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  • Paris Marathon 2013 Write-up II

    Posted on May 19th, 2013 Michele Sun No comments

    Sunday Apr 7th, Paris was cold and windy in the morning,  about 30°F only. At 7:20am I took the Metro to Porte Dauphine where the Paris Marathon  Finish would be, and  the only place for gear-check  bag to be dropped off , at the bottom of Avenue Foch near Arc de Triomphe. I checked in my bag and walked to the Start on the Champs Elysées in less than 20 minutes walking distance, and immediately I was surrounded by so many runners that I could not make it into my corral. In fact, I could barely move at all! It’s very obvious that Paris Marathon is a very male dominated race, unlike in U.S. we see many female runners & walkers; at this race it’s so apparent that runners were here to run a good and fast race. I also noticed how fit French runners are, because many of them were in very tight and form fitting running top and tights which  show their great physiques. For the next few hours I was feeling a bit déjà vu seeing so many guys resembling Max running pass by.

    Near the bag check area, there were rows of porta potti that look just like the U.S. ones. But to my surprise there were some standing urinal stalls OPENLY placed in public and guys just walked up to those and doing their business. It would be very rude and weird to take picture of guys doing their business, otherwise I would have a few pictures definitely. I was astonished and almost dumfounded, and till today I was still surprised with that memory.

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    Aid-stations – before coming to this race, I have already learned from Max that there would be bottle water at each aid-station but only at the 22km station would have sport drink, and it’s going to be Powerade which my stomach cannot handle it. So I prepared a small 6oz bottle and carried GU Brew tablets in a tiny zip lock bag in my pocket, I broke the GU Brew in small pieces and mixed with water throughout the entire race. Yes this practice did cost me a minute or two at each aid-station, but I did not have to worry about dehydration or upset stomach!  I also carried 5 GU Roctane with me, so when I found myself being pushed by very aggressive runners at aid-stations, I just fueled myself with my GU while keeping a safe distance from them. At this 22km aid-station, I liked the oranges, bananas and raisins very much, and I found the sugar cube quite interesting as well. Last year I asked Max how the sugar cubes work, and he gestured with his index finger and thumb saying “you just suck on it.” I tried one here to satisfy my curiosity, but faithfully rely on my GU Roctane!!

    The first half of the course was more interesting and exciting, with landmarks and monuments that we often see in pictures, posters and movies..etc! Starting from  the cobble stoned Avenue des Champs Elysees there was barely room to move or run faster, even though the avenue was really wide. I came upon the first landmark a little before mile 1 – Place de la Concorde and it’s so exciting to run on this public square! I reminded myself not to start too fast, better yet keep it around 10min pace if all possible.  With a slight right turn onto Rue de Rivoli the course continued for about 2 miles and I saw the July Column at Place de la Bastille, amazingly glory!! Ran around the square and continued this Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine for several miles until entering into a park like area. Perhaps it’s the weather, this part of the course did not seem to be very exciting to me. At about mile 7.5, there was Château de Vincennes, and by this time I have learned to look for the “Ravitaillements” and see which direction the sign pointing to – aid-station that is 🙂

    I was running pretty steadily around 10 min pace for the next 5 miles except when I stopped at aid-station,  and the course exited the park then continued onto Rue de Charenton. The course felt pretty flat to me, only with some inclines here and there but no real hills. The spectators were scattered along the course and I found them not as passionate as in Tokyo, but I heard “Allez Allez Michele” several times and I assumed it either means “Go Michele” or “Good job Michele”, either way I truly welcome the encouragement and support.

    I came to the first and only aid-station with sport drink at half point, and it’s the  biggest/longest aid-station area with many tables line up providing bananas, raisins, bottled sport drinks..etc. At this station I was pushed by other runners who wanted to grab water and snacks, and I was having trouble to uncap the bottle water while trying to stay steady and not get knocked down. The very nice volunteer  saw my challenges, and he immediately uncapped the bottle for me, and extended his arms open to shield me from being knocked down. I found similar protective gestures from other French men on this trip, and now looking back I see how wrong people have been saying that French are rude to foreigners. That’s simply not true!

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    The next two miles were in more residential area with newer apartment buildings, so it’s not very interesting compare to the old French style architecture, and there were not many supporting spectators so I assumed Parisians slept in on this Sunday morning. Then the course continued onto Voie Georges Pompidou and I liked the scenery changes, the openness of Seine, the bridges and cruise boats on the river..etc, all were a great delight to look at and seemed to open your heart.  But that excitement did not last long though, soon came upon underpasses along the Seine and the course became crowded as so many runners entered into the narrow underpass. Next was that long tunnel, the one that Princess Diana had that fatal car accident; the tunnel was long, low, and dark even with lights on. Some runners started shouting and singing in French inside the tunnel, and the sound bounced back and forth inside the long tunnel, somehow I got a bit panic from the closed walls. Finally as the course  inclined gradually, I  was so happy to see  light at the end of the tunnel literally. I was walking up toward the tunnel exit, and two guys sitting by the Expressway called out something in French, then they switched to English when I got closer – they saw the USA behind my name on the bib. They said “Come on Michele, you can do better than this.” I couldn’t help but laughed out loud, and alright I would put in some efforts here for the audiences.

    From there the course continued on to the forever never-ending Voie Georges Pompidou,  and I had my first picture with Eiffel Tower  in distance as backdrop here and that was pretty exciting. Got to have picture with Eiffel Tower at this race, right? After a brief stop for the picture with the Tower, I continued running onto a long stretch of Avenue du Psdt Kennedy for about 2.5 miles. It’s not much fun once entering the windy and a bit deserted Bois de Boulogne.  This over 2000 acres park felt very winter to me, and at some part it even looked depressing  which wasn’t very encouraging when coming toward the last 5 miles of a marathon race I would say. And I must thank Parisians who were out there and cheering me at the last few miles, because without their Bravo and Allez Allez  I would not have the energy to come out of that park and finish the last few miles strong and confident.  Yes, after 4 hour and 30 minutes, I came to the Finish by the Arc de Triomphe.

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    After crossing the finish line and getting my medal, one of the EMS guys came over to take few pictures for me, and again thank to that USA on my bib that staffs and supporters knew I was not a French. Retrieving my checked-in bag was easy breathy, then I went into a porta potti to put on long sweat pants and that huge poncho which was handed to all finishers, temperature was still low here.  The excitement and hype of running and finishing a marathon in Paris eventually kicked in, so I took more pictures in front of the Arc and enjoyed the sacred sunshine on my face. The best part of this race? Running pass and seeing all the well kept iconic and historical landmarks in Paris — the most visited city in the world!

    Paris Marathon Course


    p.s. I think the weather in Paris that week have some degree of impact on how I remember this race, because this is the first time I am not describing a race experience with “high tune”.  After yesterday’s Bay to Breakers, I was hanging out with Max’s college/friend, and he asked about running in Paris, that’s when I realized that how not exciting I had been. But I need to honestly say that Paris Marathon is a great race to run, very well organized, and it’s just so beautiful! Everywhere you turn, it’s beautiful, only wish the weather could have been better!!


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