I recently embarked on a trip to the city of love with my partner and family but this wasn’t for a wedding or romantic getaway. No, this was to take on an epic 26.2 mile adventure or torture obstacle known to everyone as the Paris Marathon. Our flights were at 6am on Saturday 5 April from Luton airport and so going to bed at 11 and waking up at 3 was not the greatest idea pre-marathon. However, dreary eyed we all made it on the flight and 55 mins later we were in Paris – oooh la la.
After hailing a cab and making our way to the hotel, we soon realised that I had booked our stay in the ghetto area of Paris. Although only 15-20 mins on the metro to the centre, we were practically staying in a desolate and fairly scary part of town. No bars, no restaurants and the only people around seemed to be those of the dodgy variety. Anyway, it was a place to rest our heads and that we did but not straight away.
As soon as we arrived at Hotel Campanile we were greeted by a rather rude and abrupt hotel manager who did not seem to want to help us over our complete stay. Perhaps it was a language barrier or she was just plain old rude – whatever the case it was going to take a lot more than that to ruin my stay – I was here to take part in my biggest achievement to date and rudeness or not, I was here to enjoy it.
We had to wait to go up to the rooms and so my partner and I decided to make our way across to the other side of Paris to visit the expo where we had to collect our bibs.
Once bibs and bags were collected it was lunch time and time to carb up and carb up we did. We then made our way back to the ghetto and met the rest of the family and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening there. At about 8pm we literally fell into bed which was a good thing as we had another early start the next morning.
It was d day – the day of the Paris Marathon. Finally, after months of training, it was here. I was excited and eager to get started and was wondering how the day would turn out. Nadia, you got this, I kept thinking to myself.
The metro to the Champs Elysee was packed full of other marathoners and supporters so the momentum was building and all I wanted to do was get there.
When we got out the other side, all I could see was thousands of people making their way to the start line, I was excited and it felt such a buzz to be part of it all.
We soon made our way to the pen and was greeted by lots of putrid smells. I was alerted to a brown artifact by the roadside and was absolutely disgusted – is this what happens at a marathon??? Or is it just Paris?? Either way, get me away!!
After what seemed like ages, it was time for us to start running. I set off with my partner and as soon as I started running, the pain in my side started – yes I had a stitch and it wasn’t going away. Breath out hard I kept telling myself but the cramp in my side was there to stay, at least for a couple of miles anyway. At that point I told my partner not to wait for me as I knew I couldn’t keep up with his pace and I didn’t want to over exert myself in the early stages and aggravate my stitch any more than it already was!
The next few miles I had my earphones in and I was busy concentrating on my running whilst I weaved in and out of the crowds trying to catch up with the 4.30 marker which was within my vision. After about mile eight, I started to feel the niggle in my hamstrings but thought ‘no pain, no gain’ and when I saw a group of amputees carrying and pushing a wheelchair through the race – I thought to myself ‘fix up’.
Getting to the half way point was another milestone but I was becoming more aware of the niggle in my leg that had haunted me during training. Always the same – right leg hamstring!!
Through the next couple of miles I had to stop at each refreshment stand to stretch whilst I had some water. Then on again, mile 18, 19, 20, 21 – yes I passed 21 – I’m still running. This is the moment where every runner is meant to hit the wall- however apart from a bit of cramp in my calf and a niggle in my hamstring – I thought I have got this in the bag.
And then came mile 22 which hit me like a sack of potatoes right in the face. All of a sudden my legs were heavy, unbelievably heavy, my hamstring was really irritating. I just had to stop my by now slow run and start walking. With that I saw the 5 hour pacer go past me and I thought to myself – what’s the point!!!
Even though I wasn’t going for a time, I still thought I would be under five hours. So after what seemed like ten minutes later when I saw the 5.30 pacer, I lost it!!
I couldn’t control myself and I ended up ringing my mum and sobbing down the phone to her, explaining that I was going to be a lot longer than expected. My mum and my sister both gave me great words of encouragement and after I put the phone down, I felt a bit better. However I still had tears rolling down my face and was mindful that I was passing the cameras – oh great!! A marathon picture of me crying – what a memory!!
I don’t know what happened but after walking a while, I mustered some energy from somewhere and managed to run the last bit and what a relief it was to be approaching the end. The bands along the way were fantastic and the supporters were top class. Throughout the course I had words of encouragement from total random strangers and they helped me get round that course!! Thank you to you all.
At the last point, I saw my mum and step dad shouting at me and it was such a relief to see them, I smiled eagerly and crossed that finishing line with my head head high. Although I didn’t get a great time (5hr 33mins) I was a finisher, I had achieved something not everyone gets to do, the hardest physical thing I have had to face and my biggest achievement so far and for that I wore my medal with pride that day.