Report on the 2017 Paris Marathon (by Eddie Trindle)
The 2017 Schneider Electric Paris Marathon took place on Sunday, April 9th. In glorious weather (for walking!) 43,754 runners started the race with 42,441 finishers. This makes Paris the largest marathon in Europe (just ahead of London). By 12.30 the temperature had reached 20 degrees and it peaked at 25 later in the afternoon. 3 Eagles went to the start line that morning: Tony Cambridge, my brother Aidan and I. Coincidentally it took place the same day as the Rotterdam marathon.
With the Paris marathon taking place on the Sunday morning I flew into CDG airport on the Friday afternoon. Aidan arrived that night. Both our families had traveled over for it. We met up on the Saturday morning for a coffee, Parisian style, on the terrace. Karen Bevan had run the marathon in Paris the previous year and gave us good tips in advance. I didn’t take part in the Breakfast Run on the Saturday morning. This in itself is a stunning 5k route starting at the Place du Palais Royal and finishing under the Eiffel Tower – with about 3,000 runners.
It was very sunny and warm early on the Saturday afternoon when we all headed on the metro to the Salon du Running (marathon expo) at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre in the south west of the city. The scale of it was quite impressive with aisle upon aisle of merchandise, along with an Asics shop (selling tech tops in every imaginable colour) and a wall displaying the names of all the runners in tiny print. France is unique in that it requires a Medical Certificate from your GP revealing that you have “no contraindications for participating in running competitions” With this paperwork with us we collected our bib numbers and starter packs.
Instead of being smart and putting the feet up we then embarked on a tour of the city. I knew this would happen! It can be difficult to avoid with Paris being such a scenic city and with families there for the 1st time. There were vast tourist crowds especially at Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. We clocked up well over the average daily walking steps. It is marketed as “42.195 km dans la plus belle ville du monde” and we were beginning to see why. Security was very visible throughout the weekend with the gendarmerie checking metro stations and armed soldiers at some of the key tourist points.
As is usual there was hardly any need for a phone alarm or wake-up call on the morning of the marathon. Having slept well I woke at about 6.30. After a quick breakfast in the hotel room I headed to the nearest metro. I arranged to meet Aidan after the race – as his apartment was in a different arrondissement. When I exited the metro at Franklin D. Roosevelt the first thing that struck me was the heavy security presence. Armed police were patrolling the pavements on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The bag drop was quite a distance away so I avoided going there by travelling to the start with just a throw-away t-shirt. After warming up on the side streets I entered the starting pen. There are far less toilets available in Paris than Dublin and the queues were quite long. The start is very staggered with various coloured time zones (which you pre-select based on your expected finish time). Warm-up exercises were relayed on loud speaker and all the runners made the Paris triangle symbol (Eiffel Tower) with their hands raised in the air for a huge group photo. Even the zone I was in was split in two, with the right side of the street going off 5 min before the left side (some anxious runners jumped the central reservation to get started). We were advised on the PA to take on water at every station.
The start of the race was one of the highlights for me. Running down the Champs-Élysées was terrific. It was a thrill to run down one of the most famous streets in the world. At the end of the street we crossed Place de la Concorde, the largest square in the French capital. Passing around the fountains on the cobblestones you were stepping on history. King Louis XVI was executed at the guillotine there in January 1793 when it was Place de la Révolution.
The route passed by Jardin des Tuileries and on towards the Musée du Louvre, the world’s largest museum. At this point I really noticed the heavy congestion of a big city marathon. A few runners were pushing each other in the back and there were some heels being accidentally clipped. I concentrated on moving to the side of the street and trying to avoid a collision. The race then headed to the east of the city, passing through Place de la Bastille, where the old prison stood when stormed during the French Revolution. There was a pull at 7k (which came out of the blue) but overall I found the course to be very flat. Although not as flat as Rotterdam or Manchester I think it is much more favourable than Dublin or Cork.
Then came one of the nicest sections of the marathon: Bois de Vincennes. The greenery and woods there were a welcome relief from the city streets. Aidan regarded this as his favourite point in the entire course. On the approach road there was an enormous rock situated to our right. We ran through the grounds surrounding the castle – Château de Vincennes. Upon exiting the park we then headed back west. Again the route is just north of the River Seine. I ran through the halfway point bang on 1.45. Although I felt good I was sure I couldn’t complete the 2nd half in the same time.
