Paris in the springtime is about as beautiful as it gets. 2017 was no exception, after an on-again off-again few months due to a heart murmur, I had long ago accepted that this race was going to be one to enjoy, not to push too hard and risk, well….death.
One of the many great things about the Paris Marathon, is that currently, there is no ballot process. For whatever reason, they don’t yet have the demand to justify it, so if you want to race, just go online, pay your money and you’re in.
But be warned, you are required to submit a signed certificate from your GP when registering at the expo, confirming you are fit to run the race. After visiting my GP to get this done, I ended up going down a rabbit hole of heart related tests, several different types of ECG over many months, after which the doctor said he thought I was fine, but couldn’t sign the form as he wasn’t 100% sure. Nice one.
Lets just say, the document was signed, who by, at this stage, is not important, to the race…..
The start/finish area at this marathon is about as central as any big city race I have done, setting off down the Champs Elysées going away from the Arc De Triomphe, the course seemed so gentle in its curves and occasional undulating hills. You head west from the city centre and spend a few miles running round the Bois de Vincennes, a beautiful large park that feels so tranquil after the inner city melee of the start.
The second half of the race heads back into the city and towards the river. There are several underpasses on the route, one in particular I seem to remember being about half a mile long. These act as great microphones to the cacophony of Allez! Allez! that is heard all along the route. On passing through, be mindful there is usually a hill to contend with to bring you back to street level, which can be a strength sapper!
On to my abiding memory of the day. Unlike most big city marathons the route in the heart of the city is not always barricaded in Paris, meaning the crowds can flood in tight and create the best atmosphere, leaving a gap about one person wide. Think Tour de France minus the cups of piss! It’s one of the best running experiences I can remember, I was so pumped coming through there.
There are, of course, some utterly bewildering elements of the race, like the one section they decide to spray water to cool the runners down, that is also cobbled and requires a tight turn, who thought that was a good idea!?
I would definitely return to this race, it would be ideal for someone to do as their first marathon, not too big, but in a big city, great conditions for at that time of year and crammed full of great sights. I love this race even though I lost my finishing t-shirt while at the beer stand, it was a decent one too!