After the disappointment of the Berlin Marathon last year. I looked back at the mileage I had done in training leading up to it, I was actually shocked to see that I hadn’t done the amount of miles I thought I had done, nowhere near! So that was the first point I had to address. The other was hydration, I became so dehydrated in Berlin that it took me an hour to run the last 4 miles and I nearly quit. If the route had gone past my hotel, and my wallet and phone were not at the finish line, I may have had the dreaded DNF!
My training for Paris really began in December, I decided not to follow a typical plan. Instead, I ran according to how I was feeling – if I felt good then I ran, fairly simple really. I also swam a lot more to work my leg muscles without the impact of running. I also found that swimming helped with my hips, as they can get quite tight at times. There is not much that I can really tell you about the running side of training other than the miles I clocked up each month, after all it would be a pretty monotonous post if I told you about each one.
December 89 miles
January 131 miles
February 157 miles
March 111 miles
Not including the miles I did in April the 4 months prior totalled 488, over 150 miles more than what I did before Berlin. These miles also included me doing track sessions, something that I didn’t see myself doing but I am glad that I did as they helped me run at increased speed for longer distances.
The second thing I had to address was hydration leading up to the race and the day itself, I knew that it was going to be a warm day so I contacted Ian from SOS Rehydrate who not only gave me the advice on quantity to take but was also kind enough to send me some samples to try before the race and enough get me through the event, luckily I convinced him to send me the citrus flavour over the coconut.
I try to drink at least 2 litres of water a day anyway but in the week leading up to Paris I was also taking one sachet of SOS per day to make sure that was ready for running the distance in what was forecasted warm weather. I also had a bottle of water with SOS before I went to bed the night before.
The final addition to my preparation for the day was weekly massages at Oeshi Vitality Centre in Clapham Junction. I found Judith through my manager at work and not ever having had a massage before I didn’t really know what to expect. Having played sport for most of my life I have read that all professional sportsman and women have regular massages, some daily so there must be a benefit to them. I have been having massages for the last 7 weeks and can say hand on heart that they make a huge difference, not only for the runs themselves but also as an aid to help recovery. Seriously, my legs have never felt so good, they feel like they belong on a 20-year-old not someone who is 42. I think that my legs probably belong more to Judith than they do me.
I also feel so relaxed whilst getting the massages, maybe not when she is working on area where she can feel issues, I swear her hands have built-in knot detectors but overall I leave there like I have had a leg transplant.
I have cramp issues in both my previous marathons, Judith also gave me advice for my diet in a bid to help cramp to be a thing of the past and for me to become a better runner. Advice can always be heard but not always followed but such is Judith’s dedication I would be a fool not to listen, not just for me but also out of respect for her, she has always found ways to fit my massages in around her other clients even if it meant her meeting me early in the morning before her first client of the day.
The other BIG plus to this trip was having a fan club travel with me, my Mum and Dad were joining me for the 5 days I was in Paris, another reason why I had to get things right, my Mum would have been probably more disappointed than me if things didn’t go to plan. It must be at least 20 years since I’ve been away with my parents so it was down to me to make sure it ended well.
I arrived in Paris on the Thursday before the marathon so I could acclimatise to the warmer weather but also to get used to a strange bed, I rarely sleep well the first night in a different bed to my own. Once checked in we went on a wander around the local area which was just over a mile from the Arc de Triomphe, during this walk my parents were scoping out the local restaurant’s, having a Dad who was a chef for such a long time I knew that I would be eating well during my stay. We stumbled across Le Petit Villiers on Avenue de Villiers which is where we ended up eating every night, other than the food it was also handily located about 5 minutes walk from the hotel.
I have decided that I would go to the expo to collect my race number first thing on the Friday when the expo would be at its quietest. Map in hand, I have a very bad sense of direction I chose to run there. I estimated it was around 5 miles which wasn’t far off. After collecting my number I didn’t hang around long and the save the risk of me getting lost on the Metro I also ran back to the hotel to grab a shower and then meet my parents for a coffee at the local bar.
Fast forward 2 days and it is Marathon day. I woke early as per usual and checked the time on my phone, it was 5am so got up and started getting things in order. I also had a message from Judith, she knew I was worried about the temperature that was forecast for the day. In short she said not to focus on something that I couldn’t control, words I carried with me through the run. I also received numerous other messages wishing me good luck, I am thankful for every single one of them.
The Goal: Breaking 4. (not quite the same ring as breaking 2 but as important)
The 2 main objectives for this marathon was to get under 4 hours for the first time and also to have negative splits.
With the staggered starts, I was due to start at 9.40am which I wasn’t too happy with I followed the lead of others and jumped the fence and got into the back of the pen that had already started, naughty me!!
I double-check that I happy that I’ve laced up my adidas Adizero Boston 6 to my liking and set off.
For the first mile the road downhill along the Champs Elseyee was clear and yup you guessed it, it was my quickest mile, not how it should be done. I needed to have the runners around me to slow me down otherwise things would go wrong.
