Thursday, April 19, 2012

Marathon de Paris 2012 race report

Paris Marathon has enjoyed hot sunny weather in the past. After long dark cold winter, I had high hopes for something similar on April 15, 2012. No such luck. Ironically, the Northern winds from Scandinavia blew all the way to France, and the weather was about the same both in Helsinki and Paris. +5-10C wasn't too bad though with sufficient clothing - and hopefully without rain. Well, 40 thousand runners had registered for the race, so there would plenty of protection against the wind.
Running Expo at Porte de Versailles, Hall 4.

After my arrival in Paris on Friday afternoon, I ran/walked to the Running Expo at Porte de Versailles. The expo was huge with departments for nutrition, marathon running, trail/ultra running, triathlon, kids, and so on. There was also a 'rice-party' which wasn't free, so only a few seemed to attend.

Are you made of Paris 2012? Good luck in finding your name in there!

My passport, medical certificate and registering document was checked, and to my relief accepted. I received my bib and two plastic bags full of stuff like a simple plastic rain/wind poncho, a wrist band, a GU Espresso Love gel, and a buff - all potentially useful stuff.

The expo was huge and crowded.

I ended up spending four hours at the expo, and I still didn't have time to see everything. We had a Dailymile meeting scheduled, and to my delight a few of my virtual training friends showed up. It was fun and I was also able to get useful advice from those who knew Paris and this Marathon well. Thanks guys!

Dailymile meeting at the Expo.

This year's race featured two B-Tags by ChronoTrack glued to the reverse side of the bib. This seemed like a superb innovation to me, because there would be no need to tie those Champion chips to our shoes anymore. As we could keep the bibs after the race (or throw them away), the finish procedure would be greatly simplified. The timing system worked perfectly and I hope other races will adopt this system in the future (there are already 600+ events listed on their website).

The new better timing system on the bib: B-tag by ChronoTrack.

Saturday's P'tit dej 5K fun run - which turned out to be a 18.6 km Paris running tour for me - was covered in my previous post.

Race morning view from my 8th floor hotel room.

On Sunday, the race morning weather looked relatively good from my 8th floor hotel window. It was chilly, but rain was unlikely. I drank a cup of tea and some gazpacho for liquid breakfast - no solid food. I decided to wear long tights over short tights, a long-sleeved running shirt over a technical T-shirt, thin gloves, the Marathon buff twisted into a beanie, and a warm fleece jacket. On my feet I had thick running socks and my new Hoka One One Stinson EVO (ultra trail) running shoes. The pockets of my tights were filled with three Clif Orange Shot Bloks and the GU Espresso Love gel. In my jacket pocket I had a bottle of water - the same that we would get every 5K during the race.

It was 7:30AM and I was ready to take the metro to Charles de Gaulle Etoile station, where the access to our starting areas would be. I noticed that public transportation wasn't free like in many other big city marathons. I just jumped over the gates when I heard the next train approaching. It was really crowded, and not all runners at later stations could fit in.

When we finally arrived, everyone walked to their corrals. I was there about 8:05, so I had to wait 40 minutes for the start. I felt so lucky to have been put into the red 3-hour category, as I'd be able to start right behind the elites without delay. There weren't nowhere near enough toilets, and I didn't even try to queue. I just chewed one of the Shot Bloks while calmly observing my fellow competitors in shorts and T-shirts shivering. I felt good in my warm jacket. Soon the wheelchairs were on their way, and then it was our turn.

There was a countdown, and bang! I started my Suunto Ambit GPS watch, and even remembered to lock the buttons, and then the masses in front of me started to move forward. However some of the groups behind us had to stay still for a long time, as there was a wave-start protocol. Chariots of Fire by Vangelis played and I had to run fast to avoid getting trampled by others. There was a lot of pushing and shoving going on everywhere.

There were tons of spectators cheering along Champs Elysees. I slowly drank the water bottle. After 3K I took off my jacket and threw it up in the air. I saw it landing in the hands of a clapping supporter. She must have wondered where it came from.

