How would the Champs-Élysées look with 50,000 people, shoulder-to-shoulder? Well, I found out when I joined 49,999 other people to run the Marathon de Paris.
The course begins and ends near the Arc de Triomphe, stretching along the Right Bank, past Place de la Concorde and Bastille and encircling the Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne. Luckily (in my opinion), the course is relatively flat, though my big complaint is that it dips through traffic tunnels along the Seine. Instead of gazing at Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower for the second half of the course, runners are routed through at least three (and one very long) dark tunnels.
Though the Paris Marathon is as big as other major races, you wouldn’t know it to observe the few spectators, most of whom were relatives and friends of racers. I anticipated this, having been in town on marathon day years before. There were bands and orchestras of all kinds scattered along the route, though, providing plenty of entertainment and motivation.
That marathon fever hasn’t hit Paris is one of the reasons I ran the race – there is no lottery, no qualifying times and it’s possible to secure a good hotel room near the start and finish.
The course gets very narrow at times and was congested the entire way. Around Place de la Concorde, the crowd slowed to an almost-walk to make the tight corner. With such congestion, it was challenging and exhausting to pass.
My big mistake was starting too far back. I was conservative, thinking I would start slow and then speed up, but it was a real hassle passing people so I ended up going slower than my overall target pace.
I stayed near the start and finish in the 16th Arondissement, near the Arc de Triomphe. Though it’s not convenient for tourists, I recommend the area for anyone thinking of running this race. With street closures and weekend metro schedules, it might be a real hassle reaching the start if you stay in other neighborhoods.
Instead of handing out cups of water, volunteers offer small bottles. This is convenient since you can carry them with you. Oranges, bananas, chocolate and sugar were available at the food stations. Energy drinks and gels didn’t make an appearance until much later on, like toward mile 20.
Speaking of mile 20, I felt amazing through that point, then I slogged my way through the infamous last six.
Angelo met me at mile 17 and kept me company until almost the end. He peeled off right before the last turn toward the finish line. I was never so happy to see the Arc! Tweet