Well done to John Tollitt, Vicki Deritis & Tony Carter for flying the TBH flag high & proud.
First report comes from John Tollitt
There can’t be many better cities to spend a long early Spring weekend, than Paris. Throw in a half marathon and the job, as they say, is a good ‘un.Vicki and I let the train take the strain and travelled via Eurostar on the Thursday, giving us a bit of time to take in the sights before Sunday’s race. An early Friday morning jog under the Eiffel Tower and along the Seine set the tone for the weekend and built up an appetite for petit dejeuner. Friday was spent visiting a couple of the numerous museums, Paris has to offer, before the wonders of modern communications technology, enabled us to rendezvous with TBH’s own Euro Star; Tony ‘Get’ Carter, fresh from an 18 hour train journey from Austria where he is living. TC was able to brief us on the course, having ran it a few years ago, over a meal in a cafe overlooking the busy Place de Nations.
Saturday morning saw us all meet up again for the obligatory ‘TBH vests in exotic locations’ photoshoot at the Champs de Mars, with the Eiffel Tower just about managing to to remain out of the cloud that was blanketing Paris. Then it was off to the Bois de Vincennes, clutching our medical certificates (required for French races) to register for tomorrow’s race and pick up our numbers and rather fetching t-shirts and goodie bag. The race starts and finishes besides the Chateau de Vincennes to the south east of central Paris. The route loops through the Bois de Vincennes, a large park, before crossing the Peripherique and making its way on an undulating course into central Paris before turning back and finishing in the park. With formalities completed the rest of Saturday was spent visiting Sacre Couer and the rather seedy area around the Moulin Rouge, with one eye being kept on the brooding Parisian skies, before turning in for an early night.
Sunday morning was thankfully dry, although a touch nippy, and the excellent Paris Metro system got us to the start in plenty of time for the 10.00am start. I was in a start pen based on an estimated finish of 1 hour 35 mins, although was hoping to get something nearer 1 hour 30. The organisers had helpfully provided wristbands with split times at various points to keep you within your target time. My game plan was to try and keep slightly under the 1.35 times. The first 7km of the race was within the wooded Bois de Vincennes and I was feeling good and passing runners all the way. Leaving the park and passing through a semi industrial area in the Bercy district, I just concentrated on trying to keep a steady pace. However at the 10km marker, a glance at my watch showed 40.10, a PB for me! I started to worry that I had gone off too fast. I tried to moderate my pace but the undulating nature of the terrain meant I was digging in on the climbs and accelerating down some of the downhill sections making a steady pace difficult. By now some of the well known Parisian landmarks were coming into view and the numbers of spectators were increasing.
The course took us through the Place de Bastille, scene of many a beheading and on towards Notre Dame at 13km, where we turned back on ourselves for the homeward section. Passing back through the cobbled Pl. de Bastille I was still feeling good as the km. signs seemed to come by with welcoming regularity. At the 16km sign, I thought to myself, ‘just a parkrun to go’ and could see a nice long straight downhill stretch ahead of me. I felt confident that I could keep going and even if I slowed down a bit I would still post a decent time. It was a great feeling being able to finish strongly and relaxed and knowing I was going to beat my previous PB of 1.28..47. I even managed a bit of a sprint to the finish which I crossed in 1.25.35.
Arrangements at the finish were brilliantly organised with, first a poncho, then a medal then drinks and refreshments being handed out to all finishers. I soon met up with Carter the Unstoppable Running Machine who had also got a PB and finished right up there with some of the elite runners. Having picked up my bag and put on some warm gear, I saw Vicki coming into the finish area earlier than I expected in another PB, completing the TBH triumphant trio.
All in all I would highly recommend this run to anyone who fancies combining a weekend break with a spot of running as it is very well organised and represents great value for money (the earlier you apply, the cheaper it is).
The next report comes from Vicki Deritis
Toilets. More than 20 minutes after the race had started and I was still waiting in the queue for them. The TBH boys had long since set off and would have, by then, been a good way through their speedy jaunts across S.E. Paris. Me, I was standing crossing my legs, willing the people in front of me to get a move on whilst keeping an eye on the start line, hoping not to see a Parisian bin lorry roll over it. If I did, then I really would have been in the clarts timewise. This method of race preparation doesn’t get a mention in the manual. I think that it just banged on about warming up, focussing and making sure you allow plenty of time. Fortunately, and this is one of the few benefits that come with being a slower runner, if you find yourself being so that you gotta go, then the chances are that your starting group will still not have edged it’s way to the start line by the time you have done the business.
