2017 Marathon de Paris Race Report

I ran the Marathon de Paris on April 9th, one week after I ran in Rome (Rome race report here). I planned Paris first and invited friends to join me. Abbi and Kristen accepted. After Rome, I spent some time in Belgium (loved it!) and then arrived in Paris on Thursday, the same day as Abbi and Kristen. We all went to the race expo this first day. The expo was a long metro ride away and I wanted to get it out of the way in order to fully enjoy Friday and Saturday. This was a large expo, which was fitting for a race of more than 40,000 runners. We picked up our bibs and soft nylon backpack and then Abbi and I spent some time walking around the expo. We each bought a shirt at the Asics booth; otherwise, we wouldn’t get a shirt until finishing the marathon. Like in Rome, I wanted to buy a jacket but didn’t. While Rome didn’t have a marathon branded jacket at all, Paris did, but there was only one boring design with a very inconspicuous logo on the front; if I was going to get a Paris marathon jacket, I wanted it to stand out a lot more than that. So, two European capital city marathons, zero jackets purchased.

Waiting for the expo to open at the Parc de Expositions
Expo fun in front of a green screen (Abbi's shirt was green)
Post expo wine within view of the expo building - the cheese that Abbi and I got next was fabulous too!

On Saturday, Abbi and I ran the Paris Breakfast Run (blog post here). On Sunday, we all got up early, walked to the metro and headed to the Champs-Élysées, where the marathon would start. Abbi and Kristen were in a faster corral, so we said goodbye early. I had to wait a while for my corral to start. Like in Rome, everyone with a predicted finish of 4:30 and up was placed in the same corral. That was a lot of people. There were few people in the corral when I got there, but it filled up quickly. We waited for the faster corrals to take off before it was finally our turn to run down the Champs-Élysées away from the Arc de Triomphe. It was already a little too warm for my liking when my corral started at 9:50 AM (too late!) and the forecast was for 75F degrees (ouch) and sun. I knew I was going to need to be smart with my hydration and mind the heat.

Kristen, me and Abbi heading to our corrals
The back of my corral was so close to the Arc de Triomphe
And now I'm at the front of my corral looking all the way back to the Arc de Triomphe

The start of this race was very crowded even though the streets were wide. I hoped the runners would spread out, and they did, but it took a while. Early in the race we ran past some landmarks in the city center (the ferris wheel, the back of the Louvre), but nothing that I knew very much about. I didn’t take a lot of photos. My focus was on maintaining an even pace with my run/walk intervals. I wanted to make good time in the first half in case the heat slowed me down later on. And I had a decent first half, but it was already getting hot halfway through.

Very early in the race; photo taken while running at a brisk pace because it was still so crowded
There are all sorts of monuments on the course but I stopped taking pics of them early on

One of my favorite things about this race were the very frequent musical acts. It was almost impossible to be out of earshot of some kind of music. Most common were drum troupes – there were so many of them and they were all great. There were also several brass bands. Less common were rock/pop bands and DJs, but there were some of these as well. Paris gets a A+ for entertainment.

Just one of the MANY drum troupes on the course; they were so energetic and I loved running to the beat

Aid stations were spaced approximately 5 kilometers apart, as in Rome. The first aid station was in a narrow road and caused a bottleneck of runners getting to it. But all the aid stations were fully stocked with water, sugar cubes, bananas, oranges and some dried fruits. Most of them did not have any sports drink (I only found it at one station near the end of the race), and there weren’t gels or energy bars except for at one or two aid stations. I had packed my powdered electrolyte drink but it must have fallen out of my pocket. This was upsetting. I had planned to mix my powder in one of the bottles of water given out on the course. Now I didn’t have my own drink, and also no opportunity for any kind of sports drink with sodium. I would have to be careful and monitor myself to ensure this did not become a problem. At every aid station, I took a bottle of water whether or not I was finished with the previous one (I’d use the leftover water to pour over my chest or back to stay cool). I also sucked on an orange wedge at each one. The aid stations were a little dangerous. I had to be careful not to slip on discarded orange or banana peels. This was really quite a mess. But the race does get kudos for multiple, huge recycling bins for the water bottles, and composting bins for the fruit rinds (I wish everyone had used these instead of tossing their slippery fruit remains on the street).

