Why I Ran the Paris Half Marathon With My Husband

I Ran the Paris Half Marathon With My Husband

I was terrified but excited as we filed into our corral early the next morning. It was the slowest timed departure for obvious reasons, but you wouldn’t have known that from the other runners. March in Paris is chilly. There was a 30% chance of rain and many people sported the orange rain ponchos found in the swag bag—thankfully no one would need them that day. I can’t believe I’m here, running the Paris Half Marathon.

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Running the Paris Half Marathon

Part Deux

In Paris no doubt. Oh ooh sometimes, I get a good feeling by FloRida, was blaring through the speakers’ set up all over the Bois de Vincennes, a large park just outside Paris. Préparez-vous, prêts, partez! The starter pistol exploded, exciting the slow-moving millipede of sneaker-clad feet down the Route de la Pyramide. A kilometer later, the field had thinned out and we began to run. A little further down and the gutters were littered with a layer of discarded orange rain ponchos and other outer garments no longer needed.

The first 10 kilometers were filled with music on just about every corner. The beautiful wide boulevards were lined with spectators and street performers and the tempo was steady. I was really having fun, but I regretted running past the water station at km 5. I won’t do that again if only to take a sip or two.

The Hill

Then it happened, I turned the corner and was face to face with my worst enemy—a hill. I began the slow, tedious climb, step by step, and my ill-preparedness was evident. I dropped my head, my knees buckled and I began to walk.

From that point on, we were pretty much on my own. Every once in a while we’d see other runners on the course. Sometimes we’d pass them, sometimes they’d fade away. Seeing them was motivation to keep going and verification that we were heading in the right direction. But I would never catch up to the tail end of the millipede; alternating between walking and running to the end.

At km 15, we were instructed to stay on the pavement; the streets were re-opening to automobile traffic. We had missed the 3-hour cut-off. I had no idea we had just passed by the beautiful Place de la Bastille. At that point, I probably wouldn’t have seen the Eiffel Tower either.

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Where Are You Going?

We arrived at km 17 just as the race staff was he

aving the large black and white mile markers into the back of a non-descript black van. The water station was in shambles, no water to be seen anywhere. One of the staff dug deep into the cooler behind the tables and tossed us two water bottles when we stopped to consult the race map. It was 1 pm and the sidewalks were packed with lunchers, shoppers, and tourists.

The aroma of fresh bread tempted me. The air was full of curiosity for our misplaced marathon. We weaved in and out of the bustle of people—bibs visibly displayed—my confidence totally destroyed. I can’t accurately describe how happy I was at km 19. We had navigated the unmarked route back to the park. I also received a boost from the runners who had finished as they left the finish line ahead. I tried to funnel their energy into my feet. Two kilometers to go and I would be able to stop this farce.

Are We There Yet?

Less than 1 km and I could see the balloon-clad finish line swaying in the light breeze. Steven ran backward, challenging me to finish strong. I picked up the pace even though every muscle from my neck to my ankles ached. All I had left was the heart and determination to finish what I started almost 13 miles ago.

It’s not a race, but a challenge of mind over body. I sucked it up and dug in deep—sprinting across the finish line as fast as I could. I expected to see Steven by my side when I crossed the finish line, but when I turned around he was standing behind me with a big smile across his face. “Good job, keep moving,” he said after giving me a hug. Some things will never change.

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What I Learned After Running the Marathon

After that first half marathon, I gained a greater appreciation, an admiration even, for people who can drown out all the voices, all the doubt, and all the fear, ignore the pain and run for the finish line. I’m not there…yet. It’s not enough to just want it, but that helps when you aren’t strong enough mentally to rely on your training. I wondered whether I could even finish—and now I know. I ran, jogged, and walked it; finishing in almost 4 hours from beginning to end. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fast.

Matter of fact, I’d find out later, due to the staggered starts, that the winner had finished and begun carbo-loading before I’d taken my first step. And when I show people my finisher’s medal; they have no idea I had to write to race officials to get them, since there was no one to greet us when we finally crossed the finish line.

So no, I didn’t run the whole thing. But it didn’t matter then and doesn’t matter now. We finished, and isn’t that really the important thing to remember?

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