Paris When it Sizzles Pt2 – Breakfast Run

Often a real highlight of the Paris Marathon weekend for me is the Breakfast Run. For just a few Euros (I paid 12 Euros extra when I booked my marathon place) you get a good quality tech T-shirt and access to a fantastic 5(ish)k run followed by breakfast. Ever since the first time we took part in this event I have loved the atmosphere, so was excited to return and experience the new route this year.

IMG_1205In the past, the Breakfast Run began at the marathon finish line, winding its way by the Trocadéro, over the Pont d’Iéna and around the Eiffel Tower to the other side of the Champ de Mars. This year, a new route was on offer. I’m not sure why it was changed, however it did strike me that the new route meant there would be no public access to the runner area (finish line etc) on Avenue Foch once it was set up, thus increasing security in a time of heightened alert.

The new route began at the Place du Palais Royal along Rue de Rivoli. This was perfectly walkable from our hotel, but in a bid to save our legs we decided to walk the short distance to the Champs Élysées, avoid the massive metro station at Charles de Gaulle Étoile (basically around the Arc de Triomphe) and get on the metro at the much smaller George V station for the handful of stops along to the Palais Royal (one of the stops for the Louvre).

As soon as we stepped out of the metro it was quite clear we were in the right place. All we could see were people dressed in the same branded T-shirt as us… and flags. Lots and lots of flags. People were milling about chatting, taking photos and, as you would expect, joining the queue for the loos. We were on the lookout for various people we were expecting to see, and despite it being quite hard to spot anyone in these circumstances (not only was everyone pretty much dressed the same, but there were apparently 3000 people signed up to run!) we quickly managed to find our German friend Stefan whom we met at the after-party last year. We also managed to locate our friends from Dundee (the ones we had caught up with at the departure gate in Edinburgh the day before), as well as a local couple we were expecting to see, and I was keeping an eye out for Tina aka She Who Dares Runs who had contacted me the day before we left to say she had secured a place to cover the marathon for Women’s Running UK and suggested trying to meet and say hello as we have been reading each other’s blogs for a while now (hi Tina!).

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IMG_1219While we were hanging about, I did have a couple of very unusual (for me) experiences. I guess I forget that people other than my friends and family might actually read what I post, so on the odd occasion, usually travelling to a big race, that someone actually recognises me from my blog, I tend to be quite surprised. As Steve and I stood around, another runner came over and said, “are you the blogger?”. I think my surprise was evident to the poor guy as I responded in the affirmative, but it was really nice to be approached like that, and even nicer when he got in touch later to identify himself and explain a bit more about how he recognised me. He might be reading this, so hi Carl!

But by far the strangest thing happened when I was waiting for Steve to reappear from the toilets. A runner came over brandishing a phone and making the internationally-recognised sign for taking a photo. Since Steve and I were wearing our kilts for the run, we have grown used to people wanting pictures as a kilt does tend to draw attention, so I assumed this to be the case again. But no. Not only did this guy want a photo, he seemed to recognise me from the blog and was quite excited about it. A rather bewildered Stefan took the photo for him, and I was quite glad he was there to witness the moment as I’m not sure Steve would have believed me otherwise. Why not? Because the guy who wanted the photo was from Hong Kong. Yes, Hong Kong! Who knew my blog had ever reached Hong Kong!!! Now I feel internationally famous lol!

IMG_1217Shortly after this it was time to get underway. The route took us from the Place du Palais Royal, across Rue de Rivoli and into the Place du Carrousel where the famous pyramid is located. This meant our first photo stop and in among the melée we managed to lose sight of Stefan.

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IMG_1226After this it was along the quai and over the Pont Royal with the Musée d’Orsay on the other side. We stopped on the bridge for some photos as the Breakfast Run is untimed and not at all competitive so times don’t matter. It’s an event all about experience and friendship – more of a display or procession than a race.

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IMG_1232We then followed the quai along the river Seine past the Pont Alexandre III until we reached the Pont d’Iéna. Again, stopping at various points for photos.

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IMG_1243From this point, the remainder of the route was the same as previous years as we came up from the Quai de la Bourdonnais, along Avenue de la Bourdonnais and made a final right turn onto Place Joffre to the finish in front of the École Militaire where there was a real party atmosphere.

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IMG_1252Once over the line we stopped for some more photographs, mostly with complete strangers drawn by our kilts, during which I heard my name called and turned to see Tina – she had actually managed to find me among all those people! Circumstances meant it was a bit of a rushed meeting, but we did manage a selfie and I was most excited to later feature on a post on the Women’s Running UK instagram account!
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fullsizeoutput_1da1Photos done, we headed for the tables with breakfast laid out. In the past this has been a bit of a scrum, but this year felt much better organised with a proper queue formed and croissants/pains au chocolat being handed out by volunteers. Much less pushing and shoving! I managed to score a pain au chocolat, coffee, banana and bottle of water. I drank the coffee while queueing for my banana and water, but the rest we took over to a bench with a front row view of the Eiffel Tower. Not bad for breakfast al fresco!

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IMG_1255Suitably refuelled, we began our amble across the Champ de Mars, which always takes a while as we stop to talk to so many people and take advantage of the great photo opportunities. We first had a chat with some women from Canada – I hope they had a great marathon – then caught up with the Dundee contingent for a while. I was also intrigued to see an impromptu yoga class taking place in the Champ de Mars and was inspired to do one or two poses myself!

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IMG_1329Finally, we reached the Eiffel Tower and due to some new security measures there, we were unable to walk underneath so instead took a path around the side which turned out to be beautiful. There were gorgeous gardens and stunning views of the tower framed by trees. I’m really glad we took that route and will definitely go that way again in future.

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I was impressed that SCHNEIDER Electric managed to get their branding everywhere 😉

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Our final stop before returning to the hotel (which was within easy walking distance by this point) was the Trocadéro to take in the tower views. Over the last few years there has been some work going on around this area which often obstructed the view. This work isn’t quite finished, but there is much more space now to get some nice photos of the Eiffel Tower.

IMG_1343Once more, The Breakfast Run didn’t disappoint and we had a great morning enjoying the famous sights of Paris (along with one or two others with the same idea lol!). Here’s some of the Facebook Live video from the last section of the run that was posted on the official marathon page. The last minute or so gives a real flavour of the atmosphere:

If you’re ever in Paris for the marathon weekend, I highly recommend taking part in this event. You never know, you might see me there…!

Next up: Marathon day!

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‘Your Pace or Mine?’ Follow Up: A Running Record

In my recent review of Lisa Jackson’s Your Pace or Mine, I noted that the final section of the book is given over to the reader to use as a record of their running. I really liked this idea, but since I read the book on my Kindle rather than in paper format, I didn’t have the opportunity to fill my record in. Instead, I thought it might be fun to write up my record book (to date) as a blog post. It’s going to be a long one so put the kettle on!

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Favourite Race Photo
I have a few photos that I like: some from mid-race, some post-race medal shots and some of me leaping around like a loony after a run. But when it comes to actual race photos, my all-time favourite is this one from the Paris Marathon in 2016. I was undertrained thanks to being stopped in my tracks by a stress fracture at the end of 2015, but on race day I was injury-free and determined to get out there and enjoy a self-conducted running tour of my favourite city. I ran it my own way, stopped to take photos and enjoyed a buffet of orange segments, sugar lumps and that pink sports drink they hand out that acts like rocket fuel! When the photographers snapped me in the finishing straight, I looked like I’d had an awesome time, even though I was completely exhausted and my legs were begging for mercy. Sometimes you just have to forget your race goals and go out there to have fun.

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Name
Allison a.k.a The Running Princess

Date When Started Running
I don’t have the exact date for this one as my diaries from that part of my life are not all that detailed. That said, I can remember the day itself clearly. It was the beginning of term in August of 2005. We actually started on my birthday that year and it’s entirely possible that it was actually on my birthday that I went for my first run. My friend who is a PE teacher (and at the time we were car sharing for work as well) took me to the local park and told me to start running at the pace I thought was about right. Predictably, I set off far too fast and didn’t get very far at all. My friend then sorted out my pace and so began weeks of building up the length of time I could run before having a walk break (which had to be shorter then the running time). The first time I ran all the way round the park (about a mile and a  half) without stopping was my first big running milestone.

