It would happen that way back in July I ended up winning an entry to the Run in Reims race festival from Running Heroes (affiliate link, my code is 00ac)…being on somewhat of a roll after the last ultra I opted for the marathon thinking we would be settled in Malta and I could get some good heat training in making a cooler autumn race somewhat easier. Well if you follow our Gabby and Simon blog/vlog then you are well aware things didn’t go to plan AT. ALL. I actually didn’t think we were going to make it to Reims so had tried to transfer to it to someone who could make use of it but per race rules that wasn’t possible. Honestly we had written off me being able to get here and my training was non-existent anyway (difficult to get in quality training when essentially you are homeless and camping out in the car).
Obviously we made it but oh my gosh was I expecting my first ever DNF with my longest run being around 7 miles in the past 3 months! Not to mention there was a little incident with my right foot being run over by the car week before! If I was someone I was coaching I would most emphatically have advised against doing this but as the blog title reads, this is an “As I say, not as I do” post.
First off I must say I love France, once you get away from the Paris area then the people are incredibly friendly and helpful and not above taking the piss in a very good-natured manner. Yes, there is some arrogance occasionally but actually far less than I’ve encountered in the UK (again not counting Paris, they wrote the book on it).
This could end up turning into a novelette of a post so opting for the good/bad format:
Good: Security is taken seriously but it isn’t incredibly obtrusive. Like the Marine Corps Marathon we had to clear security before entering to collect our numbers but it seemed much more organised and certainly went quicker.
Bad: Finding the venue for the race village was far more difficult than it should have been, explicit directions should be included for those of us not from the region–and there were a fair few of us, Simon heard lots of grumbling about the same issues we had in finding Stade Auguste Delaune.
Good: Number and t-shirt pickup was very quick and easy once we found the stadium.
Bad: Expo was non-existent, this is a new event but there were over 11,000 participants over the 10k, half-marathon, and full marathon races so vendors and organisers need to get their act together and have something befitting the event size.
Good: The races and the roads were well marked and fenced off so as to block off the majority of car access and to protect the runners and spectators.
Bad: They started closing off a lot of the roads earlier than stated causing major issues with racers trying to get to the packet pickup.
Bad: The race maps could have been clearer.
Good: High energy start and the waves moved through smoothly.
Good: Lots of water/food stations that were very well stocked and plenty of bins spaced out appropriately to throw your rubbish in.
Good: The volunteers and spectators were AMAZING! Lots of allez, allez, bravo cheers from everyone and if you smiled, gave a thumbs up, and clapped back they were even more enthusiastic.
Good: Beautiful course overall although like most marathons you do seem to have an industrial park section.
Good: We ran through the heart of Champagne vineyards country.
Good: Every kilometre was marked and they were spot on with the location accuracy
Bad: More of a meh, wasn’t fond of the doubling back during the last 2 miles but at least there were lots of people cheering.
Good: Several bands were set up through out the course so that helped boost energy levels especially for those of us like moi who didn’t bring their mp3 players
Good: Variety at the food stations–fruit, water, coca-cola, savoury crackers.
Good: Gender-specific tech race shirt, personalised bib, and very nice medal with the option to have it engraved.
Good: Actually great, the best food I have ever seen at a finish line! Got my obligatory banana but they had champagne, macaroons, coffee, tea, soup, quiche, pizza, fruit, biscuits, etc all rowed out for quite a distance so you weren’t crowded around trying to fight your way to what you wanted. Also the half and full marathon sides were separated so as to alleviate any crowding as well. Everything appeared to move quite well and you were not herded through like cattle so no rushing.
My performance recap: As stated before I had no pressure to try and complete it in a certain time so went in fully relaxed and settled into a decent pace that lasted until around mile 15 when my back started aching. It was a surprise to me as well that I passed the 4:15 pacer (I had started in the very back of our pen) and was feeling comfortable. Kept expecting him to pass me when I had to start doing a run/walk but apparently my split times were fairly reasonable–my slowest was mile 23 with an 11:09.
I loved the champagne country part but could have done without the endless canal slog mile 18.4 through 25, that was the only bit where it was a struggle mentally but I find that type of route mind-numblingly boring. I did get a chance to re-pay the very nice Belgian man that I had been chatting with off and on who got me back to running when I had started to walk during mile 16.
Overall I’m happy with having finished and I even ended up with a personal marathon best of 4:13:01 (official chip time), an improvement of 25:23. If it wasn’t for every muscle aching in my body right now I would say that I should do this more often! Now pardon me while I go off to do the marathon zombie shuffle while walking the mutts 😀
Oh and a huge thank you again to Run in Reims and Running Heroes for hosting the competition for the entry. This is one race I would definitely not hesitate to pay the entry for to run again and that’s high praise from me.