The route then follows the river, passing Île de la Cité and going under Pont Neuf, then a series of tunnels. I spotted an Irish tricolour by the river as we looked across at Notre Dame on the other side. There were runners from as far away as the Ukraine and the US near me. Still there seemed to be hordes of runners all around and no sign of it thinning out. The crowd at the riverbank were yelling “Allez! Allez!” At this point there were plenty of sights to view across on the other side including the Musée d’Orsay. The dark tunnels we ran through were definitely the least scenic part of the route. I didn’t find them too off-putting except that they made it harder to breathe due to the heat in them.
At Trocadéro, opposite the Eiffel Tower, there was a large water station. Some of the water stations were chaotic with everybody going for the first table. Throughout the race though the sponsors Vittel had target boards erected with recycling bins underneath. This made the offloading of the plastic bottles a bit more fun by aiming for the bullseye each time. There was only a half a small cup of Gatorade at the 30k mark. There were plenty of half bananas and oranges at the stations.
The most difficult climb in the marathon hit me suddenly at around the 33k mark – between Boulevard Exelmans and Suchet. The runners were like ants slowly climbing up a hill. I thought something had gone wrong when I turned the corner and saw so many people bunched together. Then I kept pushing gradually up the slope and focusing on passing road signs on the footpath.
After 34k the race headed into the woods on the west side of the city – Bois de Boulogne. This was a large, beautiful park with lakes in it. But I must say I thought it would never end! We seemed to be going around in circles. And from 11 o’clock onwards I really noticed the temperature going up. I was laughing at that time as the man in front of me was wearing a top with “Where the Foch is the finish?” printed on the back.
Checking my watch I noticed we were down to the last half mile. But still we were in the park and no sign of any streets! Finally we emerged and headed in the direction of the Arc de Triomphe. Passing around a cobblestone roundabout (Porte Dauphine) and then onto Avenue Foch I knew I could just about make a PB so I pushed hard for the line. I was mighty glad to be finished. I had crossed the line in 3.37, so had shaved a minute off my PB. The organisers ASO Challenges break your result into 5k stretches on a bar graph. I had a reasonably flat graph except for 2 stretches: 0-5k (fastest) @ 24:28 and 30-35k (slowest) @ 27:21.
After the finish line I gorged on juicy orange slices at the refreshment tables and wolfed back more water For once the avenues radiating off the Arc de Triomphe were easily crossable on foot – with the heavy volume of pedestrians. Back on the Champs-Élysées it was as if there had been no marathon at all. It was thronged with shoppers and passing traffic. I sat on the kerb and took it all in. I thought I was after getting in the way when some passing cyclists shouted at me – but they were cheering “Bravo!” The 2 families had arranged a rendezvous after the race. We enjoyed a meal and the most refreshing beers ever.
To complete the weekend we squeezed in one day at Disney on the Monday. Walking around the parks wasn’t as taxing on the legs as I had envisaged. Ironically the weather was much cooler. After getting around Paris the day before we were always going to be able to hang in there and survive the Mad Tea Cup ride Overall I thought Paris was a fantastic marathon for scenery and history. It is an expensive city but there is plenty to see for family/friends travelling over. I found the course very flat. The markings were in both km and miles. There were no gels given out. Due to there being such enormous numbers there is more congestion than smaller marathons and the toilet queues are longer. But it is very well organized and great one to experience, especially as there is guaranteed entry.
An inspirational short video of the 2017 highlights is here on YouTube:
The route and profile for the marathon can be found here:
The finishing times for the 3 Eagles who took part were:
Tony Cambridge 3:03:54
Eddie Trindle 3:37:39
Aidan Trindle 4:13:54
Kenyan husband and wife duo Paul Lonyangata and Purity Rionoripo won the men’s and women’s races respectively. Below were the wining times:
1. Paul Lonyongata (KEN) 2:06:10
2. Stephen Chebogut (KEN) 2:06:57
3. Solomon Yego (KEN) 2:07:12
1. Purity Rionoripo (KEN) 2:20:55 new record
2. Agnès Barsosio (KEN) 2:20:59
3. Flomena Cheyech (KEN) 2:21:22