Cobbles & Red Wine - Sarah’s Paris Marathon Plan: Sub 3:35



  • **** Paris Marathon Race Report  ***

    Goal sub 3:35 - a Boston Qualifying Time


    (As previously pics not working at RW so pics here: (have left brackets in this post so you know which pics go where!)


    Today was the day. The alarm went off at 5.30am after what felt like an hour’s sleep. But today it wasn’t a nuisance ... it was a call that something amazing was going to happen today. After 16 weeks training, today was the day. All the midnight runs, the miles in the snow, the times I’d had to climb into my running gear when I’d wanted to climb into bed instead. Today was my reward for all of those miles.


    I’d had some new running bands printed to go with my others that were specially for France


    (pic running bands)


    We were all meeting downstairs at 7.30am and we were getting taxis to the Asics area near the finish line. It was such a treat being in the warm in the Asics lounge at the start rather than shivering in the cold. AND we had our own loo. We decided we had finally made it. This may be the pinnacle of our running careers. Our very own portaloo. Get us!


    (pic all faff at start)


    We left a bit later than we should have as once we left that was it. We were on our way. I started to leave then realised under my pre-race jacket, bin bag and poncho, I didn’t have my race number on. Face palm. Undressed again, pinned number on, dressed again. Sigh.


    (me at start line)


    We started walking to the start area in our white matching ponchos, surrounded by 40,000 other runners all dressed in identical ponchos. We looked like we were on our way to sort out a crime scene all dressed in white, wipe-clean outfits. Alex went on ahead as he had a bit further to go to get to his start pen near the front. We passed the baggage area and the Arc de Triomphe and stopped and got a picture of all 3 of us. I would like to reassure everyone looking at the picture that it does in fact say JOGGING on the front, not DOGGING which is what someone commented later ...


    (pic sf ady mel arc de triomphe)


    We all started walking in a civilised way to the pens, Mel got to her time pen and disappeared in amongst the crush of runners. Ady and I kept walking and all of a sudden someone started running, then the whole crowd was running. I don’t think there was any rush but it was contagious! We were all in our running gear, about to run for miles and we just wanted to get out there and RUN!


    (pic walking towards start)


    We got to the pen entrance ... and nothing. There seemed to be no way in. The entire pen was jammed solid and no-one was moving. Nothing else for it ... Ady and I pushed and managed to move up the right hand side before we got stuck behind piles of discarded clothes and ponchos. The entire side of the pen was piled high with these. I was worried that it might be a bit of a trip hazard when we started moving but Ady was cool as a cucumber and said we’d be fine. He was right. A happy voice behind us and a lady introduced herself – RacingJules as I later found out!


    We started shuffling forward and the start line came into view ... and through! We were off! The surface flying beneath our feet as the road opened out and the crush became less ... briefly! Then back into a crush of people and past supporters lining the sides of the road. Passed a sign being brandished which stated:  “Finishing is your only f*cking option.” Nope. Not finishing. Finishing SUB 3:30, but I appreciate the sentiment!

  • It was a very crowded course, already in about mile 3 I was passing people doing about a 10 minute mile. Either they’d got into the wrong pen, or they were being VERY optimistic about their negative split. This continued the whole way around the course and it seemed as though people had either no idea of their finish times or had assumed that the pen times were optional and had just aimed for the front.


    Ady and I planned to run together as our finish times would be very close as we’d both trained for around 3:30. I’d assured Marathon Coach Steve that I would be sticking with 7:55 – 8 min/miles the whole way, but Ady was aiming a bit quicker and my Garmin was showing 7:45 min/miles which I was a bit concerned about this early on. However, with my pre-race nerves I’d forgotten to programme it for marathon so ended up doing this on the run which might have had something to do with it!


    Due to the crowds, I lost Ady around mile 4 but he reappeared just in front of me at around mile 10. He was still going strong so ran with him for a while. Again our Garmins seemed to be showing different times. Mine was showing we were running at about 8:05 min/mile and while I liked having company, I didn’t dare risk it so sped up slightly to bring it back into my time range.


