Report from David Boag
Walking across Place Saint-Michel, towards the Metro, which will take me to the start, I could see a group of bleary eyed revellers sitting in a nearby cafe and clearly they were coming to the end of their own marathon – though more of the drinking variety! Twenty years ago I might have been sitting there with them (who am I kidding – more like five years ago!) wondering why anyone could possibly wish to run over 26 miles on a Sunday morning!
Anyway, it was bitterly cold for the start of the 37th Marathon de Paris; the Arc de Triomphe was an imposing, majestic back drop to the start, as almost 40,000 runners gathered to go through their personal pre run rituals. Shortly after 9am my particular group set off down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees – surely one of the best starts to any marathon in the world! I’m never quite sure how the old body will hold up, so I started off looking for around 3hrs 45 mins and if things went well maybe a new PB.
The first 5K was not as busy with runners as I remember in previous years, which allowed me to hit target pace from more or less the start, so much so I felt that I had to slow down as we approached Place de la Bastille. The crowds here are brilliant – totally in your face! Shouts of ‘courage’ and ‘bravo David’ send you on your way to Bois de Vincennes, where understandably the crowds thin out a bit. Time to knuckle down, after the opening excitable stages, and focus on maintaining target pace – at this point I also passed a ‘running’ Tour Eiffel… I wonder how he got on? Anyway, made sure I kept taking food and drink at every 5K stage and things were going well as we left the park to head back to the city centre. We hit half way just before we reached Bastille for the second time… the crowds are still as noisy! A change to previous years and we get some lurid sports drink here, it looked like blue Aftershock…fortunately it didn’t taste like it!
We cut down to the Seine, past Notre Dame, and the river is on our left for the next 7 Km or so. A few tunnels to head through that give a bit of shade and quite frankly play havoc with the Garmin, so this calls for even more focus on keeping a steady, constant pace. The Tour Eiffel comes into view on my left – it’s not moving this time – awesome! To my right is the Trocadero and things, I sense, seem to be shaping up well, though I have done enough of these to know not to take anything for granted! In my head I keep telling myself to get the ‘third’ 10 K out of the way and then see how you really ARE coping! I get through 30Km and decide that my earlier optimism was not misplaced – must be Oscar’s cross fit sessions kicking in. I decide that I am feeling surprisingly good and that there is no imminent danger of any walls being hit! Along Avenue du President Kennedy and it feels like the crowd inject pure adrenaline into me – here it’s like one of those mountain stages in the Tour de France, the crowd narrow the road and cheer us on. We veer right; leaving the Seine and head past Roland Garros (come on Andy you’ll win it this year!)… anyway focus… shortly we are into the Bois de Boulogne – from past experience I know that things can go horribly wrong here and that the ‘real’ marathon does, indeed, start here!
Round about now a familiar accent asks ‘is that Bellahouston in Glasgow?’ obviously referring to my rather fetching Bella vest. ‘Aye’, is the somewhat brief response, no point in expending any energy needlessly at this stage! So, I meet young Davie… he’s from Cardonald of all places! Running his first marathon he says that he hasn’t had a drink in 6 months as part of his training regime – being a relative veteran of nearly 8 marathons at this stage I feel qualified to impart my considered opinion that a week off the beer is more than enough! So we keep a steady pace, ticking off the last few Km and strangely enough I seem to be picking up the pace! I am storming home and comfortably in PB territory. As we come to the edge of the park we hit not just the crowds again but a wall of sound!! Amazing – what an incredible boost!! Into the last 500m and the crowds are screaming encouragement, I see a few Saltires and spot some friends in the crowd. I feel like I am flying – though in reality it was probably more like a determined saunter – I turn the corner to see the finishing line on Avenue Foch… the long, lonely cold runs in January and February are now a distant memory. Thousands line either side of the Avenue and reserved, they most certainly are not! This is a huge event – now the second largest marathon in terms of finishers – to be one small part of it is amazing… these are the moments to treasure.
I cross the line in 3 hours 36 minutes and 29 seconds, a seven minute PB! Elated and absolutely thrilled…knowing that the lads back in that cafe on Place Saint-Michel will never have a drink that makes them feel this good… this is why we run!
Other Bellas running were Bruce Carmichael (2:42:22 – a truly ridiculous time!), Sarah Gillies (3:46:50) and Stevie Bell (3:55) – so I think that makes four Bella PBs in Paris!