I settled into a nice rhythm and went through the first 5k in 28:13 which was pretty much around what I was looking for, I wanted to be half way in around 2 hours. The first water station approached and I got my first sachet of SOS ready, I grabbed 2 bottles, took a few sips of the first and poured the rest over my head, making sure my cap was soaked all this whilst trying to navigate my way over the cobbles and hoards of runners attempting to get water, it was already getting warm so the water station chaos continued at every station for the entire day. Once clear of the station I poured the hydration powder into the second bottle, lid back on it got mixed up as I was running, all this without stopping deserved a medal in it own right. The water stations also carried other hazards as well, volunteers also handed out orange and banana’s which was great to have BUT the down side to this is the peel went on the floor making all the water stations that had fruit like a game on “It’s a Knockout” No surprise that all my slowest miles were at water stations.
The next two 5k splits were pretty much perfect for me with 5-10k in 28:58 and 10-15k in 28:12, every thing was going to plan but I couldn’t get carried away as a marathon only begins to start way past half way.
Kilometres 15-20 were completed in my second fastest 5k split so far which then had me cross the half way point in 1:59:45 bang on target now the mission to see if I could do the second half quicker.
I had numerous friends running as well and I wondered if I would see anyone, I did. I know Fallas from my time playing Indoor cricket and although we’ve chatted on social media it must have been 4 or 5 years since I last saw him. I spotted his Disfruta Sports Running top and shouted “HOWZIT BOET” he turned around and said something unprintable. We put our arms over each others shoulders and had a chat and a selfie, again while still running. It was good to catch up but I was on a mission, he wished me all the best and I continued on my merry way, yes I was merry.
The next 10k seemed to pass quickly with 20-25km in 28:27 and then 25-30km in 27:53. With 30km’s done, the race had truly begun, a lot of people say that a marathon is a 21 mile run with a 5 mile race at the end, this is where you find out if the training you did was enough. We were heading along the river now and various tunnels which meant a few undulating kilometres along the River Seine. To some, hills aren’t friends but I actually enjoy running up hills, I live in Crystal Palace and I have no chance of avoiding them in my training runs. 30-35km was done in 27:58 just 5 seconds slower than the previous 5k split.
It was beginning to dawn on me that if I continued in the same way my mission was going to be accomplished, feeling good with absolutely no sign of cramp I pushed forward with more effort, as I kept passing other runners I kept feeling better and better this showed with my final 5K split 35-40 being my fastest in 27:46.
As I head around the cobbled roundabout at the top of Avenue Foch, the location of the finish line I see what everyone who starts a marathon is waiting for, the finish line and finish line that was downhill!!!
One last look at my watch and I knew it was job done, a huge smile appeared on my face, one that remained for quite a while. I leapt in the air as I crossed the line in what I thought would have looked great, I’ve seen the video, it didn’t but honestly I couldn’t care less, I’d just run a marathon in under 4 hours.
Finish 3:56:57 ( Strava says 3:56:05)
I also started in 24,360 place and finished in 14,270, not a bad days work!
I get my bag and take my shoes and compression socks of to let my feet breath and to let them start to recover. As I leave the finishers enclosure I head to the pre-arranged meeting with my parents when I hear “Nicholas”, there are only 2 people who call me Nicholas and they are my parents, with this being a female voice I turn around and give my Mum a huge sweaty hug. We then walk to meet my Dad, he doesn’t do crowds so stayed well away, after a few photos we make our way to another of the eateries that my Dad had sniffed out, this is where I started my recovery!
After an hour I needed to get out of my running kit so left Mum and Dad and headed to hotel to get a shower and put try feet up for a while, not before agreeing a time to meet for my victory dinner which was to be had back at “Le Petit Villiers”. I was needing a hearty meal and I wasn’t let down.
After demolishing this rather nice Cote Du Boeuf with some red wine, my meal was finished off with a rather tasty Creme Brûlée, wish it was double the size!!
Time for bed!
Finally a few thank you’s and some more photo’s.
Have to firstly thank my parents for coming with me and for covering all the cost for my trip, its noted that my Dad said that its my Christmas and birthday present for the next 10 years. So nice to have my angel of a Mum waiting for me at the finish line. Thanks to Mark, my manager for being constant source of advice, he’s not bad to work with either.
Thanks to James, Ben and Richard from adidas for keeping me laced with the great footwear from the adizero range of running product, shoes play such a part in running it’s so nice to be looked after with product.
Thanks to Ian from SOS for the hydration advice and product, my race day strategy will remain the same.
Lastly I have to say a huge thank you to Judith, the amount of time she invested in me to give me every opportunity to achieve my goal was invaluable. I even received a message from her on the morning of the day, a message I carried with me the whole race. I think she quite possibly wanted me to succeed more than I did which shows her dedication.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, maybe it will inspire you to start running?