This is my fourth international event and second full marathon, the first full was in New York in 2008; and half-marathons in Great Wall (2010) and Hong Kong (2011).
After depositng our personal affects, we got to Champs Elysee by 8:30. Arnel, Leah and I plodded along for more than 45 minues from the Arc du Triomphe to the start line. The mood was festive with bands playing, crowds waving and cheering.
Once we crossed the start line, we started the Galloway method, with a 9-min. run and 1-min. walk. The route was mostly on the Right Bank. The first monument was the Egyptian Obelisk in place de la Concorde (the other pair is still in Luxor, Egypt), straight on Rue Rivoli (where my favorite breakfast place Angelina's is located), with the Jardin des Tuileries on the right and the Louvre, past the Hotel de Ville (city hall) then Bastille. We had to preserve our energy because the water stations were spaced 5 kilometers apart; each station though offered a virtual feast with lots of water, oranges, bananas, sugar cubes and sponges.
It was here, at the 18-km. mark, that Leah's heel started acting up and couldn’t manage to run and it was too painful to walk. We couldn't find any 'sag wagon' and thus, stopped the first car we saw. The driver agreed to take her back to Paris. (She told us later on that she hitched a ride with the photographers).
The finish cutoff time in Paris was set at 5 hours, 40 minutes. Usually the permits to close streets to make it safe can be costly. New York's cutoff time was generouse at 8-9 hours. Hong Kong and Beijing were strict; in fact in Hong Kong, a net was hoisted at specific cutoff times. By the time we got back to running, we saw the sweeping cars already buzzing behind us ready to clean the course, and when we reached the water station at the 20th kilometer, the water bottles and everything else were aready in cartons. The volunteers though were kind enough to give us water and fruits. We filled our water bottles and balanced fruits and more water between our hands.
When we got to the Trocadero (30-km) at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, there was a mishmash of tourists and well-wishers. They were still encouraging us, chanting “Alle, Rosan! Alle, Arnel!” We had to scrounge in the organizers’ boxes for water and bananas.
Another 12-km to go! We headed toward the Bois de Boulogne, the westernmost park of Paris on the 16th arrondisement. This is where the famous Roland Garros stadium, host of the French open is located. The last leg of the race cut through the greenery via Avenue de Longchamps.
As expected, the Ethiopians were the top finishers: Tadesse Tola finished in 2:06:41 and Atsede Baysa in 2:22:04. In our group (shown in photo from the left), Andrew was first at the finish line (4:02:10), followed by Jane-Jane (4:16:46), Veronica (4:21:02), Lara (4:25:29), Leana (4:49:50, not in photo), Lit (4:57:20, not in photo), Tessa broke her personal record with 4:57:23 and Paris-based Pinoy Rupert de Jesus (5:16:34).
Well, Arnel and I finished after seven grueling hours. Thanks to my doctor and coach who both strongly advised to DNF - this is not the dreaded "Did Not Finish" but —Do Not Force!
I must say that this is definitely one of my favorite marathons and, next to the Great Wall Marathon, the most scenic. It’s like a “walking tour” on fast-forward where you get to see one famous Paris monument after another. So for those doing next year, DNF!!!
For those who plan to join next year's marathon, Paris is a bottomless pit of cultural and culinary attractions. Go early to acclimatize. Here are my Top 5 things to do before race day:
1. Museums. There are almost 200 museums in Paris alone, so make sure you visit at least one. We caught the Manet retrospective in Musée d'Orsay when we were in town. Tip: No need to queue, there’s a kiosk by the steps selling tickets.
2. Macarons. My current fave is Paul Henri with its out-of-this-world flavor fusions. Also drop by Laduree (www.laduree.fr)--I love the one on Place Madeleine.
3. Brasseries and cafes. When in Paris…sit in a cafe and have an espresso!
4. Church of the Miraculous Medal on Rue du Bac. Also known as Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, among other names, this is known as the site of several apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the early 19th century. I always make it a point to visit the chapel.
5. And definitely Shop! For starters, check out the quaint flea markets, the Boucherie du Grand Marché where they have everything from caserolles to truffles and of course, Rue du Faubourg St. Honore (high end) to Marais and St. Germanin des Pres.