As usual, at the end of the year (2022) the marathon planning for the coming year was on the agenda. Somebody mentioned the Paris Marathon, the biggest marathon in Europe, as an option. And after some research it was clear: That's it !
An additional reason was of course that I had never been to Paris before, although the city is less than 3 hours away by TGV from neighbouring city of Mulhouse.
The date for the marathon was given as April, 2nd 2023 and a starting place was still available for 120€ in November. Registration on the Paris Marathon homepage was easy and straightforward. I had selected the "slowest" option (finishing in 4hrs 30min) as the target time, which also had to be entered when registering. What that meant exactly for the start time was not clear to me at that time.
Train and hotel were then booked in the course of the following weeks, whereby I had chosen a (more expensive) hotel from which one could reach the start area at the Arc de Triomphe in 30 minutes by foot.
The "medical certificate" usually required for running events in France could be uploaded on the registration website up to a few weeks before the event.
Unfortunately, marathons in spring have the disadvantage that some of the long training runs have to be run in not necessarily pleasant temperatures and possibly also mucky weather. And that's how it was. The last longer run before the marathon was the half marathon in Freiburg a week before, which also took place in cool, changeable weather.
In order to avoid the queues announced in the information sent out in advance when collecting the starting documents on Saturday, we took the metro directly to the exhibition centre at the "Porte de Versailles" station on Friday afternoon after checking in at the hotel.
And already now we had to wait about 20 minutes until we were in the hall. The reason for the queue was the too few security checks at the entrance through which all visitors were guided (on Saturday the waiting time was several hours). There is definitely room for improvement here!
In the hall, the procedure was simple and quick. First get the Medical Certificate (original!) stamped and then pick up the start number with this form and the QR code from the confirmation email of the registration. Additionally I also wanted to change the starting block.
The planned running time submitted during the registration process is printed on the start number and automatically determines the start time. There is a large time gap between the starting blocks. For example, the 3-hour runners start at 8:16 a.m., while the runners with a planned finish time of 4hrs 30min start at 10:50 a.m. I wanted to start earlier. Opposite the bib issue was the stand where I could simply have a new (shorter) finish time stuck over my bib. This seems to be common and was possible without any questions. With a target time of now 4hrs, I was now able to get into the starting block an hour earlier, at 9.50am already. Before being directed towards the marathon fair, I was given a small running backpack with a sponsor print. The fair was big and anyone planning to buy something could expect to find something here.
After a short breakfast on Sunday morning, I left the hotel at 8am to Avenue Foch which was the area to drop off the clothes. Here, too, the organisation was very awkward. Coming from the Arc de Triomphe, one had to walk past the (perceived) entire cordoned-off finish area to stand in a queue at the end - again because of too few gates and staff at the security checks.
After a further wait on the Champs Élysées, the start area was opened at 9:20am (for the finish time of 4hrs). Now again it was about "waiting". I had expected the thousands of 4hrs runners to move slowly towards the start line at 9:50am, but that was not the case. Instead, small blocks were sent out onto the course at 2 1/2 minute intervals. This took about 30min before the 4hr 15min runners were then let into the start area.
The course passes many of the famous sights and is very varied but not flat. Partly cobblestones and some tunnels (partly with disco lighting) also cost energy. In the northwest and southeast, the route runs through forest with only few spectators. In the city and later in the morning, however, the spectators were crowded along the course and enthusiastically cheered on the runners: allez hopp, allez hopp ... courage, courage ...
I had already read in another article on the internet that the catering - especially the range of drinks - at the Paris Marathon leaves a lot to be desired. Unfortunately, this was more than confirmed. One could easily get the impression that the contract with a sponsor (a French mineral water company) stipulated that nothing other than their plastic bottles could be offered. Between km30 and km35, there was a small offer of isotonic drinks in paper cups at a stand, but that was all. Otherwise, only water, water, water - and always plastic bottles. Especially from Km35 onwards, it would have been helpful if cola and/or isotonic drinks had been offered in addition to water. For food, there were bananas, salty crackers, cakes and pieces of sugar (or was it salt?) which was sufficient.
I finished 20min slower than planned. At km30 I had already lost 10min to my original plan to be faster than 2022 in Stockholm. But no matter, it was still fun. After collecting the finisher's T-Shirt, the (not very nice) medal and the clothes I handed in, I snacked on some cake and chocolate before heading back to the hotel.
For pictures pls. check the German version of this post.