I prepared myself for this race for several months. It had been two years since I jogged on a regular basis. I began my preparation in September 2014 by jogging short distances, 4-6km, 3x or 4x per week. After two months, I began to increase the distance I’d jog to 10–15km, once a week.
The Day Before: Paperwork, Bib & Lunch
I had to pick up my bib the previous day. Being that it was my first race, it felt a bit strange to be there with all the other competitors, talking to them about the race. Afterwards, I went back home, packed my backpack and prepared my lunch for the next day, pasta bolognese.
An Hour Before the Race: Butterflies While Waiting
It was D-Day! I got to the starting line at Chateau de Vincennes and all the racers were getting divided into groups before the race. Unfortunately I was stuck in the “2h” group, the bigger group… Time seemed to have slowed down since that last hour felt like a lifetime.
3, 2, 1. Go!
It was time to run! Lots of people, lots of different strides and lots of different rhythms… It was hard to tell if I was running well or not since Ifelt completely lost. First goal of the day was to avoid the other runners. Other than the excess of runners, everything was good. It was a beautiful day to run and there were so many Parisians that came out to cheer everyone on.
5km: Finding My Rhythm
Step by step, I began to find my rhythm. The first 5km passed by quickly. There was an experienced couple in front of me who were running 5:20min/km, so I decided to pick up the pace and follow them. Things were looking good, I was already at Bastille by the time I decided to refuel on water and eat half a banana.
10km: Things Begin to Get Serious
The first 10km were behind me, I was in front of the Hotel de Ville and the landscape was beautiful — it ran along the Seine. I began to feel the temperature rising but I brushed it off and kept up my pace at 5:18min/km. The couple was still going and I continued to follow them. Some people dropped out of the race and others began to walk.
15km: The Final Straight
It was 12:30 in the afternoon and the heat started to get intense. I came prepared for the winter but the sun decided to come out as if it were already Spring. I decided to refuel my energy at the 16km mark. This time I grabbed two bottles of water as I saw the couple accelerate in front of me. I looked down at my watch and saw that I was still running at 5:18min/km. I decided to maintain my pace till then end and pick up the pace at the final 1–2km if the intolerable heat passed.
17km: Fighting An Uphill Battle
At the 17km mark, the race began to go uphill and the temperature continued to rise. I wasn’t expecting the slope but I maintained the pace. Bad move. The heat was finally beginning to get to me and the slope was going to last until the end of 19km.
After 18km, it was hard to maintain 5:30min/ km. I looked around and saw that a lot of people had given up, so I decided to slow down and run at 5:50–6:00min/km until the end of the race. My legs began to tremble and give up on me by the 19km mark but I kept pushing for the last 2km.
21km: The Last Push!
I had just made the final turn and could see the finish line. I looked at my watch, which said 1h53min, and knew that instant that I would accomplish my goal. I began to pick up my pace, once again, and started running at 5:00min/km those last meters. People were cheering us on, pushing us to the max so we could finish. I accelerated once again, pushing myself to the max, and crossed the finish line. I had done it. I completed my first half marathon in 1h 55min 24sec and averaged at 5:28min/km.
Once I crossed the finish line, I decided to drink water, eat fruits and stretch myself. I didn’t really feel pain due to the amount of adrenaline going through my body. I wasn’t really exhausted either, although I did feel like my body was lacking in energy.
Once I got home, I started to cramp up so I decided to dip my legs in ice water for 20 min and stretch some more. The next day, I felt some back muscle pain, but that was pretty much it.
Despite completing my first half marathon, I knew that there were many things I could’ve done better. Some things to remember next time:
- Estimate my time better: it’s important to surround yourself with a group of experienced runners. Since I was placed in the “2h” group, there were a lot of inexperienced runners who were looking to finish the race in 2h10min, but in reality had no idea how much time they needed. Next time I give the estimated time I’ll take to finish the marathon, I’ll say 1h50min rather than 1h55min.
- Dress smarter: the biggest problem that I faced that day was being was being incredibly hot. When I left my house, it was cold, so I decided to run in winter gear with nothing else to change in. I saw many runners with several different types of layers and realized half-way through the race that it’s important to manage my body temperature.
- Know the race: before I began the route, I didn’t know the route, I thought it wasn’t important. If I had gotten familiar with the route, I would have known that I was going to run uphill at the end of the race. Next time, I will bike through the route a day or two beforehand, in order to familiarize myself with the race.
Next objective: First Triathlon (short distance: 1.5/40/10)