    I missed out the first water station. The weather was beautiful with clear blue skies and bright sunshine, but I had run most of my longer training runs without water and knew I was already well-hydrated. The water stations were all mayhem. Although there were clear signs showing where they were, runners were cutting across others and tripping people up and the lids of the bottles hitting the road sounded like dominoes falling. There were plastic bottles and orange peel all over the road and I heard a runner go down behind me. 


    I’d heard people say that this route wasn’t well supported but I found it brilliant! People were ringing cowbells and shouting “Allez, allez”. Until about mile 6, I didn’t realise this and misheard it. I thought there must have been a really popular chap called Alex just behind me.


    People saw my name on my T-shirt and shouted “Go Sarah!” and “Allez Sarah!” It was fantastic! Runners World had printed some pretty salmon pink vest tops for me and Mel. The front had our names on and ‘Asics Target 26.2’ and the back had ‘Follow Me’ ‘’ .  A French chap overtook me and shouted back “Ha ha! Now YOU’RE following me.” I smiled back at him and thought “I’ll see YOU at mile 20...!”


    The en-route entertainment was also brilliant. There were bands and drummers frequently and it really made the atmosphere! I had previously thought marathons were meant to be hard work from beginning to end, but the enthusiasm of the bands and drummers was infectious and I wasn’t the only runner having a quick dance along while running! There were Firemen lining the streets with their firetrucks and at one point a hose arced water across the road cooling down the runners. I was hot but decided that hot was better than blisters and avoided it.


    Marathon Coach Steve had told me that the marathon was 2 runs. A 20 mile warmup run and a 6 mile race. I’d heard this before, but when Steve said it, it had really struck home. It really helped as it gave me a countdown. At the halfway point, instead of ‘only’ being halfway, I had 7 miles left to enjoy the trot before I could really let go and get the speed up a bit. I kept thinking like this. The speed was easily maintainable and it really was a comfortable speed.

  • I had all of these people running with me – all of whom also loved running and I would get a big medal at the end of THIS long run! What wasn’t there not to like?


    My only real potential problem was a toilet stop. I had needed a wee from the beginning, but while there were plenty of urinals at the start taking care of the chaps, there didn’t seem to be any portaloos ... or any time to find any. My Garmin was on average pace per mile and distance, so if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to work out whether I would be on for my time. Right. Think positive. I’d once been stuck on the M1 for 7 hours needing a wee. This wasn’t as long as that and I didn’t have to go to work at the end of this. Positive thoughts. My evil conscience reminded me I wasn’t running on the M1, I was sitting down in the car but I ignored it. And sure enough by about mile 10 I’d forgotten all about it.


    I knew that this was a truly International marathon and about 5,000 of the 40,000 runners were Brits. It was lovely seeing the different club vests and the familiar charities. I saw a chap running for the Dorset Doddlers and we had a brief chat (he lived about 15 mins from where I’d grown up!), Eynsham AC, Reading Roadrunners and a Bristol club vest.


    When I got to Mile 20, I decided it was time to up the speed. I’m not very good at running the same speed for a long time – treadmills are my idea of HELL – and it was nice to be able to change the speed a bit. I also knew that this was the 2nd part of the run and as soon as I entered the woods – Bois de Boulogne - at mile 21.5 I was on the home stretch. The woods were beautiful and although the support wasn’t as much here, it was lovely to run under the trees. I also found the route mostly downhill which is always a nice treat when you’re running home.


    I ran out of water at about mile 22 but didn’t like to throw the bottle away and I carried it as comfort almost to the finish line. I find us runners can be a superstitious lot, this bottle was empty but what if I got thirsty? I wouldn’t have an (empty) bottle to carry! It really did make sense at the time.


    Coming up out of the woods, I’d passed the 25 mile marker and knew I was nearly there. Cyclists had been riding up the pavements, ringing their bicycle bells, ringing us home but this was the toughest mile.  I was looking out for the Arc de Triomphe as I knew the finish was near this but I couldn’t see it through the heat haze. I decided to count. By the time I reached 100, I’d be able to see the finish.