Age When Started Running
I was just about clinging on to my twenties when I took those first tentative steps, however I was in my early thirties before meeting Steve and venturing beyond the odd slow 5k plod.

Reasons Why I Run
My first ever blog post was all about why I run, but I suppose that was really only about why I started, not why I run now. At first it was all about a personal challenge and wanting to raise funds for charity in memory of my gran; now, running is a habit. In many ways it continues to be a personal challenge as I look to improve my times or push myself in new ways, but even without that challenge I would still want to run and it only takes a spell of injury to remind me of how important running is for clearing my head, helping me to manage stress, releasing endorphins and giving my thoughts some clarity. I love how running makes me feel both mentally and physically as it helps me to keep sane as well as fit. Running makes my body lean and strong. And it also makes me hungry! I love the appetite running gives me and surprising people with exactly how much food I can put away!

IMG_0605Proudest Running Moments
Running has given me lots of opportunities to feel proud of myself, so narrowing it down to just a few was a bit challenging! Here are some of my highlights:

  1. Completing my first ever marathon in Paris in 2010
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  2. Running my first ever sub-2 hour half marathon at Aviemore in 2012
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  3. Topping the podium for the first time ever when I won my age group at the Cool Summer Mornings 5k in 2013
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  4. Running my marathon PB in Paris in 2014
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  5. That time I ran 4 races in one weekend at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2015
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  6. Finishing as second female and ninth overall!) in the Caped Crusader 5k in 2016
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‘Dreaming Big’ Goals (Races, Places, Times)
I love this heading. A chance for me to think about the things I would do if there was absolutely nothing to stop me. I would love to run all the marathon majors, something which isn’t an option for me right now as they don’t all fit in with my school holidays. I’ve run London, but would love to go back again with a Good For Age time. Right now that would be sub 3:45, a full 20 minutes faster than my current PB. We are dreaming big though! I would also love to do a Run Disney race. I know there’s a half marathon at Disneyland Paris now, but my ultimate dream would be the Walt Disney World marathon. My sister has done this, but again I’m held back by my school terms. Finally, there’s this year’s goal of some race PBs: if I’m dreaming big then it’s a sub-4 marathon, a sub-1:55 half marathon and a sub-50 10k. My other dream is to run in Central Park. It doesn’t have to be a race, I’d just love the experience of lacing up my trainers and heading off for a run in such a famous location.

Most Memorable Races
I’ve got a lot of wonderful memories from racing, but I think I’m going to pick my “firsts”:

  1. My first ever “proper” race – the Kinross 10k in 2009
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  2. My first ever half marathon – Aviemore in 2009. Memorable because Steve proposed the night before so all I can remember of the race is running along lost in thoughts of wedding dresses, possible venues and the most fun way to tell my parents later that day!
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  3. My first ever marathon – Paris in 2010
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  4. My first ever experience of the Paris Breakfast Run in 2014
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I’d also like to include running around the race circuit at Knockhill for the Graham Clark Memorial race, running over the Forth Road Bridge as part of a 10k race, and, of course, that time I ran a 10k PB (by one second!) at the Great Scottish Run then proudly announced my achievement to one of my running heroes, Paula Radcliffe!
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And although not technically a race, I’m including an honourable mention for parkrun during the I Am Team GB weekend when I got to meet a local Olympian and see a Rio medal up close.

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Favourite Running Motto/Mantra/Race Sign/Motivational Quote
My favourite mantra is “I can, I am, I’m strong” which I came up with for my first marathon. I had picked up an injury and seemed to be surrounded by people telling me that running my marathon was impossible. My mantra was a way to fight back against all the people saying, “you can’t” and remind myself that anything is possible.
I don’t often remember race signs, but I do love seeing all the firemen out in force in Paris with signs slung from their ladders declaring “les pompiers sont avec vous” (the firemen are with you). As for a motivational quote, it has to be this one:

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Funniest Running Moments/Favourite Stories Heard on Runs
Well, there was that time I got charged at by some scary looking cows whilst taking part in a trail race. Unfortunately the race route was such that I then had to run back through the same field on my return. Thankfully the cows had moved on to another part of the field by then!
There was also the time I did the Edinburgh Winter Run around Arthur’s Seat. It was freezing cold and as I came down off the hill it started snowing. I thought this was absolutely hilarious so the official photos showed me laughing like an idiot in the middle of a blizzard!

Favourite Medals/Race T-shirts
Funnily enough, I have a fair few of these! After a bit of thinking, I’ve decided on the medal and finisher’s T-shirt from Paris in 2010 (my first marathon), my London Marathon medal and, as a collection, my 4 Paris Marathon medals and the commemorative T-shirt I bought to mark the 40th edition last year. As a bonus, I’m also going to include a medal from a virtual race – the Platform 9 3/4k from the Hogwarts Running Club, an event I’ve participated in 3 times now.

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Charities Fundraised For and Amounts Raised
Since I began running to raise funds for charity, you’d think I would know exactly what my total is. But I don’t. Back then donations were made by sponsorship form, however I think across the 3 times I’ve run the 5k Race For Life I’ve probably raised around £150 for Cancer Research.

An early example of my signature "medal pose"!

In 2011 I pledged my support to a local charity, PKAVS (Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Services). They provide support to a number of different groups, perhaps most especially known for supporting young carers. I was inspired to help as a friend works for the charity and listening to her describing the challenges some people faced made me feel I should do something about it. Working alongside the charity, we set up the idea of “going that extra mile”, with participants joining teams for the Edinburgh Marathon Relay. Most were new to running and Steve put on weekly training sessions (often aided by moi) to help everyone prepare. For me, it was actually an extra 26.2 miles as I committed to running both the London and Edinburgh marathons which were just a few weeks apart. It was my first really big challenge which I completed, with a PB (since beaten) in Edinburgh and a total of £800 raised for a good cause. It was a real family affair as Steve also ran the marathon while both my dad and my sister were in relay teams.

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More recently, Steve and I took on an even bigger challenge when we decided to fundraise for Macmillan Cancer Support following our experiences of seeing family members and others close to us battling cancer. In 2014 I was supposed to run 3 marathons (Paris, Edinburgh and Loch Ness) however injury forced me to withdraw from Loch Ness and replace it with an all-new challenge: cycling! I took to two wheels and completed Cycletta Scotland which had Macmillan as the title sponsor. In 2015 I decided to take care of my unfinished business by running the Paris marathon for Macmillan in order to complete that triple marathon challenge I had set. But, being one who never does things by half, I also decided to go bigger with my cycling and take on the Etape Caledonia. I then rounded off what was basically a spring challenge by taking on the Edinburgh Marathon Festival – 5k and 10k on Saturday then half marathon and final leg of the relay on Sunday (logisitcs meant it wasn’t possible for me to go from the half to the full marathon). With over £5000 raised in 2014 (with massive thanks to my friend Ian and his clients for their support) and a further £1000 in 2015, that made a grand total of over £6000 raised for Macmillan. Phew!

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Biggest Challenges Overcome in Races
Generally speaking, my biggest challenge is injury. I have completed marathons despite being in a great deal of the wrong kind of discomfort (I’m looking at you Lochaber Marathon of Pain!) and also when undertrained as a result of injury. This is why I believe I’ve never truly demonstrated what I’m capable of over 26.2 miles.  But the fact that I’ve completed those races demonstrates that I can overcome challenges, usually with an altered goal.

