Whilst I know Paris quite well, having lived there during my placement year, I’ve never visited the city as a marathon runner – and surprisingly, it was quite a different experience!
Suddenly I had all of these other things to consider. Where is the Expo? How does the Expo work? Where is the start/finish? How do I get from one to the other? What and where should I eat the night before? What can I visit without nackering my legs too much? (Slightly failed that one). And on, and on…
So I figured that I’d put together some of the things that worked well for me, in the hope that it might help someone else who is thinking of running Paris. (And you should! It’s EPIC!)
Before the race
– Getting Around
For getting around the city, you have a few ticket options as far as public transport goes. If you’re not planning on using it much, you can buy single tickets for 1,70e a go; these ‘T’ tickets (or ‘billets‘, in French) will get you onto the metro, RER, bus, and tram. If you’re going to be travelling about a bit, you can either get a ‘carnet‘ (or book) of 10 tickets for about 14e – or you can get a ‘Paris Visite‘ card, which is essentially a ‘T’ ticket that lasts for several days, and can just be reused for multiple journeys (no limits).
Whilst you can buy the ‘T’ tickets at the ticket machines, you need to order the Paris Visite card online at least 4 days before you plan to arrive, and will have to pick it up from the Paris Tourist Office – my old office!! – on the Avenue de l’Opera (L7 metro, ‘Pyramides’) when you get there. There’s also an option to have it posted to you at home.
If you’re going for the individual/carnet ticket options, it’s worth noting that used tickets look almost identical to new tickets (they just get a very faint purple stamp across them from the machine). As you only put them into the machines when you enter the Metro (and don’t need them for the barriers at the other end), I’d recommend folding (or ideally, binning) them once you’re out, so they don’t get mixed up. Nothing worse than having to fish through a dozen identical little tickets whilst impatient Parisians mutter and sigh behind you! 😉
– The Expo
The Paris Marathon Expo is held at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre, on the metro L12. Being a French marathon, you have to take along some paperwork before they’ll hand over your race pack: a medical certificate (you can download a template from the website here, which has the correct wording – and the guidelines are here), your Convocation (this will be available to download from the ASO Challenges site shortly before race day), and some ID.
At the first table, they check your medical certificate and ID. If all is ok, they’ll stamp your convocation and hand it back:
Then all you need to do is head over to the race pack tables (clearly split up by pace group), and show them your stamped Convocation. The race numbers have both your first name and your country on them, which is brilliant as you can find other Brits/Americans/Spaniards etc. in the corrals and along the course – unless, of course, you’re accidentally registered under the wrong nationality:
Though it could have been worse. At least I got plenty of support from the locals!
If you signed up for an Asics pace band, you’ll find them at the Asics stand just after the race pack area (and before you head into the main Expo hall). All you need is your email address. I’d recommend getting one – you can tailor it to your exact goal time, and you get a little map of the course with projected times on it:
– The day before
I’ll start by saying, don’t do the Sacre Coeur the day before the race. Or, if you do, take the flipping funicular. Against my boyfriend’s better judgement, I insisted on walking up all of the steps from the metro – and there were a LOT. Not what you need before a marathon. Fail, Lucy, fail. The views are stunning though, and well worth the effort!
Luckily, most of the main sights are close to the river, on flat ground and within range of a metro station. Word of warning, though – metro stations in Paris don’t generally have escalators!
There are a few sights I’d avoid the day before, such as the Eiffel Tower (there’s a lift to the second floor, but you need to climb the stairs from there), the Arc de Triomphe (arguably some of the best views in Paris, but again, STAIRS), and the Louvre (you’ll be queueing for a good 30 minutes or more before you even get to the museum, which isn’t ideal – but certainly doable after the race!)
Good alternatives are the Orsay and Pompidou galleries; the Rue du Rivoli and Chatlet/Les Halles for shopping; the Tuilerie Gardens; the Carousel du Louvre shopping arcade (hidden directly under the Louvre – you can find quieter entrances next to the ‘Paul’ stand in the Tuilerie Gardens); the Champs Elysees; boat trips (you can get a sightseeing cruise for about 14e, leaving from the Eiffel Tower and heading up and around the Ile de la Cite and back – about an hour). For something a bit more unusual, there are also the Crypts by Notre Dame. Versailles is stunning, but best visited after race day, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking!
– Carb loading
Paris is brilliant for food. Especially carby food. I lived on Paul baguettes – you can find Paul shops across the city, which is great. We grabbed one on the Avenue de l’Opera and ate them in the Tuilerie Gardens:
For evening meals, there are tons of places to eat. We were staying close to Montparnasse, which has a huge range of restaurants (French, Italian, Moroccan, Belgian) but if you’re after something basic there are a few restaurant chains that are pretty good – Hippopotamus (burgers and steaks) and Bistro Romain (pizza and pasta) are a couple of my favourites.
Any questions? Give me a shout! My next post will offer a bit more info on the marathon day itself, so stay tuned 🙂
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UPDATE: Find part 2 of my Paris Marathon & City Guide here.