10 April 2011

Spectating at the Marathon de Paris

This morning was the Marathon de Paris. This took me completely by surprise and is oddly the second marathon I have witnessed in this lovely city. The last one was a World Championships marathon back in 2003. That one was very different from today's. This one had 40,000 entrants... only a small percentage of whom were super-fast.

I was allowed the morning to myself so that I could make my way around the city unencumbered by whining, hungry or vomiting children. I was so excited. I can't remember the last time I left the house with just a couple of dollars in my pocket, my sunglasses and my camera. It felt amazing!

I jumped on the Métro and headed into the heart of Paris. My plan was to get to the Place de la Bastille (about the 5K mark on the way out and the 13-mile mark on the way back... figured I'd get to see the big pack and the leaders from right about the same spot... just one quick pivot). I had a huge brain fart, though. For some reason, I thought the "République" station was at the Place de la Bastille... the whole French Revolution and the importance of the Bastille in it and the République that arose from it... I don't know actually what or if I was thinking :P So I had a bit of a walk... and had to seriously move it to get to the Bastille in time to see the leaders... or so I thought.

Okay... long walk.

And then I saw the Place de la Bastille...

You can barely see the mob at the foot of the monument...

A little clearer now...

Here's a little video of the people running a 4-hour pace...
I saw the pace guy with his banner so I know this.

Then I tried to get to the other side of the street by going into the subway system... and got lost. I couldn't figure out how to emerge on the correct side of the street, so I just got on a train headed a little further up the course.

The weather was beautiful... for tourists.  I think it was awfully warm and sunny to be considered ideal marathon-weather. I stationed myself on the Pont Neuf, very much at the center of town and roughly the 15.5-mile mark. I knew the leaders were approaching because the helicopter was getting closer. Suddenly, I heard applause....

the first wheelchair competitor.

Moments later, I heard more applause and cheering and this came through...
the pack of leaders.
Can you see that pace car?
at 15.5 miles into it

(I am in the videos, too. The 'V' of the shadow on the road... my head is close to the point)

Then the battery in my doo-doo camera died. I waited to see the women blaze by... pace car said just over 1:25. Both leader-packs were such a sight to behold. They look effortless at 15.5 miles. I know they are working, but the grace and lightness and steadiness... awe-inspiring and beautiful. For the first time, I noticed that these fast distance runners have really big hamstrings. Not sure how I've been missing that :P

After watching the fastest women race out of sight, I decided to head up to the finish line... thinking I would get to see the winner cross the line. That would have happened... if I hadn't have gotten lost again! Arriving at 2:11 into the race, the first guys were done! So I waited around to see the woman winner. I took the battery out of the camera and tricked it into thinking it had more juice!  Go, me! My doo-doo camera is super lame and I missed the shot of the winning woman crossing the line in 2:22:55! But I did get this shot...
She was in the women's top 10, but I'm not sure where.
You can see how doo-doo my camera is.
I clicked the button when she was at the left of the frame.

Then I headed back to about the 18.5-mile mark... directly across from the Eiffel Tower. I took this picture right after the 4:00-hour pace banner went by. I didn't have a very good vantage point, but there is a single-person deep line of spectators at the curb and then a pretty solid mass of runners between the curbs. I saw a lot of people peeling out of the pack around this part... limping away, walking away with bright red chest spots where their unprotected nipples had chafed to bleeding, practically crawling up the stairs to get on the Métro to go home... 18.5 is a tough spot, and the weather conditions made it even tougher.

Then I went home. This time, I did not get lost.

I want to wish all of you with upcoming marathons and other races (I know Boston is next weekend) the very, very best! I hope the conditions for you all are fantastic, the support/aid stations are in the perfect places, the portapotties are convenient and clean, and your equipment of choice functioning optimally :)

A bientôt!


  1. Sounds like a great and beautiful day. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Bonjour!
    Je suis tres jalouse!!!
    first: alone time.
    in Paris.
    at a marathon.

    thank you for this post. I love it.
    Aurevoir Madame!

  3. Awww, this looks like the most "romantic and enchanted" marathon watching EVER!! ;) Must be Paris. Wish I was there!

  4. Stunning photos! What an amazing adventure :) The best way to see a new place is to get lost. Enjoy!

  5. I absolutely freakin love that you are in Paris right now. Hot digitty dawg!

    that is just beyond cool.

    and now...yes, you REALLY must take it all in;-)

  6. It must have been really nice to walk around with only a few small things in your pocket that were only for you.

    How awesome you are in Paris. Enjoy your time.

  7. Really cool pictures- sounds like a great day!

  8. Unbelievable experience!!! WOW! Paris looks gorgeous-- you didn't sign up for this race?! ;)

    ENJOY the rest of your time in grand Parieeeee Marjorie!!!

  9. I

    So. Awesome.
    Must run this one day!!

    Loved the videos. Pure. Awesomeness.

  10. That sounds so beautiful (the area) but miserable (the marathon! Ahh!!). So glad you are having fun!

  11. A day to yourself in Paris... Pure luxury! Hope you also took a moment to sit down at a sidewalk cafe for a tasty cafe au lait. No, make that a glass of wine!


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