Races With Best Snacks/Entertainment/Crowd Support
Without a doubt the best snacks have been at US races, particularly the Cool Summer Mornings 5k which often has post-race hot dogs, pretzels, beer, etc despite the fact that these will be consumed around 8am! The Chocolate Sundae Run, while a bit of a boring route, did have the draw of ice cream at the finish line! I also enjoy the on course “buffet” at the Paris Marathon as they lay out raisins, sugar lumps, sliced banana and orange segments. I can say without a word of a lie that those oranges have been the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted and a sugar lump late on the in race provides a fantastic boost to get you moving.
IMG_6102 When it comes to both entertainment and crowd support, the title needs to be shared by both London and Paris. I run with one earphone in so I can tune into my music if I need to without having to faff about, but I have absolutely no recollection at all of actually listening to my playlist in London thanks to all the various places blaring out music along the route, the wall of noise in Canary Wharf and the unwavering crowd support in the final stages along the Embankment when every fibre of your being is screaming to stop but every time you do, someone shouts at you to keep on going. In Paris there has always been phenomenal support from “Les Pompiers” but perhaps not as big a crowd as in London. That all changed in 2016 when, probably in an act of defiance at the atrocities that have taken place in the city in recent times, the streets were lined with supporters cheering the runners on and fighting back against those who commit such terrible acts. Paris also prides itself on the huge number of “animations” (entertainment) along the route. There are an assortment of bands in just about every genre you can think of from rock and pop to a bit of German oompahpah and the always fun samba bands. Many have dancers as well and the lift the entertainment gives the runners is visible.

Favourite Fancy-Dress Outfits
Running in fancy dress is not really my thing, but it has happened:

  1. Taking part in a Santa Run every year
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  2. Wearing my kilt for both the Perth Kilt Run and the Paris Breakfast Run
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3. Celebrating our parkun’s birthday with fancy dress. So far a beach party theme (in November!) and a superhero theme. To be honest, I quite enjoyed running as Supergirl!
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Most Beautiful Places Run In
I live in Scotland so beautiful places to run are often just a few minutes away and I love nothing more in nice weather (it can be a bit miserable and lonely when the weather isn’t so good).
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Away from my standard training runs, the Lochaber Marathon was beautiful, even if I didn’t really enjoy the race thanks to an injury flaring up. And of course, there’s my beloved Paris. What a beautiful city to run in !
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Countries I’ve Run In
Scotland (obviously), England (London Marathon), France (Paris Marathon), USA (training runs and events in Florida every July). I’m really going to have to work on adding to that list!

Cities I’ve Run In
6/7 of the Scottish Cities: Perth, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Inverness
London
Paris
Davenport, Florida
Winter Park, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Clermont, Florida

Marathon Majors Completed
Only London. One day…

Friends I’ve Made Through Running
Running has brought a lot of people into my life, from those I’ve trained for marathons with (connected for life!) to those I consider my “parkrun family”. Running also led me to blogging and there are several people I’ve come into contact with through blogging that I would probably never have met otherwise like Jaynie, Danielle and Kyla. It’s also what ultimately brought me to the Tough Girl Tribe and the fantastic women there. Running is such a fantastically inclusive community and provides a shared experience to base a friendship on or just start a conversation. Just one of the many reasons why I love it.
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Personal Bests (Time/Date) 5k, 10k, 13.1, 26.2, Ultra, Tri
I’ve got these listed on my Race History tab, but here they are again:

5k – 23:14 @ Perth parkrun 2015
10k – 50:14 @ Great Scottish Run 10k 2015 (aka That Time I Met Paula!)
13.1 – 1:56:35 @ Aviemore Highland Half Marathon 2012
26.2 – 4:05:07 @ Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris 2014

Race Record
This is a list that could go on for a while! All my race reports since I started the blog are under the Race Reports tab, but to summarise (and account for those pre-blog years!):

5k x 33 (inc Christmas events)
Parkrun x 66
5 mile x 2
10k x 20
10 mile x 3
Half marathon x 13
Marathon x 8
Other distances (e.g. EMF Relay, CHAS Devil Dash) x 10

Total = 155 events (89 if you don’t count parkrun) – phew!

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And now it’s your turn! Either write a post of your own to create your record book or share some memories in the comments below. I can’t wait to read them…!

Race Report – Perth Kilt Run 2016

I seem to have developed a habit of being very last minute when it comes to this race. I suppose it’s because the event is local and there are usually on the day entries available. But unlike last year, I did actually mange to put in an online entry in advance, albeit the day before the race!

This race started back in 2012 as a world record attempt, and has become a regular fixture on the local running calendar ever since (although no longer a record attempt). It takes place the same weekend as the Highland Show and is the kind of event that attracts everyone from front-of-the-pack speedsters to those walking the route (and a couple of ladies who always hula hoop around!). Last year there was the addition of a half marathon which takes place in the morning, whereas the 5k Kilt Run is at 1:30pm. Steve and I signed up to the 5k as neither of us fancied racing a half marathon at this point, preferring to do our own longer run the following day.

But what about parkrun? I hear you ask. Don’t worry, we did that too! Steve decided it would be good for him at this point in his training to race both parkrun and the Kilt Run as hard efforts, whereas I knew that for me it would be a better idea to go easy(ish) at parkrun then a little harder in the Kilt Run later on. To put that into context, for Steve that meant running both events in under 20 minutes! Not being quite so speedy, I aimed for “comfortably hard” (between 8:20 and 8:30 per mile) rather than an all-out effort at parkrun (finishing in 25:44 compared to last week’s 23:41) and felt good at the end. My aim was then to be below 25 minutes in the afternoon, maybe around 24:30 since I would not only be on my second run of the day, but have less recovery time before my regular Sunday long run.

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After parkrun we took a walk around to the concert hall to collect our race numbers for the afternoon then headed home to have something to eat, get changed and do it all over again.

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Kilts on, we headed back down to the North Inch, visited the toilets in the sports centre then milled around chatting to people before it was time to line up for the 5k start. Steve lined up at the front and I slotted in not too far behind him. A few announcements, a countdown and we were away.

The start/finish was in a slightly different position from last year and although we ran more or less on the same course after that, we were doing so in reverse! As we set out a few people went flying past me but I stuck to my own pace of around 8 minute miles. There were a few spectators and I got a nice shout from Ella who had run the half marathon that morning.

For me, the course was nice but fairly non-descript as it’s a familiar route – along one side of the North Inch, cut off to head around the cottages up to the new school campus, around the football pitches then back onto the riverside path until it rejoined the Inch on the other side. A fairly fast route, but after a warm, still morning the wind had picked up a bit to make it harder, especially in the last mile which coincided with my legs remembering they had already run that day!

About half way around I exchanged a few words with a woman from the local running club who usually runs near me at parkrun. She had also run that morning so neither of us were really pushing too hard. She did get away from me a bit at the end, but I wasn’t really looking to up my pace too much since I had a run planned on Sunday morning.

It was as I ran the last half mile or so that I remembered how difficult it is to be anonymous at a local race. There were so many people I knew spectating and cheering on others and it was nice to get a shout from them too. I dashed over the line (clutching my race number as I’d managed to knock out the top safety pins and it was blowing cheerily in the breeze) and stopped my watch at 24:24. Perfect! I was then handed a bottle of water and a bag containing my medal, a cereal bar and small packet of sweets.

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I found Steve and it then took us another half hour to get moving as we stopped to talk to so many people, but eventually we found some space to take photos then headed back to the car.

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We were both starving so made a departure from our usual eating habits to treat ourselves. Not something we eat very often at all! And there’s something very odd about eating fast food whilst watching superhuman feats at the Olympics!

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While I enjoyed the race itself, sadly I do have a few issues with the event and have actually delayed posting this race report in order to see what response I got from the organisers. Unfortunately they have not yet responded to my messages, so I’m going to simply give an account of how things look from my perspective as I like to be honest about the experiences I have at races.

First of all, I said at the start of this post that I had entered fairly late on, just a day before the race. Online entries were still being accepted so this was no problem. Steve was a little more organised and entered a day earlier. That evening, he received a scheduled email giving him final instructions and information such as where to pick up the race numbers. When I registered I got the standard confirmation of entry, but the email with the race information was never sent to me. Nor could I find any information about number collection on the event website or social media. The only reason I knew where to pick up my race number was because Steve had received that information already (it was in a different location from last year). When we headed along there, things didn’t seem terribly organised. The table to collect half marathon numbers looked really well organised and systematic, but by this point most half marathon runners should have been long gone to get the buses to the start. The volunteers issuing 5k numbers had a tiny table, piles of papers and numbers all piled up in bundles. I gave my name and was handed a number, but couldn’t see the paperwork to confirm that they had marked off the right person.

