A lot of runners dream to run the Paris Marathon. Others have doubts if it’s worth to be part of such a crowded competition. I’ll be honest, this race in Paris wasn’t in my plans. But destiny plays with us, in April 2014, one day before boarding on our around the world trip I got an email telling me that I won one slot on the race. One year later, after crossing Europe, North Africa and South East Asia, I was heading to Paris. Now it’s time to write our Paris Marathon Review and give you the best tips for the race and the trip.
So, what to expect? A beautiful course, thousands of runners, a great atmosphere and a well-organized race. I really enjoyed every moment, there were some issues that the organization could improve but overall it’s an excellent race. Let’s split our Paris Marathon Review in some useful topics:
» Paris Marathon Entry Review
Registration can be made on Schneider Electric Paris Marathon website. If you don’t get a slot there are 2 other options. To run for a charity or to book the race via a tour operator. The list of charities and official tour operators can be found here. The online process was easy and straightforward. I paid using my Brazilian credit card without any issue.
» Paris Marathon Expo Review
The BIB & race bag are available a few days before the race at the Paris Marathon Expo, aka Le Salon du Running. It’s located at Parc de Expositions de la Porte de Versailles, to get there take the metro line 12 and drop at Porte de Versailles.
In order to get your race number and bag, you MUST present a medical certificate mentioning: “no contraindication to running in a competition”. Also, bring your passport or proof of identity and the confirmation email. With all the docs in hand took me less than 5 minutes to get my race number and bag. The staff was very polite and friendly, making jokes about my “french tre bizarre”.
Le Salon du Running is huge! Over 200 expositors showcasing the latest products for athletes. There were several running & triathlon associations and other race organizations too. One that caught my attention was the Marathon du Medoc, run & wine, cool!
Paris Marathon Review Tip: go on the first day, it’s not so busy so you can enjoy more.
» Paris Marathon Course Review
Yes, it’s a stunning race. You have the streets of Paris to yourself, well, to you and another 50.000 runners. Anyway, the race starts on Champs Elysee heading to Place de La Concorde. Then Rue de Rivoli passing by Le Jardins de Tuileries, the Louvre Museum and La Place de la Bastille. From there runners will cross about 10km in the Bois de Vincennes Park and head back to La Bastille via Rue de Charenton.
Then it comes my favourite part, from km 23 till 31. The race follows the River Seine, with beautiful views from the Ile de la Cite, Pont Neuf, Museu d’orsi and Eiffel Tower. The last 10km passes by the Bois de Bolougne Park until reaching the finish line at Rue de Foch.
I thought that the Paris marathon course was a flat one. Wrong! Not that you will face steep hills but expect some ups & downs. In the end, my Garmin registered an elevation gain of 220 meters.
» Paris Marathon Race Day Review
The Arc du Triumph is the best landmark to plan your way to the marathon. Take the Paris metro and drop at Charles De Gaulle-Etoile station. The metro is efficient and is the best way to move around on the race day. We were staying in the 17th arrondissement and got to the race in about 40 minutes.
The race officially starts at 8:45am. Depending on your expected finishing time your start can be from 8:47am to 10:05am. I was expecting to finish in 4 hours, so I have to find my corral, and wait my start at 9:30am.
As usual the main complaint in every single race, there are few toilets. Once you entered your corral you can’t go out and the toilets in that area weren’t enough for the thousands of runners. As a result, athletes using the streets of Paris as a toilet.
I found quite hard to keep my pace among thousands of runners. The first 10km were to warm up, I didn’t stop in any aid station till Km15. Talking about aid stations, they were spread in every 5km, with water, isotonic, fruits. I found it well organized and plenty of helpful staff.
Between the km15 till km 32 I was feeling great and ran my best, even in the crowded streets. Only after the km 33 there was more space on the streets but then my legs were getting heavier. I kept running and stop at km 40 to sip some wine from the Marathon du Medoc stall. The last and very needed boost!
My time? 4 hours and 3 minutes. My target was to finish in 4 hours, very happy with the result. After the race I was feeling very well. Ate some fruits and a sandwich, drank Coke and later enjoyed a very cold beer.
It’s a scenic race, Paris is a stunning city. I love the idea of running and sightseeing, even better if you don’t need to worry about the traffic. I tried to keep my pace and enjoy the view at the same time. I did a few stops for pictures and don’t regret, I was there to enjoy it.
The crowd was special, thousands of people cheering: Ale Ale Ale, Bravo! Also, there were many bands playing music along the course. It really helps to keep you going!
Nat and I planned 4 meeting points, at Chateau de Vincennes on Km 12, at Place de La Bastille between Km 22-23 , at Place de Varsovie on Km 29 and at the finish line. Unfortunately, she got stuck on the Metro and we missed each other at Chateau de Vincennes. I managed to do a quick stop to kiss her at Place de La Bastille. She didn’t see me at Place de Varsovie but spot me on the finish line.
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Paris Marathon Review Tip: If your partner or friend wants to take some pictures and cheer for you, plan ahead the meeting points and give some time for the transit between the places. The metro lines are packed during race time.
» Paris Marathon Training Review
That’s a tough point. A lot of people ask about the training schedule for the Paris Marathon. We can not say that there is a single recipe that suits everybody. It all depends on how fit you are, what is your expectations, time available for training, dedication… A lot of factors.
