With each passing year we get better and better at the logistics of a “racecation” in Paris: fly on Friday, go straight to the expo to collect our race packs, breakfast run on Saturday, marathon on Sunday, home on Monday evening. It’s a busy weekend, yet we’re enticed back year after year to repeat the experience.
Like last year, we got a lunchtime flight. Although we might be better to fly earlier, for this year this suited us as it allowed a little more time to get organised in the morning after a couple of days of having a house full of painters, joiners and various other tradesmen completing some work. As a result, I wasn’t able to start packing until Thursday evening, so If I’d had an early flight to catch then I don’t think I’d have coped!
Everything went really smoothly and we soon found ourselves sitting at the departure gate chatting to some runners from a nearby running club who were heading off to the marathon. There then followed a short but eventful flight during which we were entertained by a choir that was travelling to perform in Paris. Not an everyday occurrence!
Throughout all of this, it was difficult to pinpoint how I was feeling. On the one hand, I was thrilled to be Paris-bound and almost following an established “routine” for marathon weekend. On the other hand, it was as if I was having an out of body experience. I knew that I was woefully under-trained thanks to the stress fracture I suffered at the end of 2015 and the idea of actually running a marathon on very little training seemed bizarre! I was heading into race weekend injury-free but without the usual training build-up. I should have been terrified, yet I felt incredibly calm as we went through all the steps to take us to the Salon du Running at Porte de Versailles.
In the wake of recent events in both Paris and Brussels, security was much tighter around the marathon this year, starting with entry to the expo. While it was still open to marathon runners and the general public alike, everyone had to pass through a security checkpoint and have their bags checked with a metal detector. I thought there might be a bit of a hold up given that so many people (us!) head straight there from the airport, but we were through pretty quickly and made our way to the exhibition hall.
Once through the doors, the first step is the nerve-wracking wait to have your medical certificate verified. Then, stamped paperwork in hand, it’s off to collect your race number.
And then, time for a bit of fun!
The medal and finisher T-shirt were both on display as usual, however with this being the 40th edition of the race, there were also display cases with all the previous medals, which was pretty cool. I was able to spot the ones I have in my collection! Up until this point, my loose race plan had been to simply start running and see what happened, but with a race number clutched in my hand and the medal on display in front of me, I began to realise for the first time that there was no way I would be pulling out: I would be finishing this race no matter what!
Another feature of the expo is the wall displaying the names of all the runners. Despite them being in alphabetical order, with the crowds it can be tricky to find your own name, but I persevered and found mine in among the 57,000 registered names…
This year there was also a clock counting down to the start of the race and we decided to get pictures with that. It made for a nice photo, but I was just desperately hoping that the time displayed wouldn’t be how long it took me to complete the course!
Photos done, we headed around to collect our runner bags, which this year were foldable backpacks. These became a pretty common sight around Paris over the rest of the weekend!
This year the packs contained leaflets, pistachios, a bag of Haribo, blister plasters, Tiger Balm and a whistle. No idea why I needed a whistle, but there was one in every race pack anyway! But no race booklet this year, as these had been made available electronically in the days before the race.
From there, runners are very conveniently funnelled into the area selling souvenir merchandise. I always buy a souvenir, and this year I wanted a tech top commemorating the 40 years of the race. I also picked up a branded running skirt since I prefer to race in these in the warmer months.
We also had to collect our T-shirts and flags for the Breakfast Run on Saturday morning:
By this time, we were pretty hungry. Having been disappointed with the food available at the expo back in 2014, we avoided it in 2015, however this year I’d read that the selection had been improved and expanded so we decided to give it a go in the hopes of avoiding a late night search for food once we’d checked into our hotel. And we weren’t disappointed. This year there were options such as filled baguettes, but we plumped for the set pasta party menu of pasta, a dessert and a drink. I chose penne bolognese, a Nutella crêpe (win!) and, for an additional euro, a beer. It was actually really good and the food was fresh despite this being quite near to closing time.
After that, there was just enough time for a quick browse of the various stands before heading off to find our hotel. We were staying in a different place this year, a bit closer to the start/finish of the race, and while I knew roughly where it was, I didn’t want to leave it too late to go and find it. As it turned out, it was pretty easy, so we were soon settled into our room getting our things organised for the days ahead. I love it when a plan comes together!
Next up: The Breakfast Run!