    98,99,100 ... Arc de Triomphe? No. Bugger. 200 then ....

    198, 199, 200 ... Arc de Triomphe? No. Bugger. 300 then ....


    I got to nearly 350 before I saw the finish. It was very low so although I’d been reasonably close I hadn’t seen it ... and the Arc de Triomphe was nearly a mile behind it. OK. I’m probably not the best person to ask for directions.


    Crossed the finish line. The lady beside me burst into tears. It just felt surreal. After all of this build up, all of the training, 557.2 miles run and 117 hours of training ... this was it. I had crossed the finish line.


    A package was thrust into my arms containing a blue plastic poncho and an electric green finishers T-shirt. I walked forward a few steps and a rotund and enthusiastic French chap placed a medal around my neck and then kissed me on both cheeks and congratulated me. A wonderful French finish to a wonderful French marathon. 


    (pic me at finish line)

  • I had no idea of my time as I’d had to restart my Garmin and the timer on the finish gantry wasn’t working. The tracking app hadn’t updated my time so it was all a bit of a mystery. I decided to get back to the Asics area and sort it all out there. The Asics area was next to the start line, right? I started walking towards the Arc de Triomphe. Luckily before I got there I got a “where are you?” phone call. Yep. I was walking the wrong way. Asics was next to the FINISH line. Nearly 2 miles later I was walking the right direction and the cramp that had threatened my arse had disappeared. See. There can be bonuses to having absolutely no sense of direction. You get to walk off cramp.


    All of a sudden, a vision in a blue poncho was calling my name! Richard Langton came over and introduced himself saying he’s been following the forum. It was a lovely surprise and he had done really well and enjoyed the course too.


    (pic blue ponchos)


    I got to the Asics area still wearing my blue poncho. Alex and Shady Ady were already there .. and I was being congratulated. My time had appeared on the tracking application – I was sub 3:30!


    ... in fact was 3:25:06 !!


    (pic found out marathon time) 


    Decided the only way to celebrate was on the roof of the Asics building with a very cold beer. We all headed up into the sunshine and watched the finishers pour over the finishing line. What now? There was no more training schedule ....


    (pic 1st beer)


    I would worry about that tomorrow. Tonight we celebrate. 

  • Garmin Info Here

    1. 7:51
    2. 7:46
    3. 7:51
    4. 7:56
    5. 7:54
    6. 8:01
    7. 7:51
    8. 7:51
    9. 7:51
    10. 7:47
    11. 7:48
    12. 7:45
    13. 7:48
    14. 7:48
    15. 7:43
    16. 7:45
    17. 7:18 (slightly wrong due to underpasses)
    18. 7:57 (slightly wrong due to underpasses)
    19. 7:48
    20. 7:32
    21. 7:43
    22. 7:46
    23. 7:31
    24. 7:13
    25. 7:27
    26. 7:15  
  • PC -PC - ✭✭✭

    The write up was worth the wait, especially the negative splits at dinner.

    A bit sad that this chapter is closed, I'll have to go back to stalking Cheryl Cole !

    Good Luck for 21st April 2014.

  • MalcsMalcs ✭✭✭

    Awesome write up Sarah. It was worth sacrificing a morning's work to read through itimage

    Love the 'DOGGING' ponchos reference image although given what you said about the crowds maybe 'DODGING' would have been more appropriate.

    I also like the empty bottle as a security blanket image

    Those are amazing splits. Your final 6 was so fast and ending on nearly 7mm pace too, wow!

    Well done once again.

  • Nice one Sarah, as Malcs says they were brilliant splits. image

    What did you do about in-race nutrition and hydration?  Did you follow a plan, and did you stick to it?

  • Afternoon Pc91

    Phew ...! Glad you enjoyed the post and I didn’t get too much stick for taking a while to pop it up. You can see why it took a little while to write now! image

    Paris is over ... but Boston training is just beginning ... image

  • Afternoon Malcs!

