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Paris Marathon Trip Report (as long as the run itself!)

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Apr 13th, 2004, 03:14 PM
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Paris Marathon Trip Report (as long as the run itself!)

Most other trip reports probably have the same food/lodging/shopping experiences that I had. So, if you are looking to do something different in Paris, the marathon may be a new adventure for you! Here is my basic report:

I did this marathon a few years ago, so unfortunately I ran a lot of this comparing to my first time. Still, this remains one of my favorite marathons in the world and is really well-organized. You can get more information at www.parismarathon.com. It?s under $50 for foreigners, which is dirt cheap when you consider quite a few American marathons charge much more for foreign entrants.

When you arrive for packet pick up, you need to have your confirmation letter in hand and your medical certificate. They recommend that you have a copy of the medical certificate for yourself. They have a new rule that guests are not allowed in the packet pick up area, which is a little inconvenient. Once you get in, however, it?s very quick and the exhibition area is huge! The marathon organizers apparently are great at getting sponsors. Usually runners will cut holes in garbage bags and wear that over their gear on race day. Instead, ?Jogging? magazine sponsored T-shirt sized plastic ponchos for everyone to wear, with their logo plastered all over it. Genius! They also got Chiquita to sponsor the bananas (and I think the rest of the fruit) at all the aid stations along the way. And Vittel provided whole bottles of water every 5K.

On race day, you need to get to the Champs Elysee in front of the arc de Triomphe. You do not need to arrive too early, but do be aware that the metro is packed with 34,000 runners trying to get to the start. The morning from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. was cold, windy, and rainy. Fortunately, by 7:30 the rain cleared and it was a nice marathon day. Everyone in very jovial and spirited on the ride over.

The last time I did the run, the start of the race was very dramatic and everyone was yelling wildly. The spectator crowds were huge and there was noise all along the way. This time, the start was almost non-existent, and those of us at the back simply meandered to the start and started running once we got there, dodging all the plastic ponchos left by the faster runners. The crowds in the morning were pretty quiet, just a bunch of people standing around. I found that the people who got the crowds cheering were those who were dressed up. There were four guys dressed up like coal miners and pushing a cart of ?coal? and singing at the top of their lungs. I ran alongside them for a while and clocked them doing a 9 minute mile! Most of the way I ran with a woman dressed as Minnie Mouse. This got all the children along the way (and some adults) shouting, ?Allo Minnie! Allo Minnie!? A lot of guys had elaborate costumes as well, which looked hot or heavy but they were running at a good clip. One guy was even carrying a flag made of all the bib numbers he?s ever worn. If I do this marathon again, I?ll probably wear some kind of costume--weather permitting.

The route is much more scenic now. You still run through the city, storming the Bastille and cruising past the Tuileries. But this time when you get to the Bois du Vincennes, you actually pass the Chateau for a nice photo op. Also, the current route through the bois allows for spectators, who by this time are awake and more into cheering. During the second half, you run a lot along the river and even under Pont l?Alma, where Princess Diana met her end. Years ago, this tunnel was a virtual shrine, with flowers and posters everywhere and especially on the pillar where her car made impact. Time has passed, however, and if you didn?t know you were passing under Pont l?Alma, you wouldn?t know its significance.

There are about 20 or so ?activities? along the way as well. Musicians, bands, cheerleaders, dancers and more dot the route to entertain everyone and keep your spirits up. People really like to dress up in this town--most of the entertainers were in some kind of costume.

The refreshment stations every 5K is a veritable buffet: Whole bottles of water, sugar cubes, lemons, oranges, bananas, raisins and maybe even power gels if you get there early enough. Most runners do the marathon in 4:30 or less, so try to shoot for this in your training. I?m usually a sub-5 marathoner, but due to lack of training I ended up at 5:30. Those of us at this end of the pack got a lot less in terms of water and refreshments than the faster runners, and during the last 3 miles some of the stations were already closing up and breaking down. The guys from Marathon du Medoc, however, stick around at the the 23rd mile mark till the end to give out red wine to anyone who?s up to it--much like the guys in Honolulu pass out beer at around Mile 23.

In the past, the field of women was a mere 10 percent or less. Now, women make up about 15 percent of all runners in the Paris Marathon. This is great for the sisterhood, as European women move more progressively into social consciousness. No matter who you are or where you finish, as you make your way home with your medal and your poncho, people on the metro will all pat you on the back and offer hearty ?Felicitacions!? on completing a gruelling 42 KM.
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Apr 13th, 2004, 03:28 PM
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Oh what a wonderful experience! I have done a few marathons, but only stateside so far. Thank you for such a great report
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Apr 13th, 2004, 03:38 PM
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What an amazing and unique report and experience! YAY!!!!! Good for you!
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Apr 13th, 2004, 04:30 PM
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Bravo MelissaHI. I enjoyed your report always wanted to do Paris but haven't been able to convince my wife to travel to Paris in April. We go in May and September but your discription of the course and positive experience has me re-thinking my priorities.
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Apr 13th, 2004, 05:51 PM
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I watched the Marathon--from the southern side of rue St. Antoine, just past rue St. Paul. I may have even cheered you on!

