So having established that not training is the order of the day I have to tell you about an amusing diary error that worked out rather well this year. Way back last November or thereabouts I got an invitation to enter the Paris marathon. I paid the entry fee and scribbled down something in my diary. Then in February I saw an ad for the Ecotrail de Paris (ETP, an 80k run with 1500m vertical), checked against the diary and saw that they were a month apart. Or so I thought. As the emails from the event organizers started coming in I noticed that I had the wrong date for the marathon. They weren’t a month apart but a week apart. The Ecotrail on the 31st March and the marathon on the 6th April. Oops. I decided to do the Ecotrail and see how I felt afterwards. To cut a long, an 80km long, story short, I did the ETP in 12hrs 08 minutes (well inside the 13hours limit). This is a really good run. About 20k on the flat. 50K of non stop up and down and then 10k on the flat – running along the Seine river in Paris to finish up at the Trocadero in front of the Eiffel tower. Very memorable. Energy wise I had a fantastic race with some oomph left at the end to keep up a 7kph-ish tempo for the last few k. Footwise things were not so good. One toenail has since gone and there was copious blistering. But the most uncomfortable part of me was my knees. These really take a beating going downhill and I was having considerable trouble here, reduced to some embarrassing hobbling on occasions. I was pleased therefore with my perf over the flat at the race end. But I was also concerned that I might have done some damage. After all us oldports are constantly up against the sedentary lobby ‘you’ll wear yourself out’ and so on. After my 80k I was beginning to think they might have a point. The next week I was covering a conference so there was a reasonable amount of walking around (not too much) and certainly no running. And little by little I thought that maybe I would be OK for the marathon after all. I was also greatly helped by a chance conversation at the conference (thanks Tracey) where I was asked if I wore shoes that were a size too big for me. Now you should know that I am a Yorkshireman and that there is a saying, ‘you can always tell a Yorkshireman but you cannot tell’im much.’ I indeed was dismissive of this idea at first. I mean I have always run with a larger size of shoes than my town shoes. But I have also had blister and toenail ‘issues’ especially racing. I was also feeling unfriendly to my ETP trail running shoes and decided to go for broke with a new pair for the marathon. I know that they say that you should never run a long race in new shoes, but while I think this is probably true for a less well-run runner, after 35 years of regular running I find that you can change shoes with minimal running-in requirements. So I bought my new pair, one EU size larger, and just to make sure that the knees were not totally shot, went out for a 5k trot (with the dog who was getting a bit pissed off with the lack of action by then) and found that the shoes were great and that the knees did not seem too bad either. So all systems were go for the second big event of the week (well nearly). Although I did not run my fastest marathon of recent years, I did run one of my best in the sense of a nice even pace. In fact I got around to about km 38 with a fairly linear decline in speed, from 11kpm to around 7.5 (check). Then I did have some recurrence of the knee problem and was reduced to a couple of km of semi hobbling and struggling to put in a trot or two. Managed to get across the finishing line and very well pleased with my time of 4:32.
The Paris marathon is a great course and is getting better supporting crowds and entertainment – in the way of drumming bands, boomer rock and rollers, hunting horners in full regalia and curiously dressed gentlemen miming to Barbara Streisand.