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  • Paris Marathon 2013 Write-up I

    Posted on April 30th, 2013 Michele Sun No comments

    When I entered the lottery drawing for my first “destination race” – Tokyo Marathon, I had a backup plan in mind in case I did not get into Tokyo. My secondary choice was Paris Marathon 2012, and after the amazing experience running in Tokyo I am hooked on races in faraway places now. Some people will tell you that it’s just a race in another big city, or think it’s too much hassle to travels that far for a run, and some may even say it’s too scary…etc. But to me running is the best way to discover a city – by my very own feet 🙂 When Paris Marathon 2013 registration opened up in Oct last year, I decided to sign up even though I already knew that I got into Tokyo again. The result? Two destination races that took place in two continents and only 6 weeks apart. I was struggling with jet-lag after coming back from Tokyo, and soon I had to hop on the plane again to Paris :-p

    There was not enough time to properly go through another training cycle for Paris, but I did stick to my routine runs and dutifully to maintain my fitness level. I wasn’t aiming for a PR this time, but I did not want to bunk either. Few days before I left for Paris, I met with Max for a send-off drink and we joked about our mutual “goal changes once bib is pinned to shirt” mentality. When I told him that I was having hip problem in the last two long runs, he reminded me again that I was to be in Paris enjoying the race and the city, and should not push myself to the point of getting injured.

    The registration for Paris Marathon was quite frustrating! The registration page is designed very chic and elegantly, but it’s frustrating how slow it was and how hard to find information even it’s in English. Very accustomed to how easy and straightforward race registrations are in the U.S.,  I could not believe that in their English website I was having problem to find “USA” under nationality. The only thing I certain about was entering my credit card number where the very universal VISA/MC icon was. But there were not a “Thank you” page pop up, nor “Congratulations” confirmation email. I got worried in the next 36 hours– am I in or not? I called my credit card company and they confirmed that a 65 € charge had been posted to my credit card. Then Max assured me that “if they take your money, then you are in.”

    With the initial frustration, I knew I would need help beyond Google Translate. During Christmas break, Christophe sit down with me and went over the Marathon course map, Paris map, Metro, and picked a hotel in Montmartre for me. He was amused that I thought the Sacré Coeur de Montmartre icon on map was Disneyland. Then a week before my trip, he mapped out how to get there from the Charles de Gaulle airport via Roissybus and Metro for me. Really appreciate those maps and screenshots for my iPhone, because they turned out to be very handy when I had no access to Wifi in Paris. By the way, I like to disconnect with cyber world when I travel, that way I get to interact and know locals and usually journey becomes more interesting that way. Get lost and be adventurous is always my motto!


    As days getting closer, my mood was down because of how cold Paris was and it did not look like it would get any better. I was praying that it would not snow or rain on the race day. I packed pretty much like Tokyo trip, and every day I got myself oriented with directions of getting to hotel, going to Expo, going to the race start…etc. Visualization helped setting the mood and anticipation for the race.

    Thur April 4th, I went into office and worked for four hours, then was on British Airway and Paris bound. After a brief stop at Heathrow airport, I continued my journey to Paris and found the Roissybus in Terminal 2B with no problem. Got into central Paris and bus dropped me off near the Opera, and then I walked to the St Lazare Metro station to board M13 toward St Denis Universite. About 20 minutes later, I got off at Place de Clichy and took the rue de Caulaincout exit. The whole trip of getting to my hotel was exactly as Christophe had told me, and I was excited that I could manage it without getting myself “too lost” since I don’t speak nor understand any French.

