21 (I'd neglected to add the seconds to my pace band...)

It was around here that I topped up my bottle. I get very thirsty while running so like to be able to have a sip whenever I want, rather than every 5k. Carrying a small bottle in my hand is no big deal as I train with one anyway. At this race they had mini bottles of Vittel so I could have got away with not having a bottle and just picked up one of theirs. But as mine had a sports nozzle (there must be a better word for that) it meant I didn't have to faff with not dropping the screw top of the vittel bottle every time I wanted a sip.

I don't remember a lot around this section of the race but I do clearly remember the half way point on a wide, long straight road bordered with shops and restaurants. I also also clearly remembered passing this point in the 2 previous Paris marathons I'd run. I tried to remember how I felt at this point before. Worringly I concluded probably a bit better than I felt now. I felt like I was working quite hard to be honest whereas previously I think I still felt relaxed at this point. Though I would have crossed this point nearer 2 hours before. I also knew that half way was just the warm up and the race hadn't really started yet. Still, onwards.

Time? 1:53:20 vs 1:52 on my pace band. So I'd slipped a minute on a 3:45 time. I knew of course that it would be a miracle if I didn't slow down later as I usually do - I just hoped to contain it. Compared to my previous PB in Amsterdam I was 3:20 ahead.

I tried to take some comfort in the fact that I was now counting down. It did feel like I'd been working hard, too hard for this stage of the race. I really hoped the early pace wasn't going to extract a horribly painful retribution. Think positive thoughts, positive thoughts.

On the Quai
The next part I remember was coming up to Notre Dame and descending down a cobbled slope to the quai and running along the river. The crowds were to the sides and above us on bridges. It was pretty noisy and also a bit of a squash, but really added to the atmosphere.

It was quite warm now and sunny. Luckily, the wind when I felt it, was refreshing.
Somewhere after here I passed through 25km in 2:14:48, 3 minutes ahead of Amsterdam - my wrist band said 2:13.

Until now I'd been trying to have a gel every half hour or so, but as usual I lost count of how many I'd had. I didn't worry about it as I get fed up of them quite quickly and I didn't want to force them down & start gagging.

Next we entered the long tunnel. My garmin beeped to let me know it had lost it's fix but luckily I had my footpod on. The tunnel seemed to go on forever. I don't remember it being so long. It must be over 1km as I'm sure I passed though 2 km markers. It wasn't hot inside but there was no wind to cool us. At 2 points, they'd turned the lights off and there was music with lasers and disco lights. It was quite surreal.

Now the course isn't what I'd call hilly but there some inclines. There are also underpasses and bridges involving a slope down, then a slope up. This section had quite a few of such bridges which the road descends under. Whilst they certainly spiked my heart rate a bit, they weren't as bad as I remember them so perhaps I was a bit stronger after all. Previously they seemed like energy sapping mountains, prompting thoughts of a nice walk.

Coming up to 29km I knew my wife and kids would be waiting so I moved over to the right and kept a good look out. I saw them and stopped briefly to high 5 the kids and kiss the wife. My eldest said "Daddy you're too slow we've been waiting ages". I chose to take this as motivational...
This little stop is probably included in the 9:59 mile around mile 18.

At 29km
30km was not long after and I checked my garmin - 2:43:34. Then I checked my pace band - 2:40. Still slipping a little but not too bad. Compared to Amsterdam I was still 3 minutes ahead. Only an hour to go I thought!

At 32km I was thinking, yes just 10km now. My lunch time run, dead easy. Of course, I've never felt quite like his during a lunch time run. Goes to show though that there really are few excuses for getting out running because however you feel it's usually not this tired! I shall try to remember this next time I'm wavering about going for a run.

It's this next section up to the Bois de Boulogne which I remember things starting to get hard before. And so it was to be again. It was just simply harder to maintain the pace. No particular melt down. It had actually started a mile or 2 before looking at the garmin splits which at mile 16 started to creep to 9 then >9 min miles.

