I first realised I might have slightly overpacked when I had to for help to get the suitcase out of the car ... However I did feel that 3 sets of running gear, huge amounts of snacks ... and a 3 pack of crème eggs WERE essential items. Friday may have been a rest day but I was DEFINITELY counting getting the suitcase up and down the tube station stairs as cross training.
I arrived at St Pancras ... 2 hours early. I was so worried about being late that I was now ridiculously early. But it seemed a good excuse for an early lunch. A 10.30am kind of early lunch. But breakfast had been 5 hours ago ... and I’m supposed to be carb loading, right?
I’d promised Ruth Nutritionist I’d have a jacket potato. Most places sell these ... don’t they?
Walked around St Pancras and found a French-style cafe with little tables and chairs and proper menus called Le Pain Quotidien. Got settled and had a look at menu ... ah. Hadn’t taken proper notice of the name of the place ... A specialist bread cafe. Not entirely sure this was the best option for someone with a wheat intolerance a couple of days before a big race. For the sake of the people who would be running behind me - or using the race portaloo afterwards - I vacated the cafe quickly before the urge to eat overtook me and I started shoving bread rolls into my mouth.
Walked around and tried 7 or 8 other cafes. Not a single one within St Pancras sold jacket potatoes - or even potatoes of any description ... except MacDonalds. Wasn’t entirely sure I could count ‘Large Fries & Hot Apple Pie’ as sensible pre-race fuelling and was a little bit scared that Ruth Nutritionist would come and hurt me if I chose this so ended up looking further afield.
... And eventually found a greasy spoon cafe. Perfect! Cheap, cheerful and enormous portions. I had a jacket potato the size of my head filled with tuna and sweetcorn. Delicious! And mushrooms on the side. After checking out all those cafes I was feeling a bit peckish ...
Arrived back at Eurostar departures and after a few minutes of panic that I’d been given the wrong time, day or even that that Asics & Runner’s World had changed their minds about inviting me I spotted Tom the photographer (@photosmudger) and everyone else started arriving. Phew! Looked as though I’d be running in Paris after all!
After drinking lots of (decaf! Ruth, decaf!). I decided to go and find the loo. It was all dimly lit stainless steel, lined with sinks on one side and panels on the other. I followed the lady in front of me down to what I assumed was the entrance of the loos to find I’d accompanied the poor lady into the stall by mistake. Luckily she found it funny. I was mortified and scuttled off to find an unoccupied stall.
The Eurostar was quick and easy apart from the problem of trying to fit my enormous suitcase into a miniscule luggage rack. I hoped the acceleration on the train wasn’t too fierce otherwise I’d probably see it going the other way down the central aisle. I’d decided to treat the journey as an enforced rest and to sit there listening to my audiobook. However 2 minutes into the journey – due to too much tweeting - my phone battery died. Sulk. I resisted the urge to kick the seat in front of me and demand sweets and looked out of the window instead. However, there isn’t much to see in an underground tunnel.
Got into La Guardia and straight out into the sunshine to wait for a taxi. Paris was buzzing and mopeds were darting everywhere. It took about 10 mins to get to the hotel and we had literally 5 minutes to drop the luggage in our rooms and dash to the Metro station. We needed to register and pick up our race numbers tonight before it shut in an hour’s time otherwise we’d be waiting for up to 3 hours at the busy expo on the Saturday.
Got to the station and as Chris spoke fluent French, he got the tickets and Kat handed them out to us. It was like being on a school trip. But without the packed lunch. Several people ran past us and vaulted the turnstiles. The ticket attendant didn’t even blink. We wondered whether it was necessary to pay after all but decided our poor delicate marathon runners’ legs probably shouldn’t be vaulting just before the marathon.
Through the tiled tunnel and down the steep stairs to the murky platform ... and Kat realised she no longer had her wallet containing her cash, cards and passport. She’d been pickpocketed ... in a group of 16 people and not a single one of us had seen a thing.
The Metro was busy but we managed to corral one corner of the carriage. We had 30 minutes to get to the expo to pick up our race packs and numbers ... and 12 stops to go ... it wasn’t looking likely. Steve Marathon Coach decided that he wasn’t too keen on this uncertainty and taking advantage of the technology available was timing the station splits. I think he was reasonably impressed with the train driver as he was managing a perfect 1:09 between each station and the visit to the expo was looking more likely. Let down by the final station and we had 3 minutes to get to the expo. Which was 5 minutes away.
All of a sudden some loud music started up. It was like Muzak but on HIGH volume. Looked down the train and a chap had set up with a stereo and a trumpet! It made conversation impossible, but was nice being serenaded to the expo... definitely made it feel like more of an occasion. Until the trains slowed, and looking through the window, I spotted a train going the other way with an ENTIRE oompah-band in a carriage. Reckoned we’d been ripped off.
Off the train and into a sprint. Flying up the stairs, skidding around the corners in the station ... and a u-turn as we realised we were going the wrong way. Back around the corner and up more stairs. Flying through the gates and down the hill to Pavilion One. All the doors were locked and runners were streaming the other direction with their race packs as we flew past.
