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Why do I run : “A race against myself”

Clémence is a PE teacher in the Greater Paris area. She has been running competitively since 2017, and finds it rewarding as well as challenging. In 2024, she will be racing in the Paris 2024 Mass Participation Marathon, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to rub shoulders with the Olympic athletes that wow her.

Why did you start running? How far did you run at first? Was it a gradual process?

I started running in 2017. I’ve always been athletic – it’s my job, I teach PE – but I didn’t run. A friend of mine signed me up for a 10-k women’s marathon and I never looked back! Then I wanted to run another marathon to improve my time. Then I wanted to run a longer marathon. I just never stopped.

Why is it that, when we start running, it grows on us and we start changing our lifestyle and habits?

I’m quite competitive to start with. That’s why I wanted to run a second marathon to improve my time… It’s really like a virtuous circle: I started with 10 k, then I wanted to do another one to finish it faster, then I wanted to do a longer one… So it was always a personal challenge; a race against myself. Then, gradually, after a half-marathon, I thought, “why not a full marathon now?” So there’s the challenge, but there’s also all the benefits that come with doing sports, the endorphins, the wonderful feeling you get when you see you’re getting better week after week… It’s really a virtuous circle that starts and never stops.

Are you part of a group or community of runners?

Yes, exactly! I found a training group and we meet up once a week, on Tuesday evenings, for interval training on a track. Then we became friends and now we meet up when we’re not running, too! Having a group like that motivates you, especially when you are all aiming for the same thing – like preparing for a marathon. We often go on long runs, and it’s much more motivating to do long runs with other people.

What do you think when you think about marathons?

When I started running, I thought “42 k is too much, you’ve got to be out of your mind, there’s no way I’ll ever run a marathon.” But the group helps. The first year I was training with them, many of them were preparing for the marathon. I thought “that might actually be kind of fun, maybe I’ll have a go.” Then one thing led to the next and I’ve run three. The first was the Paris Marathon then I ran the Valencia marathon twice.

What does it feel like to conquer those mythical 42.195 kilometres?

The first time was very, very tough. But I wasn’t all that well prepared because I hadn’t run all that much before the day. The following times, I had a coach, and experience, so it all went much better. The first time, 42 k is a completely new dimension, you’re stepping into the unknown. But after that you know what it’s like, so you don’t make the same mistakes, you’re more relaxed when you reach the finishing line. So I enjoyed the second and third marathons much more. Before my first marathon, the most I had ever run was 30 k. And, on the day of the race, it all really starts after 30 k!

How do you feel about the Paris 2024 Mass Participation Marathon and about racing on the same route as the Olympic Athletes?

It’s just… wow! Especially as the route won’t be the same as the Paris Marathon. I think that’s great because, when you’ve run the Paris Marathon, you don’t necessarily want to follow the same route again. It’s really amazing to think that, even as amateurs, we will run the race the same day as the Olympic athletes, basking in the atmosphere of the Games. It’s unbelievable. It’s the first time in Games history. It’s just crazy… It’s almost like our own Olympic Games: we’re extremely fortunate to be able to take part, and we have several years to prepare – a bit like the Olympic athletes, basically! Every time I tell people about it, they really want to take part too, because it’s something that will only happen once in our lifetime.

Find here our other three “Why do I run” portraits