What a mess at every single aid station; I threw my fruit peels in the designated bins, but many runners did not; several people slipped (Photo Credit: Robyn Runs the World)
There were recycling bins and composting bins, for those who cared enough to use them

The course took us through Paris neighborhoods and some beautiful parks, and then back into the city center for some kilometers along the Seine. There, many non-runners were picnicking along the river bank, or sitting at a café drinking beer. I was jealous. A cold beer or a picnic in the shade would have felt great at that point. After the river, we spent some time in and out of road tunnels parallel to the river. One of them was quite long, but they made it fun with music and lights. Another one had zen-like music and soothing posters; they called it the spa. Late in the race as it was, many people were only walking. I definitely walked more than I wanted to, but I tried to run all the downhills.

Flashing green lights inside the longest, otherwise dreary tunnel
This was the view if you looked over your shoulder after exiting one of the tunnels

I was disappointed that we spent so much time in parks, which were beautiful, but could have been any park in any city in any country. I wanted more Paris landmarks. We did get some distant views of the Eiffel Tower and some of the other sights along the river. We saw one side of Notre Dame, but not the famous bell tower.

The backside of Notre Dame and the Seine 
Selfie on the Seine
Selfie photo op with the Eiffel Tower

As for encounters with other runners, I saw Diane, a Marathon Maniac and soon-to-be Marathon Globetrotter whom I met in Rome. She and I found each other in the start corral and then again later in the race. Diane gave me a salt packet, which I was thankful for since it was my only way to get sodium. I also met another Maniac named Nana. And in the last two miles I saw Maniac Alex, a friend of Kristen’s whom I’d met the night before the race. But that’s about it. I know there were others there, but I didn’t see them among the tens of thousands of runners.

Selfie with Diane - thanks for saving me with the salt packet!
Selfie with Alex, who wore his Columbus Marathon shirt - way to represent!

The heat was getting to a lot of people in this race. There were so many emergency vehicles that passed by on the course, and several sightings of runners down on the side of the course. I’m sure some of those were heat-related issues, but others were other types of injuries. I felt slow and too hot, but otherwise OK. I didn’t have any issues with dehydration, sickness or anything else.

This interesting building was toward the end of the race; it's the Louis Vuitton Foundation building designed by Frank Gehry

Finally, I reached the 42 kilometer sign, but there was one last 90 degree turn before spotting the finish line. We were on cobblestones, but thank goodness they weren’t as jagged or wet as the ones in Rome. I didn’t really pick up the pace in the end. I just wanted to finish steady. My time ended up being 7 minutes slower than Rome the previous Sunday.

Finished!
Random band playing off to the side of the finish chute

I was happy to receive my finisher shirt and medal, which I’d describe as a subtle bling theme, but it didn’t really speak to the city of Paris to me. That’s OK, I still like it. But I was disappointed with the post-race food. It looked like all the same food we got at the aid stations, with the addition of pretzels. And none of it was individually packaged or rationed for the runners. It was all loose, so you had to scoop your sweaty runner’s hand into a bin where others had already picked through the pretzels or the oranges. It was impossible to take an assortment of food to-go, so to speak. I ate one orange wedge and decided to wait for more food later.

Finisher shirt and medal

After finishing I needed to get off my feet quickly. My feet always seem to hurt A LOT immediately after a marathon and they don’t even like the light impact of walking. I sat and spoke with a runner from Colorado for a while. The Arc de Triomphe was at the end of the finish area, so I’d walk to it to get some photos later. Upon exiting the runner’s only area I found that there was food and beer for sale. I only had enough cash for one item, so of course I chose the beer. It was Heineken, and I was able to sit at a table and drink it in the shade. It felt great. After my beer I did get some finish pics with the Arc, and then I found the metro and went back to the apartment.

Selfie with my beer; so happy to be off my feet!
Selfie with the Arc de Triomphe
And finally, a semi-decent finish pic taken by a random runner from Budapest

 Some things to know about this marathon:
  • There are over 40,000 participants; this is a huge race.
  • Anyone can register as it is not hard to get in. There is no lottery or time qualification.
  • The swag was good: tech finisher shirt, basic soft backpack, and a medal, of course.
  • There were several cooling stations with firehoses spraying and/or buckets of water that runners used to wet their towels or pour on their bodies.
  • There were few official photographers, and none of them were positioned to get shots with iconic Paris icons in the background (like the Eiffel Tower). What a disappointment.
  • Some parts of the course had few spectators, but others (the tourist areas) had great spectators.
  • One of the registration requirements is to have a medical certificate signed and stamped by your doctor. This was the second medical certificate I needed for a marathon; the first was for Rome the week before.
Would I run Marathon de Paris again? Probably not. I didn’t dislike the race, but it was crowded and let me down in a couple small ways. But most importantly, I don’t repeat a lot of marathons. There are new cities and new countries to run in. However, I’d recommend this to someone who likes big city races and has never been to Paris. It’s certainly an experience worth having.

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