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    Sat April 6th, woke up in darkness and could not tell how early or late it was but it’s really dark outside. Then I figured the days probably would just be gloomy here the whole week, so forget about the time and just went out for my first and easy run to loosen up my very stiffed body. I turned left after stepping out of hotel and ran on Rue Caulaincourt toward a bridge, and that’s when I found out my room actually overlooking a huge cemetery. At the end of the bridge I found myself facing a three-way crossing, and I took another left turn and continued my run into a quiet residential area. There were small cars parked in a butt-sniff way on both sides of the narrow streets, and occasionally I came upon wondering around dogs, and some early Parisians bundled up in heavy coat and walking with plastic bags (breakfast maybe?) I made one more left turn and found the alley was very deserted, so I told myself it probably would be a good idea to turn back now. I turned and retrieved my steps, but before I exit the small alley a guy spoke to me and of course I did not understand what he was saying. I stopped for few seconds and quickly continued my strides. I ran away from him while he was shouting out louder and very obviously toward me now, so I picked up my pace and hoped he wouldn’t come after me. I continued running and past my hotel without stopping, knowing the Metro station was ahead of me and should be safe with more people on this portion of streets. The shops were still closed at such early hour, but workers in coverall were cleaning streets with hoses, picking up garbage..etc. I ran into a smaller and quieter street, and saw a good looking chef working on dough tentatively – a pastry shop!

    After a not too satisfied shower due to the low water pressure, I hit the Expo which was held at Parc des Expositions in la Porte de Versailles, about 40 minutes from my hotel via Metro. The first thing I noticed after landed Paris was how friendly French men were, super friendly. They would smile, wink and offer help without even asking them, but by day two I realized they were just being very flirty, and at the Expo the special attention and treatment just got multiple big times. First thing at the Expo was to turn in my medical certificate and registration confirmation, and then got my bib and gear-check bag.  The medical certificate is something new to me, and I obtained that from my family doctor fairly easy but apparently it’s quite a hassle for Mark from Netherlands. There were not a lot of freebies or samples for runners to try or grab , but the staffs at exhibitor booths waved me over and offered me hat, tiger balms (yes, not kidding),cookies, wine..etc, and some guys actually said “you are so cute, tiny and cute.” I thought that was just too hilarious, tiny? That’s super funny.

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    Paris Marathon is a GU sponsored race, so definitely I stopped by the GU booth! I met up with the GU France representative and we had our photos taken, handshakes, and good luck kisses..etc. The booth had very similar products like what we have back in U.S., except the prices! For instance, my favorite GU product — GU Roctane (blueberry) costs about $ 2.50 a pack in U.S., but here is about 2.65 €. Expensive!! I was glad to learn that my Dutch and French friend both like GU Gel like me; the “personal goodie bag” I prepared for them is such brilliant idea!!

    Sat evening I met up with Mark and Karl, my “Tokyo Marathon” friends, at the clock by St-Michel, and then we enjoyed a very nice evening walk around the Notre Dame. We had our carbo-load dinner at Nos ancetres les Gaulois, and it’s on a tiny and charming island of Île Saint-Louis. The narrow streets were lined with small and cute shops like toy store, cheese store, bakery, butcher shop, optometry… etc. The restaurant had a very festive feel, and it fit our mood that evening very well. When Karl was researching for a place for dinner, I told him we should eat around 6:00pm. And he must have LOLed and he told me —  “No one eats dinner that early; restaurants are not even opened at that hour.” We got a huge basket of raw vegetables on our table for salad, plenty of charcuterie, bread, pâtés and each one of us got to choose our main course. Plus, the all you can drink red wine. At the beginning we reminded each other that we were going to run 42K in the morning, but after his second glass Karl said that he is a French so by default he has red wine running in his blood. Haha.. 🙂

    After dinner Karl showed us THE bridge, the Love Lock Bridge by Seine river, that I first heard about from Christophe, where many young couples come to appreciate the view and leave their hearts locked in a paddle-lock and throw the keys into the river. So grateful that Karl made this great and special evening happen, and I am so happy to see them 13 months later in a far faraway place again. A very special encounter and friendship that I will always cherish, and hope to see everyone soon again at another corner on earth!

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    p.s. Tonight I had dinner with Christophe and it’s so great to share this special trip and race with him. His adding insights and further explanations to what I had experienced in Paris really enhanced the whole experience. And I can’t thank him enough for all the help I received from him prior the trip. Merci beaucoup!! And hope we may run London Marathon together 🙂


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