Paris Marathon 2014: The Build Up

With many of the big marathon’s you have to go to an Expo to pick up your race packet, and Paris was no different. It was only complicated by the fact that we had to go there directly from the airport, complete with our massive suitcase of luggage (We only took 1 big one in order to save EasyJet charging us for two smaller ones!) to the back end of Paris on the metro, complete with all the stairs said Metro had to offer! Not perfect marathon prep admittedly. The missus offered to do the suitcase lugging and I eventually agreed – But I looked like a proper insensitive idiot, walking around scot free while she lugged the case!

There was a bit of a queue to get in – there were some 36,000 runners to get through, but it was all outside in glorious sunshine.

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Once inside everything ran like clockwork. I had to take my medical certificate to the first desk to be stamped along with my “Convocation” and ID. This is the source of much confusion. To run a race in France you must be cleared as fit to run by a doctor. I managed to talk my doctor into giving me the all clear for a mere £15, but some expect you to take up a private hour session with them for a full medical! others happily sign it for free. So it’s hit and miss. The convocation is basically your order form/receipt saying who you are and that you paid for the entry. Once this is all stamped I headed over to the desk to get my packet! Very exciting. Walked straight up and came away with it.

The next part was trickier. I wanted to change my starting pen time to Sub 4. It’s all very well me thinking that I MAY be able to get sub 4, but if I start in the 4h15 pen, I’d be slowed up massively by the traffic. I had mentally prepared a story as to why I wanted to switch, in case there was some resistance. Aside from the terrible queuing system for enquiries, I needn’t have bothered. I said I wanted to switch to sub 4 and they just gave me a sticker! And that was that!

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We wondered through the expo and picked up my goody bag – and what a bag it was! A lovely green branded drawstring bag containing nuts, a sponge for some reason (Which I’d find out later!) the usual leaflets and rather nicely, a head torch!

The Expo was a runners paradise, anything you could think of was there. In hindsight I wish I picked up a paris marathon tee shirt or two. We didn’t spend too long there, but did manage to get a couple of nice snaps at the “Finish line”

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And there was a giant wall you could sign. I can’t remember what I wrote, but I doubt it was anything too profound.

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And on the way out I got a photo of my official (Ha!) pace car!

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From there we bimbled back to the hotel. Lugging that stupid suitcase! It was blessed relief when we made it, though the hotel was small, it was clean and tidy and good value. The staff were lovely and helpful too. I’d recommend Hotel Boissiere, its close to the metro and very good value.

We spent the afternoon in Paris seeing the sights. I want to keep this to a running blog so will spare you the details, but we had a good walk along the river, put a lock on the bridge and walked through the grounds of the louvre, before heading back to the hotel, stopping for a good pasta feed on the way.

It wasn’t until we were back in the hotel room that I really got nervous. Lying in bed trying to sleep in a strange bed wasn’t the best way to get into marathon mode, but I eventually drifted off for a precious few hours before that 6.00am alarm call.

I woke up and went downstairs. I had some instant porridge pots I’d brought with me where I could just add hot water to, and the hotel were kind enough for me to use their kettle for me to smash in 2 of them. It was just what I needed. I was a curious mix of nerves and excitement and the missus was probably driven nuts by my behaviour. I got into my race gear. I looked good! She took the piss out of my union jack vest, but as far as I was concerned I was competing on international territory! It was my duty!

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We left the hotel and I was noting the temperature – it was cool but not cold, and more importantly dry. The forecast had been predicting rain all week but it looked like we got lucky. She was carrying the bag with all my stuff – saving my legs for me. I had brought a bin bag and had a cheap Primark long sleeve tee shirt on to keep warm, but it wasn’t necessary that day. We got onto the metro and the majority of those there were runners. We were a reasonable way out on a minor line but there were still a few dozen.

We had to change lines to get on the right train to the Champs Elysses where the start was – and it was like nothing I’ve ever seen. The train and station was rammed with runners, as we got off we shuffled our way out into the sunlight in time for a quick snap.

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We were a bit early. We headed toward the finish to show the missus where it was and I had a pee on the Champs Elysses – a very weird experience! I loaded up my gel belt and we headed for the start pen. The marshals were very good at getting people in. It took time, but they made sure no-one got in that shouldn’t have. She got a quick photo of me and then I started shuffling into the start pen.

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This was it.

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