I have run Paris before in 2008 and remember the course as being great but the race overcrowded with a distinct lack of support along the route. Well this time round I can’t fault it in any way. The starting areas
were phased generously (possibly too generously for those further back setting off at 10am) and the support beyond half way was very good! In general the conditions were good with the temperature being 8 degrees at 8am rising to about 15 at noon and very sunny (the C&C vest is firmly imprinted into my pale Scottish skin). Now to the blow-by-blow part of the report…
Setting off over the start line down the Champs-Élysées is quite an experience. The boulevard is so wide it easily absorbs the several thousand in the starting area. With the glorious stretch of open road leading to Place de la Concorde it’s hard to keep the pace in check. The route barely kinks around the Place and you won’t see a serious corner until the 10k mark; plenty of time to get into a rhythm and spread out a bit. At 11k you cruise past Château de Vincennes and curl around Bois de Vincenne (the largest public park in the city) before striding out towards the Seine. I crossed the half marathon mark in 1:30:15 – a little faster than I intended but my heart rate was lower than expected and the pace felt right. I was now committed to a negative split, something I’ve never achieved before. A few km down the road and you join the river, just before Notre-Dame. It’s not long until you are back skirting the edge of Place de la Concorde and curving with the river towards the Eiffel Tower at almost 30k. The river section has a few long tunnels that added some welcome and unwelcome undulations (those planning to run this make sure you have manual splits on your watch as the tunnel will play havoc with your GPS pace). Up until 30k I had been running by the numbers, keeping my heart rate in the low –mid 170s and keeping the pace close to 4:16 min/km. I was feeling a bit sore but not tired, wondering when I could start to feel that the sub-3 was as good as done. Doing mental arithmetic in the last 10k of a marathon is never easy but having juggled the numbers several times I realised I had around a 30 second margin – inside the 3 hours if I kept my pace but a bit close for comfort! Still I kept my pace in check, I didn’t dare speed up until I felt I was in striking distance. 33k, 34k… nope… 35k, 36k, and then 37k came… only 5 to go! Just a Parkrun right… literally a Parkrun, as after peeling away from the Seine the route turns into Bois De Boulogne, the second largest park in Paris. With just that 5k to go it was time to throw the kitchen sink at it. Pushing the pace down to near 4 min/kms I inflated that 30 second margin to a whole minute, and jumped up 600 places in the process! With the 41km sign in view I checked the clock… almost 5 minutes to cover 1.2km. At this point I was feeling pretty battered and seeing the time I eased off a fraction and cruised out of the park, I’d done it. The finish line on Avenue Foch awaited me a few 100ms ahead, a pure formality. 2:59:00 dead with a -1:30 minute split.
The rest of the organisation, funnelling out to get medals and t-shirts was very well done, using the whole of the avenue leading up to the Arc de Triomphe.
I know Paris is not best timed for all those London fans out there but I would definitely recommend giving it a shot one year.