Dad started running about ten years ago and hasn’t stopped since. I suppose I can thank (or blame) him for my foray into running as I doubt I’d have given it a go otherwise.
Over the years we’ve run a lot together and it’s probably become my favourite way to spend time with him. He’s dragged me along muddy trails, Lakeland fells, and winding country roads, usually with the dog in tow. We’ve raced together and separately but always debrief on how we got on. And compare times, of course. There’s always an element of healthy competition!
Last year he made the trip to watch us run the Paris marathon and although he denied it at the time, I knew he wished he was doing it too! So, with retirement under his belt and a little more time on his hands, it didn’t take much persuasion for him to sign up for this year’s event. Although this time round, I’d be the one spectating.
His training had gone ridiculously well. For someone with zero flexibility and zero interest in stretching it’s quite remarkable that in the last 10 years he hasn’t had a single injury. This training cycle was no different, and he remained injury free whilst getting faster and faster. I already knew he was going to put my PB to shame…
Anyhow, we met in Paris the day before for some obligatory carb- loading and a few drinks. He’s not one to go T-total before a race. We planned our spectating route with the hope of seeing him 4 times along the way, hopping on the metro between stops. After ensuring Dad knew exactly where to look for us, “Just after 5Km on the left,” etc, it was time for an early night!
We weren’t staying at the same hotel as Dad so didn’t see him off in the morning, but a few selfies confirmed he was in his starting pen and ready to go! We met up with the rest of the support crew; my mum and two friends who had come to cheer dad on too, and we headed off on our spectating adventure.
Our first stop was at the 5km mark. We settled in at the edge of the road, opposite a live band, and cheered on the runners. Unfortunately not many people had their name on their vest, which made cheering a bit harder. I’m never sure what to say. After saying, “well done, keep going” a few times, I tend to lose inspiration and feel like a bit of an idiot…
When we arrived the course seemed really crowded, much more so than I remember. At this point the 3.45 pen runners were passing us (you can tell as it’s written on the race number.) Fortunately, it became less crowded as the 4.00 pen came through which was good news for Dad. After 10 minutes or so of spectating I saw him in the distance and cheered as loudly as I could. I’m generally a self-conscious person but fortunately when it comes to marathon spectating nothing can stop me from screaming my head off. It’s just way too exciting when you spot them in the distance! I managed to capture Dad on film (potential vlog coming soon!) and he was soon out of sight.
We darted to the metro to head up to the 12km mark which is in the Bois De Vincennes, one of the two parks the route passes through. There was a short walk from the tube to the marathon so we had to rush a little to get there in time. Luckily we arrived with a few minutes to spare. He was looking strong and smiling, and managed a quick high five!
Next up was the 23km mark. The day was flying and he was doing well. En route we received a text saying he had passed the half way mark in 1.52. Right on target.
By this time the sun was really strong and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. After running a few marathons in similar conditions I could imagine how the runners must be feeling and began to worry a little about how Dad would fare considering he’s not used to running in warm conditions and wasn’t wearing suncream or a hat… Great planning there Dad! We almost missed seeing him as the road was really congested but fortunately saw him at the last minute and he seemed to be OK.
We headed to our final view point which was the 35km point. I knew he’d be feeling it by this point, and was anxious to see how he was doing. We found another great spot opposite a band and waited for him to pass. Inevitably the runners looked exhausted and quite a few had begun to walk. A few ambulances were making their way through as well, which is always a little worrying. Soon enough Dad passed, and managed to mumble that he felt “knackered.” Cristiano chased after him with the goPro to get some footage and Dad just about managed a wave…
We headed to a cafe to have a glass of wine and wait for his final result to come through. The plan was to meet him back at the hotel rather than at the end, but when he sent a picture of the medical tent the plan soon changed…He struggled towards the end, feeling really faint with numbness and tingling in his hands. Despite thinking he was going to collapse, he battled on in true Dad style and crossed the finish line in 4.04! Unable to walk at the end and on the edge of collapsing he was taken to the medical tent by the Red Cross, where he lay down and rehydrated. Fortunately this did the trick and by the time I had frantically rushed to meet him he’d made a miraculous recovery and actually looked quite fresh!
Dad, I’m so proud of you for smashing your PB (and mine) and being a constant inspiration to me! I hope that I’m still running marathons when I’m 60. I just hope it doesn’t take me that long to beat your PB!