Like Albert Camus’ The Outsider, I’m feeling left out of things this weekend. Here I am in Paris, and I’m not running in the 2013 Paris Marathon on Sunday.
I made the decision a good while ago to sit out this year’s race. After three marathons in the space of 18 months – the 2012 Paris Marathon sandwiched between the 2011 and 2012 Dublin Marathon – I felt I needed to spend the springtime getting refreshed and recovering fully. This was a rare flash of common sense on my part, and it was the right decision.
That said, this week I’ve been feeling little pangs of Biblical envy and the more modern Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). I know two people running in this year’s Paris Marathon, and my Twitter feed is full of excited competitors talking of their taper and the marathon expo and their Seine-side plans. (For those who seriously think they can climb the Eiffel Tower steps or walk around the Louvre on the day after the marathon, I’ve kept quiet.)
I’ve also had feelings of temptation. A work colleague of mine, an experienced runner, entered this year’s Paris Marathon but for various reasons she hasn’t been able to train properly. So, like me, she won’t be taking part in the race this Sunday.
“Would you like to buy my race number?” she asked me. And I was tempted. For one giddy split-second my eyes spun around in my head and bubbles of excitement rushed through the blood to my head.
Fortunately, common sense put up steadfast resistance and quickly regained control of my brain. Remembering just in time my untrained and recovering body, I didn’t take up the offer of a race number. There’ll be no dramatic late entry for me in this year’s Paris Marathon.
I miss not being involved in the Paris Marathon this year, but at least it’s by choice. Back in 2009 I got injured during my training and couldn’t take part. On a Sunday morning about two months before the race I woke up, put my right foot on the floor, and when I stood up on it I felt a cheesewire pain across my right shin. Naturally, I then went for a two-hour run.
At the time, medical science was divided on what exactly the matter was with my right leg. My nearest physio, who happened to be blind and used the first screen-reader computer I’d ever heard, applied his hands to my calf and told me I had shin splints. However the doctor who scanned my troublesome limb a week later told me that I had a slight tear in my calf muscle. (This was the same French doctor who advised me to give up running and try a proper sport, like cycling.) Either way, the upshot was that I had to rest up for the four weeks when I had hoped to be speed-training and long-running.
For me, the 2009 Paris Marathon was finished. Dreading the prospect of being in the city and watching helplessly while everyone else had their 26 miles of fun, I made plans to hop on a high-speed train that weekend to visit a friend in Lyon.
But first of all – and God knows why – I went to the race expo to collect my goodie bag. This was when races still gave out their t-shirts before the race instead of at the finish line, and perhaps I was hoping for a free chocolate energy bar too. Anyway, I still had my medical certificate from before my injury, so on the Thursday evening along I went to the Porte de Versailles convention centre.
It was mightily depressing. Glumly I collected my goodies; the expo staff must have thought I was stricken with pre-race nerves. And there wasn’t even any bloody chocolate in the bag.
I had a good time in Lyon that weekend. (If you’re a foodie then it’s the city for you; I recommend the boudin noir with apple.) And yet at nine o’clock that Sunday morning I woke up with a start. Right at that moment, 300 miles to the north west, the 2009 Paris marathon was starting without me.
This Sunday morning will be different; I’ll head into the centre of Paris and cheer on the marathon runners. Of course, part of me will still wish I were out there, showing them how it’s done. But that can wait until the autumn…
If you were running Seine-side this weekend, you can see your Paris Marathon 2013 results, photos and videos on the race website.