My running targets for 2014 are based around two races, with the first of those being the Paris Marathon, where I would attempt a new best time for the marathon.
I arrived in Paris a couple of days before the race and met up with Kirsten, who was part of my Johannesburg running crew. We headed to the expo to collect our race packets and spent some time wandering fairly aimlessly around Paris in the lead up to the race.
My target was to run a time under 2:50, although in the back of my mind I did have a stretch target of completing the race at a pace under 4:00 min/km, which would require a time approximately 75 seconds faster. Requiring an average pace of just under 4:02 min/km to achieve a sub-2:50 time I planned to set out at exactly that pace from the start. Kirsten has his main race for the year at the Comrades Marathon in June, so he was planning for an easy day out by sneaking in under 3 hours.
An easy train ride to the start and a not-too-early start time allowed an uncomplicated start to the day. Kirsten and I were also joined by Fiona, another member of our Johannesburg running club who stayed at the same hotel. We caught the train to the Arc de Triomphe, dropped off a tog bag, and headed to the start area. We were standing on the Champs Élysées with Napoleon’s monumental arch of triumph behind us and a gentle downhill leading towards the glittering gold-topped obelisk on the Place de la Concorde.
The gun went off and despite the 10 traffic lanes being occupied by runners the 50,000-strong field made for some early challenges in maintaining a steady pace. I separated from Kirsten but after a kilometre or so we were running together again and crossed the Place de la Concorde and started along Rue de Rivoli. The early pace was perfectly on schedule, ticking off each kilometre at just over 4:00 minutes.
For my fourth and final week in Iten I would start to drop my mileage in preparation for my race at the Paris Marathon, but would include three quality sessions. I had included three consecutive days of double sessions the previous week but returned to running single sessions.
After an easy Monday run I headed to the track on Tuesday. I would run 15 x 1000 metres at marathon pace with a 200 metre recovery. I managed to get into a good rhythm, and after checking my split at the 400 metre mark of each interval managed to run confidently at the required pace. The intervals started to feel more strained towards the end but for the final 1000 metres I still managed to increase the pace to complete the interval 14 seconds faster than marathon pace. It was another great confidence-boosting run.
I had planned to run on Wednesday morning but was feeling quite stiff. Therefore I decided to shift my run to the afternoon, but getting caught up on some travel planning I only headed out late in the evening with limited light remaining. However I knew that the decision to delay the run was the correct one from the first step. My legs felt great and I enjoyed a wonderful 18 km, running through the failing light and arriving back after the sun had dropped below the horizon.
My last track session took take place on Thursday morning with a 16 x 400 metre workout. I had planned four sets of four laps, increasing the pace with each set, but my pacing was a disaster from the first lap. In a case of total mental failure I ran the first lap too fast while thinking that it had been too slow. It was only halfway through the second lap that I realised I was running the wrong pace. Consciously slowing down for the third lap I slowed too much. From there I ran almost every lap either too fast or too slow, finding myself unable to hit my intended pacing. But it was still a tough workout, and therefore a valuable one.
On April 6th, one day prior to my birthday, I will run the Paris Marathon. Having not run a flat-out marathon since 2011 I hope to run my fastest time over the distance.
I did have the opportunity to run the course of the Paris Marathon over a period of two days in November last year, which will hopefully help in my mental preparation for the race.
My training over the past six months has definitely not been ideal, as it has been squeezed in between constant touring and considerable travel distances. From early January I tried putting more focus into my running efforts, and I also planned for four weeks of intense training that I will discuss in some upcoming posts.
After Paris I will start building up my mileage in preparation for my biggest focus race for the year, an ultra marathon that I will also discuss in a later post. But that can wait another 5 weeks (and a bit) until I cross the finish line within sight of the Arc de Triomphe.
My last race was on September 22nd. My next race will not be until April 6th next year. I have signed up to run the Paris Marathon, targeting a fast marathon before building up my distance for a crack at a good run in a 100-mile race during the northern summer.
Therefore when I found some cheap flights from Africa to Paris I realised that it would give me a great opportunity to check out the marathon course. I decided that I would run the entire distance of the course over two days.
For my first day I travelled out to the Arc de Triomphe since the race starts very close by on the Champs Elysee. Compared to the narrow start of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, it was amazing to consider the eight or so lanes of traffic that runners will fill for the start in Paris.