There were about 30,000 runners in the Paris Half and, apres toilette, I joined the back of the last group. I discovered immediately that the party going on there prevented me from running at anything other than very slow. It turned out that this was a good thing, as in previous half marathons, I had gone off like a train (ok a fairly slowish one, but it’s all relative) only to suffer in the second half and seemingly have anyone who wasn’t already in front of me overtake me. Anyway, back to the Tail End Charlie party. There were people running backwards and people not running at all. People suddenly veering off in front of you at 90 degrees to go and chat with their mates in the crowd, people stopping to take photos and people realising that they had made an injudicious choice of music on their i- Pod and it had to be altered right here,right now, standing in the middle of the road. There was also much shouting,shrieking and laughing. The large Brazilian contingent seemed to be having an especially good time.What all of this meant for me was that the first mile was run much more slowly than seemed natural, but it did mean that once the crowd thinned out a bit after 2 or 3 miles I was able to run at a relaxed pace and one I thought that I could comfortably keep up.
For the first 4 miles we ran through the Bois De Vincennes which is a large wooded park area to the the S E of central Paris.After crossing the Peripherique (think Gallic M25), we ran into the 12th arrondissement of the city. It was about this stage that I became pre-occupied with the fact that I was overdressed and had become too hot. It had been quite chilly in the morning and I had started running in my vest on top of a long sleeved Helly Hansen. I know that slower runners sometimes tend to wear all of their clothes at once, but looking round at the start most people seemed to be avoiding showing too much flesh. Apart from the fast runners (identifiable from their low start numbers) the vest and shorts combo was something of a rarity. So having taken all of this on board, I had thought my wardrobe choice an appropriate one. Wrong! Not wanting to stop to re-arrange clothing, I then set about the task of a strip on the hoof. First the vest came off and then the Helly. The engineering superstructure that is the Sports Panache bra was given it’s first public airing which must have been a treat for everyone. The vest then went back on and the Helly was tied round my middle. I carried on running at under 10 minute mile pace during the costume change and was, frankly, pretty pleased with myself.
From then on in, my race was fairly uneventful. I settled comfortably into my pace and just kept going. The 10k marker came and went. I thought that I had gone through that in a non too shabby time, and so, afterwards, I was pleased to learn that, that had been the fastest 10k that I had ever run (1.02.16). Halfway came just before the Place de la Bastille with it’s pavoirs or cobbles. I felt fine and realised about then that if I could carry on at that pace I would better my previous best effort which had been on the pancake flat Amstardam course last October. The route then took us briefly beside the Seine and up as far as Notre Dame before we turned to head back to the Bois de Vincennes. I carried on concentrating to the extent that I later discovered that we had been running down streets in the Marais that we had walked down a day or two earlier but I had just not noticed. Whenever I looked at my watch, I expected it to show the usual backward slide had started but it never did. In fact, an altogether peculiar thing happened. I was actually passing people. In fact, I was passing quite a lot of people. They were actually running,but bizarrely, I was running faster. This, I decided, was a good thing and was to be encouraged.
We ran back into the park for the last 2 miles. The finish was a gentle descent which was a good way to finish, although it seemed to go on for a bit longer than I had expected. Afterwards my Garmin showed 13.22 miles at the finish. I could lie and say that this meant that I mistimed my devastating sprint finish but actually I was just looking forward to being able to stop. When I did cross the line I was delighted to see that my time was 2.13.31. That was more than 2 minutes faster than Amsterdam on a course, which although it could not be described as hilly, had several definite inclines. My 2 previous fastest half-marathons had both been at Amsterdam, and if they are taken out of the picture, then this was between 10-15 minutes faster than what I would previously have expected to run 13.1 miles in. I also realised that I am capable of going faster and that 2.10 as a next target would be wholly achievable, whereas 6 months ago, it would have been utterly laughable.
John was waiting for me at the finish and knew I must have done ok as he didn’t get the usual mouthful of abuse that is fired his way when I have been left feeling rubbish after a run. Tony had probably already left the country by the time that I had finished, but it was good to know that all three of us had enjoyed the day and had all, in our own ways, ran races that we were very pleased with.
