This past Sunday I took part in my third international marathon in Paris. I’ve previously reviewed Barcelona and Rome marathoners, which were well received. I personally love reading about a race before heading there so I thought it would be worthwhile documenting my experience and sharing the good and bad about the Paris Marathon.
After all, it is the second-largest marathon in the world based on Finishers. Let’s take a look at how my day went and what you should know if you are participating.
Paris Marathon Race Report
This was my best-ever training block for a marathon. My personal best before this race was a 3:54 in Barcelona. I felt like I trained hard for that race but evidently looking back I hadn’t trained optimally or consistently enough.
This time I came into training with about 9 months off running. However, I had been playing squash frequently and lifting weights 4-5 days per week. I was also bulking right up until the start of my training block so I was coming into the race at my heaviest and bulkiest yet.
I planned to cut right through my training to get a little leaner. Both to look better as well as be faster on race day. An initial couple of weeks of training in December were very tough. I was running about 10-minute miles with a fairly high heart rate.
However, once January 1st came around I jumped right into a 12-week 3:45 training plan. That meant going from essentially 0 miles per week to 30 miles per week right away. Here’s what the training block looked like in terms of mileage, peaking at a 42-mile week.
While I missed a few sessions here and there, it was minimal. I mostly got all of my long runs and speed sessions in. This was key. In previous training blocks, I was simply trying to get fit enough to complete a marathon. With that mindset, I ended up skipping the speed sessions and just focused on mileage.
This time around I made sure to get in my speed sessions, long runs and recovery runs. I usually did 1 tempo, 1 interval, and my long run as well as two easy pace runs during the week.
Mileage increased gradually over the block before leading into a taper 3 weeks out.
While I had set out to concur sub 3:45, I soon realized I could do more. About mid-February, my paces were really starting to pick up and I was seeing improvement every single week. That’s when I started to set my eyes on a 3:35. I thought I could finish somewhere between 3:31 – 3:35 based on my training runs.
However, on the day I was able to smash the 3:35 target and came home with a 3:28:27.
My friend and I had a £100 bet on who would win the race. We both trained together for a lot of the training and it definitely kept us consistent. Unfortunately, I lost the bet on the day but we ran together for the first 40km or so before he started slowly slipping ahead of me, finishing with a 3:27.
Running with someone attempting the same pace, while also competing definitely helped push me harder on the day.
|Expected Race Time||Actual Race Time|
In other marathons I have done, I went in without a strategy. This one was different. I meticulously planned my splits throughout different parts of the race. I even had them on my arm to ensure I was on time. Early in the race I went a little faster than I had mapped out but felt I could maintain the 8:00/mile pace to hit sub 3 so carried decided not to slow off.
During training, I had been practicing negative splitting my long runs and it looks like it has paid off as my second half was faster than the first and I still had room in the tank to push the end of the race.
I was able to push the pace faster at the end of the race and maybe could have gone slightly better but I was concerned about blowing out my calf as it had started to feel off late in the race. I knew if I kept the pace and didn’t blow up with an injury I was guaranteed a sub 3:30.
I’m very pleased with this time and how the training has been going. I currently have a niggle in my calf/Achilles but once that’s fully healed I’m preparing to take on my first sub 3, targeting the Valencia marathon in December.
Now let’s take a look at the Paris Marathon itself.
Pre Race Info
You can see the marathon route above which takes you right from the Arc de Triomphe, all the way through the city and back. On the way, you will pass many of France’s famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Arc De Triomphe, Garnier Palais and more.
The course has aid stations every 5km or so. These aid stations have water as the only drink available. If you want some form of sports drink you will have to carry your own. I had my girlfriend pass me an electrolyte mix and Powerade at the sections she was standing.
In terms of other fuel sources, there is a lot. At most aid stations they have bananas, gingerbread slices, dried fruit, sugar cubes, pretzels, and even cake.
Is The Paris Marathon Fast & Flat?
The Paris marathon is relatively flat with a total elevation gain of 529ft. The biggest hills come around the 17k mark and then again when you are coming out of the tunnel sections around 28km into the race. There are a few gradual inclines and declines along the way but other than that it’s relatively flat.