Secondly, we had to affix our own timing chips to the back of the race numbers. This is the first time I’ve ever had to do that. It was the ones where the disposable chip is surrounded by foam and they stick easily to the number, so no big deal for me, but I’m not sure I’d have felt so confident if I was an inexperienced runner and we were given NO INSTRUCTIONS nor were we shown any pictures to make sure that all participants were able to affix their numbers properly. If the goal is accurate results, surely making sure people know what to do is crucial?

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Next, there was some doubt about the race route. The map on the website seemed to indicate last year’s route, but Steve thought it might be reversed (as turned out to be the case) and the start/finish line moved. We had asked to see a map when we collected our numbers, but there wasn’t one available. When I arrived at the North Inch I wasn’t actually sure where the start was, and chatting to others as I waited to line up, it seemed that nobody else had much idea of the arrangements either. Maybe not such a big deal for me as I’ll never be at the front of the pack, but I spoke to some speedy runners who might very well be in that position and they didn’t know where they were heading either!

Finally, and my biggest issue with the event, is the results (although the issue more than likely arose earlier in the process, probably at registration when I was handed my race number). According to the results, race number 348 (the number I was wearing) finished in 34th position with a chip time of 24:23. That’s consistent with my Garmin and represents my fastest non-parkun 5k by about 15 seconds. Unfortunately, it’s not my name next to that result! My name appears much further down the list next to a chip time of 32:45 and a different number. Clearly, there has been some sort of administrative error, the most likely being that I was handed the wrong number. The chip has obviously registered, it’s the name assigned to it that’s wrong. All credit to the runner who wore the number my name is next to; I’m sure they ran their very best under whatever their circumstances are, but the time I’ve been “officially” assigned is ludicrous for my current level of fitness. I know this is in many ways a fun run, but as soon as there’s chip timing, there’s a level of seriousness added and a degree of accuracy expected. Indeed, at the start line the “fast and elite” athletes were separated from everyone else. I have contacted the organisers by two different methods, but as yet have had no response to my query, nor have the “provisional” results been altered. I find this extremely disappointing and at the moment I’m unlikely to enter this event next year, which is a shame.

Having been involved in race organising before, I know it’s a big job and mistakes can happen. Often those mistakes come down to the fact that we’re human beings and fallible. It happens. I actually don’t mind that, but when a mistake happens, what happens next is the crucial thing. Things that can be rectified should be, and an undertaking to improve on shortcomings should be made. As I tell my pupils: it’s ok to get things wrong, but we have to learn from those mistakes. Not getting so much as an acknowledgement of my messages, even just a “thanks for letting us know” or “we’ll look into it” is bad practice and just downright rude. Being an optimistic person, I still hope that something will change and a correction will be made, as these issues have soured what should have been a fantastic day of running.

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I hate having to be so negative, and I’m sure the vast majority of people had a fantastic, problem-free experience, but on this occasion that was not what happened for me. A great race spoiled by organisational errors. And that, unfortunately, is what I’m going to remember.

Paris 2016: The Breakfast Run

Every year, on the eve of the Paris Marathon, the Breakfast Run takes place. Steve and I first took part in this event in 2014 and loved it, so much so that we made sure to sign up for it as soon as possible in 2015 and again for this year. For us, it just wouldn’t be marathon weekend without taking part in the Breakfast Run, as it’s now firmly established as a highlight of our running year (and one of the only times in the year, apart from Christmas Day, that we actually run together!).

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Our day began with a light breakfast of coffee and pain au chocolat at our hotel before donning our standard Breakfast Run attire of event tech T-shirt, kilt and Scottish flag. Much of what we enjoy about the Breakfast Run is the opportunity to chat to people from all over and have photos with them, and we’ve found that wearing our kilts creates much more of a talking point and is a real conversation starter!

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Suitably dressed, we set off for the start line (the finish line of the marathon itself on Avenue Foch), and were greeted with my favourite morning view: the Arc de Triomphe!

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It’s when we reach this point that we start to encounter more runners in matching tops, all on their way to Avenue Foch to run. We joined the crowds making their way there and headed down towards the start, pausing for a couple of photos first.

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My only criticism of this event concerns the portable toilets. They’re already in place for the marathon the following day, but very few are actually opened up ahead of the Breakfast Run, resulting in some lengthy queues before the start. We joined a queue, figuring that it didn’t really matter if we just joined the end of the run as it was un-timed, and just as we got to the front there were more toilets opened up. Typical!

As a result, the run had already begun by the time we were ready, but plenty of people were still crossing the start line so we jogged down to join them and soon found ourselves following the now-familiar route over to the other side of the Champ de Mars.

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Photo from Paris Marathon Facebook page

Photo from Paris Marathon Facebook page

Once firmly among the masses (around 3500 signed up) we took the time to soak up the atmosphere and chat to others (lots of people began conversations by asking if we would be running the marathon in our kilts). We spoke to Simon from Dundee, who was about to run the first of his 4 marathons in April for charity; we spoke to a couple from Wales who were doing the breakfast run together, before the girl ran the marathon as part of her challenge to run a race per month throughout 2016; and we spoke to a couple from England and their son who were all running together before the son ran the marathon the following day. It was so nice to exchange stories and tips, to hear about the various reasons people were running and to enjoy that immediate bond created by running which allows you to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger without looking like a bit of a weirdo!

Another great thing about the Breakfast Run is that for many the running is almost secondary. Everyone is there to enjoy the atmosphere, to chat and to take photos. With the race being un-timed, there is no pressure to finish quickly and everyone happily stops for photos at various points along the route, safe in the knowledge that they’re unlikely to ruin somebody’s PB. Indeed, at the front of the pack is a “chain” of marathon pacers who run together and prevent anyone from running ahead. This all adds to the camaraderie and laid-back atmosphere, which come together to make this event such a highlight for us and a real celebration of running. It’s nice to just run easy without any thought of pace or time, to just run because it’s a fun thing to do. How often do we get to do that?

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Photo from Paris Marathon Facebook page

My favourite part of the run remains crossing the Pont d’Iéna towards the Eiffel Tower as it’s such an iconic sight and the chance to run across what is normally a very busy stretch of road is amazing. Yet, I get a little sad upon reaching the Tower itself as I know there’s only about a mile or so to go until the run is finished. On the plus side, crossing the line means breakfast and a host of further photo opportunities as we walk back across the Champ de Mars.

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Just beyond the finish line

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The breakfast. Somehow I missed the pains au chocolat 😦

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An “arty” croissant!

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A little tribute to Monica @ Run Eat Repeat and her signature pose!

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It was actually getting a bit cold by this point, so we decided to head back to our hotel to get showered, changed and plan the rest of the day. It needed to be pretty relaxed, after all we had 26.2 miles to tackle the following day!

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Coming next: The marathon!

 

 

 

An (Almost) Amazing August

August can be a bit of a bittersweet month. It’s the month I celebrate my birthday (and my “blogiversary”), but it’s also the month when the remainder of the summer break morphs into a new and busy term. It’s a month when there can still be some warm summer air, but it has a distinctly chilly and autumnal note first thing in the morning. Running-wise, it’s a month with a couple of prominent local races and a time to fine-tune my training ahead of my autumn goals. This year it was, for the most part, a fun and enjoyable month, but ultimately tinged with sadness following the sudden death of Steve’s mum.

The shock that followed meant that neither of us particularly felt like running and our training was put on the back burner for a while. We did fit in a couple of runs, but we also missed a number of training sessions, and that’s ok. We listened to our bodies and did what we felt like doing, knowing we could resume training again when we felt ready.

