Paris Marathon & City Guide Part 2: Marathon day!

Paris Marathon and City Guide Part 2

So here we are – part 2 of my Paris Marathon and City Guide! If you haven’t already, go and check out part 1 for some insider tips and tricks on getting around the city, navigating the Expo, and fun things to do the day before (without nackering your legs!)

This one covers the race day itself, with advice on the start area, bag drop and loo logistics, start corrals, spectator/aid points and post-run recovery. I hope it helps!

– Pre-race breakfast

I wanted to make sure my breakfast was as close to what I’d had in training as possible, so I threw a few porridge pots in my suitcase. This worked brilliantly on the morning – all I needed to do was add some hot water from the hotel room kettle, and grab a banana to eat on the way!


Looking mildly terrified on marathon morning – though luckily 26.2 miles sorted that right out!

If you’re not a porridge fan, the French are brilliant with their carbs. Just pop into a local Monoprix supermarket, and you’ll have aisles of different breads and pastries and cakes (the Madeleines and muffins were next to the breakfast stuff, and yes, I definitely had them for breakfast once or twice!)

– The start area (loos and bag drop)

The first thing I’ll say is get there EARLY. There are plenty of loos, which was great – a row at each exit of the Place d’Etoile – so if the first lot look a bit busy, just keep heading round. I only had about 4 people in the queue ahead of me. Don’t worry about skipping a few – you need to cross a couple of roads from the Champs Elysees anyway, as the bag drop is on the Avenue Foch. What I didn’t realise was how far down it was:

parisstart2Heading back to the start after the bag drop, banana and drink in hand!

They were directing runners along the side of the finish chute, round the far end of the bag drop area, and back along to the start – it took us a good 20 minutes or so. But once we actually reached the right bit, we were sorted in 30 seconds.

– The corrals

The corrals were easy to navigate, as they were marked with colour-coded time flags (these are the same colours as the bib pick-up tables at the Expo). The entrances to each corral were very crowded, as there were barriers all along the edge and just a small gap for the runners to get through; there were also LOTS of spectators milling around, so you might need to get those elbows ready 😉

I’d definitely suggest making the most of the loos before you get into your corral, as there was only 1 cubicle in each, and 1 urinal for the guys. Each cubicle had a massive queue, even well after the starting gun – not worth the stress!

– The marathon course

There are a few things that are worth a mention here:

  • Pace yourself in the first mile or two. The marathon starts off slightly downhill, and it’s easy to get caught up with the masses.
  • Aid stations are every 5k, and include slices of orange and banana along with small bottles of Vittel water – but the tables are set up about 200m past the km markers, so don’t expect to see them straight away. I would also move along and grab a bottle/fruit from the far end, as it’s much quieter. Take the opportunity to walk here – the ground can get very slippery due to the discarded banana and orange peel!
  • The main spectator areas seemed to be around Concorde, Bastille (as the course loops back on itself here, at 3 and 14 miles), Vincennes, the bridges along the river, and on Avenue Foch. My boyfriend managed to spot me at Bastille, Vincennes, and back at Bastille – but unfortunately we missed each other at mile 17 (however this is definitely a good area to try and get to, as it’s a bit quieter than the earlier stages).
  • If you’re looking for decent race photos, it’s worth noting that the photographers were generally set up in the middle of the street, rather than at the edge – so pick your good side in advance! And if you signed up for the live FB photo at 41km, be warned: the cameras are at the top of a short, sharp hill. Everyone around you who had been walking or taking it easy will shoot up this hill as soon as they spot the ‘you will be photographed in X metres!’ sign, so get those legs moving! 😉
  • There was very little shade in the second half of the race, so if it’s warm, slap on the sun cream and grab a hat! (Don’t do what I did and only remember the sun cream half a mile down the Champs Elysees. You WILL suffer for it. I still have the tan marks from my Garmin and pace band…)
– The finish

The finish area was brilliantly organised. There were photographers about 200m from the finish line, and once you crossed it, the rest was simple: medals and t-shirts came first, then the tables of water bottles (seriously thankful for those!), and finally the bag drop area. There were also a few stalls further down, with massage areas and running gear, but I personally skipped them.

With regards to meeting your supporters, I found that picking a specific spot on the Champs Elysees (or any street other than Avenue Foch) worked really well, as the crowds seemed to thin out past the finish area. I found my boyfriend almost immediately, and had an ice-cream in my hand within about 15 minutes! (Priorities, and all that!)

– Refueling, Paris-style

Whilst it was tempting to hang around after the race, the Champs Elysees and surrounding streets are always full of tourists, and it’s notoriously difficult to find a seat at any of the restaurants (though I wouldn’t write them off straight away – there are some lovely places to eat if you manage to get a space). We headed back to the hotel instead, where I grabbed a shower and we both had a short nap (spectating is hard work!) before venturing out for dinner a few hours later. There’s no shortage of restaurants in the city, and every French bistro/restaurant I’ve been to has done EPIC steak frites – which is exactly what I had! Along with a glass of wine, though that very nearly sent me to sleep… But if you can’t have a glass of wine in Paris on marathon day, when can you!?

– – –

Are you running Paris next year? Is there anything else you’d like to know, that I might have missed? Add a comment below, come find me on Twitter, or ping me an email at 🙂

6 thoughts on “Paris Marathon & City Guide Part 2: Marathon day!

  1. Just curious, which did you prefer out of Paris and Barcelona? Looking to sign up for a marathon in 2017 (my first one!) and am torn between the two. I’ve been to Paris several times before and speak passable French so that and the fact registration is already opened for next year is currently swaying me towards Paris! I’ve never visited Barcelona before though. Do you get a finishers tshirt in Barcelona? Thanks

    • Hi Claire,

      Personally, I preferred the Paris course (I love the city, and the route takes you past all the best sights and along the river!), but I preferred Barcelona Marathon because there was a lot more crowd support. That might have been because my name was bigger on the race number for Barcelona though! You get a finishers tshirt for both, and both medals are lovely, too. It’s a hard choice, as they’re both awesome races – it just comes down to which city you prefer! 🙂

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