The best pace is a suicide pace, and today is a good day to die. –
To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. – Steve Prefontaine
I don’t have children. I never went through the painful process of given birth. But I tend to understand what women mean when they say „you go through a lot of pain, but when the baby is there, you forgot everything. You have a blackout.“ My friend Christian asked me today what was the most horrible part of the course to me. And at first, I couldn’t recall. I am so overwhelmed with joy and happiness because of my performance, that I simply forgot.
But let’s start with the beginning.
Last week of preparation
I really had some troubles during the last training week. Mentally as well as physically. I just couldn’t set the time I wanted to run. Actually I wanted to run 3h30, but I didn’t know if my body was capable to run at this pace on such a long distance. During my last speed session, I was always so burned at the end that for me, it was just impossible to consider running an average pace of 4:50 min/KM on a marathon. It’s okay on 15K, but for 42K?
Arriving in Paris on Wednesday, I had such a headache, I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I first thought it was because of pollution and so on, but I finally found for myself, that the brutal change of temperatures from Berlin to Paris was the main cause. Adding the fatigue of the travel – waking up at 3 am is not my favorite thing – and I had the perfect cocktail to feel sick.
Concerning the training, I skipped all my core training sessions because I was scared to cause some useless fatigue and affect my leg muscles. On Tuesday, I ran a fast 6.04K in 27:42 minutes, which is an average pace of 4:35 min/KM. Thursday I wanted to try my gears again in the race conditions. The temperature were high, so I was reconsidering the use of my sleeves. I ran 7K at an easy pace of 5:16 min/KM in 36:54 minutes and it was hard. Running with the sun high in the sky, burned me. But it felt good at the same time. Concerning the last session, Saturday, I skipped the 20 minutes of jogging. I felt not doing it. Maybe because it was raining. Or because I had phantom pain every day starting from Wednesday: shinbone, knee, thigh, foot… The perfect conditions to prepare yourself mentally for a race at which you don’t know the time you’re able to run.
BIB Pick up
“Le Salon du Running” is the showroom at Porte de Versailles where you can pick up your BIB, your runner bag and spend a lot of money you may don’t have. All the running manufacturers or brands are here to make you believe you really need to buy this new shirt or this new belt for the race on Sunday. But the showroom is also a place to meet awesome people like pace makers or your favorite runner – I met him – or other runners. Remember, this community is a real family. I went there on Friday afternoon with my friend Christian. I arrived 45 min before him but was too excited to wait and picked up my BIB alone. When I passed the checkpoint where runner’s bags are distributed, I finally entered the give-me-your-money-area, starting with Asics. The showroom is really modern because it reminds you of the IKEA tour. No shortcuts, you have to pass all the brands to finally get to the exit doors. After Asics, I looked at the Brooks area and then I saw him. Please note that I am not ashamed to claim that I am a real groupie. But not the one who cries and jump everywhere in front of her idols – I do that after. Scott Jurek. THE Scott Jurek. One of my favorite ultra-runner, seven times winner of Western States 100, bestselling author of Eat & Run – a book I’ve read 10 000 times but most important, a really, really kind person. No jokes! You have people who sign autograph and smile, but you can feel that they are famous and don’t care. But he is really a kind person who smiles a lot. We had a really nice chat, and I wish him all the best for Boston Marathon on the 20th April 2015, where he will pace a blind runner. Huge responsibility!
After that, I joined my friend Christian and we stayed like two hours buying some compression socks for me and a FlipBelt for us. We took so long to find the area of FlipBelt! We spend a lot of time laughing. I told him I wanted to cry – joy crying – because I saw Scott Jurek and earned the title of the sick groupie. Then I started jumping around talking about the marathon and was so excited talking about “tomorrow” so he calmed me down, telling me the race was two days later. Small moment of loneliness. He also took the picture with me and the 3h30 car because I wanted one in case I’d race for this time. Rad guy to spend time with! Thanks for these few hours of intensive laughing.
D-1 to D-Day of Paris Marathon
The night from Thursday to Friday, I dreamed about running Paris Marathon in 3h29. The next night I dreamed that some obstacles prevented me to run the time I wanted. So on Saturday I was quit nervous about my sleep. I spent the evening catching up with an old friend, Thomas – after six year without seeing each other – cooked some dinner and went back to the apartment of my friend Eva to sleep. I came around 10 pm and realized my nails were not varnished. So Until 11.30 pm I was varnishing my nails, which is an old ritual I have before running some PB. Me? Superstitious? Just a little bit.
Then I went to bed and couldn’t sleep. First because I was not so tired anymore and secondly because there is no double glazing on the windows. I had the feeling the street was in the bedroom. Finally I slept in, woke up again at 1:36 ready to go into the shower. Fortunately, I looked on my watch. I finally went back to sleep until the next day.