Pic by Fraser Band - 07984 163 256 --------------------------------------------------------------- NO CREDIT PLEASE Allison McArthur and Steven Bonthrone, both Perth, married at Kinnoull Church, Perth. --------------------------------------------------------- (C) Fraser Band. 12 Howards Court, Caledonian Road, Perth, Scotland, PH1 5NJ. T: 01738 444726, M1: 07984 163256 E: mail@fraserband.co.uk ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pic by Fraser Band

But I don’t want this post to be sad. Instead, I want to share all the pleasant and positive things that happened in August, starting out with a bit of bling 🙂

In the early part of the month I took on the double-header of parkrun followed by the 5k Kilt Run in the same day. But it turned out to not only be a running double-header but a medal double-header as well when the postman delivered my August virtual 10k medal.

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And of course there was another medal in store for me in the afternoon – I even came close to beating Steve as he had taken on the rather different double-header of a half marathon followed by a 5k in the the same day!

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The following week was the last of my summer break so I made the most of it…

I ran (obviously!):
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And clocked up a nice new parkrun PB to boot 🙂
We enjoyed a beautiful day with lunch al fresco in Edinburgh:
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IMG_4983Another highlight came from a competition I entered on the Tribesports Facebook page. I had to say what my favourite running song is and why. My answer? On a Mission by Gabriella Cilmi. It was “my song” when I was training for my first marathon (Paris in 2010) and it gave me a real boost and sense of determination through a lengthy injury as well as on the day itself. It still works and my iPod has a knack of playing it at just the right moment. And it turns out that the competition organisers liked my little story enough to award me the prize – a pair of Jabra Sport Rox wireless bluetooth earphones. Awesome!

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Steve and I also enjoyed our annual trip to Edinburgh Zoo. One of the first birthday presents Steve ever bought me was a King Penguin adoption at the zoo and I’ve continued the adoption ever since. Part of the adoption pack is a couple of complimentary tickets, so every year we pay a visit to see “my” penguin and enjoy some of our other favourite animals. This year’s highlights included a fantastic view of the somewhat elusive sun bears, a giggle at the new lemur walk through and posing for some rather prehistoric photo ops:

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My birthday fell on a Saturday (brilliant planning!) and I kicked off the weekend with a Friday night 10k. It meant my birthday parkrun felt pretty tough, but the sun was shining, I’d opened a lovely Pandora parcel and I was going home for some bucks fizz so I had no problem with that!

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Steve also treated me to a delicious meal at our friend Graeme’s restaurant. He serves the most amazing melt-in-the-mouth steak so that’s what I chose for my main course. It was DELICIOUS!!

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August was brought to a close with the Perth 10k. Steve is the organiser of this race and I signed up alongside my dad and my sister. The race came at the end of a very difficult week and I had picked up a cold too due to my interrupted sleep patterns, but I was still able to run and felt pretty pleased with my time given the circumstances. Next year, I’ll try to beat it!

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So there you have it. A strange mix of running, days out and sudden loss. The end of the month felt rather odd, but I don’t want the sadness then to mar the fun we had for much of the month. Heading into September I have a half marathon to think about, so it’s time to focus on the routine of work, training and getting ready to race.

Onwards and upwards!

 

How was your August?
What’s your favourite running song?
Do you have any autumn races lined up?

Race Report – Perth Kilt Run 2015

The Perth Kilt Run first came into being in 2012, inspired by our twin town of Perth, Ontario, where the world record for the most kilted runners was first set in 2010. Despite our best efforts in both 2012 and 2013, we have sadly not beaten the Canadian record of 1764 runners (yet!), and for 2015 the focus was on a fun day of events rather than a world record attempt.

Positioned in the same weekend as the Perth Highland Games, this year there was an ambitious range of options available: the traditional 5k Kilt Run, the new Touch of Tartan Half Marathon and two kilt walk events at half and full marathon distance. Rather than having thousands of kilted runners in one event, participants would be spread over several events with some, like Steve, doubling up to complete both the half marathon and the 5k.

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To be honest, I was rather indecisive about entering this one. On the one hand, I knew I would feel left out if I didn’t take part, but on the other hand my half marathon training was more important to me and not only did I not want to miss parkrun that day, I also had a longer training run planned the following day. But as the day of the event got closer, I realised that so long as I took things easy, I could still complete my planned runs as well as take part in the 5k Kilt Run. By this point, however, I was too late for online registration so had to take a chance on securing an on-the-day entry.

And so it was that my Saturday began as usual with parkrun. Last week I ran it hard to achieve my first sub-25 minute time since early March, so this week I was making a conscious decision to “take it easy”. Although I wore my Garmin, I was running by feel and thought that averaging around 8:30 per mile would be fine. As it turns out, I averaged closer to 8:15 per mile, but felt comfortable throughout, which was the aim, so my fitness must have improved. We were even joined by the sun, a somewhat elusive feature this summer!

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I was there by myself since Steve was running the half marathon which started at 10:30 and he had to be on the shuttle bus to the start line around the time we would be running parkrun. That meant that I could make a fairly quick exit to head along to the sports centre to sign up for the race in the afternoon (I could actually have gone beforehand, but would have had nowhere to keep my race number since I walk to parkrun).

Entry secured, I headed home as I had about 3 hours until I had to run again – luxury after some of my previous escapades this year! I used the time to freshen up a bit, eat, choose my kit and catch up on some reading. I also took delivery of a pretty medal for my August virtual 10k which I had completed as part of my long run last Sunday.

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Steve arrived home around 12:30, having completed his half marathon in about 1:37/1:38. He was a tad muddy from some of the terrain but really only had time to grab a quick snack and change into his kilt before we had to head back over to the North Inch for the start of the 5k.

When we arrived there was some kind of mass zumba warm up going on (I’m not a fan of the mass warm up – there’s never really enough space to move!) after which we were led towards the start line. There was a briefing, but I couldn’t hear everything that was being said. I wasn’t worried though, as being local I had a decent idea of the route and knew that I wasn’t going to be at the front so could just follow the pack. I did hear an attempt to get participants to line up in a reasonable way with walkers at the back, but I knew that in reality this wouldn’t really happen and was prepared to do a bit of weaving around people.

We exchanged a few words with one or two people we knew, then all of a sudden we were moving towards the start line ready to begin. Having run comfortably in the morning, I intended to go a bit harder on this one (my non-parkrun 5k PB of 25:11 was set at this event back in 2013) and with Steve suggesting that I might have a chance of beating him since he was running on weary legs from his morning exertions, I was all set for a smackdown!

As the race began, things went exactly as I expected: there was a general shuffling towards the line as some people tried to start running and others set out at a more leisurely pace (this was, after all, a fun run). Since the race was chip timed, I didn’t worry about this as I’d much rather get stuck approaching the line than once I crossed it, but I did spend much of the first mile weaving around slower runners. As a result, I lost sight of Steve but caught up with him as we headed along by the river and spent a few minutes simply keeping him in sight as a pace maker. By this point, I’d found a decent gap to run in and was ticking along at a nice steady pace.

The route followed the path on the river side of the North Inch, before joining part of the same path used in parkrun, but turning at an earlier point and sweeping by the George Duncan Athletics Arena before returning to the Inch for the final mile. It was during the 2nd mile that I drew level with Steve, who was chatting with another runner who was on his 2nd tartan race of the day. This was a tactical error, because as soon as he realised I was there, Steve’s competitive instinct kicked in and he began to pull just slightly ahead again to make me work harder, and once we were back on the Inch, he picked up the pace far earlier than I would be able to maintain, and made a big kick for the finish, leaving me to work as hard as I could to try and finish as close as possible behind him.

Turning onto the last stretch on the grass, I saw Steve ahead of me crossing the line and found one final burst of speed to the finish. I could hear some friends calling out my name as I went by, but I was fixated on the finish line as I could see the clock ticking closer and closer to 25 minutes. I squeezed in at 24:58, only then remembering that I was wearing a chip and would therefore have a faster time!

Shuffling forwards, I returned my chip then collected a bottle of water and my goody bag, which contained my medal, some sweets, a cereal bar and some leaflets. I was also handed a race memento in the form of a spurtle, which is the traditional utensil for stirring porridge. These were provided by our “sister” race in Perth, Ontario.

