Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Paris Marathon 2011

After all the training through the miserable winter months early this year, I finally completed my ninth marathon in Paris on 10 April 2011, and achieved a new personal best time of 3hr 45mins.

Completed the 9th marathon

The Paris Marathon cost me €90 - €80 for the entry fee and €10 to insure the fee in case I didn't turn up.

This is the first marathon I ran outside of the UK. Along with the list of firsts in this race were:
1. First time running in compression tights
2. Using a GPS watch
3. Peed nonchalantly at a Parisian listed building
4. Witnessed a female runner pulling her running tights down and peed in front of me!

Pardon me for the disgusting fixation on peeing but Paris has always started as a city of filth. People peed on the streets and walkways nonchalantly. It was a way of life just as Malaysians had to use "lah" in their conversations. But Paris is rid of that image today, in fact it is the most romantic city in the world. The marathon peeing experience certainly brought back a surreal moment in time of what I read about the old Paris. In fact the vespasiennes, basically public urinals, were installed to stop Parisians from relieving themselves as and when they liked and preventing buckets of faeces flying down from flat balconies.

At the running expo before race day, I collected my running pack with CP, Florence and Noris. The weather at the time provided a good indication of the climate we would be running in the next morning. It was dry and hot.

On race day, the morning temperature was mild but quickly soared to 28 deg C in the middle of the race. Malaysian friends might think I am overplaying the weather issue but considering I have been training through the winter months and having gotten accustomed to wearing winter gear, this was certainly an exceptional circumstance. I had to make last minute adjustments. This means wearing thinner clothing and peeling off some of the layers I have been training on. This automatically increased the risk of injury from potential chaffing, just like wearing a new pair of shoes.

Paris still has a little bit more to catch up with London in terms of "fun" and "vibe" but apart from that, the quality of the race was superb. It was on par with London, and in some areas better than London. In Paris for example, runners are offered raisins, oranges, banana, sugar cubes and sweets at every refreshment station. This was not the case in London.

Maybe I worry too much about the smaller things. The bigger things like the running expo and crowd support did make London the clear winner. Other things like the finishing t-shirt and medal are better off in Paris than in London. I was told, "€90 for Paris, £32 for London, what do you expect?". Sure, but don't forget London gets almost everything subsidised from the sponsors. But even if they weren't, I'd rather pay a little more, even double that, to get a nicer medal, t-shirt and a guaranteed place.
The medal

Having ran London twice, I found the Paris route more appealing. It's greener, more scenic and wider. But Paris wasn't always like that. Like I mentioned earlier, it was once the filthiest city in the late 18th century, River Seine, the main river through the heart of Paris, was a cesspit. The route also brought me to parts of Paris I wouldn't have found or ventured. For example, the route introduced me to the greener side of Paris such as the Vincennes to the east and Boulogne to the west of the Champs-Elysees marathon loop. Though my fifth trip to Paris, the marathon surprised me of the many places I have yet to cover.

The reason I spoke of the east-west divide was because Paris was quite a "$h1Th0L3" (pardon my language) in the 18th century. The city was absolutely trashed by abattoirs and sewage from Chatelet into the Seine. More than 20,000 Parisians die every year as a result of river pollution and the average lifespan of Parisians at the time was 23 years old. That's almost like life's greatest swindle - an antithesis to scoring 5As in Sixth Form and then looking forward to dying! That is why I was particularly drawn to seeing the distinction between the east and west. The poisonous parts were concentrated at the east of the river and if you've lived in the west, you're probably slightly better off.

Back to modern times, it's amazing taking control of the roads for a day without the fear of being run over by the chaotic traffic system at the Champs-Elysees on normal days. That is the why event management team has done a great job in putting the race together.

Welcoming finish by CP, Florence and Noris

Special thanks to CP and family for hosting my stay in Paris. They have been extremely kind with their hospitality as always - from the privilege to choose the bed to sleep to the minute details of carbo-loading for dinner the night before and breakfast in the morning. Knowing that I like raclette, CP also specially hosted a raclette lunch for post-marathon meal with his family. What more can I say but a million thanks!

CP hosted a sumptuous raclette post-marathon lunch

Also thanks to Noris for flying to Paris just to support me and the cohort of Malaysians who ran the marathon.
Malaysian supporters and runners

The cohort of 2011 Paris Marathon runners

To Fiona, Khoi, Jacqueline, Vinita, Lena, Lau, Kong Lim and Candy; it's been amazing training with you guys! Training for the marathon was so much easier this time as compared to the yesteryears in Cambridge when I was either a “freak” to many or I’m “too “slow” to the other freaks. So it's good to know I've found the right freaks to train with finally!;)

To Azran Osman Rani, CEO of Air Asia X, nice to have kept in touch with you and know that I beat you in the race!