    Sorry ...! It was a bit of a novel – but it was such an awesome weekend and run that I just couldn’t fit it into a couple of paragraphs!!

    Yes – dodging definitely! I reckon I probably could have have been a couple of minutes quicker without the crowds – it really was VERY congested at points. Nice though – although I did take a couple of elbows to the shoulders and head! Not always fun being short!

    I’m so pleased that the splits are fairly even especially as my pacing was definitely something I’d had to work at in training. I was surprised that the 1st 10 miles were as even as they were as there were a lot of slow points where everyone got tightly squeezed around some of the corners.

    Can definitely recommend Paris marathon though. Amazing run in an amazing city!

  • Afternoon Tenjiso!

    Thanks! image Definitely a change to have some nice even splits for once!!

    Ruth McKean recommended I take gels every 3 miles which worked out perfectly in a race marked out in kilometres – I just had to look out for the multiples of 5. Even my marathon brain couldn’t mess that one up! ... Although I think km 15 and 30 were a little bit late.

    With regards to the water, I drank when I was thirsty but I carried a bottle with me from about the 2nd or 3rd water station and just took sips as and when I needed them. I think I had 2 or 3 of the small Vittel bottles throughout the marathon.  I don’t know whether that’s enough really, but on my longer training runs I just used gels and didn’t take water out with me.

  • Thanks Sarah.  That's similar to my gel plan, so hopefully I'm in the ball park image  I also drank very little water on training runs, though it looks like it's going to be a fair bit warmer this weekend.  

    Enjoy the feeling!  I'm now off to do more panicking... err... I mean packing.

  • Hi RRR, congrats on your race and those impressive splits!

    Did you really manage a gel every 3m?

    I've been practising taking 1 gel an hour on my LSR - thought that would be enough - am aiming for 4.30 in London - is it worth taking on more, do you think?
  • Fabulous race (and holiday) starting to feel very nervous.....its difficult to follow in your footsteps!
  • great report and great splits. it was worth the wait. Enjoy the rest.

  • Good luck Tenjiso!!

    Don't panic!! You'll be FAB!!!
  • Hi AnnieSophie!!

    Thank you very much!! Good luck for London!!

    It might depend on the type of gels you're using. I was using High 5 gels which were fab but you're supposed (according to the packet) to have 3 for every hour of exercise. That sounds a bit excessive to have 3 and I was a bit worried about having 1 every 3 miles but it worked perfectly. No tummy upsets or anything.

    There are people a LOT more experienced than me on here on fuelling and marathons but if your long runs have been successful on 1 gel and that's what you've practised with I personally would change it this late in the training.

    Good luck!! Hope it goes really smoothly and let me know how you get on!!
  • Hi Sarah O!!

    Hope you're admiring my dedication ... I'm writing this from Amsterdam!! image)

    You're going to be AMAZING in London! You've put all te hard work in and you're super-speedy so you'll be great! Just enjoy it! I found Paris comfortable and after all the running in the snow it was such a treat to run in the sunshine!!
  • Hi Steve Marathon Coach,

    Thank you!! I've had nearly a week off ... But am planning a run along the Amsterdam canals tomorrow!! image

    I may have also accidentally entered the New Forest marathon ...

    HI Runny,

    I really enjoyed your race report! I have just two weeks to go now and I am sensing the onset of taper madness. I still haven't decided what time to shoot for - between 3.39 and 3.45 somewhere. I have completed my training runs of 20 and over on 1-2 gels but would expect to use about 5 on  marathon day. I couldn't imagine taking one every 3 miles, but I might experiment tomorrow on my 15 miler with taking a couple closer than 5  miles apart - it might make a difference- or it might make me feel sick (I think the latter).

    I wonder how your recovery is going? It normally takes me a few weeks to return to normal. Have fun on your comeback run - hope you don't ache too much.