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And of course, we took a couple of post-race photos:

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Since Steve had run both the half marathon and the 5k, he decided to take advantage of the free massages that were on offer, and since I was in the queue I had one too in order to freshen my legs up a bit before running again the following day. Aside from the massage tent there were one or two food stalls, some things for kids to do and a big stage with some musical acts throughout the day.

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However rather than hang around, once we’d had our massages we headed off to a nearby ice cream shop for a delicious cone. Yum 🙂

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One scoop salted caramel, one scoop Scottish tablet

Once home, I checked back over my splits from my Garmin to find I had run a pretty even race then speeded up towards the end – 8:07, 8:09, 8:01 then the last stretch apparently at a 7 minute mile (don’t think I could have kept that going much longer though!). Despite having run earlier in the day and spending a good chunk at the start weaving, I ended up only 7 seconds slower than my triumphant parkrun last week with my time of 24:38 (about 20 seconds behind Steve). On both occasions Steve was in front of me as a pacer so perhaps that made a difference and it will be interesting to see if I can shave any more time off that over the next few weeks. Oh and yes, 24:38 is a new non-parkrun PB.

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Meanwhile Molly got ready for the “Kilt Nap”!

The Kilt Run is always an enjoyable event with a great atmosphere, but I did feel that the smaller numbers this year had an impact. There’s a marked difference between being part of 1000+ runners and being part of around 350. I’d love to see the numbers grow again in future as it’s amazing to see so many kilted runners together, even if crowding does lead to a slower time – sometimes it’s more about the experience. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.

An Awesome April

Looking back at my March roundup, I’m struck by how long it seems since I wrote that post. It may only have been 4 short weeks, but so much has been crammed into those weeks that somehow it seems much longer.

As April began, things were a little uncertain. I had a marathon to run, but hadn’t actually run for about a month due to an injury. I knew I would be able to complete the marathon, but didn’t actually know how that injury would hold up or how mobile I would be afterwards. I’ll admit, I was a bit scared and my fears did cloud some of my Paris experience this time. I found it hard to feel excited about the race and every time someone asked me if I was looking forward to it, I really wasn’t sure how to answer. In the first week or so of the month I worked hard to re-build strength in my leg and went for some very short runs to see how it felt. I did absolutely everything I could think of to prepare my body for the event, given the gap in my training.

If you’ve been reading my recent posts, then you’ll know that things did go well in Paris. My leg felt comfortable during the fantastic Breakfast Run and presented very little in the way of problems during the marathon itself. I reset my goal from a sub-4 hour finish, to simply getting round in one piece and having fun. My only really issue was a lack of specific conditioning (long bike rides aren’t quite the same as long runs for marathon preparation!) but I completed the race, enjoyed my day and made some new friends along the way. As an added bonus, I could still walk afterwards! What’s not to like?

After the Breakfast Run

After the Breakfast Run

Marathon done!

Marathon done!

Of course going to Paris, regardless of injury, was always going to be my April highlight. I just LOVE Paris and getting the chance to run there is simply fantastic. But since getting back, rather than suffer the post-marathon blues, I’ve had a jam-packed month of exciting things to do.

As part of my recovery, I treated myself to a pampering spa pedicure and Steve took me away for a night at the beautiful Knock Castle near Crieff. We also spent an evening as guests at the Macmillan ball in Dundee and heard lots of inspiring stories from supporters of this wonderful charity.

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Foot bliss!

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IMG_4419But around all that fun, I also began to reintroduce some training. After a very easy week immediately after the marathon, I soon got back out on my bike, continued my work to rebuild the strength in my leg after the muscle strain, did some swimming and even went back to Metafit. My training for the remainder of April certainly wasn’t as full-on as it was before the marathon, but it began to re-establish my routine and maintain some fitness. It was nice to have some time away from running to allow my leg to recover without pressure and I enjoyed my cycling, but as we head into May I’m itching to lace up my trainers again and get back out there. All the work I’ve been doing with Steve has made a massive difference and there’s definitely much more strength in the muscle than before. My physio said I would know when it was ready for a run again, and where before I was hesitant, now I’m keen to get out there and try a short run to see how it feels. Fingers crossed it’s all good and I can get back to some regular running again.

All-in-all, April has been a great month. I may not have met my ultimate goal of a sub-4 marathon time (yet) but I had a wonderful trip to Paris, completed my seventh (!) marathon and had a lot of fun. Oh, and I made some additions to my bling collection:

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IMG_4363IMG_4320At the top, my medal from the Easter virtual race I took part in (run, swim or cycle any distance in the first 7 days of April). In the middle, the medal from a rather unique virtual event. A bride and groom planned to run 5k on their wedding day and wanted as many people as possible to join them by running 5k that same day. That day turned out to be the day of the Paris Breakfast Run, so I signed up and not only had a lovely time running around Paris, I earned a rather nice horseshoe medal for my efforts! At the bottom, of course, my treasured Paris marathon medal. A weighty piece of bling that I absolutely love.

So as I say goodbye to April, I’m saying both goodbye and thank you for a brilliant month. Paris, pampering and preening. Perfect. Let’s hope May shapes up to be just as good…

How was your April?
What are you looking forward to in May?

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A Weekend in Paris Part 2 – Breakfast Run

Back in the pre-blog year of 2010 when I ran my first Paris marathon, I spent my Saturday morning at the expo, with no idea of the Breakfast Run taking place on the streets of Paris at the same time. Fast forward to 2013 and I read this post by fellow Scottish runner/blogger Red Wine Runner and I knew that when I returned to Paris in 2014, the Breakfast Run would be a “Must Do” event in my race weekend plans. That event turned out to be a real highlight of the weekend (which is saying something when that same weekend featured an incredible city marathon) so of course I wanted to do it again in 2015. Here’s my report on the event and a few lots of photos…

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Entries for the Breakfast Run open around February and if I recall correctly, there are around 3000 places, all of which are sold. The great thing about the Breakfast Run is that you don’t have to be running the marathon to take part, it’s open to all, so friends and family can enjoy something of the marathon weekend atmosphere. It’s also a bargain at just 7 euros (around £5GBP/$7.50USD). For that you get a tech T-shirt (which you must wear to access the course), 5k on closed roads which include the area around the Eiffel Tower, and post-run refreshments (croissants, bananas, coffee, water). There’s an amazing atmosphere as nobody is really “racing”, it’s more about the shared experience and a little bit of fancy dress to represent your country.

Since breakfast was included at our hotel, we did have something to eat around 7am (yoghurt, pastries, juice and coffee) before donning our kilts and heading up towards Avenue Foch (the start line for the Breakfast Run is also the finish line of the marathon so it’s a great opportunity to check out the finish area ahead of the big day). Of course we couldn’t resist some photos of the spectacular Arc de Triomphe standing in the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle. For me, the entire marathon weekend is centred around this landmark as it is behind the start line and when visible again, you know you have only a couple of hundred metres of the marathon to go.

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Walking around the Arc, we were joined by a multitude of other runners, all decked out in the same tops as us. Some were in regular running gear, others had embraced the invitation to represent their country. All were excited.

We headed around to Avenue Foch (pronounced to rhyme with “posh”) and, as is traditional, joined the queue for the portaloos. As we waited our turn, I listened to all the different voices – French, American, Australian, English – and marvelled at the diversity of cultures all united by running. Everyone nodded and smiled at one another, strangers spoke to each other and those from the same country greeted each other effusively. In fact, as we left the toilets and walked towards the start line, someone jogged up behind us and a familiar accent called out, “awrite folks, gaun yersels!” which, for those not attuned to the idiosyncrasies of Scottish vernacular, is a friendly greeting followed by an encouragement. Standing in the middle of a typically wide Parisian avenue, this amused me.

Joining the throngs at the start line, we found ourselves with a few minutes to wait as the race didn’t start on time (I didn’t expect it to, we were in France and experience has taught me that the French are fairly laid back about this bit!). This gave me a chance to take a few more photos:

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Looking towards the start line

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The view of the Arc de Triomphe behind me

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Pre-race selfie. You can just make out the Arc de Triomphe in the distance

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At last we got underway. I had remained concerned about how my quad would feel, but actually it seemed quite settled so I was able to jog comfortably around the course (nobody’s in any great hurry at this event) and take some photos. The first half of the race winds through the streets towards the Trocadéro and our first view of the Eiffel Tower. There’s music playing from a race vehicle ahead and everybody is in good spirits, chatting to one another and soaking up the atmosphere.