When my phone rang at 5:55 am in the morning I was really excited. I jumped in the cold shower to wake up my body and my mind and finally put my gears on. I read the messages of my beloved friends who stayed in Berlin and felt so motivated with all this love. I also added my two favorite quotes of Steve Prefontaine on each thigh. A new tactic to find motivation when I run I guess.
Running the streets of Paris
Meeting point & start
I arrived at Charles de Gaulles Etoile around 7.30 am totally stressed and excited. It first took me ages to drop my bag at the finish line – don’t ask me why I first walked down the street direction starting line – but I finally met Christian and his cousin Charles in front of the Nike Store, next to the 3h30 start area. We took some pictures and after wishing good luck and lot of fun, warm hugs and happy faces I went into my start area to go in the line…for the toilets. When the 3h30 area was toeing the starting line, I still wanted to go in there, and so did ten other runners. I decided it was not urgent, and prepared all my stuff for the start: music – yes this time I ran with music, first time since almost two years – and my watch. Oh, and my Nike App of course.
When the gun goes off…
9 am. Gun goes off in our imaginary – yeah, just the elite runners have the gun shot – and we’re ready to run the streets of Paris. The guy giving the start gave us the last recommendations: “don’t start too fast there is a downhill until Bastille. Find your pace and enjoy yourself running the streets of the most beautiful city in the world.” Yes, because the course of the Paris Marathon is not flat. For my experience, it was a brutal course with lot of uphills, slight uphill stretches, cobblestone and irregularities on the road. Very enjoyable for the knees.
At first I ran off a little too fast due to the excitement of the last weeks. I’ve never been so excited to run a race than the Paris Marathon. How come? I don’t know. The plan was to run the race in negative split with an average of 49/50. That means running the first half with a 5:05 min/KM pace and the other half with a 4:53 min/KM pace. At first it was difficult, but I knew that I just needed to pass the 6K. I’m always bored the first 6K in training, but when I pass them, I keep getting stronger. When I passed the 5K barrier, I was ahead of schedule by 1:14 min. I was already fulminating against the organizers because it was starting to go uphill and because I needed to go the toilets to enjoy running properly. Arriving at the food & drink station at KM10, I had increased the gap of my time and was 2:29 ahead of schedule. I saw the toilets and was relieved! I just lost one minute, took my supplies and ran forward.
I remember helping a woman who was struggling to open her cereal bar. The sun was giving us a hard time and all runners were sweating like…well like marathoners running in the sun I guess.
If I recall my sensations during the first half of the race I have to say that I couldn’t find my pace. I had the feeling I was always pushing instead of finding the right speed or the right group and stick to it. Like a feeling you’re chasing after something and you keep pushing, and pushing, and pushing until the exhaustion shows you the first sign. With the sun rising in the sky, my heart rate rapidly went up to 176 bits per minutes instead of 160. Suddenly, still around KM20 I heard one of the 3h30 pace maker who was encouraging the runners around him. When I saw him, I knew I was way too fast because he started so far ahead of me in the start area. I decided to stick to the group to recover a bit and have a comfortable pace instead of keep chasing. The best thing when you have a pace maker who know the course is that you don’t have to worry about anything except your supplies and when you take them. He told us when a hill was coming, he was encouraging us. But I had difficulties to concentrate and was fearing falling behind my schedule so when this guy in green passed me I decided to stay behind him. Despite the knee pain in my right knee, it was comfortable for the first 5K but then I fall behind with the pace maker group again. Oh when I remember, it was such a messy race for me, not knowing which pace to keep. Haha.
The pace maker told us he would leave the race in the next 6KM. I remember thinking “right, just when the race starts, thank you for that man”. I saw this woman running at the same pace as I did, so I asked her if she would like some company for the rest of the race. Her name was Diane, it was her first marathon and she just amazed me! First marathon in sub 3h30? I just have a lot of respect for her! Her first reaction was “it’s my first marathon, so just run your race if I’m too slow”.
When the race begins
KM29. We started to increase the pace, passing so much people. I started to think about the wonderful woman who is my mom waiting for me at KM32. When we passed KM30 I looked up and saw her trying to identify me in the crowd. I yelled “mooooom, I’m here” and just kept running with a big smile on my face. I mean, my mom was there at every race when I was younger, and at every horse riding competition. And Sunday, she was there. I feel so blessed to have such an amazing and supportive mother.
Back to the race: so with Diane we kept increasing the pace. Just for information, I ran my fastest KM at KM29 with 4:32 min/KM. During the race, we automatically came into talking. We talked about keeping some annoying stuff inside ourselves to use it during the marathon as an extra energy and she told me that she had to prove herself because one guy told her she would never make it to the finish line. Come on, who say something like that? I am so glad she pushed through, showing this idiot that yes she did it, and in an awesome time. BOUM! KM31 I started to feel the pain in the thighs. But the good pain, the one that tells you ey, you’re doing great, you’re achieving something today. Yes, that kind of pain. I also felt pushed by Diane. She was increasing the pace so much, that I was relieved when some hills came by to calm her down. I mean, I was ahead of schedule, I had no need to run faster. But yeah, I wanted to stay with her.