Our 3rd report comes from Tony ‘TC’ Carter
For some of you, you may have known that this is the second time that I’ve taken part in the Sémi Marathon de Paris after doing it two years ago, and since then Paris has remained the place where I ran my PB for the half, with an episode in Salzburg in May 2010 where I was only six seconds slower after what was an intense battle going for a PB. This year my main target is Vienna to beat my time I did in 2010 after sharply going backwards from the 16km point, and my plan for Paris was to see how my progress was doing, but in training within days of the race I had a good feeling I could break my half marathon PB at Paris once more.
I arrived at Paris a couple of days before the race, and I was able to meet up with John Tollitt and Vicki Deritis who were also doing the half marathon, as well as being able to practice whatever French I remembered and then finding out that my French was not at top quality after spending so much time in Austria. Hopefully that was not a waste of £30 grand.
The day of the race quickly came and pre-race nerves were setting in (yes, even us fast lads do get nervous). The legs felt heavy and felt a time was out of the question, but this was a feeling similar to the one I had at Venice. After warming up and last minute preps I got into my pen with 10 minutes to go.
The start was given at 10 at the Bois de Vincennes in a cool, overcast Paris. The course was exactly the same as last time but the organisers had their way of things and so we went the other way round. Not to worry though. The start was hectic with the usual slower runners trying to mix in with the fast lads and lasses but cleared after the 2km mark and I went on to run at splits consistently between 5.20 to 5.27 minute miles while passing many runners on the way.
We ran out of the Bois de Vincennes and towards Paris, with my pace being quick but steady throughout, passing 5km in under 17 minutes. The course undulated between the 7th and 9th Kilometres, with the steepest part of the course going up to and after the 8th kilometre. The 10th kilometre approached, and I saw my time was around my best for the distance, perhaps a bit quicker (I will clarify this hopefully).
The race went around Bastille and down to the Seine where we had our eyes on Notre Dame. At this point I knew there were 10 kilometres left and told myself to keep going as consistently as possible, knowing a PB was looking very possible. The course went around the Hôtel de Ville (Mayor’s office) and back towards Bastille. I saw the 16th kilometre coming up and was waiting for the GPS watch to beep at 10 miles to give me a time, and I was pleased to see the time was 50 seconds quicker than my last 10 mile PB.
However, disaster struck soon after when I felt a sharp stich coming on forcing me to breathe harder. I knew I had to slow right down and sort it out there and then before continuing, and worse yet the course was climbing slightly back up to the Bois de Vincennes. I saw on my watch my pace had reached 6 minutes average, but I was able to pull through and managed to get it down for the 11th mile and I was back on the pace, all the while being cheered on by the crowd shouting things like “allez Tony!” and “bravo Tony!” (names are printed on the number).
Coming into the final kilometres I was tiring and looked at my time, thinking it was going to be another close one. At 19kms I knew I had to pick the pace up and gave it a good shot, but nothing got going until the 20th, where I thought it was going to be close, but upon reflection I had the PB in the bag and only something serious would have stopped me, not even Mika’s “Relax Take It Easy” over the sound system slowed me down (although the idea of taking it easy sounded tempting at the time, I was thinking “as if” in the final stretch).
Crossing the line was extremely satisfying, and I crossed the line unofficially in 1 hour 11 minutes and 42 seconds, a new PB by over 30 seconds and the second time I got a PB in Paris. I wasn’t too sure where I finished at the time as I heard I was around 25th place according to someone in the crowd. The bigger surprise came after coughing up my guts was that the course was actually 13.2 miles and not the official 13.1 mile distance, so my PB could have even been anything like 20 seconds quicker or even more. Nevertheless to beat your PB over the official distance is something in itself, and at least it was over the same course (and come to think about it, if it was the same distanced course as it was in 2010 and if Salzburg was the official distance, does that mean that I actually did beat my PB over the official distance at Salzburg anyway?)
I also managed to meet John at the end before going to get my train back to Austria, where he said he had managed to beat his PB by over a massive 5 minutes. I was not around when Vicki finished but when I heard she did get a PB, that made a great day for TBH an even better one in France. It was a proud day for all of us to fly the flag in Paris, and I will write a report for my next half marathon in Bratislava next month.
Average time: 5 minutes 26 seconds