One by one, I was overtaken by the boys. This didn’t look good. I was supposed to be running a marathon on the Sunday and I’m being out-speeded and out-distanced easily. Twigged I was running flat-out in high heels. That would be why then.
|Mel (left), me (middle), Alex (right)|
Got to the expo and an Asics man was holding one of the doors open for us. We flew through and skidded to a halt in a great big hall. There were a row of booths ... all now almost deserted in number order. Showed my convocation which was a medical certificate from the doctor saying I was fit to run and my passport and was given my race pack. Through the picture on the front I could see my name underneath ‘Sarah – RunnyRunRun’. My heart speeded up.
Ambled back to the Metro at a more leisurely pace. Clutching my race pack in case the pickpockets decided to turn over a new leaf in marathon running and mugged me for my race pack.
All chatting and more relaxed now we’d got our numbers and could relax. Did a headcount and realised we’d lost Steve and Dan the cameraman on the Metro. Did anyone see them get off? Were they being held hostage by trumpet man? Maybe Steve had got so involved in counting the splits he’d missed the stop ... Got to the top of the stairs and they were already there looking smug waiting for the next train.
Had 5 minutes at the hotel – again literally – before the table booking so we put the phone on charge and dashed out again. The tiny restaurant was 5 minutes walk away down a cobbled side street. We got there and were asked to wait – in the street –for 10 minutes while the restaurant owner persuaded the diners to leave so we could sit down. Nutritionist Ruth had chosen an Italian restaurant which should have been perfect for carb loading. The first course was wonderful ... an enormous plate of rocket salad with mozzarella, hard Swiss cheese and artichoke hearts – delicious! But choosing the main course – in an Italian restaurant without having anything with wheat - caused a couple of problems ... However I decided on veal in a tomato sauce – which seemed to be my only option – with salad and tomatoes. Delicious.
|This was the sort of food I was living on - was delicious!|
Marathon Coach Steve decided we were going to keep our minds firmly on running and pronounced a DNF on meals not finished. No-one wanted to tempt fate with a DNF so food was finished. I however, confirmed I had in fact produced a negative split – eating the lamb much faster than the salad. Dedication!
I set my alarm for 7am on Saturday ... which caused me a bit of a pang as the previous day had been so busy – but Runners World & Asics wanted pre-marathon photos of us all on the roof of the hotel with Paris spread out behind us. Couldn’t believe the view from the terrace – it was AMAZING! We could see the Eiffel Tower, the business district rising like Manhattan Island out of the mist and the streets all laid out below us.
|View from the hotel terrace|
Tom the photographer had laughed because he’d checked with the desk clerk that we were ok to use the terrace for half an hour and the clerk had expected some cash for the privilege! Luckily the hotel director had given the go ahead and hadn’t expected anything at all.
The terrace was on the 7th floor and Shady Ady told us how he had shown his grasp of languages to his wife by pointing at the label on the lift: “Look – Otis means down in French.” Candice wasn’t taken in however and said, “It’s the name of the lift manufacturers, you muppet.”
Photographs were taken and we each had an interview but I was so excited about the marathon tomorrow that I gabbled and chattered and talked complete twaddle. I think my crowing moment was when I was asked something like “What was the highlight of the campaign?” And I just looked blank then shouted “All of it.” Sigh. I’m hopeless.
They turned it all around add we had a chance to ask Kate from Runners World some questions. It would have been nice to think that we had some tough questions for her, but Katie had been so amazing and helpful that we couldn’t think of any hard ones at all! Although I did quiz her about when I can upload pics again! Katie answered all the questions and she was so genuinely enthusiastic about our group of 5 runners and how we’ve progressed. At the end of the Q&A she said she’d felt like a Mum! Watching our progress and finally getting us here – to Paris!
|Tom - photography (left), Katie - Runner's World (middle), Dan - Cameraman (Right)|
We had 2 miles on the training schedule so me, Mel, Ady, Alex and Steve all went for a run with Marathon Coach Steve around the streets of Paris. We did a lap of the streets near us and it was just so lovely running in the sunshine. There were plenty of other runners around and we all shouted and greeted each other. It was a real festival feel. On the second lap we decided to take a detour and ended up at the gate of Montmatre Cemetery. Marathon Coach Steve decided to chance it and we made it about 10 steps inside the gate before being chased out again by the security guard. Whoops! Luckily he couldn’t catch us.
Got back to the hotel and 6 hours of relaxation before dinner ... decided climbing the Eiffel Tower probably wasn’t what the Target 26.2 team had in mind when they built 6 hours of r&r into the schedule so crashed out in my room. It had been pretty non-stop since we arrived so it was nice to have a bit of down time. And eat Pick n Mix. It was on my nutrition plan ... Nutritionist Ruth said so! (Hooray!)
Dinner was at an Italian restaurant. Are you seeing a theme? However, we hit a snag. Because it was such a tiny restaurant and it was a dinner for runners they’d put on a reduced menu ... full of pasta! Eeek! Not good for someone who can’t eat wheat before running! We narrowed it down and my only option was a lasagne made with aubergine ... which was absolutely delicious! But unfortunately no potatoes in any forms were available so I had to hope that this would be fine as my final carb loading meal.
We were on a table with Mel and Sam Murphy. If Sam offers you a cough & cold cure, check what it is first. Apparently one of her friends swears that sticking a garlic clove (Well I hope it’s a clove, not a bulb!) up her bottom as a cure for a cold. Well I suppose it would make you forget about the cold.
Walked back to the hotel and set the alarm ... for 5.30am and the final long run.