35km came in at 3:13, and my wrist band 3:06. My first significant departure from the band. In 5k I'd lost about 4 minutes. I was now only 2 minutes inside my Amsterdam PB with 7k to run. To be honest I can't remember if I was paying attention to my pace band or not any longer.

Pace was slipping to around 9:30 now. I tried to go faster but I just couldn't seem to push. I would momentarily speed up then it would be gone again. It was not even that I was gasping for breath, I couldn't seem to get my heart rate up to the top of its aerobic threshold so that was not the problem. Perhaps I'm just mentally weak!
On the flip side, I didn't feel an almost overwhelming desire to stop and lie down for a week which I have felt before. I was tired for sure but there was no way I was going to stop, I didn't even break step for the aid stations.
There was one particularly slow mile and I think this was where I got caught behind an ambulance which was trying to get through the runners at a tight spot.

It was the usual carnage in the last few kms. People were limping, stretching, laying down under foil blankets, running with a lean. That one always brings a smile to my face. Not because it's that funny, more a wry smile of admiration that they're still going.

I was now counting down the time. Just 30 minutes to run, just 20 minutes to run. A trivial time to run on a normal day. At some point I was startled to be enveloped by a bunch of runners until I realised it was the 3:45 pace group going past. I moved to the side. I'd like to be swept up by them, but their pace just seemed unachievable right now.

40km! 3:43, 10 minutes off the band, just over a minute inside Amsterdam. I slowed down in the latter stages at Amsterdam but I was slowing down more here!

Finish straight?
There's a final turn to the left and you can see down a straight out of the bois, I recognised this and knew it wasn't far now. I'm not sure that helped my pace much! But then you curve around then to the left and there's loads of crowds, lots of noise, that gave me a fillip. Then around the final sharp bend and finally ahead was the finish gate. I was pleased. I was relieved. I picked up my pace a little and finally hit the congested finish line. Stopping the garmin I eagerly tried to process the display. The official clock was 4:20 so that was no use. And the garmin said 3:56:30.
I was confused. Was that faster or slower? Then the penny dropped!

A new PB by 13 seconds!

Fortunately when I checked later it turned out the garmin time was accurate. It was so close I thought the chip time might go either way.
Not the quite PB I'd hoped for, but a PB none the less.

Merci Paris, I'll be seeing you again soon. xxx

Official 5km splits

My finish place was 13,954/39,125 or 36% through the pack. In Amsterdam this was 46% out of 11,292 finishers.
This is interesting as the times are almost identical. So I'm guessing it means either the course is a bit harder and I'm a bit fitter so these effects cancelled each other out. Or, the Amsterdam runners are on average fitter as there's probably less 'fun' runners than Paris as they're all going for a PB on a flat course. So my ranking improvement could be more about everyone elses fitness rather than mine. I'm going to stick with the former theory!

Seeking some other solace to cling to I looked up the time of the first finisher in my vet category. 2:24 and 14th place overall. So nowhere to hide there then.

Net split times (split)AmsterdamParissplit
5 Kilometer27:35 (27:35)26:31:000:26:31
10 Kilometer55:01 (27:26)53:29:000:26:58
15 Kilometer1:22:24 (27:23)01:20:210:26:52
20 Kilometer1:50:01 (27:37)01:47:150:26:54
Half marathon01:56:4001:53:20
25 Kilometer2:18:10 (28:09)02:14:480:27:33
30 Kilometer2:46:21 (28:11)02:43:340:28:46
35 Kilometer3:15:07 (28:46)03:13:090:29:35
40 Kilometer3:44:09 (29:02)03:43:010:29:52

Garmin splits

So, whilst I knew that just matching my first half metronomic Amsterdam pace and holding onto it was worth about 4 minutes off my PB, I decided to go out faster than Amsterdam...
The tipping point was around 15.5  miles (25km) by which time I'd built up a 3 minute gain. However almost every mile after this point was to be slower than Amsterdam, eventually giving it all back bar 10 seconds. (The splits must be a little bit off some where as the last column doesn't add to 10s but I can't be bothered to start swearing at the spreadsheet)
There's probably an important lesson here somewhere. If only I could work out what it is...

Amsterdam 2013Paris

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