Monday, 7 March 2011

Team Bangs do Paris

The months of hard work paid off yesterday and the hard work was totally worth it. Admittedly I am a little stiff and sore today but with each achey step I take I can’t help but feel a little bit proud. On Saturday when we arrived in Paris, I was a nervous wreck all day. We went to meet some of the other Team Bangs girls and they all seemed really relaxed and caught up in the romantic whirl of Paris. I was a clumsy mess and had constant butterflies in my tummy.
Poor Jon had to hear me all day saying ‘I hope I’m going to be able to do it’, ‘what if I’ve got my distances wrong when I’ve been training and I can’t really run that far?’ or have me demanding late night trips to the local convenience store to buy essential water and bananas to ensure I was hydrated and energised. Jon(@jonsanjose on Twitter) has been an amazing support throughout to both me and the other girls on the team so I just wanted to say a public thank you to him. He has been the official team photographer, cheerleader and jester to help keep us smiling as well as personal motivator and masseuse for me so thank you Mr San Jose. I really do appreciate it and I know I’ve been a bit of a nightmare the last couple of months.
A day of walking the streets of pretty much the whole of Paris on Saturday was lovely while we were doing it but my goodness, when we got back to the hotel room after dinner my body and feet ached and I was super tired after only 3 hours sleep on Friday. I was starting to panic that I had done too much before the big day. So I snubbed the offer of free films on the coolest TV I’ve ever experienced in a hotel room ( Check out and snuggled into the super fluffy bed for a night of undisturbed shut eye.
The busy day seemed the right thing to do as when I caught up with some of the other Team Bangs girls in the morning it seemed there hadn’t been a lot of sleep due to a combination of nerves and excitement. I actually felt refreshed and confident even though my tootsies were a little battered from the over enthusiastic stroll the day before. I’d planned to load up on breakfast and the breakfast at the hotel was amazing but once I’d loaded up my plate I had a bit of difficulty getting it down.
Check out the cool Team Bangs T-shirt. Thank you Nike & Shock Absorber.

Some of the Team Bangs ladies on race day

The journey to the race start was full of nervous giggles and lots of smiles as well as an element of dis-belief that the day was finally here. There was also huge volume of lycra on the Metro. I have never seen so much stretchy shiny material in one carriage, some of which was highly inappropriate. Gentleman, please leave something to the imagination and cover it in shorts as that is just too much that early in the morning. In fact that is too much at any time of day or night.
The journey to the race start

We’ve all become really good friends throughout our training, supporting each other via tweets and facebook posts and it has really helped me in my training. It was great to finally be able to catch up with the girls in person. For those that say social media is in fact not sociable because it encourages people to type away in their room alone and not engage with people, this project is testament to the fact that this is not always true. I know that I have made some really great friends through Muireann (@BangsandaBun on a Twitter) bringing us together on Twitter. I am aware that some of you reading this are not on Twitter and don’t really get it but I am totally hooked. I think it is incredible what has been achieved.
33,000 people were registered to run the Semi de Paris. It just wasn’t practical for us to all be able to start the race together. I set off with Misty and Jon managed to snap us among the crowd of thousands of runners as we were about to cross the start line. As you can see from my face I was totally excited and couldn’t contain myself. I was like this quite a lot of the way through the run actually looking at the pictures.
I'm looking pretty excited!

I set myself a target of 5k every 30 minutes and I stuck to this with military precision for the first 15k. I was expecting to see Jon and Michael (Misty’s lovely husband) at 10k and was desperately looking out for them amongst the crowds of supporters. I was pleased when I went through the inflatable 10k arch in my planned time but couldn’t help being a little disappointed that I couldn’t see the boys. I ran on through keeping my eyes peeled the whole time like my own game of Where’s Wally. As I approached Bastille at about 11.5k I spotted Jon and his camera on the left hand side of the road and of course I was on the right so I shot across shouting and waving frantically. Seeing some support really does give you an extra boost so thank you to Jon and Michael the official Team Bangs cheerleaders minus the pom poms.

Me at 11.5k. Smiling!
Team Bangs official cheerleading squad (L-R Michael & Jon)

 In fact, on the subject of cheerleaders, a big well done and thank you to the Semi de Paris organisers. A group of hot fireman cheering you on at various points en route is definitely an encouraging motivator.
By 15k I was hurting but I was still feeling good and still had a smile on my face. A surprise cheering on by Jon and Michael at 16.5k cheered me up again which was just as well as I was going to be facing a bitch of a hill at 17k.
An even bigger smile at 16.5k as I didn't know what I had coming around the corner.

Bangs herself in action

It was a hill that I didn’t expect and I really had to push myself to keep running up it. It wasn’t particularly steep but it was long. I was so close to stopping but I pushed on through while my legs burned. I could feel myself getting tired but with only a few kilometres to go I was determined that I wasn’t going to stop. While I struggled through myself I tried to give some encouraging taps on the shoulder to fellow runners that were clearly also feeling the pain. When you are a struggling a supportive comment or gesture from a fellow runner can really help to motivate you.

The last kilometre felt like about 10 and I just couldn’t see the end in sight for ages. As soon as that inflatable arch came into view I pushed as hard as I possibly could to sprint through the finish line. While I felt sick I was so pleased that I’d finished and without stopping too. I wasn’t sure of my time but I suspected it was just under 2 hours 12 minutes.

The feeling at the finish line was not as exciting as I had expected because I was just so tired and getting out of the fencing that we were penned into too absolutely  ages. I felt a little shaky but the minute I saw some of the other Team Bangs girls I was totally excited and elated. This whole experience had been about doing it as a team and I enjoyed watching other members of the team succeed as much as I enjoyed my own achievement. It was a truly emotional experience. Here are a couple of snaps of some of the Team Bangs girls being a little hug-tastic post run as well as a rather attractive one of me in a white plastic cape. Paris fashion week, eat your heart out! 

Looking good Karleen

The lovely Gemma at the end. Well done lady. You rocked in a massive way!

Me, Misty & George

Myself and Miss 'Speedy Gonzales' Alski

Team Bangs hugs

More celebratory hugs

Go George!
Kaye looking gorgeous even after 13 miles!

When my official time came through I had completed it in 2 hours and 11 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of what I have achieved in a relatively short time but I couldn’t help but feel just a little disappointed as I wanted to finish in under 2 hours 10 minutes. However, I’m not going to be hard on myself, it is my first half marathon after all. I had an injury before I’d even started my training and my schedule was interrupted at the end of January when I came down with flu and a chest infection had to stop for nearly two weeks. My running is not finished yet and I have already set myself a target of doing better next time.

After going out for a celebratory Parisian dinner with Jon I thought it was only right that I reward myself with cake so with my medal round my neck, my fluffy robe and slippers on, I ate cake. What a perfect end to an absolutely amazing day.
Me and the official team mascot, Jon

I deserve cake. Fact!

A huge thank you to everybody that has supported us all along the way and an extra special thank you to Bangs herself.  Here is my own little film for you. It's not as good as yours with editing and cool music but hopefully it gets my message across.   

Karleen xxx


  1. A brilliant post and love all the action shots taken by Jon. Really proud of you all and have loved reading about the actual day. Sad I wasn't there this time but I feel I have learnt a lot from you all and feel I have made some great friends. Well done Karleen and Jon for all his support to you and the other girls. Boy did you deserve cake :-)

  2. Well done Karleen. Fab pics, my favourite though has to be you on the bed eating cake lol x

  3. Karleen, me and dad are so proud of what you have achieved, although very hard work you looked like you really enjoyed the experience. Your blogs have been brilliant. Love you loads xxx