Location: Paris, France
Weather: 50 Degrees and Sunny
Distance: Marathon (26.2 Miles)
Finish Time: 2 Hours 57 Minutes 48 Seconds
Fifth marathon complete and my fastest time yet! If I didn’t qualify for Boston with my 2:59 in Chicago last October, I certainly think I will with this time.
2015 Twin Cities Marathon: 3:21
2016 New York Marathon: 3:18
2017 Philadelphia Marathon: 3:00
2018 Chicago Marathon: 2:59
2019 Paris Marathon: 2:57
My goal in every race is usually to set a new PR (Personal Record), even if it’s only by a few seconds. You can’t compare yourself to others because thats a race you’ll never win. That applies to all aspects of life. There will always be someone who is more accomplished, wealthy, athletic, intelligent, attractive, etc. than you. What’s important is your own internal growth, progress and development.
I was pretty nervous about doing well in this race and it was amplified by the fact that I was traveling halfway across the world to a destination race. The nerves stemmed from a poor run performance at the half ironman in Puerto Rico, which I thought was a fluke due to the heat conditions, but wasn’t entirely sure, as well as the fact that I didn’t get in enough long runs of 20 or more miles before this race, and lastly, having to deal with jet lag and uncertainty over how that may affect my body. As you can imagine, I felt added pressure to do well given the circumstances.
After a long flight with a connection in Finland, I touched down in Paris on Friday, April 19th. For some reason I didn’t book an AirBnb on this trip, which I immediately regretted. I always book AirBnb’s for race trips because I can buy groceries and cook my own food. It saves money, is less risky and healthier. Later that night, I took the metro to the Paris Marathon exposition center and picked up my race materials.
On Saturday, I did some sightseeing after a quick 2 mile shakeout run. My goal was to hit <10,000 steps because I wanted to rest my legs for the race. Unfortunately, Paris is very big and I was enjoying the sights, so I hit over 25,000 steps. Whoops! I feel very fortunate and grateful to have visited the Notre Dame Cathedral, just two days before the devastating fire that has left it in ruins. I felt some normal fatigue from jet lag, which I always get pretty badly, but that was counteracted by my watch, which said I was "peaking," or in optimal race form.
The race start time (8am) was much later than I’m used to. As a result, I got to “sleep in” until 5am instead of the usual 3am. I ate 4 rice cakes with banana and peanut butter, a small serving of protein powder and a Gatorade. I also put on my USA tattoos! My prerace drink was BCAAs, Citrulline Malate, Beta Alanine and L-Carnitine mixed with Red Bull that I brought with me and was sipping on the Metro. My nutrition strategy was to take an energy gel with 20g carbohydrates and 75mg caffeine at mile 5, 11, 18 and 22.
The logistics for the race were very poor compared to what I am used to. I had to walk about a mile in order to drop off my bag, there were not enough bathrooms and the corrals were overcrowded. As a result, I almost missed the race start, but luckily arrived just 2 minutes before the guns went off.
My strategy was to follow the 3:00 hour pace group and to see how I felt during the course of the race. I started the race well behind the pace pack because I was stuck in the back of the corral. The first few miles were very scenic as we traveled through central Paris on cobblestone streets. I didn’t want to go out too fast in order to catch up to the pace group so I took my time and gradually caught up to them at around mile 5. Once there, I noticed very quickly that this pace group leader was nothing like the one from last year at the Chicago Marathon. He had zero interaction with the runners and was running off to the side, almost disconnected from the group. In contrast, at the Chicago Marathon, the pace group leader was extremely motivating and enthusiastic, providing tips and words of encouragement the entire race.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing and the French are more reserved, but the fans on the sidelines weren’t that loud, enthusiastic or energetic. If I heard anything, it was the same thing over and over, “Allez, Allez!” I didn’t know what it meant at the time, but later learned it means “come on” or “hurry up.” It was so annoying because it was literally the only thing they would say. By the end of the race I could hardly take it anymore.
I was feeling pretty good through mile 14 and decided it was time to break from the pace group. First because the pace group leader was not doing a good job and second because someone smelled really bad in the group and I wanted to get away Haha. I only increased my pace 5-10 seconds per mile, but it was enough to create some space and I never looked back.
The race course was very diverse and beautiful. The first third was mostly in the city, the second third was in the park and the last third was along the river with a final stretch in the city center. At one point I looked to my left and saw the Eiffel tower. It was a surreal moment.
They say the marathon is a 20 mile warm-up and a 6.2 mile race. My goal was to hit mile 20 feeling strong. In the back of my mind I kept worrying about “hitting the wall.” When this happens, your body runs out of glycogen and suddenly your legs feel like bricks. At that point there isn’t really much you can do and your race goals are in serious jeopardy. This happened to me at the Twin Cities Marathon and at the New York Marathon around miles 18-20. I hit the wall and my pace dropped quickly and significantly. I’ve since learned from those experiences and have adjusted my race preparation in several ways, such as incorporating more fasted workouts so that my body is more efficient at burning fat for fuel, as well as carb-loading more substantially in the days leading up to the race.
The last few miles of the marathon are always very painful. A marathon is over 55,000 steps, so you can imagine how all of that constant pounding on the knees and joints over several hours accumulates damage and inflammation. I’m usually pretty fortunate and do not get cramps, but this time I felt one in my right quadriceps begin to form around mile 24, which wasn’t too bad since it was at the end of the race. Next time I may want to up my sodium intake.
My pace dropped a little in the last few miles, but I was still going strong. I made it my goal not to slip any slower than 7:00/mile and I succeeded, as my slowest lap was 6:55/mile. Once I saw the crowds getting deeper I knew we were close and the last 1/4 mile was pure bliss. Click the image below to see detailed race statistics.