What motivates someone to run 26 miles? That is a question that I asked myself repeatedly during the 31st running of the Marathon De Paris, on Sunday 15th April 2007. 35,000 of our closest friends waited nervously with Dervilla Darcy and I on the Champs-Elysees for the 8.45am start.
The race was very well organised with all the runners penned off according to their predicted times. The temperatures in Paris were unseasonably hot. It was something we were worried about since all our training had been done in wind, rain and even snow. My Friends and I were not to know that the temperature would hit 29c that day.
The race started on time and it only took Dervilla and I 8 and a half minutes to get to the start line. The first kilometre took us down the Champs-Elysees leaving the L’Arc De Triompe behind us. The first few kilometres are all about settling down. I waited to get to the first kilometre marker to see what pace we were.
The goal for me has always been to complete the marathon in sub 4 hours 30 minutes. I was even wearing a wrist band telling me what our time should be at the various kilometre markers to stay within my goal. We were well within target, even with minutes to spare at the 21 km’s (13 mile) mark, which we reached in 2 hours and 4 minutes.We took advantage of all the water hosing and at every water station we took two bottles of water, one to go over our heads the other to drink.
The Parisians turned out in their thousands along the route. So many music bands came out to play for the runners on route, from Jazz, Samba, Belly dancers and even a band that announces the start of a Fox Hunt! The constant shouts of ‘Allez Allez’ from the French spectators all helped to urge us on.
The next big milestone for me was the 20 mile mark I wanted us to be hitting this at 3 hours 20 minutes. At that point we were still on target so I knew that if Dervilla and I could just keep our heads in the last 6 miles we could do it. The marathon has been said to be a long run of 20 miles and a marathon of 6 miles. I knew from previous marathons that this was true.
We were tiring now and the heat was claiming us of many of our fellow runners. The ambulance siren was a new sound to interrupt our thoughts. I learnt later that 7,500 runners were treated for heat exhaustion.
The mental battle was on. We kept ‘tipping off’ the km markers and then at 40 km I look at my watch, we had 14 minutes to cover the last 2.2 km, this is the closest I had come to my 4.30 goal in six marathons. I was going to fight for this one. I passed the 40km water station without stopping I thought what use was it to us now.
When we came within sight of the line we were spurred on, I stayed on the outside of the crowd, no one was going to get in my way. I finally stopped the watch at 4 hours 28 minutes and 17 seconds and the tears streamed down my face.
So what motivates me to run 26 miles, well its that moment when I stopped the watch, I felt I could do anything…….