I have just wrapped up the Paris Marathon 2023 coming in with a massive PB time of 3:28. However, there are a few things I wish I knew before heading to the race. In this article, I’m going to go through 12 tips for running the Paris Marathon your first time.
The Paris Marathon has some significant differences from the other races I have run in the past. Paris is one of the biggest races in the world which means there are some logistical changes you may not be used to. Let’s jump in and take a look.
13 Tips For Running The Paris Marathon
Below are some of my tips after running Paris in 2023. Hopefully, these tips can help you have an amazing Paris Marathon experience. The tips are in no specific order.
Get To The Start Area Early
This is a big race with over 50,000 runners. We got down to the start line about an hour early and thought we had plenty of time. However, we went to the toilet, did a quick warm-up and headed over to our pen. When we started walking down the start line to the pen entry, we realized there was a large queue to get in.
We essentially stood at a standstill for 25 minutes getting into the pen. Our group was meant to set off at 8:45 and we eventually got into the pen at 8:40. Our group was delayed slightly and we took off around 9:00.
This was a little bit of unnecessary stress early on in the day, worrying about not getting into the correct zone. Get yourself down early and get in before it starts to fill up.
Use The Toilet Before Entering Your Pen
There are plenty of toilets around the start line area. They had short queues and were relatively clean when we used them. I would recommend using one of these rather than the toilets in the pen.
The pen has a couple of toilets and urinals. The urinals are easy to get to but the actual toilets had bigger queues. Unless you get stuck last minute, use the ones outside before entering.
I would also recommend bringing a couple of squares of your own toilet paper just in case they run out. There was plenty while I was there, but I heard others complaining after the race. It might just save you.
Wear A Jacket To The Start Line
As I mentioned above, there can be a lot of waiting around to get into your pen. While France is known for being warm it is April and the weather can be cold. In 2023 it was about 5 Degrees with a bit of wind. Without a jacket your likely to get pretty cold, which you don’t want before taking on your big race.
You can take your jacket off just before starting or during your first few mile. I would recommend bringing an old jumper you don’t need anymore as you won’t be seeing this one! The race organizers pick them up, so you don’t have to worry about littering the streets.
Get Into The Pen Ahead of You
when signing up for the marathon, you will be asked to choose an estimated time. I would recommend going in the pen 1 faster than you expect to go.
I had initially chosen the 3:45 pen but got moved to 3:30 at the expo. I ended up running a 3:28 but spent a lot of the run overtaking people and weaving through bodies. There are quite a few sections on the course that get narrow and running faster than the people in front of you can be frustrating.
Even in the last couple of miles of the race it was packed. It was really hard getting through people at that point. If I was in the 3:15 pen, I likely would have had less bodies to get through as people would have been running at the same speed or slightly faster.
Go To The End Of The Water Stations
There are water stations every 5k during the race. As the race is so packed, it can be hard getting toward the water. Be careful around these areas as people will be rude and just push right through. Keep an eye out and ensure you don’t get tripped up.
The stations have water then food then more water. I would recommend going to the second water section as it is easier to pick one up. The first section is always chaos.
Bring Sports Drinks/Electrolytes
In Paris the only drink provided is water throughout the race. In previous marathons I have done, they have provided some form of sports drink throughout or else later in the race.
I had my girlfriend carry some Powerade and an electrolyte drink. I was able to grab them at the spots where they stood throughout the race. Make sure you plan where they will stand and know what side of the road they will be at so you have. good chance of spotting them early.
Alternatively, you can run with a bottle or water bladder in a bag filled with your sports drink of choice.
Have A Jumper Ready For The Finish Line
After you finish any marathon, it’s a good idea to stay warm. Have a jacket or foil blanket ready in your bag or with a spectator at the end of the race. They were not provided by the Paris marathon so you will need to bring your own.
The year I took part, it was around 10 degrees when we finished. This was perfect for running in but quite cold when you cross the finish line.
Arrive On The Friday Before The Marathon
I arrived in Paris on the Saturday before the race. We had a lunchtime flight which ended up being delayed a few hours which made for a stressful wait. It would have been tough getting another flight out on a Saturday night. If we had just left on Friday, it would have given us a day buffer.
I would recommend giving yourself enough time to elevate any stress about flights and delays. You will also be able to pick up your race pack at the expo on Friday which is a much quieter day.
Prepare For The Hills At 11 & 18 Mile
While Paris is relatively flat there is a couple of notable hills during the race. The two main sections with hills are around mile 11 and then as you come out of the tunnels around mile 18. I would recommend preparing for these in your training by adding some hills in at the tail end of your long runs.
I found the tunnels to be one of the hardest sections of the course. Once you get out of them it’s fairly flat for the next 6 miles with another slight hill at the 24.5-mile mark.
Be Aware Of The Cobblestones
The cobblestones in Paris are nowhere near as bad as marathons such as Rome or Prague. However, they definitely do have an impact on your legs. The main place I really remember feeling them was the last 2 kilometers of the race. I was speeding up at this point and my legs were beaten. As soon as I hit the cobbles I instantly felt the harder impact on my legs.
I don’t think they slowed me down but you do need to be more cautious about these sections of the course to ensure you don’t fall or get injured. I would estimate about 3-4 miles of the course consists of cobble.
Be Prepared To Weave Through People
This is the most crowded Marathon I have raced in yet. After all, it is one of the biggest marathons in the world. Other marathons I have done were bunched up at the start but started to spread out the further you went. However, Paris was bunched up the whole time and only got busier in the last 2km.
The streets become narrow coming into the finish line, meaning you’re tight together with other runners. If you are pushing for a PB like I was you will have to do a lot of weaving between other runners.
Be Cautious Of The Crowds
There are certain sections of the course, especially towards the end where nothing is stopping crowds from spilling into the course. When I was running I almost took an arm to the face going around the outside of someone. Someone in the crowd tried to high five the runner who I was coming past.
Just be aware that the crowd may step in, give out high fives or stumble in your path. Try and keep some distance between you and the crowd if you can.
Spectators Should Download The App
If you have spectators coming to watch you run the race, definitely tell them to download the Paris Marathon app. They will be able to track you throughout the race and know when you will be arriving close to where they are watching. This is great if they are looking to give you drinks or snacks throughout the race.
So there you have it. Those are my top tips for running the Paris Marathon. Overall it is an amazing race. Remember to soak it all up on the day. You’ve trained for months to be here. Enjoy it. Smile at the crowd, enjoy the sights and high-five some people in the crowd.
Let me know if you have any other tips for the Paris marathon down in the comments.
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