Thursday, 9 April 2009

Paris Marathon 2009: the rest

Through most of my long training runs I've ran at a consistent pace of round about 9.30 - 9.45 a mile, and this is the typical pace I wanted to run at until the inevitable slow down in the last few miles of the marathon.

Consequently miles 8 and 9 through the Bois de Vincennes were done at 9.30 and 9.27 respectively and I began to pass a number of the runners who had earlier passed me. Generally from here on in I spent most of my time passing people which was a psychological lift even though it meant a good deal of weaving in and out, bursts of speed, or jumping up and down kerbs. In the BdV though it was relatively easy as there were no parked cars lining the route or lines of over eager supporters encroaching on the road - if you wanted to pass you could - though I did see the first casualty there in the form of a lady with a gash to her head probably from a fall onto or off a kerb.

It was also about this point in the park I began to spot the flags of the 2 pink 'hares' up ahead as I started to reel them in a little sooner than anticipated. By the 10th mile I'd caught them at a drinks station and despite that mile taking 10.59 thanks to the subsequent walk and my third and final wee I stayed ahead of those hares for the remainder of the race. Little did I know that they had a friend further on.

9.38 for mile 11 as we left the park and 9.17 for mile 12. The 9.17 mile had been quicker than planned so I slowed it a bit for a few 100 yards and walked through another drinks station to give 10.27 for mile 13.

The only concerns by half way were a slight niggle from the blisters (that came to nothing in the end) and the cramping stomach pains I'd get for a minute or two after each drinks station. Net result was a number of miles where I felt strong and confident running back to Place de la Bastille, past the Republican Guard band, to the river and along the Seine towards the home straight.

The miles timed right on track at 9.32, 9.44, 9.34, 9.24 through to 17 miles, even including a drinks station walk. I was really enjoying myself at that point, leading to an unplanned 8.55 mile for mile 18 before a deliberately slower 10.00 for mile 19 to balance it out.

This period included the 2 long tunnels and the section where passing runners was constant for me but where it was difficult to do so. I enjoyed the tunnels. In the first one a band played some Yann Thiersen music from the film Amelie at the entrance and the runners in the tunnel kept producing a sort of Mexican wave of sound back and forth. I joined in with full vigour and again really enjoyed the participation.

Round about mile 19 I had the slight shock of seeing a pink hare ahead. I'd assumed they were long since left behind and was certain none had gone past me in my recent quicker miles so I can only assume there were 3 with this one starting at the front of the pen and the others further back, hence he was hauled back round about on schedule. I wanted to get past the hare as there were a bunch of runners behind each making it congested and difficult to pass people.

Mile 20 included another water stop for a 10.22 mile and 9.57 for mile 21, including passing the pink hare. I can't recall if the 9.57 was due to deliberately conserving energy a bit or if it was just a sign of fatigue.

Mile 22 was a problem though. Running alongside Roland Garos I was feeling good still but then started getting pain on the inside of my left knee and felt everything tighten up as I began to limp as I ran. I stopped and stretched all surrounding muscles and both calves - hoping that the knee pain was due to muscles cramping up either side - then hobbled on in the pack of the pink hare that had caught and overtaken me as I stretched. 10.36 mile as a result.

The slow 10.57 mile 23 included another walk through a drinks station and another stop for a stretch, and as well as taking my gel and water I took the opportunity to tip soothing cold water on my knee and also the now also aching lower calves. I set off again, keeping pace with the hare's entourage once more.

Mile 24 stayed at the same sort of pace - in with the hare's followers and a 10.09 mile as a result. Thankfully the knee pain began to fade but only as the overall feeling of fatigue grew. Counting the km signs at 37, 38 and 39 seemed painfully slow and was accompanied by a return of stomach and lower back pain from my bad stomach.

Mile 25 saw me slip ahead of the hare and his gang, aided and abetted by only a very brief drinks stop for a cup of Powerade and my Overstims 'Sprint Air' gel, 9.55 the time. Mentally and physically I felt a strange mix of exhaustion and strength that's difficult to describe, and I felt tempted to try to push the pace as more and more runners were passed but decided to hold off until the 41km marker.

Mile 26 as completed in 9.48 and at the end of that I had started to speed up which was strangely exhilarating. The final 0.53 miles (I'd ran more than the 26.2 miles through weaving, weeing and deviating off the blue line) were done at 8.11 pace giving an enjoyable struggle for the last few hundred metres.

I crossed the line feeling good, though momentarilly confused as the big race clock had stuck on 3:55, but I later found my time to be 4:26:45. Very happy with that. I went through the chutes, gave the medal a small kiss, met another forumite and headed off for my bag.

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