When push comes to shove
KM35 I told myself “it’s like one fast lap of training” and started to enter another dimension. I won’t say a high, I don’t want anybody to throw me tomatoes or eggs, but it was a kind of high. Another thing really bizarre was my watch and heart rate. It suddenly dropped from 175 to 90 when we entered the Bois de Boulogne at KM32. The thought of having a heart attack on the Paris Marathon course shortly crossed my mind. So I kept hydrating myself a lot and eating when I could. After that, something spread inside all my legs and body and I started to feel the pain in my thighs slowly reach the calves. Diane turned to me and asked me to reassure her, that I was also feeling this pain in the whole legs. I was. But I also told her it would go away at KM40 because there, she’d know that it’s over. At this stage of the race, I remembered an ultra runner who said “if you’re not able to embrace the pain, you will have some struggles. But not the nice one.” So I tried to embrace it. I also tried to motivate myself: “you want to run 100 miles in the California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains? Then run this damned 26.2 miles! Easy girl!”
KM36 I was just willing to arrive. Diane suddenly held a comfortable pace for both of us, and said “that feel SO fucking GREAT to pass all these MEN”. I just had to laugh because I wanted to scream all the time “a sport dominated by men? Well we’re HERE, yes, we’re HERE, 3h30 men, we’re 3h30 too!!!” I think that is a so called connection with a stranger that we had. I still have to laugh when I think about these moments. KM37 I had the feeling my pace was decreasing – but when I look at the statistics, it was not – and then the pace maker was suddenly behind us again. I also remember Diane joking about me having music which is kind of “cheating” now. So I joked back and told her I was definitely running for the 120 000€ and should be disqualified immediately “Hello! take me out of the race, ey, hello!?”.
For KM35 to KM40 I can just remember hating the quality of the road. Here again with Diane, we were grumbling that it was really not enjoyable for the knees, raising our eyebrow and laughing – the laughing part was more around KM35. At KM39 I told her to run her race and prove everybody that she can do it. Or I wish I did? I can’t remember what I said exactly… Maybe something like “I need to find my pace again.” And she took off.
To give anything less than your best…
KM40 lot of struggle. I was planning to see my cousin, but I couldn’t see her. I was pushing, recalling my favorite quotes of my favorite runner. What would Steve Prefontaine say if you abandon? Yes I admit, that is a weird motivating trick… Only two kilometers to go and you’re a finisher. I was not looking at my watch anymore, I was just in the high of finishing this race. The last KM were not flat – of course not – so it was really brutal. The heat, the speed, the pain and the satisfaction-to-be. It was almost over. And then I heard “Oriane!!!! Oriane!!!” and saw my cousin and her mother jumping and yelling at me. Oh god, that was SO damned good. At KM41? When you’re in-between struggling and happy to finish! I don’t know how I was running before, but after that I was holding my body, controlling my stride and feeling really strong. I have such a wonderful family, this was just awesome. And then, maybe a 200 meters after that I heard and saw Salomé and my friend Sarah yelling at me! Amazing. For the last KM I was just so strong thanks to my family and friends. Which friend takes a flight from Berlin to Paris to see your marathon? I feel really thankful for that.
When it’s all over…
The last yards were overwhelming. I took the rest of my strength and pushed through, seeing I could stay under 3h30. I was so happy I yelled a YES crossing that finish line. I did it. 03:28:35, an increasement of my PB of 31 minutes. And then I stopped just a few second to enjoy the moment when I suddenly realized, well… that it was not a good idea to stop. I could feel the pain from my ass to my thigh. It was so fucking hurting. But I was smiling, and I was happy. I still am happy. I turned my phone on and saw all the lovely and encouraging messages of my friends and felt again, really happy. I called my lovely friend Chloé to tell her my time and I started crying. I cried, so overwhelmed with joy and the kind words she told me. Here I would like to thank all of you! The one who supported me along the way during my training, during the race, and after. I have no other words than happy. Happy, happy, happy. And this is not strong enough. 3 months of training, of stress, of joy. And now a personal best and a chilled, serene and happy woman. BOUM! Paris Marathon, we killed it.
Average speed: 12.14KM/H
Average pace: 00:04:57 /KM
Overall position: 5666 / 40157
Overall women: 265 / 9555
Overall category: 138 / 4432
What comes next you ask?
Thanks to my dear running community on Twitter, I just can say that running Paris Marathon with a time of 03:28:35 helped me to earn…my ticket for Boston Marathon!!!!!!!! Yes, I am a Boston Qualified!!! The official time for 18-34 women is 03:35:00, so if I want to run Boston next year, I could… I feel so happy! When I first started my running adventure in 2012, my dream was not to run New York but be qualified to run Boston. I will give it some thoughts…
In the meantime, I will wait for my right knee to recover, and look at my race schedule for the year. The trail is calling, and I really want to run…
Thanks you to everyone for your love & support, friends, family & runners around me.