Does The Paris Marathon Have Cobblestones?
Yes, there are cobblestones on some sections of the course. They are fairly close together and there is only a few km between them. However, at the end of the race, there is 1-2km of cobblestones and I really felt the impact on my legs in that last stretch.
How To Sign Up For The Paris Marathon
The signup process for the Paris Marathon is a little more complex than other marathons I have signed up for. The signup process and information are across multiple websites making it hard to find your logins etc. You will also need a signed medical certificate from your doctor to run the race.
You can sign up for the 2024 race here. The current price is 110 Euro however this is likely to go up the closer to the race you get.
This is one of the biggest races in the world and it will sell out. So if you are thinking about taking it on, I would recommend getting signed up as soon as possible.
Arriving In Paris
We arrived in Paris on the Saturday before the race. Looking back I wouldn’t recommend this. Our flight was delayed and lots of flights to Paris were getting canceled due to the protests. This caused a lot of unnecessary stress. Give yourself an extra day and arrive on Friday if possible.
I flew into Orly airport as the flights were cheaper. I have flown into CDG before and they are a similar distance from the city center. Either airport is a good option when arriving in Paris.
We got off the plane and then went straight to the race expo to pick up our packs. The taxi from the Airport to the Expo was around 25 minutes and cost 20 Euro. We then got the metro to our hotel. The metro system is cheap and is easy to use around the city centre.
What Hotel Should I Stay In For The Paris Marathon?
I would highly advise booking your hotel as soon as possible. Wehn I initially looked around November there were plenty of options at a range of prices. However, when it came to actually booking our hotel in January, things had skyrocketed in price.
Remember there are 55,000 people running this race with lots of international runners. The hotels fill up quickly.
I stayed in the Odalys City Paris Levallois. It was a basic, reasonably priced hotel. It came in at around 350 Euro for 4 nights.
We were about a 20-minute Uber to the start line. We had no problems in the morning getting an Uber and were even able to get an Uber van for 6 of us.
I would recommend getting a hotel as close to the start line as possible as Paris is a very big city. I wouldn’t want to be an hour away from the start line and struggling to get a taxi on the morning of the race.
What Is Pack Collection Like At The Paris Marathon?
Unfortunately, I did not make it to the Expo Centre. My friend got there about an hour before us and picked up our bags for us. We met him outside after. He said the line was about an hour long to get in and the Expo centre wasn’t all that great. I have heard this from other runners as well.
We were there on Saturday which is one of the busiest times, so it is likely much faster to get through on Thursday or Friday.
Next up is race morning. Where the excitement all starts. I would highly recommend getting down early for this marathon. It’s also very different than the others I have completed. As the marathon is so big, you will have a start time based on your estimated finishing time.
You will choose this when signing up for the race however my friend was able to change my starting area at the Expo from 3:45 to 3:30.
As you can see the 3:00 people start a massive 2.5 hours before the 4h30 people. If you’re looking to meet friends after who are in a different but close starting area I would recommend changing to the same one.
Get down to the race at least an hour before it starts. This will give you time to get a quick warm up in before heading to your starting zone. The start line is very long and it’s hectic trying to enter the pen.
We got there about 30 minutes before the start time and stood in a queue for around 25 minutes before getting into the pen. The race then took off about 15 minutes after the estimated start time for my pen.
The starting area has plenty of toilets before you enter the pens and then also has some inside the pen. However, I would recommend going before entering the pen if possible.
Just before we set off music was played from the mics and everyone clapped down to the start, really kicking off that marathon day excitement.
I was worried about the early stage of the run being blocked up and slowing me down for the first mile as this was a major problem in Rome. However, once we set it wasn’t overly bad. Everyone was moving fast enough that we could hit our 8:00/mile paces. However, the race never thins out. It never gets any better than at the start line. It always seems like you are surrounded by runners. I’ll touch more on this next.