I have pictures. Maybe I should send them to you to see if you can find yourself in them.
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Apr 13th, 2004, 06:19 PM
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oooh, Elle, please do! try me at [email protected] and I'll send you my photo album link. I didn't take too many photos since I've been there before--just the highlights this time. Plus I'm waiting for my friends and Mischka to email me more photos.

mms, I've done the Prague and Vienna marathons and this one is still really the best. Well....actually, you have to like big marathons, which I do. I met a family from Atlanta who said they prefer smaller marathons, 3000 to 5000 people. But still, hey! It's Paris.
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Apr 13th, 2004, 06:36 PM
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Congratulations, Melissa! Thanks for a truly different type of trip report. I admire your spirit.

Maybe we should form a Fodorites team of runners for the next Paris marathon. That way, we would all get to see one another at our huffing, puffing, sweaty worst. (Or best)

Without alluding to specific posters, just consider for a moment the comedic images that possibility brings to mind.

Staggering together down the avenue in skimpy running shorts plastered to our posteriors would no doubt humble and humanize the worst of us.

Goooooo Fodorites!
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Apr 13th, 2004, 06:59 PM
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Great report - good for you.

Potential Team Fodor: NYCFoodSnob, Scarlett, Degas (and little wife), Budman, ThinGorjus, and ..... ?

European Marathons would never be the same again!
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Apr 13th, 2004, 07:15 PM
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What a treat this was to read !!

I won't be running in a marathon but I would love to be there cheering them (you?) on!
Yay, Melissa!
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Apr 13th, 2004, 07:19 PM
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Bravo, Melissa, I ran the first Bonnie Belle 10k as a senior so I know what you accomplished.
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Apr 13th, 2004, 10:48 PM
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What a fantastic idea!! A fodors GTG at a European marathon....with the after-party, of course. I ended up shuffling over to the Bistrot de Bretuil for the celebration dinner. We could really have a fabulous time!!

And remember....the best way to see a city is on foot. What better way to comb 26 miles of Paris?

Thank you all for your positive support! Looking forward to the next GTG....
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Apr 14th, 2004, 04:34 AM
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Hi melissa,

Welcome home.

Certainly a different kind of report.
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Apr 14th, 2004, 05:39 AM
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Scarlett, you can join me. I was on the sidelines with a croissant, my husband with a croissant and cigarette.
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Apr 14th, 2004, 05:42 AM
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Melissa, did a British woman with short dark hair win? Later that day, we were at Le Bonaparte and the woman at the table next to us was wearing a tricolor ribbon and a medal around her neck.

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Apr 14th, 2004, 08:18 AM
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hahaha! Actually, all finishers got a tricolor ribbon with a medal. That's why people in the metro were asking me what it was for. OH MY GOSH! I wonder if they thought *I* won???

Anyway, for the record....for the men, Ethiopia?s Ambesa Tolosa won; for the women, Kenyan runner Salina Kosgei won. Both were surprise wins not just because they beat out the favorites, but because this was the first marathon for each of them. Gives us hope, eh?
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Apr 15th, 2004, 10:09 AM
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Viva Melissa! You should post that wonderful picture that your faithful brother took of you running in the Vienna Marathon, make it a sorta all-inclusive European Marathon picture.
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Apr 16th, 2004, 08:42 AM
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Thanks! Actually now I kind of regret not saving all my running number bibs, like that guy who made a flag out of his. Had I known at the time I would become addicted to European marathons.....but that's something to consider, as many of you might also get addicted.
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Apr 16th, 2004, 08:47 AM
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Melissa, will you be running in our Boston Marathon?
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Apr 16th, 2004, 10:56 AM
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Oh, man, I wish I were!! But I am sorry to say, I am not fast enough. There is no way I'll ever be able to qualify for Boston!

I'll come by for a peanut butter & fluff sandwich tho...
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Apr 17th, 2004, 04:40 AM
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Yay Melissa!! I loved reading your report...can just imagine how wonderful that marathon must have been! I'm not much into races, but Paris could get me going if anything could!

Your picture link made it to me via the grapevine (thank you gals!) but I've got company so have only hit the computer in tiny breaks in our play time, thus not seen your trip report until just now. It looks like you had some beautiful blue sky (is it just me or is that Paris blue-after-the-rain, bluer than normal blue sky? ) and with the cold it must have been perfect running weather. Can just picture running down the Champs Elysee, past the Tuileries---sigh--if that doesn't get your adrenalin going, nothing could! What a fun way to do a marathon. Good job and thanks for writing the report...makes me smile to think of seeing Paris this way.
 
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