My case was an interesting one. I ran the Ironman Brazil back on 2012. On March 2013 was submitted to a hip surgery and stop running till October of that year. I started my training 7 months before the Paris Marathon. But this time I had an extra challenge, no fixed address and without a “normal” routine.
Since we were traveling around the world I did my training in 7 different countries, a total of 19 different cities. Istanbul, Izmir, Pamukkale, Cappadocia, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, Bangkok, Boracay, Bohol, Manila, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket, Ao Nang, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Langkawi, Bologna, Reggio Emilia and Paris.
One day I was running in Istanbul, raining and 6ºC, on the following day I was in Bangkok running under the sun with the thermometer hitting 35ºC. Another challenge was to find a flat course for the long training, especially in some of the Thai islands like Koh Phi Phi or Koh Tao. The bright side was the amazing landscape I enjoyed during my training. Cappadocia on late October is gorgeous, the beaches of The Philippines, the Bosphorus in Istanbul…. Can’t complain at all.
In addition to the temperature changes, the main challenge for me was to adapt to different foods, ingredients and seasonings. I lost about 8 kgs during my training for the Paris Marathon. Mainly because took me a while to get used to the food in each new country. In average I was training 1 hour per day from Monday to Saturday and between 2-3 hours every Sunday.
Paris Marathon Review Tip: Start training about 6 months before the race if you already have done one half marathon, or earlier for those who haven’t. ALWAYS train with a coach, don’t follow a spreadsheet just because a friend of a friend told you to do it. A certified coach can evaluate your performance and minimize the risk of injuries. Also, go see your doctor before start training! Roberto Lemos from Ironmind was my coach for this challenge, he is known as “The Master”. Also I can recommend Lucas Helal from Luquitri Assessoria Esportiva, he does a great job with his online coaching system. Lucas trained me for the Ironman Malaysia.
» Paris Marathon Review Hotels – Where to stay in Paris?
Paris is a huge city, this is no secret. To find the best place to stay in Paris you need to set a budget and then start the research. Bear in mind that location is the key. I suggest choosing a place near the metro, which is not hard, in Paris there are more than 240 metro stations in the city. Here are some suggestions of areas to stay in Paris:
An alternative to hotels is to rent a place using Airbnb. From a room in someone’s house to a fully furnished penthouse. Sign up to Airbnb with this link and get USD 20 of credit! Start your Paris Marathon Travel Planning on a saving mode!
Paris Marathon Review Tip: remember that metro lines 1,2 & 6 goes directly to Charles de Gaulle Etoile station, where the race starts.
» How to get to Paris?
That’s easy. Paris is served by 3 airports, 7 train stations & international bus station. Over 50 airlines fly to Charles de Gaulle Airport, the biggest one in Paris. If you are flying from a destination outside Europe is very likely that you will land here. To get to city center just hop on the RER train.
Orly Airport is another airport with flights to Europe, Africa, Asia and Americas. This airport is also connected to the city center via RER train. Beauvais Airport is used mainly by budget airlines such as Ryanair and to European destinations only. To reach the city the easiest way is the shuttle bus.
Does not matter where you flying to, always research several airlines before booking your flights. We really like Skyscanner, they compare several airlines and you can save time & money.
If you fancy traveling by train, you will find plenty of services connecting all Europe to Paris. We travelled from Milan (Italy) to Paris by train, but we choose a route via Switzerland to enjoy the Alps landscape. This trip was done using Eurail Pass, absolutely hassle-free! Buy your Eurail Pass here! Or for further info check this article on how to travel in Europe by train.
» Paris Marathon Weather Review
In theory, April is already spring. Or at least my concept of spring is sunny days with temperatures ranging from 20º-25ºC. We arrived in Paris with freezing 8ºC. I was freaking out! Usually the temperature would rise during the day but before 9am was quite cold.
I went to the race wearing my trisuit, legging, a hoodie, thermal jacket & gloves. I stripped off the jacket & legging minutes before entering the corral. The jumper and gloves I took off only after 3 hours running. My Brazilian blood and the months training in South East Asia made me a bit sensitive to the cold.
Paris Marathon Review Tip: Arrive a few days before the race to get used to the weather.
» Paris Marathon Equipment Review
I ran the Paris Marathon with my New Balance M890v4 with a pair of anti-blister socks from Nike. The runners lasted me a solid 1 year of intense training for the marathon and the Ironman Langkawi. To track my performance I use the Garmin Forerunner 310XT. Strongly suggest getting a visor or a cap to protect from the sun. Nike featherlite visor is a great product. Remember that I mentioned the low temperatures, so consider buying a pair of leggings, Nike and Mizuno are good options. A Go Pro Silver 4 was my choice to record some videos and take pictures during the race.
» Paris Marathon Review Verdict
Will I race it again? Absolutely! While writing this Paris Marathon Review I even checked the date of the 2017 edition.
The Paris Marathon is a well organized and beautiful race. If you have visited Paris before it’s a great opportunity to see the city from a different perspective. If it’s your first time in Paris you will be amazed by the beauty of the city. Make sure to stay at least one week after the race to explore Paris.
I told Natalie that after racing the Paris Marathon, Chiang Mai Marathon and the Ironman Langkawi in Malaysia, I would stop for a while. Well, it’s over a month without training, time to chose a new race and start everything again!