"The course weaved around the city, and gave me outstanding views of the Seine, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Grand Palace, Chateau de Vincennes, and of course I could see the Eiffel Tower in the background at many different points. It was a bit surreal, seeing all of these iconic landmarks that I had only ever seen in books and movies. Sort of like running through a fairy tale…"
The very first race I signed up for in my entire life was a full marathon. Nothing like starting out full steam ahead! I liked the idea of the challenge. I wanted to see if I could do it. Well I did, and I finished quite respectably. Adrenaline played a big part in my first marathon, but I also realized that I am a decent runner. I am not great, but better than the average Joe. I have never qualified for Boston, but I know that I have it in me if I can get the right combination of physical and mental fitness.
Over the last decade I have travelled to multiple destinations across Canada and the USA to test myself with these 26.2 mile races. One of my favourite things about participating in these events, is it has given me the chance to visit some wonderful locations, that I may have never otherwise seen. Last year I decided to take a leap and I registered for my first overseas race… the Schneider Electric Paris Marathon. The race took place on April 3rd of 2016. I did my usual 16-week training program, however the timing of the race made training difficult as my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba is not hospitable to outdoor running during the winter months. Despite this, I felt that I was running pretty well, and I expected a finish time around 3 hours and 50 minutes.
I arrived in Paris on Friday, April 1st. At home the time would have been 1am, however it was 8am local time, and the day was just starting new. My travel companion and I got ourselves oriented, and tried to explore as much as we could despite our exhaustion. Perhaps still a little jet lagged, on the morning of the race I made my way down to the Arc de Triomphe which served as the backdrop for both the start line and finish line of this event. It was a late morning start, and I was feeling warm before I even began. (Not to mention anxious, overwhelmed, inspired, tired, hopeful, scared and pretty much every other emotion you could possibly name… )
When my time finally came to start, I headed off down the Champs-Elysées towards the Place de la Concorde along with 43,000 other runners. The Roue de Paris (the 200 foot Ferris wheel) was my focal point for this first stretch. For the first 10km of my run I felt strong. I was keeping up a good pace, and I genuinely felt confident. By about 12 km, that feeling had abandoned me. I was feeling hot, and my legs were heavy. The rest of the run was a physical struggle for me, and I knew at the half-way point (21.05km) that my time was not going to be pretty. At first I was upset but I was soon able to put that aside… After all, how bad can things really be when you are running through the streets of Paris!?!
From that point on, I relaxed. I enjoyed the scenery, the crowds, and the constant yells of “allez Sarah”. The course weaved around the city, and gave me outstanding views of the Seine, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Grand Palace, Chateau de Vincennes, and of course I could see the Eiffel Tower in the background at many different points. It was a bit surreal, seeing all of these iconic landmarks that I had only ever seen in books and movies. Sort of like running through a fairy tale…
At the end of the day, I finished in 4 hours and 14 minutes. Officially, my worst time ever. I was fully disheartened by my performance, but did not let it ruin my vacation, or my experience there. Once my legs had a chance to recover, I tried to take in as much as I could. I went and visited the tourist “must-sees” such as Moulin Rouge, and the Louvre. Conversely, I tried to discover some local favourites, which led me to be introduced the delicious Sancerre wines.
Despite my lackluster performance, I think this was my favourite marathon to date. And the best part about my miserable run, is that I now need to go back to redeem myself.
Sarah Berg is a proud mom, marathon runner, Newfoundland dog owner and pharmacy manager who loves to see the world.