Dr Seuss once said “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”. And so I’m beaming, after one of the best experiences in my life so far – the Paris Marathon, which I ran before, in 2008, along with your dad.
I have since then longed to come back to Paris, and was so utterly fortunate to get a chance to come back this year – and run what are among my best 42 kilometres.
Let me say here that in the days before I left, I was anxious and didn’t really feel like going. I have no idea why. Perhaps it was the thought of being alone in Paris, or stepping in places laden with memories, or leaving my comfort zone with you firmly in it. You’re in a great space at the moment, and I relished the time I spent with you before I left.
At the airport, I shed the anxiety, to head to one of my favourite places, with a carry-on bag full of snacks, Melatonin, New Yorkers and devices.
I know that the best way to explore Paris is to walk it, and with no agenda aside from race registration, a 5km international breakfast run, and the marathon, that’s how I filled my days. I walked. A lot. And I breathed it all in, marvelling at the beauty at every turn – a bunch of flowers at an outdoor stall, a pretty door, a gorgeous façade, a river view.
And I ate macaroons and baguettes, and drank the most divine white hot chocolate from Angelina, and saw sights. I shopped, I ogled, I dreamed, I imagined. I got lost, I found stuff, I spoke some French until I couldn’t understand or speak any more, and reverted to English.
And the marathon? I’m afraid you’ll be hearing the story of this for a long time. I’ll tell you about the start on the Champs Elysees, where 50 000 runners lined up on a sunny and slightly nippy day, and where I waited for an hour after the start gun to start.
I’ll tell you about the sugar cubes, raisins, bananas, oranges and bottled water at the refreshment points, and “only” one table with Powerade (back home we’re used to a table every 2-3km with Coke and Powerade). I’ll remind you of the marathon route, and how we passed Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, the Notre Dame, Grand Palais and Eiffel Tower. I’ll tell you it was a flat route, but one that I walked a lot – taking pictures, tweeting, messaging people about how the race was going, and just savouring it. I’ll continue to marvel to you about a race with 50 000 runners, yet is so well organised and thought out, and full of entertainment – bands could be found every few kilometres, singing or playing music.
And I will tell you that usually during marathons, you count down the kilometres, and look forward to seeing them drop off. This time, with each kay behind me, I felt slightly heavier. Not so much from fatigue, but with the knowledge that the race was coming to an end.
I knew I would cry on the last stretch on the cobbled road. These were tears shed for an unbelievable race and experience, for an ending, for memories, and for gratitude.
My Max, I missed you so much. I saw you in every Kinder egg, toy and mother-and-child I passed. The older you get, the harder the time apart.
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