During The Race
The race is a great experience. There is plenty of crowds and not many areas where you have no support. Honestly, during the race I don’t remember much. It feels like a blur. I didn’t even see the Eiffel tower, yet there’s a photo of me running past it. I was really pushing for an all-out effort so I was locked in on my goal.
You run past a lot of main landmarks and the streets are lined with bands, cheerleaders and more. The bit that stood out to me the most was entering the tunnels. Inside is completely dark with colored lights illuminating the way. At the entrance of the tunnel, there are drummers, which echo right through the tunnel. It gave me a real boost coming through this section. There is then a second tunnel with DJs playing.
You really need the motivation at these points as it gets hilly coming out of the tunnel. It was definitely the hardest part of the race for me around the 17 – 20 mile mark.
It felt like the whole race we spent overtaking people even though we were in the 3:30 starting block. We could never settle into a pace with a group as it seemed no one was aiming for 3:30.
I also didn’t see a pacer the whole race. I’m sure they are there but we may have been further back at the start line and completely missed them. If you plan to run with pacers, make sure to get down early.
Every 5k during the race you will hit the fuel stations where I would highly recommend picking up some water and snacks if you don’t have your own race nutrition.
I had been having stomach problems throughout training so was on the lookout for toilets. It states on the website that there are toilets every 5k but they were not well sign posted and were hard to spot in the first half of the race. The second half of the race seemed to have a lot more toilets readily available if you need them.
Last but not least is the last 2-4k of the race. This is where the cobblestones could really be felt on the legs. When I went from road to cobble I instantly felt the impact hitting my legs. Prepare yourself for this section.
This part of the race was also so busy. It was a real challenge getting through people at this point and required a lot of weaving and nudging through. I felt great at the end and was picking up my pace so you’re really trying to get past people at this point.
You can see how it looks in that final stretch from this screenshot from my race video.
Compared to any other races I have completed the roads were crazily congested and the roads get tighter for the last couple of miles causing people to bunch up even more.
Other than that, I had a great race experience and would recommend that anyone take on this marathon. If you are looking for a PB course something a little less congested may be a better option.
Paris Marathon Race Nutrition
During the race there is plenty of fuel stops every 5km.
The fuel stops are the same all the way through. There are bottles of water and snacks. There are no gels available, so if you plan on using them, make sure to bring them yourself. There is also no sports drink so you will need to account for that if you normally have a sports drink on your long runs.
- Saltine Crackers
- Sugar Cubes
- Dried Fruits
At the stations I would recommend holding off until later down the line as the start of the station can be crazy and you could end up getting tripped up. Most stations have Water – Food – More Water.
Post-race at the marathon is a great experience all round, right from crossing the finish line to receiving your photos and race videos.
When you cross the line you will first be greeted by a medal station where someone will award you, your medal. You can then receive your Finisher T-shirt. After that, there are lines with plenty of snacks and post-race nutrition. You can grab what you want and start to make your way out of the marathon.
We were able to leave the marathon area by taking the A exit and heading about 5 minutes away from the course and calling an Uber. It was super handy and we didn’t have to wait around for long.
As this is one of the biggest marathons out there, they have great race photography and videos. I paid for the race video for 5 euro when signing up but it turns out there is also a free video everyone receives after the race. While the paid video is a little longer it doesn’t have much that the free one doesn’t. You just get a couple of extra camera angles from the same spots.
The photos are done by Marathonphotos.live and cost 34 Euro for the photo bundle. You do get a lot of photos to choose from. I had about 64 in my pack which is a lot compared to the 13 I had in Barcelona.
What Can Spectators Expect At Paris Marathon
We had a few people over watching us race and they were able to track us on the Paris Marathon app. They app shows your 5km splits and predicts what km you are at based on your current pace. This made it easy for the spectators to track where we were and where they needed to go to see us.
They were able to see us at 3 separate locations during the race and managed to get a spot at the finish line to see us come in.
If you’re a spectator, definitely download the app and track your runner as they go.
Hopefully you have enjoyed this guide/review to the Paris Marathon. I thoroughly enjoyed this race and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in racing in a beautiful city. If you have any questions feel free to drop them below and I will answer any that I can.