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Slightly blurry running selfie!

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At one point, loads of Scottish runners somehow bunched together

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The Trocadéro

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At last the sight everyone had been waiting for

Unsurprisingly, most of the runners stop at this point to take photos. There’s some work being done at the Trocadéro right now (you can see the wooden hoarding to the left of the photo above) which limits the view a little, but the Tower is still a stunning sight.

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After this, the route follows the road downhill around the Trocadéro, providing further views of the tower before we find ourselves by the Seine and crossing the Pont d’Iéna towards the tower itself.

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Views of the Tour Montparnasse

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Getting closer…

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…and closer…

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I stopped at a “selfie spot” along with one or two others!

Crossing the Pont d’Iéna towards the Eiffel Tower is without doubt my favourite part of this race. It’s usually a very busy bridge linking the Trocadéro on one side of the river to the Eiffel Tower on the other, and having the chance to run across it without traffic and take in the incredible view is simply amazing, so of course this is another part of the route where most people stop for photos.

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Can you spot me?

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Photo from Marathon de Paris on Facebook

Finally, we run around to the other side of the Champ de Mars to finish by the École Militaire. Last year there was a finish gantry, but this year there were just some flags to mark the finish line so I was a little taken by surprise!

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Remembering from last year how difficult it was to get to the refreshment tables (the one part of this event which needs some improvement) we joined the crowds flowing towards breakfast. I actually wasn’t hungry so only wanted some water and coffee, but Steve managed to grab a croissant (which is more than we managed last year!). Volunteers were trying to impose some order and stop people taking more than their fair share, but they were largely being ignored, as was the woman who repeatedly shouted through a loud hailer for us to “allez au fond des ravitaillements” (basically to keep on going to the end of the refreshment tables). Oh well, c’est la vie!

Soon enough, though, I was able to have a seat and sip my coffee while enjoying a quite wonderful view:

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Suitably refreshed, we set off to walk across the Champ de Mars back towards the tower and up to the Trocadéro to take some photos before jumping on the metro back to our hotel.

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The finish line of the kids’ race. How great would that be if it was the finish of the marathon?

At this point, we were approached by a guy who asked us, as the only other people he had spotted in kilts, if he could have a photo with us. We agreed and then forgot all about it until he got in touch via this blog’s Facebook page to share the photo and ask how we got on in the marathon. It was nice to be able to chat with him and so weird to discover we had been “recognised” whilst away!

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Photo from Martyn Balmont

We stopped again for photos in the Champ de Mars:

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While taking the above selfie, a nice Scottish couple came over and offered to take a picture of both of us. We then chatted with them for a minute or two before bumping into another runner from Perth that Steve knew. I honestly don’t know how he manages to bump into somebody he knows EVERYWHERE we go in the world!

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We did eventually make it back to the Trocadéro and fought through the crowds for a couple of photos:

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And finally reached the metro, where there was a “subtle” hint that that there might be a big race about to take place!

IMG_4273 IMG_4275Safely back at our hotel to plan the rest of the day, I was able to take a moment to reflect on my morning. Once more, I thoroughly enjoyed the Breakfast Run and would definitely recommend it. If you happen to be around Paris on marathon weekend, sign up. You won’t regret it.

Next time: The marathon itself!

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Best (or Worst) of my Racing History – Link Up

For this post I’m linking up with Jessie over at The Right Fits. She is on a quest to run a marathon in each of the 50 US States (which is pretty cool!) and had this great idea for runners to share the best and worst of our racing histories on our blogs. Hers are drawn from across the marathons she has completed so far; I will be including races of various distances…
”Best

 

Best Finisher’s Shirt

The Paris Breakfast Run & Paris Marathon 2014 are my current favourites. To take part in the Breakfast Run all participants had to wear the technical T-shirt issued at registration. We teamed ours with kilts as we were encouraged to dress to represent our countries. It was amazing to see all the different ways this was interpreted.

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I also really like my finishers’ top from this year as it is a female-specific fit and I actually got the right size (unlike in 2010 when they had run out of small by the time I finished and I had to take a medium).

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Worst Finisher’s Shirt

The Edinburgh Marathon in 2011 definitely stands out for this one. Due to some disorganisation at the finish line, I was given the generic top intended for relay finishers rather than the one for full marathon finishers. I was promised one by post, however what eventually arrived was a cheaply printed replica in a completely different material and shade of blue. It was also far too big. Very disappointing.

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On the left, the top I received at the finish. On the right, the one that was sent out to me.

The London Marathon also gets a mention for its “one size fits no-one” cotton T-shirts included in the goody bags. Generally speaking, I would expect to at least have a choice of size or fit (unisex or female-specific) from one of the Marathon Majors.

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Best Finish Line

There’s nothing quite like the finish of the London marathon. Turning onto the Mall from Buckingham Palace and seeing the finish line ahead is simply amazing, and everything runs like clockwork once you cross the line – medal, goody bag, photo, baggage truck, meeting area. Brilliant! I recently re-visited this area and felt some of the race day emotions flooding back.

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I also enjoy the finish in Paris with the Arc de Triomphe ahead, however you only see this at the last minute after winding through the Bois de Boulogne so the effect is not quite the same as in London.

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Best Overall Swag/Gear

Got to be the Smokies ladies-only 10 mile race which I ran in both 2011 and 2012. At this time, there was a mini bottle of wine in the goody bag and usually some full-size toiletries such as bath foam or deodorant. Fantastic!

Best Crowd Support

Crowd support in the London marathon is amazing. There are crowds lining Tower Bridge, a wall of sound in Canary Wharf and the support along the embankment in the final 5k is fantastic. Flagging runners are carried along by crowd support and anyone who stops to walk is given so much encouragement from people shouting their name and spurring them on to the finish. I remember my legs screaming at me to stop and walk, but I knew I had to keep going when so many people were willing me on.

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Hottest Race

No contest here. We regularly take part in 5k races during our summer trip to Florida, however the Run Thru Hell is always the hottest. It has the latest start time of any of the races we do (usually around 8am) and takes place in a park over in Tampa which is nearer the coast. As a result it is much more humid with 100% humidity almost the norm and a number of sections through tree-lined trails which seem to hang on to all the moisture in the air. The first time I did this race I found it tougher than a marathon and sometimes I’m convinced it is more of a swim than a run!

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Wearing as little as possible is the aim for this one!

Coldest Race

The Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll Half marathon in 2013 takes this one. It was a wet day (although it did stop raining by the time the race started) and blowing such a strong gale that the porta-loos were blowing over and the race start was delayed as some signage along the route had blown down so it wasn’t safe enough to start on time. I’m picking this as the coldest not because of the temperature during the race, but the temperature after. The windy conditions meant that changes had to be made to the baggage collection area which really slowed things down, and even wrapped in my foil “victory cape” I was shivering after racing in shorts and having to hang around without quick access to warm clothes (some of which were wet anyway!).

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Wettest Race

I’m adding an extra question to my round-up as I have to include the half Kilomathon in Edinburgh in 2012. It was absolutely pouring and by the time I finished in Murrayfield stadium I was totally drenched, but still had a brilliant time.

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Most Beautiful Course

I’m going to pick the Aviemore Half marathon here for the absolutely stunning views as the course descends towards and alongside Loch Morlich. I’ve run this race 3 times now and set my current half marathon pb there.

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Hilliest Course

The Stonehaven Half marathon is run over a very hilly course in early July. The year I ran it the race happened to fall on probably the hottest day of the year in Scotland so it was a tough slog and water stations were running out of water. Not only that, but I was really just relying on the last of the miles I had banked in marathon training to get me round, rather than training specifically for it. A hard run, but the free entry to the Stonehaven outdoor pool afterwards was brilliant to cool off and help the legs to recover!

