There's one event you'll always find me jotting down in my annual race calendar. It's Paris Marathon. I've been doing the annual pilgrimage for 6 years now and it was my first ever marathon, so I find it hard to let go in favour of doing another race elsewhere around the same time.
My times have been getting better, with my first race seeing me finish in 3:42 and me achieving a personal best in 2015 at 2:56 before some injuries set in, breaking the streak in 2016.
2017 was going to see me coming back stronger, faster, lighter. I ran a decent time at the Old Deer Park Half marathon, finishing 1:27, so I felt things were coming along nicely.
Two weeks before race day I was flying around Victoria Park. Excellent, I thought. A week later and I was feeling sluggish, my legs were being unresponsive. I wrote this off to pre-race nerves. No matter how many races you do, there are always pre-race phantom pains and nerves!
After a relaxing weekend in Paris, it was marathon day. The weather forecast predicted it would be hot. The first 25°C day after a long cool period. It concerned me but no more than usual. I would just take on reasonable amounts of water during the race.
It was a sunny start but things quickly went downhill. By 10K I had realised something was up and my left Achilles' tendon had flared up and slowly started to cause pain deep in my soleus. Not exactly what you want to be dealing with early on in a race. So in order to minimise damage, I decided to manage expectations, pull my pace down from 4min/km down to 5min/km and see how my leg copes with the slower pace. In that moment died the dream of a Paris 2017 PB.
Minimising the damage was the best decision I could have made, however dealing with runners now passing you all the time, as your pace has slowed, was a mental hurdle which is difficult to overcome. When the 3:00 pacers passed, I knew it was only a matter of time before the 3:15 pacers would follow suit. But not to worry, it's time to focus on other things like making sure I was adequately hydrated and trying to make the most of an imperfect situation and enjoy the day.
I finally crossed the finish line at 3:27 with a rather swollen lower leg. Other athletes coming in were all commenting about the heat and how it's not been a good day for them, whilst I'm still trying to understand what happened.
Where did it all go wrong? Was I unprepared? Did I want it so bad that I was setting myself up for failure?
Questions were circling in my head and I didn't seem to be getting any answers. Or at least none that I wanted. Not every race goes the way you want or had hoped and maybe it was just a bad day. Issues revolving around weight, speed and feeling "at one" with my body had been an issue leading up to the day but these all seem to be excuses, along with the unseasonally warm weather we had experienced in the day.
All I know is that I wasn't happy with where I was at and maybe this was the catalyst which I needed to propel me to where I want to be. I have some fantastic races to immerse myself in this year, so now is the time to put all the pieces in place for them and when the end of the year rolls by, I'll be ready to take on the challenge of preparing myself for an awesome Paris Marathon in 2018!