    Well done againimage


  • mamafoxmamafox ✭✭✭

    Enjoyed your report - impressive splits and a fab result! It sounds like you found the whole race very comfortable. What is your goal going to be for your next marathon?...and are you going to keep to the same sort of training schedule as you did for this one? Hope you are having a well earned rest, you deserve it! image

  • Hi Runnyrunrun, not posted before but have been checking on on your progress quite regularly. Have enjoyed reading them and then to discover you had smashed your target. Well done and enjoy your hols. I'm sure a few weeks ago, you mentioned you were doing Thunder Run-have I imagined it? I have 4 marathons before that event then I'm giving it a Solo go.image Is that what you are doing or are you in a team?

  • Heya.... Accidentally entered new forest marathon eh... Did u mean to enter another marathon? Or did u just put ur credit card details in the race entry form in ur sleep?image

    I guess it's forest trails? We used to camp there a lot when I was little- remember it being fairly flat and dirt tracks-is that accurate? Or will this be a 26 mile muddy XC?
  • ooo, how exciting Amsterdam and entering another marathon!

    Are you on your hen party (did I read right on FB)? Hope your having a good one.

    When is new forest marathon?

    After I ran VLM last year for about 4 months I said I would never run another must have felt great all the way around hope I do next week.
  • I'm soooo very, very impressed my little RRR! I just new you would do a cooker time!!! All the hard work really paid off and you deserved that great time doubly over. I always enjoy your humour and enjoyed reading your race report! I really like the fact that you could still chat and be your bubbly self to other runners whilst running AND still do a ma-hoosive PB at the same time. I hope we cross paths and pavements together again one day xox Carrot
  • Morning Buffy!

     I’m glad you liked the report!!

    Eeek – taper madness ... expect EVERYTHING to ache!! I got so paranoid during my taper! How did your 15 miler go and is that your last long run?

    I was planning on doing a reverse taper but I apart from the day after the marathon, I haven’t run at all. I’ve been super busy (Just got back from Amsterdam!! image ) and have used that as an excuse ... although have entered the New Forest marathon in September so have a month off before training starts for that!

    So are you aiming for about 8:15 – 8:30 min/miles?

  • Morning MamaFox!

    Thank you! I really enjoyed the whole race ... except for the last mile – but there was no way I was stopping then!! image I promise I enjoyed it ... even though looking at the photos, I look like a zombie in search oif brains ...! Although I guess if your race pics look good you’re probably not trying hard enough! image

    Definitely having a rest at the moment ... well being lazy anyway! image

  • Morning Brer Rabbit!

    Fab to hear from you! Thank you!! I’m still really pleased at the marathon result although of course already plotting how I can smash that on the next one ...! image

    Yes – good memory! image I’m doing Endure 24 which is similar in a team of 8 (laps are 5 miles) so it’s going to be like 5 races of 5 miles rather than an endurance event. And for Thunder Run 24, I’m doing it as a pair so should be interesting! It’ll be my first time doing an event like this so I’m going to do a few back-to-back long runs in training but it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out!

    Wow solo!! Lots of respect to you!! Have you done anything similar before? Have you got a mileage aim?

  • Morning Angela!

    Hee hee ... my fingers slipped on the keyboard and I accidentally entered the New Forest marathon!  Even entered the card details ... 1000 monkeys, 1000 years etc image

    I think there are 3 miles of it that is on trail and the rest is road but I don’t know a lot about it although Sam (SamMurphyRuns) and Mel (Asics first timer) were both saying how nice they’d heard it was. Apparently it’s a good PB course ... which was of interest of course! image I hope you’re right and it’s nice and flat!

    How’s the Halstead training going? No more trips or falls I hope!!


    Morning Sarah O!

    Yep .. Definitely got the post-marathon blues so decided the best antidote was another marathon ... although I can see this becoming a bit of a cycle!! image New Forest marathon is 22nd September.

    Amsterdam was fantastic! Managed to pack loads in ... but didn’t go for a run!! Packed my kit but just didn’t get a chance – every minute was accounted for!!

    Paris felt comfortable and I enjoyed every mile ... except for possibly the last one! image You said you had a horrible chest infection before VLM last year – no wonder you found it so tough. This year you’re fit and well and have trained loads!! image Are you really excited? How’s taper going?

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