So after Karen’s visit to Bergen, there was one final part of the trip that was left: Paris! As you know, I had literally just been to Paris two weeks before, but this time round, I wasn’t there for sightseeing. This time, I had one goal in mind and that was to cross the finish line of the Paris marathon, and Karen (being as awesome as she is) planned her entire sabbatical around my marathon date so that she would come and cheer me on.
And so it was that on Friday morning, we took a plane to Paris and landed there around noon. Friday’s weather was gorgeous so we decided to just walk around, eat good food (what better excuse to have other than carboloading?) and sit in parks and relax! Friday night we met up with one of my French friends for dinner and took a midnight stroll through the empty streets before we called it a night. On Saturday after a delicious breakfast, Karen and I made our way to the expo. I was super nervous; I hadn’t trained as well as I wanted and I knew I’d be slow, but expos just have a way of turning the nervousness into excitement. You see this crazy number of people who just like you decided to sign up. And even if you don’t know it, every one of them probably has this inspirational story of how they got into running and what it did to their lives. I mean this is what keeps me going; a lot of you already know this, but early in 2012 I could not run a mile without stopping. I never thought I’d sign up for a 5K, I’d never thought I’d want to wake up in the morning and go run, but life is funny this way. In May 2012, I started a work project in Baltimore and got introduced to this FANTASTIC organization called Back On My Feet that helps people in homeless shelters in so many ways including running with them. And so, I decided to join the group of volunteers. Over the following two years, I found myself waking up at 5AM every single Wednesday morning and joining a group of 10-15 people and “attempting” to run with them. And in order not to embarrass myself, I started waking up early on the other weekdays and “attempting” to run on my own, and slowly but surely, I was actually doing it. Instead of “attempting” it, I was actually running. Still, I didn’t think that I was good enough to sign up for a race, but when you’re surrounded with a group of people who provide you with constant encouragement and support, you somehow become crazy enough to believe you can do anything. So in September 2012, 4 months after first showing up at a BOMF run, I ran my first 5K. The following April, I ran my first half marathon, and in October 2013 I completed my first FULL marathon. Crossing the finish line of my first marathon made me believe that I can do anything I set my mind to. People will tell you that once you finish a marathon, you will not want to sign up for another one until the pain goes away. Surprisingly enough for me, I went home and sat on my couch after taking a shower and turned on my laptop and started reading about marathons all over the world. I read inspirational stories about people’s running lives, and I was hooked. A few minutes into my online waste of time, I came across the Seven Continents Club where people who have run a marathon on every continent including Antarctica had their names published. And that’s when the magic happened: There was not a single Egyptian woman on that list, there wasn’t even a single Egyptian or for that matter Middle Eastern, and me being crazy me, I promised myself that I would at least try to get my name on that list. I would run a marathon on every continent and attempt to be the first Egyptian woman to do so!! So, when I moved to Norway last Fall I started looking for Spring marathons in Europe, and of course once I saw that the Paris marathon was still taking people in, I signed up. Over the course of the last four months I attempted to train, but man was it tough. The weather, the hills, the travels. Still, I didn’t give up; I figured if I can only do one run during some weeks, it would have to be my long run and so over the course of my training plan, I missed a lot of short weekday runs, but never once a long run (something I am quite proud of).
Anyways back to marathon day: My corral didn’t start until 9.50AM, so at 9 I slowly started walking towards the start line and of course got to see those crazy fast people start their race, and let me tell you, the nerves were still there. But somehow, slowly but surely, looking at the crazy amount of runners infront of me (40,000+) these nerves began to disappear and the moment it was my turn to cross the start line, they were gone. I kept telling myself the worst that can happen is that I’ll have to walk and that the most important part was for me to have fun, and so I did!
Karen first met me at Mile 1.5 right by our hotel to give me a quick cheer and then as planned again at Mile 17 where she and Mats (my Norwegian friend currently studying abroad in Paris) were waiting for me to run a little by my side. And let me tell you, seeing them put me in the best mood. At that point, I had realized that I finished the first half of the race way too fast for my training and given the fact that it was 20 degrees Celsius (70 degrees F), I was drinking too much water at the stops and wasn’t feeling too good. But then I saw them all smiley and excited, and couldn’t help but feel the same way. I was running in freakin Paris; how cool is THAT? and just to make me fully believe it, the course passed by the Tour Eiffel where you couldn’t help but SMILE. A couple miles later, Karen had to drop me and go back to the hotel to get me some stuff and meet me at the finish line. Mats decided to run a little more with me and so off we went. Slowly, but surely, I began to feel the pain in my legs and had to slow down, and Mats being as awesome as he is decided to hang in there with me until Mile 25 with constant encouragement provided everytime I needed it. By Mile 24, I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to PR the race, but I honestly didn’t care; I was still going to “attempt” and sprint across that finish line, so when I saw the Mile 26 marker, that energy just kicked in and I did. Crossing that finish line made me shed a few tears, I couldn’t believe it. I made it. I completed my third marathon overall and my first marathon in Europe!!! Overall though, the Paris marathon was a blast. The course is gorgeous, the cheering fantastic and the water stops plenty. If you’re considering it, then don’t wait any longer. I would sign up again in a heartbeat!! For now and until I sign up for my next one, I will relive this race and be grateful for having as awesome of friends as I do. Cheers, Dom.