26.2 Miles Later

On April 9, I ran my first ever marathon in Paris. It was a truly great experience, and I wanted to share it with you all who follow our family on here. I’ve always loved running as a means for staying in shape and relieving stress and somewhere along the way the marathon became “the goal” attached with my hobby.

As life went along and Glen and I kept transitioning between jobs and cities, and kept having these girls pop into our lives, the dream of a marathon kept getting pushed to the back. Thankfully this changed when I got more intentional about running last summer and worked my way up to running a half marathon in November in Indianapolis. This motivated me to search for a good option for a full marathon, which is how I found the Paris Marathon. I knew that it would be difficult to achieve “the goal” only four short months after moving to France, but I also knew it would be a great way to bring a part of my life in the States with me to France. My training certainly suffered a bit through the past few months, but thankfully, mainly through Glen’s support, I got most of my runs in every week.

Obviously being able to do this in a city like Paris was motivation by itself, and the route was truly phenomenal (click here for the route video). I could see some of the iconic monuments and sites of Paris, including the Louvre, the Bastille, Place de la Concorde, Notre Dame, and of course, the Eiffel Tower. So with 57,000 other runners who registered, I attempted to conquer the route.

To get to the starting line of the race, I took the train from Massy into Paris early in the morning. When I ascended the stairs from the train station and first caught a glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe and the sun rising in the background, it was completely breathtaking. Immediately I was amid a sea of runners and spectators, and there was a buzz of energy circulating. All I could do was try and soak all of it in. The race started on the Champs-Élysées just down from the Arc and, luckily, it never felt too overwhelming with all the people thanks to how well the event was organized. With that said, if you are not a crowd person, I wouldn’t recommend the Paris Marathon as a runner or a spectator.

I’m struggling to find the words to describe the excitement I had when I crossed the starting line and my race officially began. Needless to say, I was on cloud nine! The first half of the race is mostly a blur. I had plenty of energy, the weather was good, and around mile 3, Glen, the girls, and my mom were there to cheer me on. I started dragging a little bit after the half way point, but had a much-needed pick-me-up when I saw my family again at mile 15. At this point I was running down along the river Seine (again, the course was amazing!), and they were perched up on a bridge above me. I may have shed a tear or two of happiness at the sight of them! Unfortunately, my energy reserves started tanking again around mile 18. I am very glad for the water and food stops all along the course, because whenever I hit a wall or would be close to it, there seemed to always be relief around the corner.

Now I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was by this, especially given that Paris is a major tourist destination and the Paris Marathon is just huge by itself, but during the route I heard a lot of English being spoken. In a way it was refreshing, but it also felt really weird after immersing myself in French for the past four months! It was nice to have some encouraging words thrown my way in English along the way while also hearing ‘Bon courage!’ and ‘Allez!’ from the French supporters.

The day of the marathon was beautiful, but it was also the hottest day we have had yet this year. Unfortunately, this meant that throughout the entire race I heard many sirens going off as the medical teams were dispatched to help someone along the course. The heat didn’t seem to take its toll on me until about mile 18 or 20 as I was reaching the west side of the city. Along the west side of Paris is the Jardin d’Acclimation, and it was around here that I struggled. Honestly, I was just beat. It was at this point that I had to stop and walk a little bit. I alternated between walking and running for a couple of miles until I got to mile 25 or so.

The last part of the marathon is through a forest where you feel very separated from Paris. There was a point in the route where one moment I was surrounded by trees and in the blink of an eye I was back in Paris. At this point, the size of the crowds started increasing and I could hear the cheering coming from the finish line. When I first caught sight of the finish line, my energy levels soared! This effect was multiplied when I ran by my girls and they were cheering me on. The feeling of crossing the finish line was almost euphoric. I knew that my body and mind were exhausted, but all I could feel were happiness, pride, and excitement rushing through me.

A lot of people have asked me if I see myself running more marathons in the future. The honest answer is that I’m not sure. It was an incredibly memorable experience, and by that I’m not just talking about the race itself but also the months of training. The biggest surprise to myself that I discovered through my training was that most of the battles I had to fight were mental and not physical. With training miles going up to 16-20 miles, I expected my body to fight me more on those distances, but I had to keep my mind in check more often than my legs!

As a final thought, I cannot say enough how important it was to me to have the encouragement and support of Glen, my girls, and the rest of my family and friends throughout the whole process. As it takes a village to raise a child, I would say that it also takes a village to make a marathoner. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I truly mean it when I say that my crossing the finish line would not have happened had I been pursuing this goal all by myself.

~ Jessica ~