It was my aim to take water and orange quarters at every aid station, but I couldn't get anything at the first station at 5K because I was distracted by checking my split (23:43) and then blocked by other runners. I just let it go and kept on chewing my Shot Bloks.

After 9K the gloves came off. I was getting warmed up. Bois de Vincennes was a welcome sight, and I took a pee break behind a tree. My 10K split was quite ok (48:26), not too fast.

I knew well before the start that I couldn't improve my marathon PB 2:55 today, 2012 being a year dedicated for ultra trail races. I just planned to run whatever pace felt comfortable, enjoy the sights of Paris, and finish feeling fresh and energized by the experience. There was the hilly 50K ultra trail race around Lidingö island in Stockholm coming up in 12 days for me next, and I never let that slip from my mind for a moment.

15K went by in 1:14:23. This was a duller section of the course and I was slowing down. The group running with the 3:15 flag had already passed me. Also the 3:30 pacemakers zoomed by me before the half-marathon split (1:46:11). I let them go without a fight, and focused on eating & drinking.

Now there were many great sights to be admired in a row: Notre Dame cathedral, Orsay museum, and Eiffel tower among others. My 25K split was 2:06:59. There were also three tunnels with humid air, and I finally dared to take my buff/beanie off. 30K mark went by in 2:34:35, and running still felt fun & easy to me. Most runners around me seemed to suffer a bit already. Smiles were pretty few and far between :)

After 32K we entered Bois de Bologne, my favorite part of the course. I loved it as it reminded me of trail running, although it was all on a road. 35K flew by in 3:02:32, and I remember feeling worried that I'd have to stop running soon! There were crowds of supporters again as we got close to the finish, and I was still surrounded by masses of fellow competitors.

I crossed the finish line on Avenue Foch in 3:43:06, and stopped my watch. However I forgot to unlock the buttons, so it kept on recording until I finally managed to shut it off by the metro station near Arc de Triomphe. For those interested, my Suunto Movescount data is here.

We participants received lots of goodies.

We received a yellow finisher T-shirt and a T-shirt-shaped medal, but the most popular gift was the blue plastic poncho. Most finishers wisely put it on immediately. It was still very windy and chilly, and the journey to hotel seemed to take ages. I somehow slipped through the gates at the metro stations again, and all the trains were full of people, some in city business clothes and some in blue plastic ponchos.    

Hoka One One Stinson EVO shoes enjoying some fresh air after the race.

Thanks to my reasonable pacing my legs felt good. I felt also very satisfied with my new Hoka shoe model: Stinson EVO had now proved to be simply incredible! The fit was perfect and there was not even the slightest hint of a blister or anything. Running in them was so easy and smooth it was almost like cheating - marathons should feel hard!

To sum up: the course was flat and fast, but the weather was too chilly this year. The wind was strong, but it didn't bother me at all, as I was surrounded by crowds of people at all times. To me the final 10K was the best and the tunnels the worst part of the course. Apparently it wasn't too bad a day, as 32,980 marathon runners finished!

Now let's put our 3D glasses on and enjoy the unique atmosphere of Marathon de Paris! :)


Mike Short said...

Thanks for an interesting write-up. I really didn't enjoy the tunnels either but it's difficult to see how else they could have routed us round the city there. And it did make the Bois de Boulogne a very welcome sight.

On balance, I'd runi it again in the future. Sorry we didn't get to meet but perhaps I'll get up your way one day...

Trail Plodder said...

thanks for taking time to comment Mike! it wasn't my intention to criticize the route, but now that you mentioned this, the bohemian artist side of me kind of wishes the course would cross over to the left bank as well! at this age (50), i'd be happy to run anything in the future :) don't worry we'll meet for sure, actually we were probably both in London during Easter? i was going to give you a call but had so much fun there with my son that i forgot. See ya & happy miles on Sunday :)