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Race That Took the Most Mental Strength

For me, the Lochaber marathon in 2012. I picked up an injury right at the end of my training, but my physio encouraged me to start anyway and see what happened. The first 16 miles were fine, but the last 10 were a lonely run hobble/walk back into Fort William for the finish. There was little crowd support along the out-and-back countryside route and quite a small field. At points all I wanted to do was sit at the side of the road and cry so it took a lot of mental strength to keep going. I usually feel like crying at the end of a marathon but hold it together as I tend to be by myself, but this time Steve was waiting at the finish and as soon as I crossed the line I burst into tears. Not an experience I am keen to repeat!

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I was in tears just moments before having this photo taken. The sunglasses are doing a great job of hiding it!

Most Disappointing Finish

The Edinburgh marathon this year found me in a similar situation to Lochaber in 2012 with an injury rearing its ugly head. Both my physio and my podiatrist gave me the ok to run, but I knew it would hurt despite the strapping around my lower leg. I had a bit of a meltdown before the race, knowing it would be a tough and painful run. Mentally, it was easier than Lochaber as there was a much bigger field so I never felt alone, but I was disappointed in my finish as I had originally intended to aim for a pb at this race and instead found myself limping over the line. In hindsight, I know it was a mistake to go ahead, but I have learned a lot more about listening to my body and making tough calls as a result.

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My face says it all!

Best Start Line

I love lining up to start the Paris marathon on the Champs Elysées with the Arc de Triomphe at my back, the Place de la Concorde ahead and 26.2 miles of amazing Parisian sights awaiting me. Nothing beats a running tour of my favourite city!

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I also enjoy the start of the Glasgow Santa Dash as it initially takes us uphill. The sight of a sea of Santas bobbing up the hill ahead and turning to see something similar behind is quite something!

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Most Organised

Easily the London marathon. Everything runs like clockwork from the race expo to getting to the start area, from entering pens and getting underway, to the finish line. It feels like the whole city is supporting the runners and London on marathon day has an amazing atmosphere.

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Flattest Course

The Edinburgh marathon is billed as being fast and flat – indeed one of the fastest in the UK – so it most definitely has pb potential. I felt it was my best chance to nail a sub-4 hour finish this year, but sadly injury put paid to that.

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Best Finish Line Food

The Watermelon 5k fun run in Winter Park, Florida. I LOVE ice cold watermelon after a hot run and this race has watermelon in abundance for all finishers alongside smoothies and sno-cones. I don’t like anything heavy immediately after running, so this one is ideal for me.

20140706-154349-56629067.jpgBut if it’s a post-race bbq you’re after, head over to the Run Thru Hell in Tampa where you can tuck into a burger before 9am!

Coolest Medal

The medal from the Paris marathon this year is pretty unusual. It is designed as a continuous loop (including the ribbon) to represent the loop of the Paris course.

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I also really love my Rock ‘n’ Roll Half marathon medal which is a pretty weighty bit of race bling in the shape of a guitar with a sparkling tartan effect behind it.

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I think I was feeling like a superhero that day!

Most Emotional Finish

Every marathon finish is emotional, but I’m choosing both the Lochaber marathon in 2012 & Edinburgh marathon in 2014. The only times I have actually cried at the end of a marathon (rather than just thinking I might). On both occasions because of injury which not only caused physical pain but forced me to relinquish dreams of a pb. Both taught me a great deal about myself.

So there you go. If you fancy joining in and sharing the highs and lows of your racing history, then you can find out everything you need to know in Jessie’s original post. I’d love to read all about it!

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Race Report – Paris Breakfast Run

On Saturday morning I woke up bright and early. Every Saturday morning since the beginning of the year I have gotten out of bed and gone for an easy run of 3-4 miles as part of my marathon preparations. On this particular Saturday I was going to run a nice, gentle 5k…with several thousand other people all in Paris for the marathon! I was excited!

The first thing I did was look out of my Parisian window at the Parisian street outside. I love seeing the buildings of Paris and the iconic shutters on all the windows and my view on Saturday morning just made me smile:

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Despite the fact that we were participating in the Breakfast Run (and as such would have access to breakfast food after the race) we headed downstairs to sample the hotel breakfast which was, of course, typically French:

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I tried not to overdo it since I actually did have to run, but I just can’t resist those croissants and pastries!

After breakfast it was time to get organised. As I mentioned in my previous post, participants in the Breakfast Run had to wear the tech T-shirt provided at registration in order to gain access to the course, however we were also encouraged to dress up to represent our country. This meant an outing for our kilts (Steve and Graeme had to travel in theirs the day before) and we had brought a couple of Scottish flags with us as well. IMG_2798

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We walked up to the start on Avenue Foch (the finish line of the marathon on Sunday) which gave us an idea of the journey we would need to take the next day. This year the route of the Breakfast Run was the reverse of what it had been in previous years and I have to say, I think this was a good idea given that the finish placed us by the Eiffel Tower. It also meant that we got our first glimpse of the imposing Arc de Triomphe and we took a few photos before we started:

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The race itself was the most amazing experience. Never before have I taken part in a race where the running was secondary to anything else! Everyone was in high spirits and keen to take pictures of others – including whilst running. We were in no hurry whatsoever and jogged round together, taking in the sights and enjoying the atmosphere as we ran along behind a vehicle blaring loud music and whipping everyone into a frenzy.

Here are some photos from the first part of the race:

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Yup, that’s a “running selfie”! (Relfie?)

About half way round, everyone suddenly seemed to stop. We had reached the Trocadéro, probably the best viewing platform for the Eiffel Tower, and of course everybody (including us) needed to take a photo stop. The sun was behind the Tower, creating silhouettes in the shots, but it was still a stunning view and an incredible atmosphere.

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After a few minutes, we realised that we should probably run the second half of the race, but from that point on there were a few more photo stops as I just LOVE the Eiffel Tower – I already have loads of photos of it from various different angles, times of day and weather conditions, but I just can’t get enough of it!

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It was as I ran over this bridge (The Pont D’Iéna) towards the Tower that I began to feel rather emotional again. This is usually a really busy road, yet here I was RUNNING over it, with no traffic, and a stunning view ahead of me. When would I get an opportunity like that again?

I had briefly lost Steve as we were both too busy taking pictures, but we found each other again here and carried on with the last mile or so towards the École Militiare and the finish line:

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Quite amusingly, nobody was in much of a hurry to cross the line – clearly everybody was having too much fun and wanted to prolong the experience by taking more photos right to the end. But when we did eventually cross the line there was water, bananas and coffee waiting for us. There had been croissants too, but they were all finished.

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We found Graeme and Fiona then took a leisurely stroll through the Champ de Mars towards the Eiffel Tower, up to the Trocadéro, then back along Avenue Kléber towards the Arc de Triomphe, across the Champs Elysées and back to the hotel to get changed. Of course, there were plenty of photo ops along the way!

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I LOVED this race. The atmosphere was amazing and everybody had such fun. People were asking complete strangers to be in photos and I saw a few people trying to collect as many different flags as they could. It may “only” have been 5k, but I would do it again without a second thought for the views alone – what an opportunity to see some of the famous Paris sights on a closed course and be able to take loads of photos. Brilliant!

The rest of the day was spent in a fairly leisurely fashion as we had to relax ahead of the marathon. We had a nice lunch sitting outside one of the cafés near our hotel then returned to the quayside by the Eiffel Tower to take a boat trip along the River Seine.

In the evening, Steve and I went to the Macmillan pasta party at an Italian restaurant by the Opéra. It was great to meet the Macmillan team after all the emails that have passed between us and to chat to some of the other runners. It was also an opportunity for some serious carb loading and I had a big plate of spaghetti bolognese followed by a tiramisu. Yum!

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Returning to the hotel afterwards, there was an absolutely stunning sky over the Opéra which made for a beautiful end to the day:

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Carbed up and hydrated, there was nothing left but to lay out our marathon kit for the next day then get into bed to try and sleep – always tricky the night before a marathon!

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Next up…The Big One!

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